So much of life is spent quietly indoors and sober, with instances of rocking few and far between. This summer, you can change that. Our summer festival guide details options -- small and large, local and regional -- for concertgoers of all stripes. Among them: A humongous new Twin Cities player, an expanded destination 50 minutes east, and a handful of free block parties. Read on, bone up and don't forget the sunscreen.

The big ones

Rock the Garden (photo by Leslie Plesser)


  • When: June 16.
  • Where: Walker Art Center, Mpls.
  • Price: Sold out.
  • Gist: Loyal 89.3 the Current foot soldiers adore the annual indie-rock fest. This year, the one-day event sold out in about an hour.
  • Highlights: Heavy on locals, with garage rock wunderkinds Howler, beloved hip-hop collective Doomtree and Duluth-based pickers Trampled by Turtles all fixing to rock the garden. National acts include bar-lit rockers the Hold Steady and worldbeat dynamo Tune-Yards.
  • More info


  • When: June 23-24.
  • Where: Harriet Island, St. Paul.
  • Price: $65-$110.
  • Gist: Concert giant Live Nation hopes to lure upwards of 40,000 Twin Citians to its ambitious, first-ever fest. Bonus: The monolithic promoter is springing for July 4th fireworks over the river.
  • Highlights: Birkenstock rockers the Dave Matthews Band headline along with prog-metal heroes Tool. The varied bill includes some locals (Motion City Soundtrack, Poliça) and plenty of national muscle (Flaming Lips, Coheed and Cambria, Diplo).
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Basilica Block Party (photo by Kyndell Harkness)


  • When: July 6-7.
  • Where: Basilica of St. Mary, Mpls.
  • Price: $40-$80.
  • Gist: Briefly hip in 2010 (Weezer and Spoon headlined), the annual Basilica bash is back to its Cities 97-ish bread and butter. Per always, the two-day concert benefits the basilica's ongoing restoration.
  • Highlights: Radio-rock mainstays Train headline along with Americana faves the Avett Brothers. Jammy bro-rockers O.A.R. also perform, along with the Head and the Heart, Cake, Mat Kearney, Fitz and the Tantrums and the Lumineers. Call us audaciously biased, but the best tunes might go down in the tent (Prissy Clerks, A. Wolf & Her Claws, Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles and others).
  • More info


  • When: July 27-28.
  • Where: Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, Wis.
  • Price: $80.
  • Gist: Awww, SoundTown is growing up! The music/camping fest has nearly doubled the number of acts from its initial run last year; its newly remodeled amphitheater can accommodate about 40,000 concertgoers. Enjoy campsite revelry before and after the tunes, including the always-enjoyable beer/tube cruise down the Apple River.
  • Highlights: Alt-rock heavy-hitters such as Jane's Addiction, Florence + the Machine and Weezer headline. A second tier of big names (Common, Girl Talk, Andrew Bird, Phantogram, Best Coast) join a gaggle of locals (Doomtree, Mally, Peter Wolf Crier).
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  • When: Aug. 24-26.
  • Where: Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, Wis.
  • Price: $75-$125.
  • Gist: Not to be confused with SoundTown, Soundset or even Milwaukee's Summerfest, the inaugural Summer Set offers a random/eclectic mix of electronic dance music, jam bands and rap. Figure out the respective substance tie-ins yourself.
  • Highlights: Dancey (Pretty Lights, MSTRKRFT, AraabMuzik), jammy (Umphrey's McGee, Lotus, Rebelution) and hip-hoppy (Nas, Black Star, Yelawolf).
  • More info

The rest of the fests

Stone Arch Bridge Festival

  • When: June 15-17.
  • Where: Minneapolis riverfront.
  • Price: Free.
  • Gist: There's a tweaked name and new organizers, but expect about the same Father's Day bash, with a classic car show, 250 artists, family-friendly activities and food.
  • Highlights: A tame yet solid collection of locals including Fire in the Northern Firs, Martin Devaney, Dream Crusher and Dan Mariska.
  • More info


  • When: July 8.
  • Where: Canterbury Park, Shakopee.
  • Price: $33.75.
  • Gist: This is not the Warped Tour of your youth. A gateway drug to nonradio fare, the touring pop-punk circus probably only makes sense to the youngsters it courts.
  • Highlights: Pop-punk/emo legacy acts Anti-Flag, New Found Glory, Taking Back Sunday, Rise Against, the Used and Yellowcard are all on the tour. The rest of the bill consists of young/unfamiliar acts with questionable names. A sampling: Chunk! No Captain Chunk!, iwrestledabearonce and Vampires Everywhere!
  • More info
Bastille Day (photo by Jerry Holt)


  • When: 3 p.m. July 15.
  • Where: Barbette, 1600 W. Lake St., Mpls.
  • Price: Free.
  • Gist: Celebrate the election of a socialist French president with the ultimate entitlement handout: a day of free music. Plus: Francophile food and drink from Barbette.
  • Highlights: Increasingly experimental folk-rock duo Peter Wolf Crier along with A. Wolf & Her Claws, Prissy Clerks, Sleep Study, Patty & the Buttons, the Brass Messengers and Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre.
  • More info


  • When: Aug. 5.
  • Where: Red Stag Supperclub, 509 1st Av. NE., Mpls.
  • Price: Free.
  • Gist: One of the premier Twin Cities block parties returns with another sweaty day of local music and stellar food.
  • Highlights: A collection of scene veterans including Rogue Valley, Mayda, Kill the Vultures, Chastity Brown, the Honeydogs and All Tomorrow's Petty.
  • Info:

Hit the road

80/35 Music Festival

  • When: July 6-7.
  • Where: Western Gateway Park, Des Moines.
  • Price: $39-$65.
  • Gist: Named for Des Moines' most thrilling draw: the intersection of Interstates 80 and 35! Fish-in-barrel Iowa jokes aside, the event draws around 30,000 music fans each day; it's well worth the four-hour trip.
  • Highlights: Friday's includes the Avett Brothers, indie legends Dinosaur Jr., rapper Freddie Gibbs and ambitious hardcore act Fucked Up. Saturday brings Death Cab for Cutie, Atmosphere and dance man Dan Deacon.
  • Info:


  • When: July 13-15.
  • Where: Union Park, Chicago.
  • Price: $45 (single-day pass).
  • Gist: Taste-making indie music site Pitchfork throws one of the country's finest fests, currently in its seventh run.
  • Highlights: White-hot MC A$AP Rocky leads into indie-pop darling Feist on Friday; reunited arty experimenters Godspeed You! Black Emperor headline with synth-pop heavyweights Hot Chip on Saturday; genre-hopping indie-rockstars Vampire Weekend close things down on Sunday. Other big shots include Sleigh Bells, Grimes, Danny Brown, Beach House and Wild Flag.
  • Info:


  • When: Aug. 3-5.
  • Where: Grant Park, Chicago.
  • Price: $95 (single-day pass).
  • Gist: Once a touring Gen-X mecca, Lollapalooza since 2005 has been stationed in Chicago, where it's become a destination fest on par with Coachella and Bonnaroo.
  • Highlights: It's all about reunited rockers this year, with metal gods Black Sabbath, post-hardcore heroes At the Drive-In and moody indie-rock champs the Afghan Whigs. Also performing: the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Black Keys and Florence + the Machine ... well, the always-deep lineup really just keeps on going.
  • Info:


  • When: June 27-July 1; July 3-8
  • Where: Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee.
  • Price: $4-$45.
  • Gist: The 45th annual Summerfest touts itself as the world's largest musical festival, mixing nostalgia acts with radio hitmakers and even some indie standouts.
  • Highlights: Aerosmith, the Beach Boys and Neil Diamond. Lupe Fiasco, the Roots and Robyn. Tune-Yards, the Walkmen and Heartless Bastards. So on, so forth.
  • Info:


  • When: Aug. 2-4.
  • Where: Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
  • Price: $134.
  • Gist: Your grandpa's country is dead and gone. Replacing it is the Nashville-gone-Top-40 radio fare that appeals to the young and drunk types you'll find at Cowboy Slim's.
  • Highlights: Eric Church, who recently headlined Target Center, is fourth on the bill, so that tells you something. Longtime country-rock outfit Alabama, boot-kickin' restaurateur Toby Keith and "Dirt Road Anthem" scribe Jason Aldean top it off.
  • Info:

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