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AJ Kinney
AJ Kinney
Culture & Style

7 Spring and Summer Music Fests

Dance the night away to tunes performed by some of your favorite R&B, pop, jazz and hip-hop artists, including Mary J., Janet, Erykah, Ledisi and Missy.

One of the nonsocially distanced activities we’ve missed the most during the pandemic is attending live music festivals. But with equal parts common sense and careful planning, this spring/summer season we’re ready to let the music play in a group setting.

If you’d like to join in on the music festival fun, here are our seven picks across the country, in Canada and the Caribbean. So use those frequent-flier miles, grab a friend or get a solo ticket and get ready to dance the afternoon or night away to tunes performed by some of your favorite music artists, like R&B, pop, jazz and hip-hop leading ladies Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Ledisi and Missy Elliott.

Proof of vaccination is required for some events, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen, a hat and a cool pair of shades if you’ll be outside.

Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival


(May 25-30, Aruba)

Dubbed “one happy island,” Aruba is located south of the Caribbean’s hurricane belt and boasts sunny skies year-round. So this Memorial Day weekend, pack your best beachwear and c’mon and get happy during the 20th annual Soul Beach Music Festival, featuring pool parties, block parties and music and comedy concert headliners Mary J. Blige, New Edition and Mike Epps. Per local guidelines, travelers to Aruba are no longer required to present a COVID-19 negative test result or proof of vaccination. (soulbeach.net/2022/)

Roots Picnic

(June 4-5, Philadelphia)

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AJ Kinney

Party in the park with the legendary Roots crew (big up to Questlove for his Summer of Soul Oscar win for best documentary!), and a bevy of their fly musical friends. This year’s lineup at the Mann in Fairmount Park includes Mary J. Blige (she’s making the rounds this summer), Jazmine Sullivan, Keyshia Cole, SWV, Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, Kirk Franklin and more. Pack a picnic blanket and pick up grub from a variety of food trucks, with specially curated food items from the Roots themselves. But leave your backpack at home — for safety only clear plastic tote bags are permitted (sold for $10 at the gate). Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19, at least two weeks after final dose, or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of the event will be required for entry. (rootspicnic.com/philly/)

Essence Festival of Culture


(June 30-July 3, New Orleans)

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Attending the annual Essence fest is like going to a big family reunion, and this year’s theme, “It’s the Black Joy for Me,” sums up what we could all use more of these days. You and your “Flossy Posse” can purchase tickets to see live performances by Janet Jackson, Kevin Hart, New Edition, the Isley Brothers, D-Nice & Friends and more. In-person and virtual attendees can also enjoy free daytime experiences and shop from vendors in the Essence Marketplace. For entry, all in-person attendees are required to show a valid ID with their proof of full vaccination. (essence.com/essence-festival-2022/)

Montreal International Jazz Festival

(June 30-July 9, Montreal)

Feel the jazzy vibes at the 42nd edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival and get a taste of Paris in this chic, French-speaking Canadian city. This year’s program includes more than 350 concerts from diverse artists, including Corinne Bailey Rae, Bebel Gilberto, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Meshell Ndegeocello, Samara Joy and Gregory Porter. A photo ID and proof of vaccination is required for indoor events with assigned seating. (montrealjazzfest.com/en)

Blue Note Jazz Festival


(July 30-31, Napa Valley, California)

Here’s your chance to sip California varietals while grooving to the sounds of some of your favorite neo-soul, jazz and hip-hop artists. This hot ticket hosted on the grounds of Napa’s oldest winery features pianist Robert Glasper with Erykah Badu, Ledisi and comedian Dave Chappelle. Other standouts on the bill include Maxwell, Corinne Bailey Rae and Black Star (Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli). Plus, stay up for funky after-party sets by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Badu aka DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. The event will communicate all COVID-19 health and safety requirements to ticket holders before the festival. (bluenotejazzfestival.com/napa/)

Lets Get Fr.ee


(Aug. 20-21, Queens, New York)

Let your freak flag wave at “the world’s largest purpose-driven festival” in Flushing Meadows Park in the culturally diverse borough of Queens. Lets Get Fr.ee features headliners Missy Elliott, Anderson .Paak, Beenie Man and Jhené Aiko and a Brazilian carnival-like atmosphere complete with moving stages, private VIP cabins, global street-food vendors and a bazaar showcasing young designers, artisans, vintage sellers and small-batch beauty brands. Per local guidelines, proof of vaccination is no longer required, but masks are strongly encouraged. (letsgetfr.ee/)

Afropunk Brooklyn

(Date TBD, Brooklyn, New York)

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Inspired by the indie documentary of the same name, the annual Afropunk music festival is a gender-inclusive celebration of Black culture in all its facets — music, film, fashion and food. This year’s theme is “What Is Blackness to You,” and although the lineup hasn’t been announced yet, past festivals have been lit with spirited performances by music goddesses Grace Jones, Solange, Janelle Monáe, H.E.R. and Jill Scott. Check the website for COVID-19 protocol updates. (afropunk.com/festival/brooklyn/tickets/)

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