Right now, we’re right in the thick of our festival season, with a revolving door of A-list names making the long haul down here. What about when the weather takes a turn for the chilly, though?
If you frequent inthemix, you will have seen stories about the biggest players on the international festival calendar: the likes of Tomorrowland, Hideout, Global Gathering, Glade, Coachella, Bestival, Creamfields, Burning Man, Glastonbury, Sonar, Ultra Music Festival and Exit. Look a little further off the beaten track, though, and you’ll find an ever-widening list of festivals – from the intimate to the epic – worth booking a holiday around. From a very long list, we’ve got it down to 20 festivals you should put on your radar. Needless to say, we might’ve missed your favourite discovery. That’s what the comments section is for.
WHY: You don’t get much more “off the beaten track” than the Sahara Desert. Enter Transahara: a five-day festival smack bang in the middle of Morocco’s Sahara Desert. Make the pilgrimage and you’re looking at a lengthy trance, techno, house and minimal line-up; but the focus is on the whole shebang rather than recruiting big names.
Music’s as much as the focus as art, culture and getting in touch with your mind, body and soul (BYO harem pants). It’s an intimate experience with a spectacular setting: capacity is capped at 1000, so there won’t be many people ruining your view of the endless sand dunes. And to get your Lawrence of Arabia on, you’ll only be set back about $200 for the five-day pass. Bragging rights come free.
WHEN: Five days in early April
WHERE: Sahara Desert, Morocco
#24 Life Festival
WHY: With the backdrop of Belvedere House Park and Gardens, on the edge of a forest in the Irish countryside, Life Festival is like a period drama with a four-four soundtrack. The boutique festival is simply “about forward thinking music”, and in 2013 the line-up includes a Two Fingers DJ set from Amon Tobin, Seth Troxler, Floating Points, Modeselektor and Midland. If you like your festival thrills on the intimate side in a picturesque setting (Ireland also boasts the mammoth Oxegen Festival, a very different proposition), this is a weekender worth roaming to. All you have to hope is that the weather behaves.
WHEN: 24-26 May 2013
WHERE: Belvedere House, County Westmeath, Ireland
#23 Welcome To The Future
WHY: Dutch powerhouse ID&T needs no introduction when it comes to throwing next-level events. The ID&T résumé includes colossal festivals like Tomorrowland and Mysteryland, the ever-expanding Sensation empire and ENERGY at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, all with a meticulous approach to production, theming and sound.
One of the more ‘boutique’ sized festivals in the ID&T family is Welcome To The Future, a one-day marathon of techno and house in the Het Twiske park. Similar in format to Awakenings festival, Welcome To The Future’s mainstage in 2012 boasted Josh Wink and Steve Bug back-to-back, plus hometown heroes 2000 And One and Daniel Sanchez closing it out. There’s a killer techno stage as well and a capacity that suits the vibe. A gem worth discovering in Holland’s crowded festival itinerary.
WHEN: 27 July 2013
WHERE: Het Twiske, nearby Amsterdam
WHY: With chewing gum outlawed and swearing on-stage a big no-no, Singapore might not seem like the most obvious place to let loose at a festival. But for over ten years, ZoukOut’s been showing the world how much fun a city can have while still adhering to a bunch of odd laws. For 2012, ZoukOut recruited big guns like Avicii, Above & Beyond, Major Lazer, Knife Party and a heap more making ‘Singapore debuts’ for what’s become one of best dance festivals in Asia, run by the world-renowned Zouk club. Set on the ‘Surreal Seaside’ (read: private beach), Zoukout runs til 8am – so there’s no shortage of festival-ing over the two days. Did we mention tickets won’t break the bank?
WHEN: Two days in early December
WHERE: Siloso Beach, Singapore
#21 Ten Days Off
WHY: It’s all in the name: this is a 10 day stretch of epic all-nighters at the Vooruit Arts centre in Ghent, Belgium, each July. Beginning in the ‘90s as 10 Days Of Techno, 2013 will be the 19th edition of Ten Days Off, although no line-ups have yet been announced. Last year went large with an elite cast of house and techno talent, including Pachanga Boys, Richie Hawtin, Etienne de Crecy, Maceo Plex, John Talabot and DJ Harvey. The bonus of a spread-out ‘festival’ like this one is the prospect of extended sets – not something you get all that often.
WHEN: TBA, usually July
WHERE: Vooruit Arts Centre, Ghent, Belgium
#20 Electronic Family Festival
WHY: If you’re known to type #trancefamily on occasion, you’ll find yourself at home in Holland. With a long list of trance authorities coming out of The Netherlands, it’s the place to find a festival dedicated to the sound. However, because they’re spoiled for choice, the Dutch can be hard to please.
In 2011, Electronic Family arrived with the simple tag-line: “The world’s largest outdoor trance festival”. Armin van Buuren played multiple sets across the course of the day, closing the mainstage, plus going back-to-back with Markus Schulz, Gareth Emery and Ferry Corsten. That’s how you get attention. 2012 brought Armin back alongside PvD, Schulz, Corsten, Marco V and many more, and the 2013 edition is locked in for July. If you want an unadulterated trance festival, look no further.
WHEN: 20 July 2013
WHERE: Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam
WHY: A lot of the festivals on this list are summer events. Not Snowbombing. Held in a ski resort in Austria, Snowbombing is as anti-summer as they come. The focus is on snowboarding as much as it is on the music – not that they skimp there, with names like Above & Beyond, Disclosure, Carl Cox, Maceo Plex, Tiga and the Innervisions crew on board in 2013.
You can party in an igloo village (!) and forest clearings, behold Austrian stereotypes a-plenty (think oompah bands, lederhosen and sausages), take a dip or steam in one of the 50 pools and saunas and generally admire the alpine scenery. Plus if you don’t want to fly all the way to Austria, you can take the ‘Snowbombing Road Trip’ from the UK.
WHEN: April 1-6 2013
WHERE: Mayrhofen, Austria
#18 Movement Electronic Music Festival
WHY: In the ‘EDM’ hysteria surrounding North America’s festival market, you’d overlook Movement at your peril. If there’s any international line-up to make a techno devotee swoon year in, year out, it has to be this one. A lengthy and illustrious roll-call of acts will assemble again at Hart Plaza in Detroit from May 25 to 27 2013. The ‘Phase 1’ line-up has now been announced and, true to the festival’s roots, it’s heavily weighted towards techno.
One of the Motor City’s greatest advocates, Richie Hawtin, will be there, alongside Detroit heroes like Carl Craig, the Hi-Tech Soul pairing of Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, Silent Servant, Drumcell, Luke Slater and Dave Clarke bringing it hard and fast. Don’t worry, house fans, there’s plenty at that tempo too.
WHEN: 25-27 May 2013
WHERE: Hart Plaza, Detroit (then the after-parties!)
#17 Berlin Festival
WHY: If your travel plan is to hit big music hubs, Berlin’s bound to be top of the list. There’s no better time to go than when Berlin Festival is on: for 48 hours, the historic Tempelhof Airport is transformed into a hub for shows from legendary acts like this year’s headliners Blur and the Pet Shop Boys. Then at the crack of midnight, the festival changes locations to Arena Berlin under the guise of Club Xberg, running ‘til those famous Berlin wee hours. Plus they’ve announced a big ‘10 Years Of Ed Banger’ after party with Justice, Busy P, Breakbot and Sebastian for this edition, so make 2013 the year.
WHEN: 6 & 7 September 2013
WHERE: Tempelhof Airport, Berlin
#16 Calvi on the Rocks
WHY: On the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, less than AUD$150 will buy you five days at Calvi on the Rocks, France’s beachside electro playground. Year on year, the who’s who of French electronic music are there. In 2012 there was Brodinski, Gesaffelstein, Sebastian Tellier and Busy P, plus international recruits like Nicolas Jaar, Azari & III and Erol Alkan.
You can head to the festival’s signature party Octopussy held on the bay of Calvi and get your feet wet while you dance, take in the open-air theatre, art shows and if need be, take a breather from the round-the-clock parties with the designated ‘silent beach’.
WHEN: Five days in early July
WHERE: Calvi, France
WHY: As Belgian techno impresario Peter Van Hoesen concisely put it to inthemix, “Labyrinth is always a special experience.” Set in the stunning Naeba Greenland in Niigata, Japan, the festival has earned a near-mythic reputation. The 2012 edition featured Appleblim, Steffi, Fred P, Shed, Dasha Rush and a marathon closing set from alongside Labyrinth icon Donato Dozzy, all on one well-equipped stage. If the festival’s meticulous attention to sound is good enough for the ears of Peter Van Hoesen (himself a committed sound designer), it’s good enough for all. Tickets sell out far in advance.
WHEN: September 2013
WHERE: Naeba Greenland, Niigata, Japan
#14 Sun and Bass
WHY: “Sun and bass”: the name really says it all, doesn’t it? Sun and Bass is a drum & bass festival with one hell of setting, the Italian island of Sardinia. Big names like Klute, Calibre, Markus Intalex and LTJ Bukem have passed through, but it’s really more about the experience than the line-up.
For seven days (yep!) it’s all about heavy basslines by night, days spent lying on the beach and retiring to a nice hotel or holiday rental instead of a scummy tent. There’s plenty of beach parties to keep you busy and with the town of San Teodoro’s population numbering just 3,500, you’ll feel like you have the run of the place. Also, there’s pizza.
WHEN: 7-14 September 2013
WHERE: San Teodoro, Italy
#13 Sonne Mond Sterne
WHY: Set on the banks of the Bleilochtal reservoir in Germany, Sonne Mond Sterne (that’s Sun Moon Stars) is one of those festivals worth investigating. From the biggest dance headliners to tents curated by leading cult labels, you will be entirely spoiled for choice across three days and nights in August. Right now, only a miniscule fraction of the 2013 line-up has been announced (think Sven Vath, Boys Noize live, The Bloody Beetroots and Fritz Kalkbrenner), so stay tuned. No 10pm curfews here: this one bangs right through ‘till the morning with somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 up-for-it party people.
WHEN: 9-11 August 2013
WHERE: Bleilochtalsperre, Saalburg, Germany
WHY: With a comfortable capacity of 17,000, Audioriver takes over the beach on the banks of the Vistula River each year with an expertly-curated line-up. In case you’re rusty on Poland’s geography, the Vistula River runs through the town of Plock. The 2013 edition is set for the weekend of 26 to 28 July, taking over the beach and the Old Town with a to-be-announced line-up. Last year’s cast ranged from DJs like Carl Craig, Skream, SebastiAn and Ricardo Villalobos to live acts Royksopp, Nicolas Jaar and Modeselektor. The best bit? Tickets are dirt cheap.
WHEN: 26-28 July 2013
WHERE: Beach on the Vistula River, Plock, Poland
#11 Decibel Festival
WHY: It’s not hard to see why Seattle’s Decibel Festival has a devoted following. Since 2003, the festival has pushed a forward-thinking agenda bringing together music, art and panel discussions. For those who come to rave, there’s plenty of that, but there’s brain-teasing to be had as well.
The after-dark events are spread around the city’s concert halls and clubs, with too much for any one mere mortal to take in. Just as Sonar takes over Barcelona each June, Decibel fills all corners of Seattle with electronic music. What’s more, the 2013 event is the 10th anniversary celebration, so expect some big surprises.
WHEN: 25-29 September
WHERE: Various venues, Seattle
#10 Garden Festival/Electric Elephant/Soundwave
WHY: Given everything Croatia has going for it, it’s no surprise to see it become one of the world’s most desirable festival destinations. There would be many contenders for this list: Dimensions in the one-of-a-kind setting of Fort Punta Christo, the flashy recent arrival Hideout Festival and the smaller-scale Stop Making Sense. Then there’s Ultra Music Festival’s expedition to Croatia this year with Armin van Buuren, Avicii and Carl Cox on board as headliners.
Despite the many options, it’s hard to go past the original Garden Festival at the beautiful Garden Tisno. This summer’s edition from 3 to 10 July is keeping the failsafe formula of distinguished acts in a picturesque locale. The 2013 line-up is led by Floating Points, Eats Everything, Maurice Fulton, Bicep, Soul Clap and Theo Parrish, with club and boat parties from We Love…, Beats In Space, Wolf Music and more.
Even better – Garden Festival rolls right into another one at the same location, Electric Elephant, with a ‘double whammy’ ticket available for the marathon men and women. For the truly party-hardy, there’s another festival right after, Soundwave, with another pitch-perfect line-up. Now that’s a holiday.
WHEN: 3-10/11-15/18-22 July
WHERE: The Garden Tisno, Croatia
#9 Melt Festival
WHY: Melt might be one of the best-known festivals on this list, but next to some of the giants on the crowded European calendar, it’s still something of a niche sibling. If you love a wide spectrum of electronic music, expect your jaw to drop when you see the 2013 Melt Festival line-up (still to be revealed).
Staged at Ferropolis, an open-air museum of industrial machinery outside Berlin, the three-day camping festival is a trip. The dancing happens under huge, dormant machines until sunrise, with the techno/house heavies you’d expect (think Ellen Allien, Adam Beyer, Maya Jane Coles, Richie Hawtin and Dixon) alongside live acts like Disclosure, Gesaffelstein and Squarepusher. You can expect an iconic Sunday night headliner to send you home on, too.
WHEN: 19-21 July, 2013
WHERE: Ferropolis, Germany
#8 Outlook Festival
WHY: How’s this for awesome: Croatia’s Outlook Festival is held in a bona-fide fort. Soundsystems and stages are erected in tunnels and even the moat of abandoned ruins. Then there are the stage set-ups on surrounding beaches and boat parties that set sail from the main festival site around the Adriatic coastline (look that one up).
So what’s Outlook got going for it, besides the one-of-a-kind setting? Well, the main selling point is that it’s the largest bass festival in Europe. “When we talk about bass music we don’t mean the bastardised commercial version currently being sold to children,” the Outlook website assures. “We mean underground dancefloor music, whether it be house, techno, dubstep, reggae, dub, hip-hop, garage, grime, electronica…” Stages run til 6am. Drinks are cheap. Once more: it’s in a fort.
WHEN: Five days from the end of August
WHERE: Fort Punta Christo, Croatia
#7 Hard Summer
WHY: Hard Events is one of best festival brands currently operating in the States and L.A.’s Hard Summer is where it all began. It’s enough to make a dance fan weak at the knees: this year, Skrillex, Boys Noize, Squarepusher and Magnetic Man (to name, seriously, only a few) took turns revving the crowd over two days, and all for under $120. It’s a much more diverse line-up than we’re used to from American festivals (this isn’t just the standard EDM parade) – expect Brodinski on the mainstage instead of burrowed away in a parking lot somewhere, or Bootsy Collins alongside Lunice. Hard Summer is just cool like that.
WHEN: 3-4 August 2013
WHERE: Downtown L.A.
#6 Monegros Desert Festival
WHY: Beginning at 5pm Saturday and winding up on Sunday afternoon, Spain’s Monegros Desert Festival is a dance music marathon to end them all. If you’re game for that kind of all-in experience, you’ll be rewarded with a scorching line-up. The 2013 names are still to be announced, but last year’s bill included The Prodigy, Paul Kalkbrenner, [aa.artist:Wu-Tang Clan] and 2manydjs. The closing set went to Richie Hawtin at 11am in the searing sun: about as extreme as festivals get. If you want to know how hard the Spaniards party, this is the best induction we can think of.
WHEN: Saturday 20 July 2013
WHERE: The desert of Monegros, Aragon, in Spain
#5 BPM Festival
WHY: From early January, the immense BPM Festival stages a marathon of day and night events around the beach-side town Playa Del Carmen on the Mayan Riviera. BPM parties are hosted around the clock at multiple venues, surrounded by “warm turquoise Caribbean waters, white sand beaches, mysterious jungles and ancient ruins.”
No expense was spared on the line-up for its sixth edition in 2013, either. The list of mostly house and techno heroes included veterans like Carl Cox, Danny Tenaglia, DJ Harvey, Sven Vath, Masters At Work and Mr. C on the Playa alongside Dixon, Jamie Jones, Luciano, Martin Buttrich, Soul Clap, The Martinez Brothers, Maceo Plex and co.
WHEN: Early January
WHERE: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
WHY: If you’re all about trance, then it’s gotta be Sunburn: Asia’s biggest dance festival, set on the beaches of Candolim in Goa, India. Headliners in 2012 included Sander van Doorn, BT, Fedde le Grand (okay, so it’s not all trance), Paul van Dyk and Roger Sanchez, and in true Goa fashion, the music goes 24 hours a day.
Then there’s everything else that goes on: flea markets, fire jugglers, a massage centre and spa, rock climbing, and “slippery football” (we’ll leave deciphering that one up to your imagination). Plus there’s no need to worry about breaking the bank here.
WHEN: Three days at the end of December
WHERE: Goa, India
#3 Balaton Sound
WHY: A beach holiday and mega-festival rolled into one, Balaton Sound boasts a 20-hour music schedule and a setting on the largest lake in Central Europe. Dance is the order of the day here: Avicii, Carl Cox, the various SHM members, Sven Vath and the Chemical Brothers have all appeared in previous years – even Snoop Dogg and Beastie Boys have dropped by. Chill out in a hammock, hit one of the special festival site pubs for a $1 beer (bless you, Eastern Europe) and have a sit down dinner at one of the legit four-walls-and-a-roof restaurants, or just rave ‘til dawn – the choice is yours.
WHEN: Four days in early July
WHERE: Lake Balaton, Hungary
#2 Holy Ship!
WHY: A lot of the festivals on this list are institutions: events that have run for years (sometimes decades) and had plenty of time to get it right, build a fan-base and earn their legendary status. Not Holy Ship. Hard Events’ latest festival came out of nowhere in 2012 and smacked jaws around the world straight to the ground. The basic premise? Three days on a luxury liner cruising the Caribbean, a rollcall of dance music’s biggest (and hardest partying) names spinning ‘til dawn and a beach party at a private, white-sand island in the Bahamas.
But it’s the little touches that really make Holy Ship! a bucket list worthy experience: with a tiny 2,500 capacity, punters rub shoulders with the DJs all cruise long. You can play poker with Zedd, enter Dillon Francis’ miniature golf tournament on the ship’s deck, take mixing lessons with [aa.artist:A-Trak] or enter Diplo’s Mad Decent scavenger hunt.
No wonder, then, this year’s Holy Ship! sold out in 28 hours and left a 10,000 strong waitlist in its wake. But you need a look at those Caribbean paradise scenes to really see why Holy Ship! is such a must-do, so dive into the 2012 recap video below (hint: skip to the five minute mark to really get jealous).
WHEN: Early January
WHERE: The Caribbean, departing from Ft. Lauderdale in Miami
WHY: What is it with Eastern Europe and smutty festival promo videos? Dive into one of KaZantip’s recap videos and you’ll see that the music isn’t the only (or even the biggest) attraction here. That having said, KaZantip still pulls more than 300 DJs over 14 dancefloors to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula each year, the festival counting Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Richie Hawtin and Skrillex among its line-up alumni.
But KaZantip isn’t your regular three day deal – it stretches over a whopping five to six weeks in the Ukraine’s summer. Most people pop in for a few days or a week, but if you’re really hardcore you could very well do the full six week challenge. There’s a big community element, too – festival-goers are called “paradiZers” and the festival declares itself a “virtual republic”, held on a 60,000 square metre piece of land. Basically, it’s an unashamedly trashy good time: the booze is cheap, the girls aren’t wearing a whole lot and the music is loud and goes for 21 hours a day, every day.
WHEN: Five-six weeks in July-August
WHERE: Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine