Music just sounds better in the summer (that’s why you never hear anyone discussing the song of the spring). Each year, the season brings more music festivals than you could possibly attend. To help you plan out your summer festival-going, we’ve got the skinny on five events in D.C., Maryland and Virginia — each with its own quirks and perks.
DC Jazz Festival
Various venues in D.C.; Fri. through June 17, various prices, go here for details.
The annual festival takes over the District for 10 days of jazz programming featuring more than 300 musicians from around the world at more than 40 venues.
Headliners: The festival’s marquee event on June 16 finds “Hamilton’s” Leslie Odom Jr., Robert Glasper’s new group R+R=NOW and Prince collaborator Maceo Parker teaming up for a triple bill at The Anthem.
Local artists: Many participants are based here, including singer Lena Seikaly (Tuesday at The Hamilton; June 16 at The Alex Craft Cocktail Cellar & Speakeasy) and the DuPont Brass ensemble (Monday at Ivy City Smokehouse).
Can’t-miss show: Cuban pianists Chucho Valdes and Gonzalo Rubalcaba join forces at the Kennedy Center on June 15 to present “Trance,” which explores how music can act as a spiritual force and a universal language.
Free for all: New this year are multiple stages of free music at The Wharf during the festival’s final two nights. Trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, pianist Mark G. Meadows, Italy’s Fabrizio Bosso, France’s Ancestral Memories and more will perform sets overlooking the Southwest Waterfront.
Go if you frequent: DC Jazz Jam at The Brixton or shows at Twins Jazz, Blues Alley, Sotto or Marvin.
Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival
Kingman and Heritage Islands Park, 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE; Sat., noon-8 p.m., $35-$45 (VIP: $125).
Founded in 2010, the Kingman Island fest takes over the normally sleepy green space nestled in the banks of the Anacostia River, with a full day of folk music that benefits Living Classrooms’ educational programs and the park itself.
Headliners: New York-based bluegrass and hip-hop fusion act Gangstagrass, Baltimore rocker Cris Jacobs, Virginia-based Americana artist Dori Freeman.
Local artists: You’d have to try hard not to see a local musician here, as most of the performers hail from D.C., Virginia or Maryland.
Can’t-miss set: The American Songster Revue, a special collaboration led by D.C.-based banjoist Dom Flemons (of Carolina Chocolate Drops fame) with appearances by Amythyst Kiah, Guy Davis, Kamara Thomas and guests.
Food and drink: Downtown food-truck favorites such as Red Hook Lobster Pound, BBQ Bus, Swizzler and Captain Cookie will sling eats. Sierra Nevada and Atlas Brew Works will pour beers.
VIP perks: Admission into a covered VIP tent, next to the main stage, where you’ll enjoy complimentary beer and vodka.
Beyond the music: Take a break from the music and kayak or hop on a boat tour.
Summer Spirit Festival
Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, Md.; Aug. 4 & 5, $60-$450 (VIP: $650 per day).
Each year, Merriweather’s Summer Spirit Festival fuses the new and old schools of R&B, soul and hip-hop.
Headliners: Neo-soul icon Erykah Badu and rap legend Nas bring their joint tour to the festival that Saturday; hip-hop’s venerable house band The Roots headline the next day.
Local artists: On the second day, soul singer Raheem DeVaughn, who grew up in the area and has been a fixture here ever since, and Baltimore’s DJ Quicksilva perform.
Can’t-miss sets: The second day’s trio of up-and-comers: Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals, a band that fuses several genres over a hip-hop base; Canadian singer Daniel Caesar, who just appeared in a stirring video for NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series; rapper and actress Lizzo, who recently spent time opening for pop-rock trio HAIM.
VIP perks: A reserved seat in the first three rows; a backstage lounge with free water; five alcoholic beverages; free snacks and meet-and-greet opportunities with select artists.
Go if you frequent: Howard Theatre concerts or if you attended the Broccoli City Festival in April.
Pimlico Race Course, 5201 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore; Aug. 11 & 12, $164.50 (VIP: $274.50.)
In 2014, Moonrise replaced Starscape as Baltimore’s annual outdoor electronic music festival, moving the fun to Pimlico. The event has expanded its hip-hop programming in the years since.
Headliners: DJ/producer/performer Diplo, Canadian EDM duo Zeds Dead, rappers Vince Staples and Action Bronson.
Can’t-miss sets: As a rock duo with electronic tendencies, Phantogram almost seems like an outlier at an EDM fest, which makes the Big Boi and Miley Cyrus collaborators even more of a must-see; Mustard, who used to have a “DJ” in his name, has produced hits for Tyga, Jeremih, Big Sean and Rihanna.
VIP perks: Express entry; VIP viewing areas; premium restrooms; a merchandise pack that includes a T-shirt, pin, towel, hand fan, earplugs and two bottles of water. (Attendees can reserve a table with bottle service and waiters during the festival for an extra fee.)
Go if you frequent: EDM shows or DJ sets at Echostage, Flash, U Street Music Hall or Soundcheck.
Infinity Downs and Oak Ridge Farm, 1500 Diggs Mountain Road, Arrington, Va.; Aug. 23-26; $69-$330 (VIP: $399-$2,099).
A haven for Deadheads and jam band fans, the four-day camping festival on a farm in Virginia features limited (if any) overlapping sets and one-off collaborations.
Headliners: Dead and Company, the Grateful Dead offshoot featuring John Mayer, and perennial Lockn’ favorites Tedeschi Trucks Band and Widespread Panic.
Local artists: Swinging, horn-aided roots act The Judy Chops won a spot on the bill in the annual Rockn’ to Lockn’ contest; Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a Baltimore-based jam band, perform Saturday afternoon.
Can’t-miss sets: Dead and Company will jam with jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, reviving an old collaboration; Jason Bonham, the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, will join Umphrey’s McGee for a set of his dad’s band’s tunes.
VIP perks: Prime camping real estate, air-conditioned bathrooms, special viewing area, free merchandise. Super VIP adds more, including exclusive performances.
Go if you frequent: Gypsy Sally’s or The Hamilton for Dead cover bands and rootsy rock acts.
Correction: This story originally gave the wrong name for Dom Flemons’ old band. It has been corrected.