For outdoorsy music freaks, “festival season” and “summertime” used to be synonymous. Not anymore, not exactly. As the American touring circuit grows more and more crowded on a rapidly warming planet, music festival season has officially been bumped up to spring — and this year in our area, big concerts seem to be springing up like daffodils, with more than half of the region’s most promising festivals taking place before Memorial Day. The styles of music at these mega-shows run the gamut — from pop to punk to rap to bluegrass — but don’t get overwhelmed. We’ve compiled a list of the best area festivals of the spring (and summer) — plus, the most notable artists performing at each of them.
The business of weed doesn’t have to be hazy — at least, not if the National Cannabis Festival can help it. Now in its fourth year, the day-long festival intersperses live music with informational sessions to help educate Washingtonians on the cannabis industry. Some familiar faces in the world of hip-hop — including Ludacris, Action Bronson and Biz Markie — take the celebration back to a different era in time.
Don’t miss: The buoyant, larger-than-life live show of go-go legend Backyard Band is unmatched by any performance you’ll see at the festival — or in the District, for that matter.
April 20. RFK Stadium Festival Grounds, 2400 E. Capitol St. SE. $55. — S.W.
As one of the most omnipresent figures in 21st-century music, Pharrell Williams seems to be wondering, “What else can I do?” Maybe that’s why he’s throwing this new pop festival in his native Virginia Beach, where he has packed the lineup with Virginia-born acts, including Missy Elliott, Dave Matthews Band, Pusha T and Dram. On top of that, he’s headlining with a career-spanning set dotted with guest performances from Gwen Stefani, Snoop Dogg, Diddy and Usher.
Don’t miss: Some of the biggest names at Something in the Water — Janelle Monáe, SZA — owe something to the music of Teddy Riley, the creator of new jack swing and the founder of Blackstreet and Guy. His name doesn’t appear on most festival posters, so this should be special.
April 26-28. Fifth Street Beach Stage, Virginia Beach. Sold out. — C.R.
As ever, the seventh annual Broccoli City Festival will celebrate wellness, social justice and community entrepreneurship with help from some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B — and it’s been nothing short of heartening to see an excellent festival grow so quickly, from its early years at the St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion, to last year’s bash outside RFK Stadium, to this year’s iteration at FedEx Field. The names at this year’s festival are proportionally big: Grammy-winner Childish Gambino and rap legend Lil Wayne.
Don’t miss: Don’t call it a comeback; Adé has been here for years — you just might remember him as Phil Ade, the determined young DMV rap journeyman. Now he’s back with a truncated stage name, a deal with Epic Records and the most stylish recording of his career, a sharp new EP titled “Always Something.”
April 26-27. FedEx Field, 1600 FedEx Way, Landover. $99.50 (Saturday only); $150.50-$375.50 (multiday pass). Friday-only tickets are sold out. — C.R.
It’s hard to tell exactly where this upstart festival is headed, but the fact that it’s still around after three years makes it old by D.C. punk standards. Local quartet American Television created it to showcase some of their overlooked, nationally touring pop-punk brethren alongside a mix of local acts. This year’s edition follows that same recipe with Chicago emo-rockers Kali Masi and hometown heroes Homosuperior but finds a new home at Pie Shop. The H Street bar has become a low-key hot spot to catch an eclectic selection of what the city has to offer.
Don’t miss: Worriers, a standout at last year’s festival, return to headline the final night this year. The Brooklyn-based band’s songs orbit around the songwriting and storytelling of Lauren Denitzio, who crafts excellent hooks that empathetically grapple with identity and belonging.
April 26-28. Pie Shop, 1339 H St. NE. $12 (single-night ticket), $35 (multiday pass). — H.C.
Baltimore showcases its love for bluegrass at this homegrown festival, now in its seventh year. The two-day, family-friendly event in Druid Hill Park features a pair of stages packed with bluegrass acts, including Friday’s headliners Jeff Austin Band, Town Mountain, local legends the Seldom Scene and Steve Martin’s backing band Steep Canyon Rangers. Saturday’s headliner, however, is a reunion of hometown jam band the Bridge, whose guitarist Cris Jacobs has often played the festival in the past.
Don’t miss: John McCauley’s alt-rock band Deer Tick may seem like an odd fit for a bluegrass festival (often leaning more grunge-y than twangy), but the group has been known to strip things down of late, like on 2017’s pair of self-titled albums or the song “Baltimore Blues No. 1,” which one would assume will be on the set list for Charm City.
April 26-27. Druid Hill Park, 900 Druid Park Lake Dr., Baltimore. $32-$52 (single-day pass); $72 (multiday pass). — R.G.
For one weekend a year, the idyllic Kingman and Heritage Islands Park in the District turns into a bustling scene, with four stages of acts that lean folksy, such as headliners Dustbowl Revival and the Ballroom Thieves. Founded in 2010 to raise awareness about the park — and funds for Living Classrooms — the family-friendly event prides itself on nurturing regional acts, which this year includes D.C. soul band Oh He Dead, Virginia folk act Wild Common and Baltimore roots trio Wicked Sycamore. If you’ve never been, you might discover your new favorite local band — or a side of Washington you’ve never seen.
Don’t miss: Odetta Hartman, the briefly based-in-D.C. singer-songwriter, was a breakout performer last year, playing short sets in between acts. This year, she’ll get a full set with drummer Alex Freedom, playing songs from last year’s “Old Rockhounds Never Die,” an album of short, strange folk songs that are as enchanting as they are arresting.
May 4. Kingman and Heritage Islands Park, entrance at approximately 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, off RFK Stadium Lot 6. $35. — R.G.
Wading through the chaotic mass of bodies crammed in the middle of Pimlico’s racetrack on Preakness Day is almost a rite of passage for a particular set of area youths, but the formal InfieldFest began only at the start of the decade. This festival has almost exclusively peddled the music world’s biggest names; previous years featured country superstars Zac Brown Band and Post Malone, rap’s lightning rod. This year’s lineup continues in that direction with a DJ set from Diplo and a performance from Maryland’s own Logic.
Don’t miss: Juice WRLD has captivated young listeners with his hypnotic blending of emo and pop punk with rap and hip-hop. It’s one of those equations that sounds weird on paper but, when you see teenagers lose their minds over the stunted, singsong hook of “Lucid Dreams,” it all begins to make sense.
May 18. Pimlico Race Course, 5201 Park Heights Ave. Baltimore. $79. — H.C.
For many attendees, bluegrass legend Del McCoury’s annual DelFest is like a family reunion, a Memorial Day getaway full of banjos, mandolins and other string instruments. While the festival is a bluegrass lover’s dream — with sets from McCoury’s sons, the Travelin’ McCourys, Billy Strings and Sam Bush — it’s also expanded in recent years with acts that are a bit more eclectic: veteran jam band the String Cheese Incident, indie-folk trio I’m With Her and rising Southern rockers the Marcus King Band.
Don’t miss: As the definition of country music becomes increasingly blurry, Kentucky native Tyler Childers doesn’t worry about labels. The music the singer-songwriter makes sure sounds like country: plain-spoken, clever lyrics, big hooks and a noticeable twang. But there’s an electric edge on 2017’s “Purgatory” — courtesy of co-producer Sturgill Simpson — that puts him in a class with Simpson, Margo Price and Jason Isbell.
May 23-26. Allegany County Fairgrounds, 11400 Moss Ave., Cumberland, Md. $50-$70 (single-day pass); $145.50-$235.50 (multiday pass). — R.G.
Two years after Bohemian Caverns shuttered its doors, the D.C. jazz scene has not just survived, but thrived despite losing a hallmark venue. The sheer scope of the 15th annual DC JazzFest is a testament to the community’s resilience, bringing together more than 40 acts for 11 days’ worth of shows around the District. Snarky Puppy, Jon Batiste and more big-name headliners will perform, but the cornerstones of the festival are the local acts, who include the Nag Champa Art Ensemble, Mark G. Meadows and Herb Scott.
Don’t miss: Aside from her own expansive jazz offerings, trombonist Shannon Gunn helms several local ensembles, including the all-female group the Bullettes. Their show June 7 at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is an opportunity to see some of the talented women behind the city’s jazz community.
June 6-16. Venues across the District, including outdoor stages at the Wharf. Ticket prices vary; many events are free. — S.W.
If you want a classic festival experience without being marooned in the woods of Tennessee or paying top dollar to venture into the California desert, point your car toward Delaware. This seven-year-old event brings top-flight acts to Dover International Speedway: This year’s headlining sets include Super Bowl halftime-show-stealer Travis Scott and the most interesting band in rock, Vampire Weekend. Firefly has some quirky attractions, but the annual standout is its collaboration with Dogfish Head Brewery (from nearby town Milton), which crafts Firefly Ale for the occasion.
Don’t miss: Firefly usually does a good job incorporating talents from neighboring states, so it’s fitting that the Baltimore area is represented with some of the buzziest names in indie rock, Snail Mail, and underground rap, JPEGMAFIA. Known as “Peggy” by his fans, the rapper, now based in Los Angeles, made his bones in Charm City with his raw, politically punchy rhymes.
June 21-23. Dover International Speedway, 1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, Del. $119 (single-day pass), $309 (multiday pass). — H.C.
Scheduled a few days after July 4, this inaugural afternoon-into-evening festival is sending a patriotic message by celebrating “musicians of immigrant descent,” with a portion of the ticket proceeds going to the International Rescue Committee. At the top of the bill is Washington’s own Tabi Bonney, a rapper whose musical roots cross generations and oceans: Tabi’s late father, Itadi Bonney, was one of the biggest music stars of his native Togo.
Don’t miss: To say that Layla Khepri’s music spans the gap between rap and R&B isn’t quite right. It’s more that her rhymed sneers and lullabies push in various directions. Here’s a chance to see where Khepri — a proud Filipino who was raised in Prince George’s County — might be headed next.
July 6. Echostage, 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE. $39.99. — C.R.
The rise and spread of EDM over the past decade has been matched only by the rise of festivals/clubs/carnivals aimed at overstimulating the dance-crazed. Take Moonrise, another music festival that calls Pimlico home. While InfieldFest tries to capture a sort of party mayhem, attendees of Moonrise are more fixated on the booming bass drops and torrent of strobe lights in all colors of the neon rainbow. Past festivals have featured a deep who’s-who of the electronic scene, including Tiesto and Zedd, along with some of rap’s biggest names, with appearances from Vince Staples and Migos.
Don’t miss: As of press time, this year’s lineup had yet to be announced.
Aug. 10-11. Pimlico Race Course, 5201 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore. $149.50-$239.50 (multiday pass). — H.C.
Step onto the grounds of Lockn’ and you’ll feel like you’re at a Grateful Dead concert: Tie-dye, skulls and the music of the iconic jam band are omnipresent. This year, guitarist Bob Weir’s newest group, Wolf Bros., flies the Dead’s freak flag along with sets from his Dead & Company bandmate Oteil Burbridge’s Oteil & Friends and high-octane tribute act Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Collaborations are another hallmark of this annual four-day camping fest: Guitarists Trey Anastasio and Derek Trucks are scheduled to swap sit-ins for their headlining sets with Trey Anastasio Band and Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Don’t miss: When Khruangbin first played Lockn’ in 2016, the band was a little-known curiosity. The trio has since toured the world multiple times over, opened for Leon Bridges, and released last year’s breakout “Con Todo El Mundo,” which expanded the band’s laid-back, groove-based funk-rock sound.
Aug. 22-25. Infinity Downs and Oak Ridge Farm, 1510 Diggs Mountain Rd., Arrington, Va. $259 (three-day pass); $289 (four-day pass). — R.G.