2014’s Must-See Music Festivals

Erykah Badu Governors Ball


Missed Coachcella and SXSW? Cheer up. You have plenty of opportunities feel that “chonkyfire” from the recently reunited OutKast, who will be headlining a number of the season's biggest festivals. Make sure your passport won’t expire anytime soon because you’ll need it for some of these incredible events. Organize your crew and make your summer travel plans NOW.


Atlanta Jazz Festival

When: May 23-25

Where: Atlanta, GA, Piedmont Park

Performers: Roy Hargrove Quintet, Christian Scott, Ahmad Jamal, Ali Amr, Freddy Cole, Jon Batiste, Ester Rada, Somi, Russell Gunn’s Krunk Jazz Orkestra, and more.

Details:  The festival is free and showcases both established and up-and-coming musicians. No pets, tents, grilling, or glass containers allowed, but you can bring your own food and drinks, including alcohol, and there will be plenty of vendors. You can also purchase wares from local artists. Be sure not to miss Christian Scott, an incredible, young trumpeter from New Orleans.



The Roots Picnic

When: May 31

Where: Philadelphia, PA, Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing

Performers:  The Roots(of course), Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monae, The War on Drugs, Action Bronson, A$AP Ferg, Biz Markie, Bad Rabbits, Jhené Aiko, Just Blaze, Roman Gianarthur, and more.

Details:  It’s the legendary Roots crew. Nuff said. General admission is $64 with service fees. VIP tickets are $171 with service fees. The show is standing room only, so wear comfortable shoes and get ready to sweat.


Governor’s Ball

When: June 6-8

Where: Randall’s Island, NYC

Performers:  OutKast, TV on the Radio, J. Cole, Damian “JR Gong” Marley, Janalle Monae, Childish Gambino, Tyler, the Creator, Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, The Internet, and more.

Details: Randall’s Island is a small strip of land between Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens accessible by subway, bus, ferry, and festival shuttle traveling from Williamsburg every hour. You can bring a small lawn chair, backpack, and blanket, but no coolers, alcohol or glass containers. There will be tons of alcohol and food trucks on-site. Three day passes are $250, but like all things NYC, there are various VIP and travel packages. You can take the 4, 5 and 6 trains to 125th St. and catch the X80 express bus to get straight to the entrance. Single day tickets for Friday and Sunday are only $115, but unfortunately both single day and VIP passes are sold out for Saturday. Three day passes are $250 with service fees. The festival promises to excite but don’t forget that it’s in NYC which offers so much more when the speakers are silenced every night. Go explore the boroughs until dawn. Who needs sleep anyway?

Capital Jazz Festival

When:  June 6-8

Where: Columbia, MD, Merriweather Post Pavillion (between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.)

Performers:  Erykah Badu, John Legend, Chaka Khan, The Brand Heavies, Kem, Rachelle Ferrell, The O’Jays, Regina Belle, Dwele, Peabo Bryson, Joe, and more.

Details:  Two stages and almost 30 performances of jazz and soul, both classic and contemporary. Bring a blanket, lawn chair, tent, umbrella, and cooler but no alcohol. Admission prices vary per day but are only $52 Friday and $69.50 Saturday and Sunday through May 2, so buy your tickets soon. VIP prices for a pair of tickets in the Center Floor, parking pass, and entry to the VIP Deck, which features exclusive bars and private restrooms are $250 Friday and $450 Saturday and Sunday. Go get your grown and sexy on.



When:  June 12-15

Where: Manchester, TN (about an hour by car from Nashville and an hour and fifteen minutes from Chattanooga)

Performers: Elton John, Kanye West, Lionel Richie, Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Wiz Khalifa, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Bobby Womack, Ice Cube, Little Dragon, Pusha T, Hannibal Buress, Sasheer Zamata, and more.

Details:  700 acres of farmland transform into a small metropolis of 80,000 campers where you can bring your own tent or rent 2 or 4 person units with cots and bedding. VIP rentals include queen or double bed units with a table and two chairs. Don’t like camping? Bring your RV or rent that too. There are shower and bathroom facilities, medical tents, a 24-hour cinema, environment-conscious speakers and exhibits, a comedy tent, an art poster gallery, a dance party tent where DJs spin all night, gardening classes, a general store, food trucks, four-course meals at the 100% waste-free cafe, and other attractions. Don’t plan to leave. Although in-and-out entry is allowed, moving your car is heavily frowned upon due to the large traffic flow. Every vehicle is searched for don’t bring items which include bikes, weapons (of course), fireworks, glow sticks, and other non-essentials.  Four day passes are approximately $300 with service fees. A pair of VIP passes is approximately $1600 with service fees and includes VIP entrance, preferred parking, special showers and facilities with attendants, pre-event dinner and party Thursday night which includes a live band and buffet, exclusive VIP lounges with internet-enabled laptops, cell-phone charging stations, live video feeds of performances, yoga classes all weekend, and a gospel brunch and gospel choir Sunday. This festival provides a complete escape from reality into a music-filled, health-conscious oasis. Enlist the right group of friends and you’ll be sure to return home with lifelong stories.


When: June 25-29, July 1-6

Where: Milwaukee, WI, Henry Maier Festival Park

Performers:  Bruno Mars, Nas, Outkast, Lady Gaga, Dave Mathews Band, Usher, Kool and the Gang, Ludacris, B.O.B., The Wailers, Trombone Shorty, and more.

Details: Festival goers will hear over 1000 performances at the world’s largest music festival situated on the shore of Lake Michigan at a 75 acre park that will be packed with food and alcohol vendors, shopping, and interactive exhibits. The biggest draw to this festival has to be the price. For as little as $9, you can buy weekday tickets, and for $16, any day tickets are available. Prices will rise by one dollar on May 1 and again on June 1; yes, that’s 2 dollars total! Admission for all eleven days is only $70. Figure it out and go.       


BET Experience at L.A. Live

When: June 27-29

Where: Los Angeles, CA, Staples Center and Club Nokia

Performers:  Maxwell, Jill Scott, Marsha Ambrosius, OutKast, Rick Ross, Future, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, Jennifer Hudson, Trey Songz, Sommore, and more.

Details: The festival is a part of the 2014 BET Awards and takes place in Los Angeles’ entertainment district, L.A. Live, where there GRAMMYs, EMMYs, American Music Awards, ESPYS, and American Idol finals are hosted. It offers multiple entertainment venues and dining options. Single-day ticket prices begin at $59.50 and 3-day passes at $149.50. VIP packages allow you to rub shoulders with celebs, so if you’re looking for the red carpet experience with vintage Comicview performances, this is your festival.


Wireless Festival

When:  July 4-6

Where:  London, United Kingdom-Finsbury Park, Birmingham, United Kingdom-Perry Park at Alexander Stadium

Performers:  Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Drake, Outkast, Bruno Mars, J.Cole, Salt-N-Pepa, 2 Chainz, Iggy Azalea, Sean Paul, Robin Thicke, and more.

Details: This festival essentially takes place in two British cities that will host the same acts on alternating days. Three day passes to London concerts are roughly $353 at the current exchange rate. The same passes to Birmingham concerts are roughly $290. Single-day tickets are also available although the Friday London concert headlined by Drake is already sold out. Don’t hesitate to celebrate your American independence by leaving the country to explore what lies across the pond.


Montreux Jazz Festival

When:  July 4-19

Where:  Geneva, Switzerland

Performers:  Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Outkast, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Booker T. Jones, Massive Attack, Dr. John, Robin Thicke, Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt, Everlast, The Daptone Super Soul Rebels, and more.

Details:  Get your passport stamped and attend the second largest jazz festival in the world. It has showcased the talents of Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Count Basie, and other notable jazz and international artists. Daily VIP tickets are $450 a seat and other pricing options are available upon request. The all-music pass is $1600 and provides entry to the entire festival. I highly recommend this festival if you can afford it, especially if you care for an upscale experience that meets your discerning tastes.



When: July 8-Aug 3

Where: Toronto, Ontario

Performers: OutKast, Drake, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Fabolous, the Mas Bands, and many renowned Caribbean artists

Details: You still need your passport but you don’t have to leave North America for this month-long celebration of Caribbean culture. The official launch of the festival is July 8 but the most popular dates span its last weekend when over a million tourists flood Toronto for the féte. Structured as a string of parties headlined by various artists, each party requires its own admission fee, so do your homework to figure out which you want to attend. Festival passes will be available soon and will provide entry to select events. Whatever you decide, don’t miss the Caribbean Carnival Parade, Saturday, August 3, and remember to practice your “wine.” You don’t want to appear too stiff in the hips and miss out on all the fun.


Pitchfork Music Festival

When:  July 18-20

Where:  Chicago, IL, Union Park

Performers:   Beck, Kendrick Lamar, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Pusha T, Schoolboy Q, Earl Sweatshirt, Isaiah Rashad, Kelela, SZA, KA, and more.

Details:  It seems that Chicago festivals sell out quickly. Lollapalooza is already a no-go, and three day passes to this festival are gone. Thankfully, single day passes are only $60. We suggest you jump on them now to ensure that you’re there to see the more than 40 bands that will grace the stage.


Newport Jazz Festival

See Also

When: August 1-4

Where: Newport, RI, Fort Adams State Park, The International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino

Performers: Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, David Sanborn & Jay DeFrancesco, Ravi Coltrane, Robert Glasper, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, and more.

Details: This year’s festival marks 60 years of amazing jazz performances. The festival ranks among the top jazz events in the world and offers its festival-goers complete immersion into the beauty of classic and contemporary jazz. This one is a must-attend for the serious jazz aficionado. 


Afropunk Festival

When: August 23-24

Where:  Brooklyn, NYC, Commodore Barry Park

Performers: TBA;2013 performers included Big Freedia, Mykki Blanco, Saul Williams, ?uestlove, Chuck D, Danny Brown, K-os and Jean Grae.

Details:  Afropunk captures the spirit of the ever-changing borough and features a diverse lineup of some of the most dynamic artists in Black music. It’s at once a hip hop, rock, soul, house, alternative, electronic musical experience and the vibe welcomes all, while offering shopping, food, and good company.

Northcoast Music Festival

When:  August 29-31

Where: Chicago, IL

Performers: TBA; 2013 performers-Wu-Tang, Nas, Afrojack, Big Gigantic, Mac Miller, Gramatik, Aloe Blacc, Just Blaze, Danny Brown, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and more.

Details: Here’s another Chicago option since you didn’t get those Lollapalooza tickets. Mostly an electronic, hip hop, DJ-driven experience, you’ll be sure to hear great new music and mixes. Food includes vegetarian and vegan options. Lawn chairs, backpacks, and blankets are permitted. Pre-sale tickets are sold out but single-day passes and VIP will be available soon.


Made in America

When: August 30-31

Where: Philadelphia, PA, Los Angeles, CA

Performers:     TBA; 2013 performers-Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Public Enemy, Imagine Dragons, 2 Chainz, A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Emile Sandé, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Solange, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and more.

Details: Pick a coast and prepare to be entertained. Founded in 2012 by Jay-Z and Steve Stoute, this festival, originally held in Philadelphia alone, has grown every year and plans to expand even further, offering more acts than in previous years with the one in Los Angeles promising to showcase a number of Latin American artists. Prices begin at $125 for 2-day passes through May 4 during the early bird presale, so act fast. We wouldn’t worry about the uncertainty of the lineup because the festival hasn’t disappointed.



When: August 30-September 1

Where: Seattle, WA

Performers: TBA at the Pink & Purple Pickwick Party, May 8 (tickets $15), 2013 performers-Kendrick Lamar, Fun., Robert Glasper Experiment, Maceo Parker, Joey Bada$$, Guy, DJ White Shadow, and more.

Details:   True to its Seattle home, this festival is a literary, arts experience that includes The Moth, Literary Death Match, interactive theatre, a puppet slam, visual installations, and discussions with author Tom Robbins, the writers of the Simpsons, and The Onion. The music is dominated by an indie vibe which again mirrors the city itself. 3 day passes are $112 for general admission, $325 for Gold VIP, and $500 for Platinum VIP. Gold includes special entry to 3 national comedy acts a day, access to exclusive lounges and beverage coupons. Platinum includes all of the Gold benefits plus entry to 5 secret-location performances a day, a Reel Film Festival ticket, more comedy shows, and all access to the Words & Ideas stage. No alcohol is permitted although you can bring food, a reusable water bottle, and small coolers. If you want to be stimulated mentally and musically, this is the festival for you.


Outlook Festival

When: September 3-7

Where: Pula, Croatia at Fort Punta Christo

Performers: Ms. Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier, Barrington Levy, Kaytranda, Bishop Nehru, Channel One, and more.

Details: The location of this festival is amazing. It’s literally on the beach shores of Pula where an ancient fort is situated next to the festival’s campsite. The opening night performance will take place in a 2000 year-old Roman amphitheatre in the center of Pula. Some of the festival’s signature, bass-heavy parties take place throughout the fort while others erupt in the bay of Petrcane on boats where festival DJs spin and the drinks flow all night. All venues and days are priced individually and will be updated soon. Why not corral your adventurous friends and send the summer off right?   


Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter


Sign up for the EBONY Newsletter

When you sign up for the EBONY newsletter, you’ll be the first to know about all the latest news and updates that are important to you. Gain access to exclusive interviews, videos, special events, and product giveaways delivered right to your inbox!