Music festivals are good—for the soul, for the mind, and for the spirit. This is a rare fact agreed upon by both millennials and baby boomers alike. In photographer Cheryl Dunn’s latest book, appropriately titled Festivals Are Good (released by Standard Press), Dunn recounts her many festival experiences through photos, from Woodstock ’94 to Bonnaroo and the Warped Tour in the early aughts. Dunn’s raw, gritty, and damningly fun look at music festivals around the world served up some major inspiration to search for the best music festivals on the planet—and which ones are worth traveling around the country (or across the globe) for this year.
There are the usual suspects of course—the high profile events that, in this day and age, seem to attract festivalgoers who are keener on dressing up for Instagram than getting lost in the actual music—think Coachella, Burning Man, SXSW, Ultra, and Glastonbury. While many of these festivals still serve up first-class musical entertainment (this year, legendary hard-rock band Guns N’ Roses will reunite after 20 years on Coachella’s main stage, and Glastonbury 2016’s lineup includes names such as Kanye West, the Foo Fighters, FKA Twigs and the Who), music festivals have become more of a spectacle than a unifying experience. What once consisted of shirtless, crowd surfing youths covered in mud has transformed into a fashionable experience, a place to see and be seen. Supermodel tribes, in $150 rain boots and designer denim cutoffs, rent caravans loaded with electricity and plush beds, or stay in the luxurious tents, pop-up hotels, and tent house suites provided by festivals like Coachella, in Black Rock City, Utah, and Glastonbury, in Somerset, England.
As Dunn says in her book, “To me these experiences are about the people you share them with, the kids crammed front and center who saved their money for a year to be there, the older fans sitting on tricked out lawn chairs whose friends think they are crazy for still going. The cross section of nerds, jocks, babes, stoners, hipsters, outcasts, letting it all hang out in unabashed glory, all sharing a common love of music. There is a collective transcendence that happens.” Sadly, that is not always the case today. High-profile festivals are notorious for charging sky-high prices (and, whilst there, charging festivalgoers in any way they can), and attracting crowds of models and young actresses, rather than the music-obsessives and die-hard groupies previous decades had seen. However, there are still a plethora of festivals spread out across the world where a piece of that “unabashed glory” and “collective transcendence” still exists—you just need to look a little harder (and maybe travel a little further) to experience them. We’ve done the work for you—so scroll through our gallery for the ultimate guide to music festivals worth traveling for.