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Rock 'n' road trip: 20 drivable music festivals

Summer Set 2013

Summer Set 2013

Gas prices are down. Urges to drink and get high in open fields never dip. And live music? Well, that's an added bonus. Music festival season is upon us! Fests with ostentatious names like Sasquatch (Washington) and Bonnaroo (Tennessee) don't vibe with our Midwestern sensibilities. Even though the dollar is kicking all sorts of ass right now, Euro mega-fests like Reading, Leeds, and Glastonbury require substantial travel investments. Your practical Honda Fit and lightly used pup-tent, on the other hand, can get you from the Twin Cities to some of the finest entertainment in the world. To assist in your summer planning, we've assembled 20 of the region's biggest music festivals and gauged whether they're worth your gas and ticket dollars. 

Gentlemen of the Road Stopover - June 19-20, Waverly, Iowa

Drive: 3 hours. 

Lineup: Mumford & Sons, Jenny Lewis, My Morning Jacket, the Flaming Lips, Blake Mills, Dawes, others.

Tickets: $85 (Fri.) & $125 (Sat.); $200 two-day passes. 

Worth it? Enduring the recently banjo-less Mumfords is less than ideal, but the rest of the lineup offers choice cuts for indie-rock fans. The fest is a nice boost for tiny Waverly, too. 

Rock the Garden - June 20-21, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Drive: Inconsequential! (It's outside of the Walker Art Center.) 

Lineup: Modest Mouse, Belle & Sebastian, Babes in Toyland, Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett , others.

Tickets: $64 per day; $112 two-day passes; $100-$200 single-day VIP.  

Worth it? You bet. Modest Mouse and Bell & Sebastian are major draws, even if the latter act is hit-or-miss live. The Babes in Toyland homecoming reunion show will be huge, Courtney Barnett made the year's best album (so far), and thestand4rd - featuring the most exciting members of the local rap scene - should test the comfort zones of 89.3 the Current fanatics. 

Taste of Randolph - June 19-21, Chicago, Illinois 

Drive: 6.5 hours.

Lineup: Dinosaur Jr., the Dandy Warhols, Best Coast, Lettuce, Emancipator Ensemble, Tennis, others.

Tickets: $10 suggested donation; $40 per day VIP; $200 three-day VIP pass. 

Worth it? If you're crazy into Dino Jr., the Warhols, or stuffing your face in festival settings, sure. For most, it'll be a fun/cheap diversion if you already happen to be in Chicago. 

Summerfest - June 24-July 5, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Drive: 5 hours. 

Lineup: The Rolling Stones, Florida Georgia Line, Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, Carrie Underwood, Neil Young ... those are just some of the headliners. 

Tickets: $19 per day; $45 three-day passes; $80 11-day passes. 

Worth it? With 11 days of music featuring more than 800 acts, it's billed as the world's largest music festival. The populist pricing and endless lineup are appealing, though headliners cost extra.  

A Taste of Minnesota - July 2-5, Waconia, Minnesota

Drive: 50 minutes.

Lineup: Gear Daddies, Foghat, P.O.D., Phil Vassar, others. 

Tickets: $7-$10.

Worth it? I mean ... it's cheap. But dear god, at what cost? Just listen to "Slow Ride" on YouTube while eating a hunk of fried dough from the comfort of your laptop. 

Taste of Chicago - July 8-12, Chicago, Illinois

Drive: 6.5 hours.

Lineup: Weezer, Spoon, Erykah Badu (sold out), the Chieftains, and Maze headline.

Tickets: Free (headliners extra). 

Worth it? Chicago's Taste sounds a helluva lot better. 

Basilica Block Party - July 10-11, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

Drive: Inconsequential! (It's in outside of the Basilica.) 

Lineup: Weezer, Nate Ruess, O.A.R., Wilco, Jason Isbell, Fitz & the Tantrums, others.

Tickets: $55 per day; $100 two-day pases; $100-$375 VIP per day VIP passes.

Worth it? Not unlike a swig of delicious holy wine, this one's a little easier to swallow since the canning of Archbishop John Nienstedt. (None of the profits ever went to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis directly, but still). Anyway, killer lineup this year with Weezer, Wilco, Jason Isbell, Jenny Lewis, and Motion City Soundtrack. The Cities 97 crowd gets O.A.R., Mat Kearney, Nate Ruess, and such, but you can find us at the all-local stage during those sets. 

80/35 - July 10-11, Des Moines, Iowa

Drive: 3.5 hours.

Lineup: Weezer, Wilco, Jenny Lewis, Run the Jewels, St. Lucia, Cloud Nothings, Talib Kewli, others.

Tickets: $44-$50 per day; $75-$90 two-day passes. 

Worth it? No question. Weezer, Wilco, and Jenny Lewis are really working the Midwest festival circuit, aren't they? Run the Jewels - the pummeling and powerful rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P - is the real draw, though. "Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)" in a Des Moines park - finally! The rest of the lineup is pretty obscure, but 80/35 is a bargain when considering its top-billed talent and fair pricing. 

Moondance Jam - July 16-18, Walker, Minnesota 

Drive: 3.5 hours.

Lineup: Nickelback, Papa Roach, the Doobie Brothers, Huey Lewis & the News, Shinedown, Peter Frampton, others

Tickets: $130-$140 per day; $200 three-day passes. 

Worth it? What a strange confluence of torturous 93X rock and your dad's Spotify playlist. Huey and the Doobies can't really offset the high ticket costs and the presence of Papa Roach. That said, there's a market for it.  

Eaux Claires - July 17-18, Eau Claire, Wisconsin 

Drive: 1.5 hours.

Lineup: Bon Iver, the National, the Tallest Man on Earth, Sufjan Stevens, Sturgill Simpson, Doomtree, others.

Tickets: $75 per day; $135 two-day passes. 

Worth it? Oh yeah. This is Bonny Bear's triumphant return to his hometown, after all. And his first-ever fest delivers the goods, with a diverse lineup that balances Pitchfork favorites (National, Sufjan) with loads of Twin Cities and regional talent.  

Pitchfork Music Festival - July 17-19, Chicago, Illinois 

Drive: 6.5 hours.

Lineup: Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels, Waxahatchee, Chvrches, Courtney Barnett, the Julie Ruin. others.

Tickets: $65 per day; three-day passes sold out. 

Worth it? Man, this might be the best Pitchfork Music Fest yet. The lineup is stacked beyond belief, tickets are cheap, and it's one of the best-organized fests around. The Eaux Claires vs. Pitchfork decision should not be taken lightly. 

Vans Warped Tour - July 26, Shakopee, Minnesota 

Drive: 30 minutes. 

Lineup: Silverstein, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, MC Lars, Mod Sun, Riff Raff, Senses Fail.

Tickets: $35.50.

Worth it? I have no idea. This is not the pop-punk Warped Tour of your youth, provided you've had a driver's license more than five years. Mod Sun's a Twin Cities rapper who found fame outside of the local scene; Riff Riff spent time at Hibbing Community College because he's a cornrowed, neon anomaly. 

Hinterland - July 31-August, Des Moines, Iowa

Drive: 3.5 hours.

Lineup: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Old Crow Medicine Show, Future Islands, Brandi Carlile, TV on the Radio, Lucius, Justin Townes Earle.

Tickets: $45 per day; $75 two-day passes.

Worth it? Look at you, Iowa. The rebrand from agrarian presidential proving ground to Rock City continues unabated. This brand-new fest is competitively priced and features solid entertainment (TV on the Radio, Future Islands, and Townes Earle are worth the price of admission). Organizers promise "a diverse blend of relevant artists, cyclist events, on-site sculpture and art installations, craft vendors, family engagement" at Des Moines' sprawling Water Works Park.

Lollapalooza - July 31-August 2, Chicago, Illinois 

Drive: 6.5 hours. 

Lineup: Paul McCartney, Metallica, Florence + the Machine, Sam Smith, Bassnectar, The Weeknd, alt-J, Alabama Shakes, Of Monsters and Men, others.

Tickets: $110 per day (sold out); $275 three-day passes (sold out). 

Worth it? If you wanna hit the secondary market for tickets, $110 for a McCartney or Metallica isn't unreasonable, plus you'll get a day's worth of music beforehand. The vigorously sponsored King of Midwestern Festivals has a strong and deep cast (Tame Impala, A$AP Rocky, the War on Drugs, FKA Twigs) supporting its megastars. 

WE Fest - August 6-8, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota 

Drive: 3.5 hours.

Lineup: Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Hank Williams, Jr., others.

Tickets: $89 per day; $149 three-day passes.

Worth it? If you're a fan of radio country, no doubt. Interestingly, this lineup almost skews old-school (in relative terms) because it largely shuns the dominant bro-country movement. Instead, still-relevant stars who predate the party-boy genre populate the bill, one that's a no-brainer for lovers of mainstream country music.

Go Fest - August 7, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Drive: Inconsequential! (It's at Target Field.) 

Lineup: Matt and Kim, Cold War Kids, Yelawolf, others.

Tickets: $9.63-$69.50.

Worth it? Listening to Matt and Kim is like mainlining a Kidz Bop album recorded by hyperactive, smirking adults into your eardrums. Reviews of their performance at last year's Rock the Garden were about that kind. Outside of serviceable indie-rockers Cold War Kids and Eminem-endorsed MC Yelawolf, the lineup caters to people who grew up thinking the soundtracks to iPod ads were "indie." Electropop producer Big Data enjoyed a big radio hit with "Dangerous."

Summer Set - August 14-16, Somerset, Wisconsin

Drive: 45 minutes. 

Lineup: Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Deadmau5, the Weeknd, Action Bronson, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Carnage, Die Antwoord, others.

Tickets: $64.50-$74.50 per day; $169.50-$179.50 three-day passes; $495-$595 three-day VIP passes. 

Worth it? Fans seem to think so. The electronic/jam/rap hybrid, which debuted in 2012, has exploded in popularity and pivoted more toward EDM. Locals John Mark Nelson, Lizzo, and Cloud Cult will make the drive down I-94E this year. Ticket prices do not reflect glowstick expenses. 

Maximum Ames - September 10-13, Ames, Iowa

Drive: 3 hours. 

Lineup: The Mountain Goats, Grandmaster Flash, Ex Hex, Mikal Cronin, Charlie Parr, others.  

Tickets: $29.95-$39-95 four day passes; headliners extra. 

Worth it? It' feels more of a civic pride blowout with four nights of respectable headliners than a destination festival. If you've got business in downtown Ames, get after it. If not, maybe just wait until the Mountain Goats come through town next year.   

Riot Fest and Carnival - September 11-13, Chicago, Illinois

Drive: 6.5 hours.

Lineup: No Doubt, Modest Mouse, Faith No More, Iggy Pop, Snoop Dogg, Motorhead, Rancid, Tenacious D, Ice Cube.

Tickets:  $189.98 three-day passes; $299.98-$949 VIP three-day passes.

Worth it? A.V. Club writer Nathan Rabin called the inaugural Riot Fest the Warped Tour for people with mortgages, and that characterization more or less sticks in Year 2. The headliners are colossal and wide-ranging, but the lineup is fortified by legacy pop-punk and emo acts - Alkaline Trio, Taking Back Sunday, Less Than Jake, etc. The fest switched locations in 2015 to Douglas Park. 

Festival Palomino - September 9, Shakopee, Minnesota

Drive: 30 minutes.

Lineup: Trampled by Turtles, Dr. Dog, Father John Misty, Benjamin Booker, others.

Tickets: $60; $140 VIP.

Worth it? The Trampled boys debuted Palomino last year to strong reviews. It's back at the race track this year, and hip dads from across the metro will find plenty to like. Hell, we all will.