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The Top Twelve Electronic Music Festivals in North America in 2018

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When ranking EDM festivals I tend to put the lineup first and foremost, then of course the venue itself. As we know many people go back to festivals year after year because the wonderful experience and vibes it gives to festivalgoers. I will be covering electronic festivals only in the United States and Canada. Keep in mind there are many top tier festivals such as Tomorrowland and Creamfields across the water in the UK that won’t be included on this list.

#1 Ultra Music Festival (Miami, Florida)

Miami, Florida

Attendance: 55,000 per day

When someone brings up an electronic music festival, Ultra is the first name that comes to mind. The reasoning to that is because it is the festival that kicks off the season, supplying all the biggest names of Electronic Dance Music. Ultra is known for surprise performances and being able to book the biggest names in the world. This past March the legendry super group Swedish House Mafia had their reunion show at Ultra’s 20th Anniversary showcasing how special of an event Ultra is. If you love electronic music make sure you attend Ultra ASAP.

Headliners: Swedish House Mafia, Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Hardwell, Eric Prydz, The Chainsmokers, Kaskade, Virtual Self, Axwell^Ingrosso, Above & Beyond

Undercard Standouts: Matisse & Sadko, Rezz, Alan Walker, Nora En pure

Lineup Consensus: This lineup is full of House music, techno, and a full day dedicated to trance. It’s safe to say Electro-house and Progressive House is represented very strongly at Ultra Music Festival. Ultra also has pieces of Trap and Dubstep music at the smaller stages.

#2 EDC Vegas (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Attendance: 130,000 per day

America’s Tomrrowland, EDC Vegas is a three-day extravaganza full of art, music and camping. Full of overnight sets under the electric sky that keep going until the sun rises, EDC has a lineup that caters to many corners of Electronic Dance Music. The art factor is much more heavily at play at EDC Vegas than at Ultra Music Festival. You can expect the wild costumes, impressive art, and night-lights that span to all eight stages.

Headliners: Martin Garrix, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Tiesto, Kygo, Hardwell, Amrin Van Buuren, Eric Prydz

Undercard standouts: K?d, Seven Lions, Alpha 9, Whethan, Droloe, Elephante

Lineup Consensus: EDC Vegas is known for its deep and large lineup, it spans all mainstream genres of electronic music. It will contain large mainstream names and underground names breaking through into the scene. House, dubstep, trap, and trance are all represented strongly here. Mainstream House names from Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Tiesto, are present as well as underground artists on the rise such as K?d and Rezz.  My yearly critique of EDC is that most years they seem to miss out on some powerful headliners, this year Axwell^Ingrosso, David Guetta, Deadmau5, The Chainsmokers and trance legends Above & Beyond are absent from the lineup. Overall the lineup for EDC is impressive as always, while it still might lack the surprise factor of having a group like Swedish House Mafia.

#3 Spring Awakening (Chicago, Illinois)

Attendance: 25,000 per day

Spring awakening has caught my eye for the past two years because of their impressive lineups. It seems to be the best mid scale fest that can cater to many sub genres for the average EDM listener. They lay a base of capturing many familiar good headliners while adding artists who have strong followings on the come up. The bad news for this festival is that the music ends at 10 pm sharp due to a curfew with the city of Chicago. Another major complaint has been the limited access to water; some year’s attendees have said spring awakening ran out of water to provide for guests.

Headliners: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Deadmau5, Afrojack, Tiesto, Hardwell

Undercard Standouts: Cash Cash, Ilan Bluestone, Sasha and John Digweed, Ephwurd

Lineup Consensus:

This lineup caters to all main genres and is perfect if it’s your first festival as it won’t run you down and leave you exhausted at the end of the day. Spring Awakening is one of the rare electronic festivals to have Deadmau5 and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike headlining, which is a great booking to separate from the rest. It also contains smaller stages that provide genre such as Trance, Techno, and dubstep. Featuring artists such as Flux pavilion, John Digweed, and Gareth Emery. This lineup is great and contains some rare headliners in the United States as well as some great producers in their respected genres. I do believe it lacks star power in the headlining department due to the bookings of carnage and Borgore, as producers who I don’t consider headlining material.

#4 Electric Forest (Rothbury, Michigan)

Attendance: 20,000 per day

Known for its euphoric and breathtaking venue, Electric Forest is a known destination for electronic music lovers, especially those looking for a beautiful venue in the nighttime. Camping comes in full effect here and you’ll probably want to come back every year.

Headliners: Bassnectar, Galantis, Griz (Live Band), TESTPILOT, Marshmello

Undercard Standouts: Kasbo, Jai Wolf, Medasin, Two Feet, Mr. Carmack, Droeloe, G Jones, CamelPhat, Elohim, Shallou

Lineup Consensus: The lineup for both weekends contains a similar undercard with great bookings such as Kasbo, Medasin, G Jones, who all have unique sounds. The group of headliners this year didn’t pack impressive artists that I had hoped for. I do give them credit for being the only festival on this list to book the Deadmau5 techno alias, TESTPILOT. That brings a unique factor to a bland headlining group. Another unique name Electric Forest sprung out this year is the Glitch Mob, who is fresh out of the gate with their new album. Overall it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of headliners but the undercard is full of such great acts that you’re bound to find a new artist to fall in love with.

#5 Paradiso (The Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington)

Attendance: 25,000 per day

You can’t ask for a much better venue for a festival venue then the Gorge Amphitheatre. Above & Beyond have been know to use it for their Group therapy concerts. Set in the middle of Washington State, this festival is the only structure for miles in a vast landscape overlooking a beautiful Columbia River. The acoustics are as soothing as can be while the weather maintains a nice chill. This festival has maintained a high reputation and I expect it to continue to grow and attract more attendees over the coming years.

Headliners: Dj Snake, Deadmau5, Armin Van Buuren, Virtual Self, Pendulum (Dj Set),

Undercard Standouts: The Crystal Method, Netsky (Dj Set), Louis the child, Graves, Feed me, Autograf, Audien

Lineup consensus: For a smaller scale festival this lineup really grabs my attention. With awesome bookings such as Pendulum, Virtual Self, Deadmau5, and Armin Van Bueren, Paradiso will sell the tickets it desires. It also presents a great undercard with the bookings of Autograf, Feed Me, Netsky, The Crystal Method, Audien, Dada Life, and Brohug. This lineup has several subgenres of house as well as unique electronic acts to give the festival a great variety if that’s what you’re looking for.

#6 Imagine Music Festival (Atlanta Motor Speedway, Georgia)

Attendance: 14,000 per day

One of the few festivals on this list that takes place on a racetrack, Imagine has been dishing out lineups spanning many genres and building a name for itself in the meantime. The horror stories of the hours long wait on the entrance lines will deter some from this festival. Once they figure out more of their logistics this festival will start to thrive, in a city where it can continue to grow.

Headliners: Armin Van Buren, Alesso, Galantis, Rl Grime, Griz, Zhu, TBA

Undercard Standouts: Liquid stranger, Shpongle, Jai Wolf, EDX, Green Velvet

Lineup Consensus: Imagine has only released Phase 1 but we can a strong just of what this lineup is all about. It has a main stage that has progressive and bass house. While also including dubstep and trap powerhouses RL Grime, Adventure Club, and Zeds Dead. They also have their ‘Amazonia’ stage that showcases more underground, less mainstream music electronic, featuring Griz, Zhu, Shpongle and Jai Wolf to name a few. The other two stages include a trance and disco-house genres. To make this a destination festival the Phase 2 additions need to pack a punch and add some much needed headlining power. The two additional headliners are rumored to be Bassnectar and Kaskade.

#7 Electric Zoo (Randall’s Island Park, New York City)

Attendance: 28,000 per day

Electric Zoo has been New York City’s electronic festival for almost ten years. I wish they would change the venue to somewhere in upstate New York. Yes Randall’s island provides beautiful views of New York City. I can counter that with the painful wait for ferries, the early 11 pm ending time, and the disappointing strength of speakers and acoustics. The beauty of having a late night festival is something a person has to experience for them to understand the magic. Electric Zoo and it’s fan base have an opportunity to transform this festival into a beautiful 3-day camping festival in New York in the foreseeable future, I don’t think it’s something they will actually accomplish though.  Due to only having three stages and a somewhat large-scale lineup the electric zoo schedule always creates set time difficulties more than most festivals. I am not trying to discourage anyone in the Tri-state area from going to this festival; I just hope they will expand into something truly special. I have become critical of Electric Zoo because I live close to the festival and hope for it’s expansion. The attendance for this festival has been growing and it will continue to deliver mostly crowd-pleasing lineups.

Headliners: Martin Garrix, Alesso, Kaskade, Virtual Self, Tiesto, Marshmello

Undercard Standouts: 3lau, Boombox Cartel, Zomboy, Lost Frequencies, Gryffin, Illenium, Said the sky

Lineup Consensus: To be honest I was expecting more from electric zoo for their 10th anniversary. The best headliner they got was Martin Garrix, a great booking as that is there is nothing on this lineup that gives off the wow factor. A Skrillex booking could have done that, considering how rare he is in the festival circuit this year. The rest of the headliners come to New York pretty often. The undercard is full of future bass, trance, and some dubstep. For those fans of Anjuba Beats fans, the Andrew Bayer b2b Ilan Bluestone b2b Jason Ross will bring you to Anjuna Beats heaven. The rest of the undercard would provide a fun weekend for lovers of hard future bass and dubstep. Some names that pop out to me are Boombox Cartel and Lost frequencies, as they are rare on lineups.

# 8 Illesoniq (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal)

Attendance: 22,000 Per Day

Right in the heart of Montreal, Illesoniq has been home raging on for the past couple of years. It includes three stages on the Ile of Notre Dame; it is on the come up and is Montreal’s premiere electronic summer music festival.

Headliners: Steve Angello, Chainsmokers, Dj Snake, Diplo

Undercard Standouts: Andrew Rayel, Tchami, Klingade, Laidback Luke, Spencer Brown, Cosmic Gate, Black Tiger Sex Machine, Lost Kings

Lineup Consensus: Illesoniq immediately caught my eye due to the headlining booking of Steve Angello. After the release of his powerful Human album he is at the top of my must see list this summer. This lineup also features the Chainsmokers who I have seen several times, they never disappoint. Others headliners include Dj Snake and Diplo. Dj Snake is known for playing extremely similar sets each performance, which I saw for myself, and it lowered my opinion and expectation for his live shows. The undercard features Deep house artist Tchami and heavily includes Anjuna Beats house and trance artists. Ferry Corsten, Ilan Bluestone, Andrew Rayel, and Paul Oakenfold combine to make a pleasing Trance lineup. The rest of the undercard lacks an identity and any true unique gets

#9 Hard Summer Music Fest (The Speedway in Fontana, Southern California)

Attendance: 33,000

Another racecourse festival, Hard Summer has been known in the past for questionable venue changes that led to very unenjoyably weekends. The 2016 edition included hour long waits to exit the festival, dirty water, and a few reported deaths. When a festival switches to a new venue for the first time it’s never a good idea to attend, one may not know if the organizers actually have their shit together. Last year it has seemed to find its proper home at Glen Halen Amphitheatre in San Bernardino, California. Hard Summer has now moved back to its 2016 venue which may hurt it’s sales but it has tried to reassure fans the proper precautions will be taken this year to improve upon the past and to make the festival safe and enjoyable.

Headliners – Marshmello, Virtual Self, Diplo B2B Dillon Franics, Zeds Dead B2B Jauz, Flosstradamus, Yellow Mustard (yellow claw + DJ mustard),

Undercard Standouts: Big Wild, K?d, Ghastly, Loudpvck, Medasin, Party Favor

Lineup Consenus: Talk about crazy b2b sets! Hard Summer is full of them this year. Diplo b2b Dillon Francis and Zeds Dead b2b Jauz, could really put on some great shows. Ghastly, Joyryde, and Big Wild will stand out on the undercard and deliver awesome sets. I partially dislike this lineup due to the questionable headlining bookings. Louis the Child, Mø, and Virgil Abloh don’t qualify as headliners, this is where festivals become lazy and it shows as there is a big drop off in their lineup.

#10 Moonrise (Pimilco Race Course, Baltimore)

Attendance: 18,000 per day

Moonrise has been improving itself since its inaugural lineup in 2014. The constant complaints of limited water have been adjusted over the years. Due to this being another racecourse festival, last year they had an emergency evacuation due to a severe storm last year that went as well as one would expect. Security has been another complaint from this festival as been lazy and unprofessional, this has been improved. Moonrise has a bright future, hopefully after this year they begin to improve their lineups, once they can perfect the venue.

Headliners: Diplo, Dj Snake, Kaskade, TBA, Marshmello, Zeds Dead, Galantis, Griz, Excision

Undercard Standouts: Lane 8, Golf Clap, Joyryde, Two Friends, Ekali, ,

Lineup Consensus: Each year the moonrise lineup becomes less and less impressive. If we rewind to past yeas Moonrsie had Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Tiesto, Above & Beyond, and Porter Robinson headlining just to name a few. Fast forward to now and we are presented a lineup where Diplo, Dj Snake, and Marshmello are the biggest names. Can we get anymore generic and plain as that? Moonrise has always been talented at building underground stages with awesome lineups. Their Celestial stage includes Lane 8, MK, Chris Lake, Mija, and Golf Clap. They understand how to pack up their other stages as well, every stage seems more interesting then their Main.

#11 Escapade (Ottawa, Canada)

Attendance: 14,000 per day

Escapade may possibly be the smallest festival on this list. It’s been known to go over capacity in the past, which has created some issues. The good festivals that stay afloat learn from their mistakes, Escapade is coming back this year with a stellar lineup for its size.

Headliners: Armin Van Buuren, Alesso, Kaskade, Zedd

Undercard Standouts: Rezz, Tchami, Borgore, Alpha 9, Brohug, Crankdat, Quintino

Lineup Consensus: Escapade is a smaller scale festival but it holds it’s own. The four headliners will attract any fans of mainstream progressive or electro house, while the undercard features a nicely arranged trance stage with Alpha 9, Cosmic Gate, and Markus Schulz. If you’re not into the house music on the Main stage your other option is the bass heavy stages featuring Getter, Borgore, Zomboy, and Slander.

#12 Camp Bisco (Montage Mountain)(Scranton, Pennsylvania)

Attendance: 15,000 per day

Known for it’s water slides and wave pools near it’s stages, Bisco’s venue attracts attendees year after year. The lineup is underground and heavy each year, it knows it’s demographic. You might find yourself running into the pools and enjoying Montage Mountain while the music is blasting.

Headliners: Bassnectar, Excision, Tipper, Bonobo (Live Band)

Undercard Standouts: Illenium, Jai Wolf, STS9, Buku, Big wild, Dj Jazzy Jeff, G Jones

Lineup Consensus: Bassnectar, Excision, and Tipper fit nicely as the big 3 for Bisco this year. Beneath them is heavy hitter and crowd favorite Illenium, along with Bonobo and STS9. The undercard fills out nicely with unique sounds from Big wild, Boogie T, The floozies, Jai Wolf, and Buku. As far as Bisco goes this year is great as usual and if the bass music appeals to you, make sure to attend.

The attendance numbers are rough estimates provided by each festivals website and interviews with festival organizers.


- Lizza

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