We’ve checked the 2019 lineups of six of the most famed Rock festivals in the world: Download Festival (UK), Fuji Rock (Japan), Louder Than Life (USA), Reading (UK), Rock Am Ring (Germany) and Roskilde (Denmark). We determined which Rock subgenres dominate each, in order to make deciding which one to visit in 2020 a bit easier. Now, pull out your ripped jeans, worn-out jackets, and vests covered by barely legible Maiden, Metallica, and Megadeth patches out of the back of your closet and start planning your 2020 Rock vacation.
For Metal and Hard Rock, go to Download Festival
You could argue that Download is a Metal fest rather than Rock, but the ratio in 2019 was actually slightly in favor of Rock, with 44 artists representing the genre (out of 117) and 41 playing Metal. But let’s break that down even further. Eighteen artists played Alternative Rock, and 19 were Hard Rockers. No wonder we just had to give Download seven guitars (out of seven) for rocking the hardest. The biggest stars at Download were Slash, Slipknot, Smashing Pumpkins, and Tool. Promoters also gave the audience some rockstalgia with Def Leppard, Whitesnake, and Skid Row.
The largest in the USA: Louder Than Life
American Rock fest Louder Than Life is the second heaviest on our list. It’s also considered to be the largest Rock festival in the USA. With 52% of the lineup being Rock acts, 21% Metal, and 17% Punk, it’s one of the heaviest and most diverse Rock festivals in the world. Within the Rock genre, we have a tie, as 12 (out of 27) artists played Alternative Rock, and 12 played Hard Rock. Louder Than Life hosted Rock and Metal stars such as Guns N’ Roses, Slipknot, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, and legendary horror master Rob Zombie. And, surprisingly, Ice Cube was also spicing the stage up with Hip Hop beats. The roster was enhanced by Celtic Punk band Dropkick Murphys, crossover thrashers Suicidal Tendencies, Sum 41, America’s #1 scapegoat Marilyn Manson, and Disturbed bringing "The Sound of Silence" to the festivities.
Metallica fans were thrilled to hear that the band will be headlining Louder Than Life 2020.
To Rock in Germany: Rock Am Ring
We placed the famous Rock am Ring and its sister fest Rock im Park (two festivals with the same lineup) just below Louder Than Life, but only because it includes other genres, such as Electronic, Hip Hop, and Pop. Still, Rock rules the stages at Nürburgring. Out of the 77 artists in the lineup, 36% are Rockers, equally representing Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, and Indie Rock, and 29% are Metal bands. Monster metal acts such as Arch Enemy, Bad Wolves, Slayer, and Amon Amarth offered fans a lot of headbanging in 2019, while acts like Alice In Chains and Smashing Pumpkins provided some solid Rock beats.
The cleanest: Fuji Rock
Fuji Rock is, despite the name, the most mainstream festival so far on our list. About 36% of the acts were in the Rock genre, while the rest of the lineup was composed of Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, and Electronic artists. The most popular subgenre on the festival was Indie Rock, with 10 out of 22 artists, while Alternative Rock had 6 representatives. The biggest Rock stars at Fuji were The Cure and Death Cab for Cutie, but the festival also had The Chemical Brothers, known for their visually stunning live performances, a superman in the ambient electronic sceneTycho, superstar DJ Martin Garrix, and wig-loving superstar Sia.
There are no band confirmations for 2020 yet, but here’s a piece of useful information for all who plan to go: the festival moved its date from July to August in 2020 due to the Summer Olympic Games in Japan.
Get naked at Roskilde
Roskilde had a massive lineup of over 170 artists, but only 24% played Rock, so we couldn’t rank it higher on the list. The most (19) Rock acts played Indie, but we have to mention that Roskilde also had quite a large number of Metal acts (15). The biggest Rock stars were The Cure, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, and Noel Gallagher. The festival also boasted some really big stars in other genres, such as Cardi B, Cypress Hill, Neneh Cherry, and Rosalía. Metal fans got old-school thrashers Testament, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, Ulver, and Behemoth, among others.
Here's a fun fact: a lot of people go completely naked during the festival (there’s also an organized Naked Run) as a sort of monument to the performance of American band Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show in 1976. The band was performing in broad daylight when singer Dennis Locorriere suddenly took all his clothes off, and a few moments later, his bandmates did the same. They played the last 10 minutes or so completely naked, and the tradition was born.
Everything for everyone: Reading
Reading is, like Fuji, a mainstream festival with Rock acts dominating the stages at 30% of the lineup. But we have to say that Reading (and its sister festival Leeds) had a massive lineup in 2019 – over 200 artists played there. Therefore, their Rock lineup, measured by the number of artists, crushes all the other festivals. The most common Rock subgenre was Indie Rock, with 36 out of 63 artists, while Alternative Rock was in second place with 14 musicians. The three hottest Rock acts were Foo Fighters, The 1975, and Twenty One Pilots. To mix it up: other famous acts were Australian DJ FISHER and rappers Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, DaBaby, and Machine Gun Kelly. The main stage was also conquered by one of the biggest music stars right now, Billie Eilish. Reading is the oldest festival on our list and among the oldest in the world. Its beginnings go to the 1960s, the era of the so-called British Invasion, when the world went crazy for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Animals.
There’s no doubt about it, Rock is alive and well, with millions of fans all over the world. Sure, a lot of formerly Rock-specific festivals are changing their lineups and branching into other genres, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Things change, and that’s how new music, new sounds are created. Young listeners don’t necessarily care for genre labels and will gladly Rock out to The Cure, then dance to Martin Garrix a couple of hours later. Also, a lot of musicians are blending genres and thereby creating new ones. But there are a lot of people who stick firmly to what they like, and that’s just fine as well. Luckily, whether you like heavy or mellow riffs, whether you care for genres or not, there’s a festival for you out there.
Cover photo: James Bridle/Download Festival
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