Summer is around the corner and music fans know what that means. It’s time for massive people watching, outrageous outfits, and sweating our faces off. Whether you’re camping, road tripping out of state, or staying local, festival season is upon us. Every summer thousands of music fans gather in different states at various venues to enjoy hundreds of their favorite bands and to discover new bands they’ll likely return to see the following year on a bigger stage. Whether you’re a fan of EDM, country, rock, indie alternative, or pop and hip hop, there is a festival somewhere out there that is calling your name. For fans of traveling out of state for the full size experience, Country Thunder, Pitchfork Music Festival, Bonaroo, Lollapalooza, Carolina Rebellion, Riot Fest, Spring Awakening, Summer Camp, and Summerfest are wildly popular music festivals.
So what makes huge festivals like these so much better than regular concerts? Well, for one, most of them last at least three days. Three whole days of non-stop music! Even the few that only last a single day are still immensely popular among concert fans because they’re not just spending a couple of hours with their favorite bands and fans alike, but rather they’re spending an entire day, from morning to night living and breathing music. Another reason fans flock to music festivals is because people love any excuse to travel, and if you’re going to travel then why not make it to see some amazing bands? So many of these festivals are in beautiful, scenic cities with so much to offer. Different cities means different sites, different types of people, and different kinds of food. What’s not to love about all of that?
Finally, one more reason people love festivals over regular concerts is sheer number of artists it allows you to see. While seeing 3 or 4 bands in the span of 2-3 hours is great, why not try seeing 50+ bands in the span of a day or 100+ bands in the span of three days? Running from one stage to another, often at opposite ends of the venue, to assure you catch the band you want to see in time is all part of the festival experience. Music festivals are perfect for today’s ADD generation, offering 30-45 minute sets instead of 1-2 hour sets. Don’t like who’s playing on one stage? You have the option to walk over to another stage where someone you might actually like is. Music festivals are kind of like Disney World for adults. They can be the happiest place on Earth.
While I personally am not traveling out of state for any festivals this year, I am looking forward to three in particular, two of which are exclusive to Chicago. The first one we’ll start with is the Windy City Lake Shake. This 3 day fest is back for its second year and is perfect for whatever type of country music fan you may be. Taking place at First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, fans get to experience the fun that encompasses country music while also enjoying the sights of the third largest city in the United States. Whether you’re a fan of the more traditional and 90’s sound, or you’re feeling that new “bro country” that’s rolled into Nashville in recent years, Lake Shake Fest has all the artists you want to see.
Beginning Friday June 17th and going through Sunday June 19th, country music, in all of its beer drinking and boot wearing glory,l takes over the Windy City. Headlining the first night is award winning trio Lady Antebellum, who are sure to put on a memorable performance. Popular artists in the names of Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves, Jana Kramer, and Granger Smith are also performing Friday. I think one of the biggest surprises to hit the stage during the Lake Shake is Staind front man, Mr. Aaron Lewis himself. Not having any current singles on mainstream radio at the moment, it’ll be interesting to see how Lewis is received by the crowd.
If you’re a fan of 90’s country then you’re in luck because Saturday’s headliners include three of the genre’s favorite artists – Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn, and Martina McBride. These three alone are worth the price of the ticket. Other artists performing that day include Kelleigh Bannen, and the recently trending Brett Young and Jon Langston. And in case you’re thinking of skipping the last day of the fest because the first two did you in, think again. Sunday’s line-up includes Entertainer of the Year award winner Jason Aldean as your headliner, along with another performance from Brooks & Dunn, and the always adorable Thomas Rhett. But wait, the musical awesomeness doesn’t stop there! Travis Tritt, the “Here’s a Quarter” singer himself is also going to be at Lake Shake! When are you going to get the chance again to say you saw Travis frigging Tritt? Exactly! Southern rockers A Thousand Horses will also be playing Sunday, as well as Chris Janson, Tara Thompson, William Michael Morgan, Haley Georgia, Brooke Eden and Runaway June.
Seriously, if you’re a country music fan this is a festival you are not going to want to miss. Three day general admission passes are available for $225, and new this year are one day general admission passes available for $99.50. One could spend at least $100 on seeing any one of the headliners playing the Lake Shake on their own personal tours, so why not spend the extra money and get to see some other really awesome artists as well? Music festivals are the perfect place to discover new artists you may never have heard of before. Like Nike says, just do it. In this case, buy the three day pass and you can thank yourself later.
Now, while I love my country music, I also happen to be a big fan of hard rock. Yes, my musical tastes extend all the way to the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Like other hard rock and metal fans that happen to reside in Chi-Town, I’m aware that all the best rock music festivals happen just about everywhere else but Chicago. Not this year, though. For the first time, Chicago has its own 3 day hard rock and heavy metal fest. Chicago Open Air takes place at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL between Friday July 15th and Sunday July 17th and features some of the biggest names in the genre right now. Open Air fest kicks off Friday with an almighty bang as German metal act, Rammstein, headlines marking the band’s first North American tour in a decade. Also performing on Friday, no doubt satisfying the souls of metal heads traveling across state lines, are: Chevelle, Of Mice & Men, Meshuggah, Trivium, The Devil Wears Prada, Hatebreed, In This Moment, Hollywood Undead, Periphery, Drowning Pool, Butcher Babies, and Through Fire.
Saturday’s all-star line-up truly will be one for the books, and includes an almost perfect mix of both veteran hard rockers and newcomers that would no doubt tear the roof off! If Toyota Park had a roof anyway. Industrial metal rockers, Disturbed are headlining, while some of the supporting bands consist of: Korn, Breaking Benjamin, Alter Bridge, Pop Evil, Nothing More, Saint Asonia, Miss May I, and Beartooth. If the first two days of Chicago’s Open Air Fest don’t blow you away, then be prepared to be annihilated with Sunday’s line-up. Five of metal’s heaviest acts will close out the fest, undoubtedly leaving a lasting impact on fans in attendance. Heavy hitters Slipknot headline on Sunday, and are joined by Five Finger Death Punch, Marilyn Manson, Killswitch Engage, Bullet for My Valentine, BabyMetal, Asking Alexandria, All That Remains, We Came As Romans, Upon a Burning Body and more. Chicago’s Open Air Festival isn’t just about the music, though. The 3 day hard rock and metal fest will also feature gourmet food from 15 different restaurants, as well as craft beer from seven popular breweries. With its incredible line-up of heavy powerhouse bands, delicious food, and tasty beverages, how can you not look forward to Chicago’s first Open Air Festival?
Last but certainly not least, the one day festival that has always been near and dear to my heart, as I have gone multiple years in a row, is the wildly popular Vans Warped Tour. Known to many of its attendees as punk rock summer camp, this year’s line-up features returning pop punk veterans New Found Glory, Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, and Sum 41. Like any other genre focused festival, Warped Tour hosts bands belonging to every sub-genre of punk you can imagine. This year’s line-up ranges from energetic bubblegum punk and Ska to Screamo and post hardcore. Some of the popular bands playing this year include: The Maine, Mayday Parade, Sleeping with Sirens, The Story So Far, Motionless In White, Atreyu, Falling In Reverse, Every Time I Die, Set It Off, and We The Kings, plus so many more. With its almost always perfectly eclectic and just plain old awesome lists of bands, Warped Tour tends to be every fan of the fest’s favorite day of the summer. You wake up bright and early to get there as soon as gates open to scope out the lay of the venue and check out set times for your must see acts, you stock up on your favorite band merch, and you work so hard to push your way as close to the stage as possible only to end the day covered in sweat, with maybe a couple bruises and possibly missing a shoe. But it’s always worth it.
While many might question the avid music fan’s devotion to and love for music festivals, those like-minded souls understand our need to experience live music in its fullest form. There is nothing quite like a music festival, whether it’s three days or just one. It is an unforgettable experience that leaves you with countless memories, more laughs than you can handle, and a feeling of utter satisfaction deep down in your core. With the use of smartphones and social media now, there’s even more ways to capture the musical adventure a festival takes you on. Festival goers can upload tons of photos to their Facebook and Instagram accounts to relive the experience as many times as they’d like. But don’t just live vicariously through your friends and social media followers. If you’re near Chicago this summer, or feel like taking the trip to our Windy City, then do yourself a favor and buy your pass/ticket to one of the three festivals listed above. Not only will you not regret it, but you’ll create way more memories than you’ll know what to do with and maybe even discover something you didn’t even know was missing from your life.