JOIN or LOGIN  |  

Music Festivals of the Year

Music, Year-End | By The Top 13 on January 5, 2010

After a period of substantial growth in the music festival industry, 2009 saw the beginning of a potential market correction, as several annual festival decided to take the year off. Nevertheless, there was no shortage of great festival options in 2009. And The Top 13 loves music festivals. So we've combed through the lineups once again and present The Top 13 Music Festivals of 2009.

The Top 13 Music festivals of the Year is brought to you in conjunction with Consequence of Sound, one of the Internet's fastest growing destinations for music news and reviews. It is also The Top 13's first destination for news and rumors about festival lineups.

expand all
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival


Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Manchester, Tennesee (June 11-14)

Bonnaroo lived up to its reputation as the ultimate jam band festival when it booked Phish for its first two reunion shows - a Sunday headlining slot plus a lengthy Friday late night set. But this year's Roo lineup offered so much more than jam bands. From a headlining Bruce Springsteen set to established acts like Nine Inch Nails, the Beastie Boys, Wilco and David Byrne to a who's who of current indie darlings, including Animal Collective, Phoenix, The Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear, this lineup was unmatched in 2009.

Phish - Chalkdust Torture
Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts


Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts

Glastonbury, England (June 24-28)

From the other side of the pond comes the only festival that could even reasonably be compared to Bonnaroo in 2009. Glastonbury also featured a headlining set from Springsteen, not to mention Neil Young, Blur, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Franz Ferdinand, and The Prodigy. The rest of the lineup was incredibly deep and diverse, featuring acts such as Lady Gaga, The Dead Weather, Peaches, Q-Tip, and an acoustic set from Ray Davies. Indie bands of the moment like Passion Pit, Florence + the Machine and Animal Collective also played.

Bruce Springsteen - The River
Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival


Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival

Indio, California (April 17-19)

Once again, Coachella landed arguably the biggest fish in the festival pond in 2009. Headliner Paul McCartney topped a stellar lineup that also featured The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, and Morrisey. Coachella also continued another of its traditions, presenting a highly anticipated reunion act - this year, it was the English industrial band Throbbing Gristle. Other highlights included Mastodon, Leonard Cohen, and M.I.A.

Paul McCartney - A Day in the Life and Give Peace a Chance



Chicago, Illinois (August 7-9)

What the 2009 version of Lollapalooza lacked in originality, it certainly made up for in sheer star power. Of the headliners, only Depeche Mode was a unique booking, but they combined with 2009 festival mainstays Jane's Addiction, Kings of Leon, The Killers, Tool, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs to form an attractive top of the bill. The undercard was also impressive, with highlights like Lou Reed, Band of Horses, Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend, to name just a few. Plus, the electronic lineup at Perry's Stage added a little diversity to the festival with DJ sets from Animal Collective, Hercules and Love Affair, MSTRKRFT and Kid Cudi.

Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus
All Points West Music & Arts Festival


All Points West Music & Arts Festival

Jersey City, New Jersey (July 31-August 2)

Probably the only festival that benefited from The Beastie Boys' unfortunate cancellation, All Points West quickly secured hip hop titan Jay-Z to fill the gap caused by MCA's cancer diagnosis. Hova joined an already loaded lineup that featured Coldplay, My Bloody Valentine, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Plus, he turned APW into the hip hop festival destination of the year, as a reunited Organized Konfusion, Q-Tip, The Pharcyde, Kool Keith, and The Cool Kids also performed.

Jay-Z - Roc Boys
Austin City Limits Music Festival


Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin, Texas (October 2-4)

There's no question that the 2009 version of Austin City Limits belonged to Pearl Jam, who closed the festival with a set featuring guest appearances by Perry Farrell (covering Jane's Addiction's "Mountain Song") and Ben Harper. Although The Top 13 didn't love several of ACL's other headliners, including Kings of Leon and Dave Matthews Band, performances by supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phoenix, Mos Def, Grizzly Bear, The Dead Weather, and The Toadies made ACL a required stop on the festival circuit.

Pearl Jam - Alive
Primavera Sound Festival


Primavera Sound Festival

Barcelona, Spain (May 28-30)

Partly curated by the noted promoters at All Tomorrow's Parties, Primavera Sound doesn't typically match the star power of Glastonbury. But, in 2009, this second European entry on The Top 13 came through with the headliners to match Glastonbury's typically deep and varied lineup. With Neil Young at the top of the bill, Primavera also offered My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, and Bloc Party. Highlights from the earlier acts included Ghostface Killah, Phoenix, Sunn O))), Squarepusher, The Jesus Lizard, The Jayhawks, and Lightning Bolt.

Neil Young - Heart of Gold
Rock Werchter


Rock Werchter

Werchter, Belgium (July 2-5)

Though uneven and a bit unfocused, Rock Werchter's star power cannot be denied. To see sets by bands such as Oasis, Metallica, The Prodigy, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Nine Inch Nails, attendees had to put up with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Black Eyed Peas. No doubt a worthwhile tradeoff, particularly when you add in performances by Mastodon, Bloc Party, Social Distortion, and Franz Ferdinand.

Metallica - Seek and Destroy
Pitchfork Music Festival


Pitchfork Music Festival

Chicago, Illinois (July 17-19)

Breaking with its tradition of teaming up with All Tomorrow's Parties and its "Don't Look Back" series (which presents bands playing classic albums all the way through), Pitchfork's fantastic Friday night featured performances by Built to Spill, The Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, and Tortoise of set lists chosen by the fans. The rest of the weekend wasn't bad either, featuring a wide assortment of Pitchfork-approved bands such as The Flaming Lips, The National, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Grizzly Bear, Wavves, Cymbals Eat Guitars, M83, Japandroids, and Vivian Girls.

The National - Mistake for Strangers
Sasquatch! Music Festival


Sasquatch! Music Festival

George, Washington (May 23-25)

As one of the earlier big festivals of the year, this festival's headliners such as Nine Inch Nails, Kings of Leon, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Jane's Addiction still seemed fresh when they played at the Gorge. Plus, Sasquatch!'s undercard was loaded with some of the biggest indie acts on the circuit, such as The Decemberists, TV on the Radio, and Fleet Foxes, and a number of up-and-coming blogger favorites. Other highlights included live standouts Gogol Bordello and Mos Def.

Nine Inch Nails - The Becoming
Fun Fun Fun Fest


Fun Fun Fun Fest

Austin, Texas (November 7-8)

Just a two-day festival, Fun Fun Fun makes The Top 13 because of the amazing diversity of its lineup. Hip hop fans got GZA, The Pharcyde and The Cool Kids. Comedy fans got Brian Posehn, Todd Barry and Nick Thune. Indie fans got Of Montreal, Ratatat and Crystal Castles. Plus, classic acts like The Jesus Lizard, Shonen Knife, Danzig, and Death rounded out the lineup, giving Austin its second festival on this list.

The Jesus Lizard - Puss
UK 2009 Nightmare Before Christmas


UK 2009 Nightmare Before Christmas

Minehead, England (December 4-6)

All Tomorrow's Parties produced at least three festivals in 2009 that received strong consideration for The Top 13, but Nightmare Before Christmas was the standout. Curated by My Bloody Valentine (who also headlined), the Minehead, England festival featured sets by diverse acts such as hip hop legends E.P.M.D. and De La Soul, as well as Sonic Youth, Sun Ra Arkestra, Buzzcocks, J Mascis and the Fog, Bob Mould, Swervedriver, Dirty Three, Primal Scream, and No Age.

My Bloody Valentine - Sometimes
Roskilde Festival


Roskilde Festival

Roskilde, Denmark (July 2-5)

What separated this nearly 40-year-old Danish festival from so many of the other major music festivals of 2009 were the acts that performed there that weren't all over the festival scene. In addition to 2009 favorites such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Fleet Foxes, headliners and featured acts included Faith No More, Kanye West, Oasis, Coldplay, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Social Distortion and Pet Shop Boys. Roskilde even rebounded nicely from Lil Wayne's cancellation, grabbing the always fantastic Gogol Bordello as a late replacement.

Coldplay - The Scientist
expand all

Comments Leave a comment


A bit surprised that ATP NY didn't make the list, at the very least over FFF Fest. The Flaming Lips, Panda Bear, Sufjan, Shellac, Boris, Suicide and The Dirty Three both performing classic albums, Antipop, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound, Animal Collective, The Jesus Lizard, and on and on.

Nonetheless, this list is proof that 2009 was a great year for festivals for sure.

6:42 AM   Jan 05, 2010

jason ★★

Agreed on ATP NY. I also woulda put Reading on here, just because Radiohead played there (and nowhere else) and I'm a fanboy.

9:29 AM   Jan 05, 2010

stillathreat ★★

Feels like a lot of the ATP festivals; but that might be better than Nightmare Before Christmas. Also, Fun Fun Fun has no business on this list when Radiohead played a festival in 2009.

10:44 AM   Jan 05, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

You guys are wrong about Fun Fun Fun Fest. It deserves to be on here because there was literally something for everyone going on at all times on four themed stages. Plus, a number of unique acts set it apart - Danzig, Death (one of only 4 shows played), Mission of Burma, Face to Face, Pharcyde, Metallagher - these weren't bands making the rounds at every fest like so many other fests had.

11:43 PM   Jan 05, 2010


I'm a Coachella-head for sure, but this year i thought ACL had the best festival lineup - i didnt care for KOL, but i liked Dave's set, Pearl Jam absolutely killed it (and i've seen them over 20 times), and the undercard was phenomenal - at least in my opinion. I still think Coachella is consistently the best festival because of (1) atmosphere and location, (2) priority in terms of indie undercard, (3) uniqueness of headliners, and (4) variety of music - but that's a personal preference for sure - plus it's the first of the year. If anyone saw the Pixies reunion, the Rage Reunion, the first Arcade Fire set at Coachella, Prince (performing Creep!), the Dark Side of the Moon performance, the Daft Punk comeback show, the first Gogol set, or any of these other legendary performances, you know what I mean. Although to me the festival has lacked in the headlining category for a couple years, I still love it. This year looks pretty interesting with names like Soungarden/PJ, Gorillaz, Muse, Phoenix, VW, Hot Chip, etc. being thrown around. Plus, there's always a surprise left-field name on the lineup when it comes out. BOWIE

11:08 AM   Jan 06, 2010


Glastonbury actually has things about it besides bands.

1:27 PM   Jan 06, 2010


I went to Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lolla & ACL but FFF was by far the best time that I had at a festival last year. The main thing that stands out about FFF is that you can look at the lineup and get the idea that it is booked by music fans rather than someone doing the math on who will draw and how the lineup needs to be stacked to sell out. Also, for the other festivals people get gouged for food & drink, whereas I got the PIP tickets at FFF so it was free beer all weekend as well as free food. Don't get me wrong, I'm not shitting on these other festivals, they all had their moments, but FFF is the only one that never became a drag (even in the rain it was awesome) and where I never felt that I had overspent.

2:26 PM   Jul 28, 2010


Took the words out of my mouth JayJay. The atmosphere at FFFFest is completely different than your run of the mill festival. The whole thing ends up feeling like hanging out with an entire city of old friends you actually only just met and listening to music from bands you obsessed over at some point in your love of music, who you never thought you would ever be able to see live playing along side all your new up and coming favorites. It's set up in such a way that you never get bored. Even if you have never heard of a band before, the booking is so strong and the format so inviting and understandable, that you can get a real good idea of what you're getting into beforehand and wind up finding lots of new loves and local talent. It's basically what would happen if that friend of yours that you brag about knowing more about music than anyone else, whether it be hiphop, punk and metal, indie, or just plain weird, made a series of best of a genre mix tapes for you... but each mix tape gets its own stage and bands that are either semi-impossible to book or long since gone somehow magically show up anyway. Examples: Jesus Lizard, The Dead Milkmen, Death (detroit), Murder City Devils, Scared of Chaka, Neurosis, etc etc etc.

2:50 PM   Jul 28, 2010


Another vote for FFFFest, based on their punk stage alone. Bands not mentioned already included Gorilla Biscuits, 7 Seconds, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, Fucked Up, Coalesce, DRI, Youth Brigade, and Street Dogs.

5:30 AM   Jul 29, 2010

Please Join or Login to leave a comment