Rock ‘n’ roll music … outdoors?!

Your 2008 guide to the best of summer’s merrymaking festivals.

by Jay Boller

Another summer means another slew of bands doing the one profitable thing left to do (if you’re on the Hub as you’re reading this line, for shame) as a recording artist: tour, tour and tour. What is work for our musician brethren is for us a summer of hot tunes, hotter weather, beer, drugs, camping and cute boys/girls. Summer 2008 appears to be one of the best yet in terms of variety, quality and frequency of band visits. All the buzz-bands (Vampire Weekend, the Ting Tings, MGMT, etc.) will be hitting the road to test their lasting value.

But the real story is the number of reunion(ish) bands hopping on the festival circuit this year. Sure, nostalgic reunions can be passed off as a cash-grab ploy, but it’s hard not to get excited at the number of stellar “old” groups hitting the road this summer. The list of legends/fogies runs as follows: Iggy and the Stooges, The Zombies, The Sex Pistols, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, the Police and Mission of Burma. Whew.

If that got you digging around for your calendar, this list of can’t-miss festivals for summer ’08 will help you decide which days to take off from whatever summer job you scored. Because A&E is well aware of fuel costs and always has your finances in mind, the list attempts to remain semi-regional. For an exhaustively comprehensive list of festivals that will have you cursing the fact you can’t spend the summer in Europe, the A&E blog can send you to the right places.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
Date: June 12 ñ 15
Location: Manchester, Tenn.
Price: $210 – $245 (four-day passes)

What began in 2002 as a trippy stoner festival has evolved into a stoner/hipster behemoth of a rock carnival. Located on a sprawling 700-acre Tennessee farm, it’s now booked as an all-encompassing arts festival that features not just music, but comedians, a craft market and a cinema tent. There’s ample room for camping and, despite the festival’s foray into indie-rock territory, will surely produce copious amounts of non-beer substance consumption.

Headliners: Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West and Chris Rock.

A&E Recommends: M.I.A., Willie Nelson, Cat Power, Yonder Mountain String Band and Rilo Kiley.

Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Date: July 4 ñ July 5
Price: $50 (two-day)

80/35 is a brand-spankin’-new 40+ band festival that’s been coined “Lollapalooza’s Midwestern Baby Sister” and appears quite promising. It’s taking place on the streets of downtown Des Moines (possibly the least-rocking town in the history of rock Ö or towns) and features a lineup of surprisingly solid groups. Given the facts it’s cheaper, closer and less sponsor-invested than the Big “L,” 80/35 is a tempting draw.

Headliners/A&E recommends: The Flaming Lips, The Roots, Andrew Bird, Black Francis and The Drive-by Truckers.

Pitchfork Music Festival
Date: July 18 ñ July 20
Location: Chicago
Price: $50 (Two-day out of three)

Say what you will about Pitchfork’s aura of pretention, fact is that for the past few years their festival has set the standard for quality, affordability and comfort. One obvious strategy: they cap their ticket sales below park capacity to ensure fewer tramplings. Located a hop, skip and a jump off the El in Chicago’s Grant Park, this year’s festival has the usual indie darlings alongside re-formed legends. Just the fact that Flavor Flav will be comingling with thousands of skinny-jean-wearing hipsters hints that 2008 may be Pitchfork’s most exciting year yet.

Headliners: Public Enemy, Mission of Burma, Sebadoh, Animal Collective and Spoon.

A&E recommends: The Hold Steady, Dinosaur Jr., Ghostface Killah, Dizzee Rascal and Les Savy Fav.

Date: August 1 ñ August 3
Location: Chicago
Cost: $205 (three-day)

The festival that’s been called the “Woodstock for the ’90s generation” is back for its 12th year. 2008’s incarnation is being “delivered by” AT&T, which comes as no surprise considering that Lollapalooza has defined excess sponsorship as much as it has Gen X’ers and their culture. Capitalistic blood-sucking aside, the festival has routinely delivered (thanks, phone service providers!) a jaw-dropping lineup year to year. 2008 is no exception and – take what you will from the abridged list below – the lineup is, as always, massive.

Headliners: Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Kanye West, Nine Inch Nails and Wilco.

A&E recommends: Okkervil River, Black Lips, The Weakerthans, The Black Keys and Steven Malkmus.

Date: July 23 ñ July 26
Location: Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Cost: $140 (four-day, includes camping site)

Minnesota’s own annual tripping-balls festival 10K is back in 2008 and possesses a lineup as psychedelic as ever. In 2007, the festival was beset with tragedy when multiple festival goers overdosed in an entirely traumatic, pointless and predicable fashion. While 10K is synonymous with drug use (read: first sentence of this paragraph), it is a special communal bonding experience, set in a gorgeous part of Minnesota and a boon to Detroit Lakes’ economy. The Flaming Lips’ unparalleled live show is reason enough to take the trek up to Detroit Lakes.

Headliners/A&E recommends: The Flaming Lips, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Bad Plus, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic and Uncle Boogie Pants (based on name alone).