The 40 Best Festival Lineups in the US over the Past 16 Years
- John Flynn
- On December 8, 2016
Do you know your favorite festival lineup? Maybe it’s just me, but festival lineups seem to bring out enthusiasm in music nerds and casual music listeners alike. As the year comes to a close it is common to choose your favorite movies, albums, and performances. In the spirit of reflection we have compiled a list of the best festival lineups since the year 2000, check them out below!
40. FYF 2015
This LA based music festival is produced by Sean Carlson and Goldenvoice, who partnered with Carlson back in 2011. Sean Carlson has been producing the festival since he was eighteen years old. The early festivals took place in the parking lot of the LA sports arena in downtown Los Angeles. The festival has since expanded and shows no signs of slowing down. Carlson also shows no sign of conceding any of his creative integrity after the Goldenvoice partnership was announced in 2011. In fact, it appears Goldenvoice is only benefitting the festival and its unique bill. 2015 featured Morrissey and Frank Ocean as headliners originally, but after Frank Ocean cancelled Kanye West agreed to fill in. The undercard featured a plethora of up and coming niche interest acts, as well as a few staples in electronic music.
39. Sasquatch 2015
Sasquatch Festival is an eclectic music festival that takes place two and a half hours east of Seattle, Washington. Situated at The Gorge Amphitheater, the festival has a singular visual aesthetic and the music only does this justice. The festival is co-produced by the highly innovative Adam Zacks and Livenation. Zacks began the festival in 2002, the same year that Bonnaroo held its iconic first gathering. The frist lineup began as a one day event and sold out rapidly. Ever since, the festival has continued to showcase a diverse lineup of talent including a comedy lineup.
38. FYF 2014
FYF Festivals 2014 lineup is the fest’s tenth edition and is perhaps its most singular to date. The bill features headliners Phoenix and The Strokes, both of which turned heads during the latter half of the 2000s and early 2010s. The undercard lineup is strong in its diversity and the festival does well in booking ripe talent that is just recently emerging; acts like Mac Demarco, Run The Jewels, Death Grips, and Jamie XX all appear to have been booked a year before they gain notoriety, which is a huge reason why FYF has found so much success.
37. Fun Fun Fun Festival 2011
Fun Fun Fun festival emerged in Austin, Texas as the leading festival in Austin’s abrasive music culture. With Austin City Limits attracting the majority of festival goers, Fun Fun Fun festival was there to fill the niche that Austin City Limits left out. The 2011 booking of Public Enemy and Slayer was an interesting blend of hardcore hip hop and heavy metal, a lineup tradition that it carried on throughout the years.
36. Voodoo 2010
This New Orleans based festival takes place each year over halloween weekend and is generally known for its commitment to providing festival goers with a blend of hard rock, hip hop, pop, and electronic. The festival is produced by Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits producers C3 Presents and was acquired by Livenation in 2013. The 2010 edition featured heavyweights Muse, Ozzy Osborne, and Weezer along with up and coming B-Level (at the time) acts Florence and the Machine and Drake. The lineup also included Hot Chip, Paul Van Dyk, Interpol, and Deadmau5. This edition was truly ahead of its time in its bookings.
35. Lollapalooza 2009
As Lollapalooza continued to find success as Chicago’s premier music festival C3 Presents began to took root and the festival’s lineup expanded rapidly. The 2009 edition of the festival featured cult classic acts Depeche Mode and Tool along with pop-rock acts The Killers and Kings Of Leon. Beastie Boys, Thievery Corporation, TV on the Radio, Snoop Dogg, and the iconic Lou Reed (of The Velvet Underground) all made appearances on the lineup. 2009 also marked the first year of Perry’s stage, the festival’s premiere EDM showcase; it featured Bassnectar, MSTRKRFT, Deadmau5, and Boys Noize.
34. Hangout Festival 2011
Hangout Festival is Alabama’s premiere music festival. Situated in Gulf Shores, it is a perfect getaway for music fans and college students just getting out of school. The festival is co-produced by Coachella producers Goldenvoice and Huka Entertainment. The 2011 edition featured the near impossible booking of Paul Simon along with a tremendous undercard The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, Girl Talk, and Bassnectar. The 2016 lineup is nearly unrecognizable compared to the 2011 edition.
33. Sasquatch Festival 2016
2016 marked the fifteen year anniversary for Adam Zack’s creation of Sasquatch and the lineup showed no signs of the festival slowing down in their bookings. While the festival is much smaller than festival heavy weights like Bonnaroo or Coachella the lineup is known for drawing from a wide variety of genres, and 2016 was no different. The fifteen year anniversary edition showcased acts such as The Cure, M83, Major Lazer, Florence and The Machine, and Disclosure. The festival aims to represent all interests and succeeds in doing so.
32. Fun Fun Fun Festival 2014
Fun Fun Fun Fest’s ninth year featured showcases from Judas Priest, Nas, Girl Talk, and Neutral Milk Hotel. In 2014 the festival was a paradise for indie listeners and the showcase of talent was a perfect example of the festivals grass roots collection of hip hop, punk, electronica, and indie band lineup.
31. FYF Festival 2016
FYF Festival continues to get better with each year. The thirteenth year of the LA based festival welcomed festival goers to see double headlining slots; Saturday saw Kendrick Lamar and Tame Impala take the stage while Sunday saw LCD Soundsystem and Grace Jones perform. The lineup also features a variety of unique acts from Young Thug to Hot Chip to Air and Beach House.
30. Lollapalooza 2005
Man did Lollapalooza 2005 rock… By booking The Pixies the festival solidified itself as the leading festival for showcasing authentic alternative talent that had already reached the main stream. This iconic headline booking, along with the festivals strong undercard that included Arcade Fire (booked as The Arcade Fire), Kasabian, and The Black Keys, drew fans from all over the country to see the lineup. Weezer and Widespread Panic also headlined at the festival.
29. Desert Trip 2016
“Coachella for old people.” That is what Mick Jagger joked about Desert Trip being on stage during his weekend one performance. I mean, he’s not wrong. Desert Trip, produced by Paul Tollet of Goldenvoice, featured all of the acts that you wish you could have seen but were far too young to catch. It is actually quite a bargain considering tickets were originally on sale for $399 and the lineup features six of rocks most iconic performers. This vintage glimpse into what music used to be is a unique perspective from the standpoint of a massive music festival, and the lineup isn’t bad either.
28. Panorama 2016
2016 was the first year ever for Panorama Festival to take place on Randall Island, the same venue that holds the annual Governor’s Ball festival in New York City. The festival is produced by the same producers that put on Coachella, Firefly, and Desert Trip festivals. The festival has been dubbed as the east coast Coachella and has been heralded for its diverse bill of talent. It isn’t common that a festival has such a strong lineup in its first year but it is expected from a festival heavyweight like Goldenvoice.
27. Coachella 2012
“Dude did you see the Tupac hologram?!?!” This phrase was uttered for weeks by nearly everyone that attended Coachella in 2012. The festivals booking of Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg as a pair was one of their strongest moves since booking Daft Punk as a sub headliner in 2006. Placing Bon Iver at the sub headliner spot after the release of his self titled album and having Radiohead and The Black Keys makes this festival one to remember. Not to mention acts like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd are situated rather low on the bill and either of them would have the pull to headline major US festivals in 2017. When people look back at Coachella 2012 they will see a lineup that is ahead of its time.
26. Bonnaroo 2009
Bonnaroo was truly the first of its kind. Beginning in 2002, the festival set out to do what no festival had done before. The festivals original founders: Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment and Kerry Black (graphic design), Rick Farman (festival operations), Richard Goodstone (marketing), and Jonathan Mayers (programming) of Superfly Productions originally set out to create something that had never been done before. By merging an eclectic music lineup, film screenings, comedy, and art installations all in the middle of nowhere on a Tennessee farm the producers created a festival where festival goers felt like they were part of an integrated experience. The 2009 lineup was featured grunge band Nine Inch Nails, The Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, two sets from Phish, and a legacy slot performance by Bruce Springsteen.
25. Sasquatch 2012
Sasquatch Festival’s 2012 lineup is unique in that it features the booking of Jack White a mere year after The White Stripes announced they would be breaking up. While most festival’s waited until 2014 to book White as a stand alone act Sasquatch was quick to jump the gun and book him as a headliner. The festival rivaled competitors by booking Bon Iver, Pretty Lights, The Shins, Beck, and Tenacious D to their lineup.
24. Fun Fun Fun Festival 2015
Fun Fun Fun festival, known for its dedication to Austin culture, had a bold lineup in 2015 which bolstered heavyweights Janes Addiction, Wu Tang Clan, D’angelo and the Vanguard, and NOFX. 2015 was also the festivals last year before becoming Sound On Sound Festival in 2016.
23. Lollapalooza 2013
The year 2013 saw Lollapalooza shift back to their roots while still satisfying the demographic of popular music listeners. The booking of The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and New Order was enough to get any fan of post punk and grunge to the festival and Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend, and The Killers drew large crowds of casual music fans looking for a good time. This lineup showed first hand that you can book niche talent and universally known talent all in one successful music festival.
22. Coachella 2002
Coachella 2002 succeeded in making this list for essentially one reason: Oasis. The booking of Oasis seems much more relevant today than it probably did in 2002 largely due to the fact that the band has since broken up and have no visible plans to tour in the foreseeable future. Oh, and it certainly helped that Bjork, Foo Fighters, The Strokes, and The Chemical Brothers all had spots on the lineup as well.
21. Austin City Limits 2009
Austin City Limits converged mainstream with niche for the 2009 edition of Austin City Limits. Beastie Boys and Pearl Jam were the mainstay for the festivals attendees and dads all across the country rejoiced when they saw Dave Matthews Band. Three solid acts that truly represented the musical interests of the time. Middle tier booking of Ben Harper, John Legend, and Thievery Corporation diversified the album’s lineup. The Dead Weather (Jack White’s side project at the time) made their way into the undercard along with Sonic Youth and Mos Def showing how deep the lineup ran.
20. Bonnaroo 2016
There are undeniable reasons why the fifteenth anniversary of Bonnaroo was one of their best yet, and one of the best festival lineups we have seen. The single biggest reason: The Dead. No other festival has been able to book Grateful Dead members as frequently as Bonnaroo, they are able to pull it off because of their grass roots beginnings and commitment to making the festival experience free and inclusive. Along with The Dead, which is arguably worth the ticket price itself, the festival featured headliners Pearl Jam, J Cole, and LCD Soundsystem. Despite a few forgettable undercard acts (read: Macklemore and Ellie Goulding) the festival featured a dense undercard which included Tame Impala (who is sure to headline major US festivals like Bonnaroo in years to come), Death Cab for Cutie, M83, Tyler, The Creator, and Vince Staples. After all, 2016 was an important year for Bonnaroo to re-establish creative control over the festival and to work on infrastructure. When you look to past lineups in the future it will go down as an extremely important lineup during the shift that modern festivals are feeling.
19. Governors Ball 2014
Governors Ball is festival situated on Randall Island in New York City. The festival is produced by Founders Entertainment so high on the list for a number of reasons. Namely, the festival converged two of 2014’s largest festival headliners at one festival. Governors Island was one of a few festivals that booked both of the headliners. In addition, the festival managed to book Interpol, Vampire Weekend, Disclosure, Phoenix, and The Strokes on their lineup.
18. Coachella 2013
Coachella is known for booking A-list talent, which is why putting Phoenix was a rather controversial move; many argued that the band hadn’t reached headliner status. Despite Phoenix being billed so high the festival made up for it by double booking Blur and The Stone Roses, two bands that virtually never tour the US. An undercard with Lou Reed, Jurassic 5, Wu Tang Clan, and New Order further proves that this lineup was a game changer.
17. Austin City Limits 2006
The fifth anniversary of Austin City Limits saw the grass roots festival begin to push the boundaries a little bit, and it payed off. With legacy acts like Tom Petty and Van Morrison you really can’t go wrong. The Flaming Lips, John Mayer, The Raconteurs, Massive Attack, Ben Harper, and The Shins were all ahead of their time during the festival. If this lineup were booked today it would cause a frenzy. It also helped that Austin native Willie Nelson made the bill.
16. Sasquatch 2007
Sasquatch Festival’s sixth year captured the end of some acts prominence and the beginning of others. Acts like The Beastie Boys and M.I.A were in their prime while an up and coming Arcade Fire (booked as The Arcade Fire) were fresh off of the release of their sophomore album Neon Bible. The 2007 lineup of Sasquatch was hosted by Sarah Silverman, Michael Showalter, and Aziz Ansari.
15. Lollapalooza 2008
Lollapalooza 2008 featured staples like Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and Wilco along with a performance with Kanye West. Along with the headliners the festival had one of the most influential undercards of any lineup post 2007. One could argue that 2008 was the year that festival undercards grew the most. The Raconteurs, The Black Keys, The National, and Mark Ronson were all non headliner artists that performed at the festival.
14. Bonnaroo 2014
Bonnaroo 2014 represents everything that is right in music festivals. The lineup was diverse in its booking, had A-List talent across the board, and represented a sense of creative integrity that the producers had in mind since day one. Despite the controversy, and subsequent disinterest, that Kanye West caused in 08′ when he refused to play and delayed his set for hours, he was a staple in the festivals lineup; along with Elton John, Jack White, and Lionel Richie Mr. West made sure that fans satisfied all of their musical interests. Alas, the most impressive part of the lineup was the undercard, which touted performers Frank Ocean, The Avett Brothers, Skrillex, The Flaming Lips, Arctic Monkeys, Disclosure, Chance The Rapper, and even Ms. Lauryn Hill among others. It is usually Bonnaroo’s undercard that makes or breaks the festival and in 2014 it made the lineup a spectacle for its fans.
13. Austin City Limits 2011
Austin City Limits 2011 came out strong with the legacy booking of Stevie Wonder, the only other festivals to book Mr. Wonder that year were Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. Along with Arcade fire at their peak, Coldplay, and Kanye West fresh off the release of ‘Watch The Throne’ the festival was making ground to establish themselves as a force in the festival industry. An undercard that featured Damian Marley, Pretty Lights, and My Morning Jacket only contributed to the tremendous energy the headliners gave the lineup.
12. Lollapalooza 2012
The Lollapalooza 2012 lineup signified the festivals last true authentic attempt at their original mission. Sure, the festival had its fair share of EDM but at the very core were three performers all singular in their own right comprising a diverse lineup. It was the last of the epic lineups for Lollapalooza. Having Black Sabbath, Jack White, and Red Hot Chilli peppers play in one weekend is iconic and will go down as Lollapalooza’s last authentic rock lineup.
11. Coachella 2003
Wow… I mean what other festival would book Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beastie Boys, Jack Johnson, and two nights of the Blue Man Group. Coachella 2003 brought it into the mainstream. It was the original cool music festival. The Chilli Peppers and Beastie Boys were supported by The White Stripes, Underworld, Thievary Corporation, Interpol, Sonic Youth, Ben Harper, and Queens of the Stone Age. This lineup was amazing in its own rite and set the tone for music festivals nationwide.
When it comes down to the brass tacks of what makes a festival singular the headliners are definitely the most important thing to consider. All of the festivals in the top ten list have changed the way that we experience live music due to their daring headliner bookings and eclectic grouping of unique artists into one diverse lineup.
10. Austin City Limits 2010
The mother fuckin’ Eagles! How could you leave out ACL 2010 when they booked the god damn Eagles! With Muse, Phish , The Strokes, Flaming Lips, M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem to support this festival out. This must have been a sight to see. The undercard had acts like Edward Sharpe, Portugal, the Man, Slightly Stoopid, Beach House, and The Black Keys. Is it even possible to book that much awesome talent?
9. Bonnaroo 2007
Bonnaroo seems to show a trend, how can we integrate popular music into a grass roots festival. 2007 was the seminal year where Bonnaroo began to book more widely known acts and they couldn’t have accomplished it any better. By booking The Police they were booking an act that no other festival would dare to book and were drawing major crowds from all over the country to sing along to ‘every breathe you take.’ Oh, and it didn’t hurt that Tool, Widespread Panic, The White Stripes, Ben Harper, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, and Bob Weir also performed. Talk about a grass roots festival that successfully drafted a lineup anyone can enjoy. Hell, it even featured a killer comedy lineup including Dave Atell.
8. Coachella 2007
This Coachella featured the second performance ever at the fest by Rage Against The Machine. The world renowned alt metal band had first played the festival during its premier in 1999 which made the performance all the better. Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Bjork also headlined. Arcade Fire, Interpol, and Arctic Monkeys also performed as sub headliners to give the year one of the best lineups to date.
7. Bonnaroo 2013
Legacy acts Paul McCartney and Tom Petty along with seminal acts wilco and Bjork, plus R. Kelly, Wu Tang Clan, Daniel Tosh, Pretty Lights, The National, and Mumford and Sons (who was filled in for by Jack Johnson when they cancelled.) Need I say more? This lineup is badass.
6. Austin City Limits 2008
Wisely booked and incredibly accessible, ACL was another festival that decided to book Jack White as a singular act immediately after the White Stripes breakup. The Chilli Peppers and Black Keys give the lineup breadth; Neil Young is a huge reason for why this festival is so high. The legacy slot was incredibly done and fit so well with this general lineup.
5. Bonnaroo 2012
Bonnaroo’s thirteenth lineup was a nostalgic glimpse into a multitude of genres. Jam, Surf Rock, Experimental Rock, Acoustic, lots of rock honestly. The lineup stands on its own with powerful bookings of The Chilli Peppers, Beach Boys, Bon Iver, Radiohead, and Phish. Truly a lineup that all music listeners can enjoy. Not to mention a comedy performance from Aziz Ansari.
4. Coachella 2010
The Gorillaz. That is all that truly needs to be said about Coachella 2010. The band played their only US festival show to date, aside from a few solo performances from Damon Albarn. Performances from Jay Z and Muse also solidified lineup largely due to Jay Z’s infrequent festival catalogue. LCD Soundsystem and Pavement had arguably reached headliner status during 2010 so the lineup truly stands on its own.
3. Coachella 2006
Daft Punk?!?! And they weren’t even headlining? How is it possible that a festival even existed where Daft Punk didn’t headline? I guess the only scenario would be Depeche Mode and Tool headlining. Coachella shifted to being a three day festival in 2007 and they probably should have done it a year early because 2006 needed it. I mean that undercard was stacked. The weekend also featured performances by Massive Attack, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Madonna, and Damian Marley.
2. Lollapalooza 2007
Lollapalooza is standalone because of their eclectic A-List bookings. Pearl Jam represented the grunge lovers of the 90s, Daft Punk put on a legendary electronic performance (possibly their best to date), and Muse, Interpol, Ben Harper, My Morning Jacket, The Roots, and LCD Soundsystem all took the stage.
1. Coachella 2008
Prince. Roger Waters playing dark side of the moon. Need I say more? Shout out to the beautiful symbol next to Prince’s name on the bill, anyone know what that is?
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