Ultra Music Festival
Bayfront Park, Miami
When: March 28-30
You go to Ultra, there are some givens: glo-sticks, hordes of girls with barely-there neon bikini tops, the Red Bull Guest House, and general, colorful madness. But no EDM festival can rival Ultra in lineup. It’s not just the coolest European DJs, like Tiësto, Swedish House Mafia, and David Guetta. What’s even more impressive is the sheer size of the list—over 200 acts—and a shrewd mix of sounds that incorporates not only EDM but also artists who have made their bones on live music, like M.I.A. and Dizzee Rascal, who are on the bill this year. There is also a growing rap contingent—Pusha T and Riff Raff, among others, in 2014. Be ready, too, for the moments that get YouTubed and Instagrammed and cherished: In 2012, Madonna joined Avicii during his set, and last year, Swedish House Mafia played their final show ever as a group.
Gorge Amphitheatre, George, Washington
When: May 23-25 and July 4-6
If everything is location, location, location, this one is bar none the best. “It truly is one of the most jaw-dropping locales on the planet,” says Sasquatch! founder, producer, and senior director of programming Adam Zacks. “Prior to booking events at The Gorge I had attended dozens of shows there, all of them memorable. One of my strongest memories is Lollapalooza ’94 with the Beastie Boys. I suppose that planted a seed in my psyche for Sasquatch! The scenery overdelivers. You can see hundreds of gorgeous sunset photos from The Gorge and it still does not compare to physically being at the site and staring in awe of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. It takes some effort to get there too—which turns out to be a really important part of the experience. One has to go there with intention and some planning, and the payoff is something lasting.”
Electric Daisy Carnival
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
When: June 20-22
The tagline of the fest is “Under the Electric Sky,” says Pasquale Rotella, CEO of Insomniac Events. “There are stars [on stage], but we contribute to that star being bright and sparkly by doing a few different things: Throughout the night we have pyro on stage and we do a 12-minute [fireworks] show. It’s something we do every night of the festival, and the planning starts like a year out—last year, we learned that we couldn’t write anything in the sky unless we thought of the idea in advance. We’ve also discussed turning off all the music from the stages and having the fireworks show synced to its own song. The amount of pyro has grown significantly over the years, and we’re always trying to outdo ourselves.”
Grant Park, Chicago
When: August 1-3
Lollapalooza is one of the few major fests that actually takes place within the downtown area of a major city—and what a city it is. “Chicago, like New York, is a late city, and clubs are often open as late as 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.,” says fest founder Perry Farrell. “Fans are ravenous for music, and it’s part of the Lollapalooza culture to offer and consume as much music as possible.” With the afterparties, “you’re able to do things you normally wouldn’t do. There’s often the opportunity for a large band to play a small room, or the jam that you can’t necessarily do at your festival slot. One year, the Foo Fighters played the Metro; you can’t see the Foo Fighters in a 1,000-seat theater anymore. [The afterparties] speak to how much some of the groups care about the music.”
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
When: June 12-15
A four-day fest ruled by a “Bonnaroovian” code that speaks to optimism, building relationships, and making new friends. “We treat everybody with tremendous respect,” says Richard Goodstone, co-founder of the festival and Superfly Presents. “Real simple things—like our security wears shirts that say ‘safety,’ not ‘security.’ They’re on horseback and not on carts. It’s a festival that’s very, very positive in nature, and the audience gives back to us and it creates a reciprocal relationship. There are 12 stages of music, a 24-hour cinema, a filmmaker and focus series, yoga. It’s like an adult Disney World. The goal is creating a profound experience that can be transformative. You can’t just take off Friday afternoon to come to Bonnaroo and see the entire event. You gotta take a full week off. It’s a commitment.”
Best Food & Drink
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco
When: August 8-10
The Bay Area is recognized as a food and wine paradise, and Outside Lands brings together some of the best restaurants, wineries, and microbreweries in the area. This ain’t your regular festival food. Want donuts? You can get porcini donuts with a side of ricotta sauce. Burgers? Try chef Tom Pizzica’s pork-belly burgers with rosemary aioli. Choose from more than 70 gourmet food stands and wash it down with tastings from dozens of local breweries and wineries.
Check out the April 2014 issue of Red Bulletin magazine (on newsstands March 11) for more articles. To read the magazine on your iPad, download the Red Bulletin iPad app. Follow Red Bulletin on Twitter for more.