2011 Summer Music Festival Guide

If you’re a music loving queer living in the USA then you’re probably aware that the music festival season is just around the corner. In fact we should all be packing our bags / festival battle gear for South by Southwest right now.

In case it has escaped your attention, the lineups for this year’s U.S. music festivals are killer. With so many amazing events and so little time (and money), we’ve asked a few of our team members to make some recommendations. Some of them may be attending / live-blogging their nominated festivals.

Which festivals are you looking forward to this year?

If you happen to live someplace outside the USA, then the content below may make you feel a little sad. We’re sorry. You should brag about your country’s festivals so we can be sad, too.

South by Southwest

“Music Industry Spring Break”

March 16-20 // Austin, TX
[tickets / info]

by Stef

Lineup Highlights: Hundreds of bands play in dozens of venues all over downtown (you’ll quickly see why Austin is the live music capitol of the US), but I’m excited for the Black Angels, the Bangles, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Calvin Harris, Bloodgroup, Candy Claws, CREEP, Fitz & the Tantrums, Glasser, HANSON (shut up), Heaven, Innerpartysystem, Jukebox the Ghost, Le Butcherettes, MNDR, Phantogram, A Place To Bury Strangers, the Raveonettes, Screaming Females, Sharon Van Etten, Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers, Tamaryn, Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, Those Darlins and Tune-Yards. Also uhh, Yoko Ono is playing.

Reason to attend: SO MANY BANDS. Odds are good if you just wander down Sixth St., you’re bound to come across a totally unknown band who’ll blow your mind. This is where the industry gets together and figures out who’s going to be the most-hyped acts of the next year Also it’s an awesome excuse to get wasted all day long and schmooze with a very relaxed crowd of music industry professionals. All the bands you’ll be obsessed with next year are wandering around checking each other out, and everybody in Austin is straight up there to PARTY.

Read About It: Stef@sxsw 2009, Stef@sxsw 2010


“Summer camp for weirdos, with music.”

June 9-12 // Manchester, TN
[tickets / info]

by Laneia

Lineup Highlights: Arcade Fire, Black Keys, Ray LaMontange, Scissor Sisters, Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, Girl Talk, Iron & Wine, Florence + the Machine, Robyn, Loretta Lynn, Big Boi, Beirut, Sleigh Bells, Abigail Washburn, Justin Townes Earle, Best Coast, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Phosphorescent

Reason to attend: Unity. I want to tell you that it’s all about the music — and there’s an impressive variety, spanning decades and genres — but sometimes it felt like the music took a backseat to how much I loved every sweaty humanperson wandering around on that farm. Like, these are my people. I didn’t even know I was missing them.

“I get it now: why people promise to go back every year; why, on Thursday, when someone yelled “Bonnaroo!” into a crowd, it was met with enthusiastic echoes of “Bonnarooooo!”; why everyone wears their entrance bracelets from past festivals. Bonnaroo’s like summer camp for weirdos. It’s bragging rights. I didn’t just see this gaggle of amazing bands that will probably never be in the same place again – I put up a tent, stayed awake until dawn, walked over 20 miles, lost 3 lbs., washed my hair using a five-gallon jug of water, shaved my legs in the front seat with a beer for breakfast, ruined a pair of shoes in the mud, ate stale tofu, witnessed humanity and saw some amazing bands.”

Bonnaroo 2010: Autostraddle Takes Tennessee


“Perfect for first-timers, with a lineup to make even festival veterans happy.”

August 5-7 // Grant Park, Chicago, IL
[tickets / info]

by Sarah

Lineup Highlights: TBA. Lolla is late in the festival season, so the lineup won’t be out for a while. They usually put together a good bill that looks something like Coachella and Bonnaroo. The headliners last year were Lady Gaga, Phoenix, and Arcade Fire. Fingers crossed that this year is half as good.

Reason to attend: Those city lights. The downtown Chicago location makes Lolla a very different experience than most of the other big U.S. festivals. It’s not about acquiring a four-day layer of mud and sweat (though it has it’s fair share of both). During the day, you get to start your music viewing fresh, with a nice shower. You can enjoy the breeze off Lake Michigan and the excellent food trucked in from Chicago eateries. And when the headliners end their gigs around 10 p.m., everyone floods downtown and fills the clubs, which bring in some great acts for the weekend. The whole thing is a bit more commercial than any other American fest, making it perfect for people who aren’t quite ready for the Bonnaroo/Coachella intensity. But it’s still got plenty for all experience levels. Also this year is the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza, so they will probably pull out all the stops. Do you want to miss that? Didn’t think so.

Read About It: Sarah goes to Lollapalooza

Pitchfork Music Festival

“Arbiter of musical taste curates three sweaty days in Chicago; scarves in July”

July 15-17 // Union Park, Chicago, IL
[tickets / info]
by Lindsay

Lineup Highlights: Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Fleet Foxes, Cut Copy, The Dismemberment Plan, Deerhunter, James Blake & more.

Reason to attend: Affordability, for one — as one of the few festivals where three-day passes have never exceeded $100 (last year topped at $90), you can see some fantastic under-the-radar indie acts and festie favorites like Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem and The Flaming Lips for a pretty reasonable price. P4K also does a good job of showcasing local food and beverage purveyors (including the good-enough-to-convert-the-carnivores vegan Chicago Diner) and features Flatstock, a concert art expo featuring screen-printers and poster artists from all over the country.


“Massive gig + carnival + miniature civilization = Megazord of music festivals”

June 29-July 3 & July 5-10 // Milwaukee, WI
[tickets / info]
by Lindsay

Line up: Of the roughly 800 acts that will play throughout the festival, the only three that have been announced are Katy Perry, Toby Keith and Sugarland (with Sara Bareilles).

Reason to attend: Variety. From pop-punk to alt-country to classic rock greats to blues to worldbeat, there is quite literally something for everyone, and day passes usually run pretty cheap for all the music you’re getting. Plus, it’s Wisconsin, so you can be assured there are beer gardens, for you to DRINK ALL THE BEERS.


kstew @ coachellastew

April 15 – 17 // Indio, CA
Lineup Highlights: Arcade Fire, Kanye West, The Black Keys, Robyn, PJ Harvey, Slash, Mumford & Sons, the National, Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles
Reason to attend: Coachella 2011 probably has the best line up of any festival line up ever. Also you know Kristen Stewart will probably be there. It sold out in a hot minute, however you might luck out and find a spare ticket.



The Beale Street Music Festival
April 29 – May 1 // Memphis, TN
Lineup Highlights: Jerry Lee Lewis, Stone Temple Pilots, Jason Mraz, MGMT, Cee Lo Green, The Flaming Lips, Ke$ha
Reason to attend: Beale Street is historic hot spot for American blues. Also where else will you find Ke$ha and Jerry Lee Lewis in the same line up?


May 27-30 // Gorge Amphitheater, George, WA
Lineup Highlights: Foo Fighters, Death Cab For Cutie, Robyn, Iron & Wine, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, Wilco, Sleigh Bells, Matt & Kim, Cold War Kids, more.
Reason to attend: If the line up isn’t a good enough reason to attend, check out the venue and its stunning backdrop. Want.


Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival
August 17 – October 4 // Various Cities, USA
Line up: Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Halestorm, Airborne, more.
Reason to attend: Traveling hard rock & metal festival. Do your best to ignore the tacky energy drink sponsorship and get your horns up. \m/


Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
August 2-7, 2011 // Hart, MI
Line up: Andrea Gibson, Alix Olson, Hunter Valentine, Erase Errata, Melissa Ferrick, more.
Reason to attend: This 5-day women-only musical camping experience is a lesbian’s rite of passage, as reported in Autostraddle’s Girl-on-World article, “How the Michigan Womyn’s Festival Topless Women Changed My Lesbian Life Forever.”

“Julie promised that there would be girls with their boobs out everywhere, and there has been.” Brandy Howard on MichFest


CMJ Music Marathon
Oct 18-22 // New York City, NY
Line up: TBA
Reason to attend: For one week, hundreds of up-and-coming acts take over New York City’s music venues. If you get in early, you can get your badge for half price.


If you attend a particularly brilliant music festival that’s not on this list and should be, tell us about it in the comment section ’cause when we have to shut down Autostraddle and get ‘real jobs,’ we’re gonna want to come see you.

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  1. ooh bonnaroo and sxsw are going to be insane, but i cant wait for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2011. a free three-day festival in golden gate in October (think Indian Summer) with names like emmylou harris and neko case? yes please.

  2. Pickathon, just outside of Portland, is like what a music festival created by fairies would be like. Or like what I thought Bonnaroo would be like, but then it wasn’t because it was so crowded and muddy and drunk and packs of hummus cost $10. At Pickathon you get to camp in the actual woods, and everything is beautiful and everyone loves each other and all the musicians camp too and the forest is lit with Christmas lights and there is a stage made of tree branches where you sit on hay bales. http://pickathon.com

    • I live in Portland and my mom took me to one of the very first Pickathons when I was around 10 years old. I haven’t been since then but I have vague memories of wooden playgrounds/dusky lighting/a man asking my mother and her friend if they “wanted to go weaving in the woods”. Still trying to figure that one out.

  3. God. I really fucking love summer festivals and everything they are about. My first was 2009 Download Festival in England & those five days left me with stories for life. I am no longer that girl who always talks, but never has a REALLY cool story to tell, y’know? ANYWAY.

    Bands that are making Bonnaroo my first choice thus far: OPETH, Band of Skulls, Florence + The Machine, Jovanotti (I mean really, wtf is this Italian pop singer doing here? I love it.)..oh – same deal goes for Loretta Lynn – IT’S THE COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER YOU GUYS.
    I read “Matt & Kim” as “Kath & Kim”…that was the only real letdown.

    Rockstar seems oookay. Except I saw Disturbed play before & the lead singer wore his own merchandise. It was a Disturbed coverall / jumper thing and I just found that to be tacky. It’d be worth it for Stone Sour & Halestorm though.

    • Oh nevermind. Jovanotti is legit you guys. I was thinking he was this other singer Ramazzotti. So…yep.

    • i want to go to bonnaroo SO badly but no one will go with me! poor college students boooo

  4. Eeee. I’m going with a friend to Chicago the weekend that Lollapalooza is happening. She’s going to a wedding one day, so I will totally have free time for oh, say, getting sweaty with strangers and listening to awesome music while she’s sitting through vows and eating cake.

  5. God I love festival season. My favorite big festival is Summer Camp in Chillicothe, IL. http://www.summercampfestival.com
    It’s what Bonnaroo was like before it got huge and mainstream. The lineup this year is amazing like always: 5 stages, 65 bands. And lots of drugs. If you’re into that.

    My favorite local festival is Hoxeyville Festival http://www.hoxeyville.com
    It’s a tiny Bluegrass festival in the north woods of Michigan. I’ve been going for a couple of years and it’s like a family, you see the same people every year.

    Talking about this has got me all excited for the summer, I wish I could go to all the festivals.

      • No but I will now. That’s super close to where I live!
        Also all the art stuff sounds cool. Thanks!

  6. These all look amazing! Too bad I can’t afford to go to any of them :( Guess I’ll just have to live vicariously through the experiences that you all have this year.

    • hey! you have some time, lolla is in august! but it’s the same weekend as market days… I have that weekend off but i don’t know which one to go to!?!?!?!!?

  7. I hate George, WA, it’s in a hellish part of WA that isn’t particularly close to anything worthwhile and is hot enough in the summer that you’ll feel like you are burning in hell. I will admit from the ampitheatre the view is niceish, but the rest of the area is blandness personified

    • I’ve lived in Pullman Washington for almost 2 years now and I agree the veiws around here aren’t quite something to rave about when you’ve been here a few days. All of this baron landscape becomes depressing to look at. Love the dry heat though! But it’s all good now becuase Im moving :)I am dragging my wife back where we belong, in Michigan…and we definetly plan to go to the Michigan women’s music festival this year!

    • Agreed that Central/Eastern WA are pretty to visit but I would never ever ever live there. Though to it’s credit, George, Washington IS the only state in the union that can claim a president’s entire name

  8. T in the Park in Scotland! Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Coldplay, Pulp, Tinie Tempah, Bright Eyes, jimmy Eat World, Noah and The Whale. Crystal Castles.

    Best. Lineup. Ever. Fact.

  9. If I was to choose a Euro festival to go to this year, it’d be between Hellfest in France (aka the chance to see Anathema & Orphaned Land ON THE SAME DAY)…or the Metal Female Voices Fest – because a) it’s pretty cool to see the female presence in a male-dominated genre such as metal and b) they can fucking SING. They’re still adding to the line-up, but so far so good.

    PS. This article brought up a serious walk down memory lane. Theme of tonight = no.stal.gia.

    • Ugh. I always have to reply to my own thread here for clarification. Metal Female Voices Fest is in October, aka NOT summer. I suck at this game.

      • I had no idea that there’s a festival dedicated to females in metal. thank you, you may have just changed my life.

        • Oh Crystal. DUDE. If you’re into female-fronted metal (or metal in general really) – I feel like we could become great friends. Wait – are you coming to Dinah? I hope so because I feel like we could talk about this more. But even if you’re not at Dinah – we could still probs talk about this. Because while I listen to a random selection of music – metal has a special place in my heart.

          PS. w/r/t changing your life – you’re totally welcome. TEAM NACHO: Changing One Life At A Time.

          • I am not going to Dinah, howevs I’m always keen to talk music via email: crystal [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Metal also has a special place in my heart.

  10. i am like THISCLOSE to austin and i cant go :(

    I hate having a 2300 bedcheck. this is like being a lil kid. I should’ve taken leave lol

    • fuck! im so bummed i cant go to this! and to think i didnt know about it the whole time i lived in miami…

    • Scissor Sisters ftw! They are opening for Gaga at the moment, saw them last week. Excellent as usual but Jake seemed a bit under the weather :(

  11. Fuck Idaho. Seriously, you guys. This is The Land Where Nothing Good Ever Happens.

    I’m stranded out in the middle of the goddamn woods so far from anyplace that has anything interesting happening and I just can’t fucking take it anymore! I mean, even George, WA (aka the worst city name ever) is too far away! I’m disabled and there’s no way I could drive a car for that long without vomiting from the pain. *sigh*

  12. The Quebec city summer festival was the highlight of my summer the last two years.

    11 days of music for ~50 bucks. Great deal.

    Last years lineup included: Arcade Fire, Passion Pit, Phantogram, KNaan, Black eyed peas, iron maiden, Rammstein, dream theatre, RUSH, Santana, Andrew Bird, Kid Koala + a ton of world music and Canadian indie bands.

        • Yes I did, me and my friends were right in front of the stage. I’m really looking forward to it this year too, especially seeing Janelle Monáe and M.I.A.

          • Yay! I was there too, right in front of the stage. Patti Smith was intense. Did you see Florence and the Machine? that was probably one of my favourites, the energy was incredible..
            Definitely going again this year, can’t wait to see M.I.A. and PJ Harvey. Uh, and Kings Of Leon.

          • Yeah I did. It was definitely one of my favourites. The Prodigy was insane as well. I hope the weather will be as good as it was last year.

          • Hah, omg. I was so tired and hung over I actually fell asleep during Prodigy. Standing up. ahem.. and I’d been looking so much forward to it. Damn.. But yeah, the part I did hear was insane.

  13. Also Wakarusa in Arkansas, probably has the best lineup (IMO) of all the festivals this year.
    Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will be there, I love her, she gives me feelings.

  14. Like, is it gay that I don’t want to deal with the hassle of SXSW and only want to see Uh Huh Her next Sunday at 1:00 am? It’s probably one of the last shows of the festival, but yeah, finding parking and being inundated with hipsters in Austin on a regular day already make me butt frustrated.

  15. Ok I feel so appreciated. First the article about how we should smell and now this! I knew you would listen.

    • also, wakarusa, Mt. Jam, and All Good…..all look pretty solid this year. I dunno if Gathering of the Vibes has a lineup out yet but that always pretty good. A lot of nitrous mafia but eh. 2 balloons for 5 is never a bad thing.

  16. So disappointed Sasquatch is sold out…. all I want is for Matt & Kim to sing to me on my birthday. #firstworldproblems

  17. In winnipeg we have the Winnipeg Folk Festival, which runs from July 6-10, featuring canadian and local folk, blues, bluegrass and world musicians, as well as international acts. Also I can personally verify that there are a lot of lesbians, especially in the noisy campground (which is also known as drug heaven, particularly for stoners).

  18. to any and all european readers: melt! festival is the answer. just look at the gorge view: http://bit.ly/hs3mLW. it’s held in ferropolis, “the city of iron”, which is an open museum of old huge industrial machines (from wiki), thus the incredibly lookout. the music is mainly electronic/indie.

    sadly i could never attend because i’m basically from the opposite in europe and was short on money.. but i’ll try this or at least next year.

    other neat festivals: southside/hurricane. the most amazing part about those twin festivals is that they’re on the same weekend, both have basically the same lineup, but one is in the very south of germany, and the other in the very north so it doesn’t really matter where you’re from — you totally are able attend one! they’re both very indie/rock-y (this year’s lineup includes some of my all time faves like warpaint, bright eyes, arcade fire, portishead, band of horses, the sounds, klaxons, eels, blood red shoes, hercules and love affair and trentemøller). i’m going to attend the southside one for the 2nd time this year. last year was AMAZING, very friendly peeps there.

  19. uh… Bumbershoot? I know it rains a lot here in Seattle, but the line-up is usually a pretty good mix, and the smaller stages have a ton of really good local bands too. I think they’ll start announcing bands next week.

  20. This is our first SXSW and damn, it is INTENSE here. The upside? Lots of stylish ladies roamin’ about!

  21. SO TORN between All Good and Electric Forest. both lineups are so sick. Summercamp’s lineup is awesome too but i’m busy that weekend so at least my decision is a little less difficult, haha.

    Has anyone ever done work exchange at a festival? I’m considering that for All Good but none of my friends want to do it and I’m wondering if it’s definitely worth all the extra hassle it’s probably going to be to get a ride there early…

  22. BONNAROO: Who’s going? This girl! I vote for an Autostraddle meet-up. I will need it after driving from the Bay Area to Manchester. Who’s in?

    Laneia are you going this year?

    Best. Line-Up. Ever.

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