Top 10 Most Booked U.S. Festival Acts of 2016

concert crowd photos

There is basically a major music festival in the United States once a weekend once festival season “officially” kicks off with Coachella in mid-April. While most of these festivals do a great job of curating unique lineups tailored to their usual base of patrons, there’s a handful of acts that you’ll see on more than their fair share of bills.

We’ve done some research using a spreadsheet that covers Coachella, Levitation, Shaky Knees, Shaky Beats, Hangout, Boston Calling, Sasquatch!, BottleRock, Governors Ball, Bunbury, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Forecastle, Pitchfork, and Panorama’s lineups to nail down the top 10 most booked acts on the U.S. festival circuit this spring and summer. Take a look at who you might get to see multiple times if you’re lucky enough to be hitting more than one festival this year.

Vince Staples (7)

“All these white folks chanting when I asked ’em where my n***as at? Goin’ crazy, got me goin’ crazy, I can’t get wit’ that” the Long Beach product raps on Summertime ’06 cut “Lift Me Up.” Young Vince better get used to that as music festivals are a predominantly white market and he is on 7 of the 15 lineups we went through. 2015 was a breakout year for Staples as Summertime ’06 was hailed as one of the best rap albums of the year by many and he is now enjoying the fruits of his labor with appearances at Coachella, Hangout, Boston Calling, Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Firefly and Bonnaroo.

Florence + The Machine

Florence + The Machine at Santa Barbara Bowl

Florence + The Machine (6)

With mesmerizing performances at Coachella and Bonnaroo in 2015 that stole the show from headliners Drake and Billy Joel, Florence Welch and her band have thrust themselves into being bona fide headliners in 2016. It’s partly connected to the excellence of her latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful but moreso Welch bringing it all together as a live performer like never before. Over the course of three weekends in May, FATM make headline stops at second-tier fests Shaky Knees, Hangout, Sasquatch! and BottleRock and two June stops at Bunbury and Firefly. It won’t be long until she tops the top-tier U.S. festivals — in fact, she’s probably one album cycle away.

Sufjan Stevens (5)

This is perhaps the most surprising name on this list. Last year in support of one of his greatest albums Carrie & Lowell, Stevens only played two U.S. festivals: the small Newport Folk and Eaux Claires festivals. This year, he’s going big: appearances at Coachella, Boston Calling, Sasquatch!, Pitchfork and Panorama. Coachella is an interesting one because he’ll surely be playing the sunset spot at the Outdoor Theatre (or should at least) and his quiet music will be trying to fight off the noise bleed of the neighboring tents.

death cab for cutie

Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie (5)

Ben Gibbard and Co. will play a cluster of American festival dates in late May to mid-June in support of their latest album Kintsugi. Death Cab for Cutie will appear at BottleRock, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Firefly before a July appearance at Forecastle. They’re a safe second-line festival act these days with a deep discography of hits and a couple memorable tunes from their latest album, like the radio-hit “Ghosts of Beverly Drive.”

M83 (5)

Also appearing at a third of the American festivals we checked is French electronic outfit M83. The follow-up to their 2011 album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is as anticipated as any album due to drop in 2016. That new record, Junk, drops a week before they take the stage at the Polo Fields for Coachella and it will surely be when a lot of people time their peak psychedelic trips at stops that include Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo and Firefly.

HAIM (5)

This is another interesting name on the list, simply because there has been no new music released by this talented trio of sisters since their debut full-length Days Are Gone dropped in late 2013. HAIM went on tour supporting Taylor Swift last year and already played a festival date this year in February at Air+Style in Los Angeles, but even there they didn’t play any new material. HAIM fans have been clamoring for new music from this Fleetwood Mac meets Wilson Phillips outfit and hopefully their appetite will be satisfied. They’ve been keeping themselves busy with everything BUT sharing new music, from their own Beats Radio1 show to remixing a song of Tame Impala. If they end up just playing the same festival set they did two years ago, it will be a bit of a letdown.

hang out festival

Major Lazer (5)

After releasing one of the more successful electronic records with last year’s Peace is the Mission, it is only fitting to see Major Lazer‘s name on so many of this year’s festival bills in the states. For two years in a row, festivalgoers in Indio will get to hear “Lean On,” though this time it won’t be MØ, but the duo of Diplo and Skrillex who produced the track. What’s very likely at that Coachella set is a star-studded cast of drop-in appearances that will likely include the Danish singer who brought life to the most streamed song of 2015. They’ll be at Shaky Beats, Sasquatch!, Firefly and Panorama in addition to Coachella.


Indie pop musician BØRNS will be all over with appearances at Coachella, Hangout, Boston Calling, Governors Ball and Bonnaroo upcoming this festival season. His debut album Dopamine is pretty solid and we already know he can deliver an entertaining live show. His synthy dreampop tunes and great falsetto will be a hit at all of these festivals with likely mid-day set times.

Big Grams (5)

Big Grams, which is a collaboration between Phantogram and Big Boi of OutKast, is a perfect fit for the festival circuit. It’s the only opportunity you’ll probably get to see this outfit before they go their separate ways and make music the way we are used to. We’ve seen them live and in addition to performing songs from their EP that dropped last year, they do a series of mashups of OutKast and Phantogram songs. A personal favorite is the one of “Ms. Jackson” and “Mouthful of Diamonds,” which will surely catch you off guard but please when it drops. Check them out at Hangout, Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Bunbury, and Bonnaroo.

Bully (5)

There were a series of other acts that are on 5 of the 15 festival bills we checked (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, AlunaGeorge), but we wanted to include one that you might not be familiar with that you probably should be. Nashville alt-rock act Bully is the brainchild of Alicia Bognanno, who has Sheryl Crow-like vocals but with a ’90s grunge vibe to them. Their debut album Feels Like was a standout record from last year and from all accounts, they’re even better witnessed in person. You’ll get that chance to see them rock at Hangout, Sasquatch!, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo and Forecastle.

Words: Mark E. Ortega

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