The 2021 edition of our Annual Report continues with a ranking of every big US festival lineup from the past 12 months. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.
It goes without saying that 2021 was a weird year for music festivals: With the dramatic and unpredictable rise and fall of COVID-19 numbers; weather delays and cancellations; and a constantly growing number of vaccinated, concert-hungry attendees, which festivals would continue successfully or not was completely up in the air.
Festivals in Europe, Asia, and South America — including major events like Glastonbury, Japan’s Summer Sonic, and Lollapalooza’s South American editions — decided to forgo a 2021 event and hold off until next year. Meanwhile, American festivals cautiously released their lineups in early 2021, hoping for the best but preparing for turbulence.
Even before the pandemic, the festival market was shrinking and becoming more restricted, with several notable events biting the dust in recent years. Needless to say, festivals are a risk for both promoters and attendees (as we’ve unfortunately seen with this year’s Astroworld tragedy, though those events were not necessarily pandemic-related).
Yet, festivals moved forward with impressive lineups — albeit less impressive than years prior to COVID due to fewer available acts, safety concerns, and precautions. The resulting lineups ended up being a bit more homogenous than recent years (Remi Wolf, Megan Thee Stallion, and Phoebe Bridgers were on a heft majority of these bills), but as usual, each festival featured some surprising rare bookings that made these events special.
Before the 2022 festival season gets underway, we’ve taken a look back at each major (North American) festival’s lineup and ranked each one accordingly. Check out the ranking below.