Ranking the Best Music Festivals of 2021


July 21, 2021
By PETER A. BERRY
Music fans have plenty of options for Live music festivals were put on pause in 2020. Now, they’re back. Here's Okayplayer's picks for music festivals in 2021. Photo Credit: Vickey Ford of Sneakshot Photography

Live music festivals were put on pause in 2020. Now they’re back. Here’s Okayplayer’s picks for the best music festivals of 2021.

As vaccines spread and the global COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, the phrase “We back outside” has become a rallying cry for folks ready to return to regularly scheduled programming and soak up the best sights and sounds the world’s got to offer. A lot of those can be found at music festivals, which, like the rest of the world, had to be put on pause in 2020. Now, they’re back—but which ones should you go to?

There’s no simple answer for any one person, as a lot of it will come down to logistics, budget and location as much as the lineups. But, looking through flyers for the festivals, you can see which lineups are the most enticing, and that can point you in the direction of just which one — or ones — are worth you going to. 

If you find yourself listening to Spotify’s Rap Caviar playlist every day, the chances are you should hit up one of the Rolling Loud concerts. If you’ve got musical ADD and are into a variety of genres, you might rock with Lollapalooza or Pitchfork Music Festival. There are also a variety of festivals that fit in between. Now, it’s time to look into the best.

20. OVO Fest 2021

Drake

Photo Credit: Prince Williams/Wireimage

Where: TBA

Price: TBA

19. Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival 2021

tyler the creator

Photo Credit: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Life Is Beautiful

Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Price: TBA

18. Summer Jam 2021

Where: MetLife Stadium, Rutherford, N.J.

Price: General admission: $70

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Migos, and Meek Mill are the main events for a concert that will also include performances from Saweetie, Moneybagg Yo, Bobby Shmurda, Rowdy Rebel and more. Come to see A Boogie, stay to see Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel perform “Computers” (maybe).

17. Made In America 2021

When: Sept. 4-5

Where: Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Price: Two Day Pass: $150

Justin Bieber and Lil Baby hold down the top billing, but there are also performances from 42 Dugg, EST Gee, and Baby Keem. Then, there are vets like Lil Durk and Freddie Gibbs, and new generation staples like Roddy Ricch, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat. This means that, for hip-hop fans, there’s an artist for anyone who’s gotten into rap over the last 12 to 13 years… and Justin Bieber.

16. Riot Fest

When: Sept. 16-19

Where: Douglass Park, Chicago

Price: Day Pass: $124.98 — $159.98

Legendary acts like The Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails headline this mostly rock-oriented festival. But the star of this lineup is Lupe Fiasco, who will be performing his 2007 album, The Cool, in its entirety.   

15. Wireless Festival 2021

When: Sept. 10-12

Where: Crystal Palace Park, London

Price: Three Day Pass: £202.50

London’s Wireless Festival will be as lit as ever when it returns this September. Performers for this year’s iteration include Lil Baby, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, Meek Mill and Migos as well as U.K.’s own Skepta and Ivorian Doll. Needless to say, it should be a fun time. 

14. Outside Lands Festival

When: Oct. 29-31

Where: Golden State Park, San Francisco

Price: Three Day Pass: $395

This year’s Outside Lands Festival is a well-rounded mix of rap superstars (Young Thug, Tyler, The Creator), rising stars (Rico Nasty, Flo Milli), underground hip-hop luminaries (EarthGang, JPEGMAFIA), beloved R&B artists (Kehlani) and a splash of Latin trap (J Balvin). 

14. 2021 Firefly Festival 

When: Sept. 23-26

Where: The Woodlands, Dover, Del. 

Price: Single Day Pass: $135

As far as hip-hop and R&B go, there aren’t a ton of A-listers, but there are stars from various regions that bring diverse flavor to the Delaware festival. On one day you get to see Wiz Khalifa, Flo Milli and Iann Dior. Another, Roddy Ricch, Diplo and $not. Then there are still performances from Megan Thee Stallion, Nelly, and Denzel Curry.

12. Bonnaroo 2021

When: Sept. 2-5

Where: Great Stage Park, Manchester, Tenn. 

Price: Three Day Pass: $379

Fans at this festival can see Tyler, the Creator perform tracks from his Call Me If You Get Lost the same day they see Lil Baby rock the stage. There will also be performances from folks like Lizzo, Tame Impala, Foo Fighters, Young Thug, and J.I.D, making it a festival that’s as eclectic as it is dope.

11. Life Is Beautiful Music & Art Festival

When: Sept. 17-19

Where: Downtown Las Vegas

Price: Three Day Pass: $529.00

Looking through these festivals, it’s clear Young Thug’s getting to the bag with all his appearances. At Life Is Beautiful you’ll see him plus Megan Thee Stallion, Don Toliver, A$AP Rocky, Green Day, Tame Impala, 6LACK, Modest Mouse and Ludacris. Beautiful, indeed.

10. Austin City Limits 

When: Oct. 1-3, Oct. 8-10

Where: Zilker Park, Austin, Texas.

Price: Single Day Pass: $135

Another far reaching festival that has superstar performances from myriad genres. George Strait and Erykah Badu perform on the same day. Also set to pull up are the likes of DaBaby, Doja Cat, Stevie Nicks, Billie Eilish, Freddie Gibbs, Jack Harlow, Megan Thee Stallion and many, many more. 

9. Summerfest

When: Sept. 2-4, 2-4, 9-11, and 16-18

Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee, Wis. 

Price: Power Pass: $100

A healthy mix of hip-hop, rock and, country, Milwaukee’s Summerfest features performances from Chance The Rapper, Green Day, 24K Goldn, The Kid Laroi, Sheryl Crow and much more. There’s even a set from Dave Chappelle, which only gives the festival extra points for the best kind of variety.

8. The Governors Ball Music Festival 

 When: Sept. 24-26

 Where: Citi Field, Queens, N.Y. 

Price: One Day Pass: $129

The Governors Ball has luminaries from all corners of the music world. Any time you can pair mainstream commodities with respected lyricists like Freddie Gibbs and YBN Cordae and still under-appreciated gems like Aminé, you’ve got something dope. Add in the Afrofusion stylings of Burna Boy and local artists like MIKE, this one is about as well-rounded as festivals get. 

7. Once Upon a Time in L.A. 

When: Dec. 18. 

Where: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles

Price: $159.99

There’s a good chance that Once Upon a Time in L.A. is the only time fans will get to see both Al Green and Snoop Dogg at the same festival. Marketed as a cross-generational festival for West Coast artists, this one’s got everyone from The Game, YG, Dom Kennedy, and Ice Cube to Drakeo The Ruler, Kamaiyah, BlueBucks Clan, and OhGeesy. There are also performances from 50 Cent, Three 6 Mafia and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. This one would rank higher if there were more A-Listers at the peak of their career.

6. Lollapalooza

When: July 29-Aug. 1 

Where: Grant Park, Chicago

Price: One Day Pass $130

Lollapalooza is coming back with a bang, and artists from all corners of hip-hop are represented. You’ve got genre-bending, chart-topping superstars like Tyler, the Creator, Post Malone, as well as popular niche acts like BROCKHAMPTON and $uicideboy$. On the rock end of things, there’s Foo Fighters, Modest Mouse, and even Journey. Being able to sing to “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the same place you’d vibe out to “Lumberjack” is pretty special.

5. Rolling Loud California

When: Dec. 10-12

Where: Nos Event Center, San Bernardino

Price: Three Day Pass: $399

Future, Kid Cudi, and J. Cole headline this iteration of Rolling Loud, a festival that is nearly as deep as the other two. At the end of the day, no festival can match the depth of pure rap star power and cross-regional collection of rap talent, and this version of the festival remains incredible. 

4. Pitchfork Music Festival 

When: Sept. 10-12

Where: Union Park, Chicago

Price: $90

The ever-mysterious Jay Electronica is all set to hit the stage for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, a set of shows that also includes performances from other heralded lyricists like Danny Brown and Maxo Kream. Because of the pandemic, this will mark what’s likely the first time Electronica will perform songs from his debut album, A Written Testimony. Also, get excited by appearances from the legendary Erykah Badu and Chicago’s own soulful songstress Jamila Woods. 

3. Rolling Loud Miami

When: July 23-25

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL.

Price: Three Day Pass: $387 resell market.

As a rule, Rolling Loud Miami gets the biggest stars in the rap world. Nothing’s changed in 2021, as Travis Scott, Lil Uzi Vert, Megan Thee Stallion, Roddy Ricch, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Post Malone, Trippie Redd, A$AP Rocky and more are set to take the stage for the fest.

2. Rolling Loud New York

When: Oct. 28-30

Where: Citi Field, Queens, N.Y.

Price: Three Day Pass: $399

The New York edition of Rolling Loud is clearly the best of the three festivals, with artists like Travis Scott, J. Cole and 50 Cent (a special homecoming touch) headlining. Between the catalog of hits from the headliners, it will be impossible not to catch a vibe. Then, there are still performances from Lil Baby and Lil Uzi Vert, as well as an endless stream of top-notch rap technicians and all-around songwriters like J.I.D, Megan Thee Stallion, EST Gee and countless more. 

1. Day N Vegas

When: Nov. 12 – 14, 2021

Where: Las Vegas Festival Grounds, Las Vegas

Price: Three Day Pass: $399

As of now, Kendrick Lamar is only doing one live gig. He will be the day one headliner of Day N Vegas in November. The rapper is doing a set labeled “From Section.80 to Damn.” (We’re not sure what that means, but it’s an indication there won’t be a new Kendrick album this year.) Other standout performers include Doja Cat, Jazmine Sullivan, Madlib, Thundercat, and more. It’s the festival lineup of the year, so far.

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Peter is a writer and editor who covers music, movies, and all things dope. Catch him in the Hyperbolic Take Chamber on Twitter @pellz_.

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