If recent viral disaster stories have taught us anything, it’s that festivals these days need to be more than an on-Fyre social media blitz and a hoodwinked media under the influencers.
No matter if you were watching the Fyre documentaries through your fingers in empathy, or enjoying a mainline hit of schadenfreude, it highlighted the colossal task of running any music weekender properly, in the age of insta-FOMO and rising standards.
Beyond the basics of good line-ups, quality food and a water supply that doesn’t rely on someone ‘taking one for the team’, music fans have become more savvy and discerning. We may laugh at viral pics of cheese sandwiches and disaster emergency tents at Fyre, but it’s not so many years since UK festivals evolved from grim weekenders in a field with a few burger vans and a comedy tent as the alternative entertainment.
But even as UK festivals have upped their game, an overseas weekender is still a rite of passage for the festival newbie, or a chance for a veteran to prove they haven’t seen it all.
We choose festivals these days the way we choose our holidays – as a more sophisticated quest for new cultural and social experiences.
Music tourism is hardly a new craze, but festivals are increasingly becoming a gateway to an extended break in a different country, blurring the lines between music, local history and culture, nightlife, sightseeing and gastronomic delights. Whether you’re down with a city break bustle, a beach time-out, an immersive music exploration or unique bucket list experiences, there’s a festival to suit.
From partying in a 5,000-year-old lava tunnel or a 17th century Balkan fortress, to lakeside gigs, beach raves or an urban dance marathon, here’s a selection of festivals run by teams with years of experience and excellence in the field. You know you won’t be signing up to an empty promise.
GLACIER RAVES AND SURREAL MIDNIGHT SUNSHINE AT ICELAND’S SECRET SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
Secret Solstice is all about unique experiences – the most obvious being the fact that the sun doesn’t set for the whole 96 hours, so get used to midnight pool parties in bright sunshine.
As well as an eclectic line-up of US, European and local acts, Iceland’s premiere music festival is a bucket list party in the capital Reykjavik during the magical summer solstice. The carbon-neutral festival prides itself on using Iceland’s stunning natural spaces and rugged landscape as a backdrop – while the main stage hosts many of the blockbuster acts, you can literally have an underground vibe, at exclusive raves in a glacier and a 5,000-year-old lava tunnel. Back above ground, catch DJ sets in naturally heated lagoons or at boat parties in the midnight sunshine – and marvel at glistening waterfalls, black sand beaches, caves and vast volcanic fields on special day trips.
Secret Solstice is celebrating its fifth anniversary, and 2019 is set to be its biggest edition yet.
Secret Solstice takes place from June 21-24.
Acts announced: Black Eyed Peas, Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters, Martin Garrix, Rita Ora, Patti Smith, Morcheeba, The Sugarhill Gang with Grandmaster Melle Mel & Scorpio, Foreign Beggars, Pussy Riot, Kerri, Chandler, MK, Mr.G, Jeremy Underground, Boy Pablo, SMASH TV, ALXJ, Ari Árelíus, Árstíðir, Ása, Auður, BenSöl, Birgir Hákon, Birnir, Captain Syrup, Carla Rose, Chris Hirose, Clint Stewart, ClubDub, Dilivius Lenni, Doctor Victor, Exos, Floni, Grúska Babúska, Hatari, Högni, Ingi Bauer, Joey Christ , Johann Stone, JóiPé & Króli , KrBear Logi Pedro, Mike The Jacket, Monello, Nitin, Oktavdj, Pink Street Boys, Ragga Holm, Ricoshëi, Rokky, Séra Bjössi , Skaði, Sólstafir, Sprite Zero Klan, Sturla Atlas, Svala, The Vintage Caravan, Una Stef, Vibes, Vök, Vom
PARTY IN A 17th CENTURY FORTRESS OVERLOOKING THE DANUBE AT EXIT IN SERBIA
For four days every summer, the 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress opens its gates for EXIT – the award-winning music festival in Serbia’s second city, Novi Sad.
EXIT began in 2000 as a student protest fighting for political change, and over the years it’s grown into one of Europe’s biggest festivals, with [thousands] partying in the stunning citadel perched high on a cliff overlooking the River Danube. The positive activism remains in the air, and each year has a specific theme (it was ‘Freedom’ in 2018).
EXIT has possibly the most diverse line-up of any European festival, with 20 outdoor stages that feature everything from death metal to pop, indie, reggae and techno – among cobbled paths, courtyards, grass verges, ramparts and underground tunnels.
The Dance Arena is the festival’s energetic hub, with 20,000 raving in the fortress moat waiting for the awe-inspiring moment when the sun rises above the ancient walls. Many DJs say the Dance Arena is the greatest place in the world to play, and after Nina Kraviz closed EXIT 2018 with an extended set until 9am, she called it “one of the most special places on Earth”.
EXIT takes place from July 4-7.
Acts announced: The Cure, Skepta, Amelie Lens, Boris Brejcha, Carl Cox, Charlotte De Witte, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Desiigner, Dj Snake, Greta Van Fleet, IAMDDB, Jeff Mills, Lost Frequencies, Maceo Plex, Paul Kalkbrenner, Peggy Gou, Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Tom Walker, 65daysofstatic, Adriatique, Atheist Rap (30 Years), Bad Copy, Boston 168 Live, Dax J, Hazze, HIgh5, I Hate Models, Johannes Brecht Live, Krankšvester, Krešo Bengalka, Monika Kruse, Peter And The Test Tube Babies, Sajsi MC, Satori Live, Shdw & Obscure Shape, Sofi Tukker, Soilwork, Tarja, The Selecter, Van Gogh, VojkoV, Whitechapel, 30Zona, Akioki, Ana Rs, Arcturus, Asphalt Chant, Atlas Erotika, Bajko Felix, Bekfleš, Black Lotus, Black Serbs, Blend Mishkin, Bo Badu, Bokee, Booze & Glory, Bronze, Buntai, Bush Mad Squad, Butchaa, Cake Boys, Coeus, Das Ich, Deadly Hunta, DJ/Mc Killo Killo, DJ Danjahras, DJ Laki & DJ Rokam, DJ One, DJ Spery, DJ Verso, Dfndr, Dub Duba, Dunkelbunt, Elioh, Elon, Enforcer, Entombed A.D., Fam, Global Village People, Goran Kan, Grade 2, Grimegod, Herbal Queen, I.N.D.I.G.O, Ilija Djokovic, In Da Klub, Irie Scratch & Shorty P, Ital Vision, Jahmessenjah Sound System, Joma Maja, Kk Banda DJ’s, Kaoz, Katja Rubikova, Kawiar Mangueira, Kayda May, King Calypso, Klinac, Lawrence Klein B2b Forniva, Lil Yung, Little Shuja, Luka Brasi, Marcella, Marko Vuković, Martyrium, Miloš Vujović B2b Ranchatek, Mladen Tomić B2b Siniša Tamamović, Neki, Nevena Jeremić, New Wave, October Tide, Otvoreni Prelom, Palace, Pale Origins, PLYZ, Ponor, Runy, Siberian Meat Grinder, Scandal, Shi-cu, Shuba Ranks, Sid Data, Skadam, Soft 85, Sorriso, Stas, Steppa Style, Sur Austru, Thundersteel, Tommy T., Total Chaos, Traples, Trepaj Il Krepaj, Two Pauz, Vaske, Vatra, Vitamin X, Waggles, Yung Rosh, Zguubi Dan, Zimski + Many More Soon
A VOYAGE OF UNDERGROUND DISCOVERY AT OFF FESTIVAL IN POLAND
OFF is a unique boutique festival that values experimentation and diversity above everything else – with founder and organiser Artur Rojek’s hands-on vision an inspiration to ambitious promoters and dreamers worldwide.
OFF takes place in ‘Valley of Three Ponds’, Katowice – a beautiful green hideaway in the industrial Silesia region, with a huge choice of bars, restaurants and cultural centres to explore in the city close by.
OFF ignores popular trends in favour of an expertly curated programme of esteemed artists – with the festival bringing many acts to Poland for the first time. It was created in 2006 as a way for Rojek to indulge his “dreams and passion for sharing music”, even if that means a black metal band can play next to a techno DJ, a post-punk act, avant-garde noise-rock, hip-hop, jazz, post-rock and beyond.
From the greatest international underground heroes to essential forward-thinking Polish artists, OFF is an inspirational meeting of minds.
OFF Festival takes place from August 2-4.
Acts Announced: Foals, Suede, Stereo Lab, Aldous Harding, The Comet Is Coming, Superorganism, Electric Wizard, The Gaslamp Killer, Loyle Carner, OM, Zespół Pieśni i Tańca „Śląsk”, Octavian, Tirzah, Lebanon Hanover, Ammar 808, Boogarins, Wczasy, Entropia, Daughters, Durand Jones & The Indications, Dezerter
MUSIC, ART AND CULTURE CLASH AT THE DUTCH CAMPING PARADISE OF LOWLANDS
A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise is the Netherlands’ most prestigious music festival that’s been a rite of passage for the Dutch since 1993. It takes place in rural Biddinghuizen – only an hour away from Amsterdam, so there’s even a chance to add in a city break either side.
It’s a true music, arts and culture weekender, featuring the world’s biggest headliners on the circuit, as well as installations, theatre, comedy, film, debates and even science workshops.
Each of the 12 uniquely designed stages are covered so you can party rain or shine, and the iconic ‘Armadillo’ area is the festival’s power station, quirky bars, DJ booths and artisan restaurant areas that surpass regular festival food stalls.
The Dutch are world-renowned as expert festival organisers, and Lowlands is a perfect smooth operator, from the intuitive layout to the lack of queues for bars, food and bathrooms – with the best campsite facilities of all the big European festivals.
It’s a proper lost weekend too – Lowlands doesn’t do day tickets, so once you arrive on the Thursday you’re on a journey with your fellow happy campers until Sunday. This vibe was picked up by 2018 headliner Nile Rodgers, who posted: “Lowlands was fire! This was an amazing f-ing crowd! Truly insane, and that’s how we like it!”
Lowlands takes place from August 16-18, 2019.
Acts Announced: Tame Impala, Twenty One Pilots, A$AP Rocky,
PARTY ON THE STUNNING ADRIATIC COAST AT SEA DANCE IN MONTENEGRO
Sea Dance in Montenegro is an extension of the EXIT family – a gold standard guarantee in the festival world. Like EXIT, Sea Dance is also an
EXIT’s famous No Sleep Novi Sad stage is repackaged for Sea Dance, with over 100 performers shared around numerous other stages. Evan as a relatively new addition to the festival scene, Sea Dance already has a reputation for securing the biggest names in electronic music.
Montenegro was recently listed by Skyscanner as the number one cheap holiday destination, with mountain biking, hiking and watersports available for those with energy left after dancing all night to the world’s biggest DJs.
Sea Dance takes place from August 30 to September 1.
Acts Announced: David Guetta, Robin Schulz, Ofenbach, + Many More Coming Soon
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ELECTRONIC MUSIC CULTURE AT THE AMSTERDAM DANCE EVENT
Amsterdam is world famous as a hub for nightlife and electronic music, and every October it becomes the centre of the electronic music universe for five days during the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE).
Some 400,000 people hit the Dutch capital every year for ADE, which features more than 2,500 international artists performing in over 100 of Amsterdam’s most iconic venues including Melkweg, Gashouder, Claire, Shelter, Paradiso, the NDSM Docklands and De School.
But it’s not simply a five-day rave – ADE offers an inspirational Eurosonic-style conference programme that covers all aspects of dance music culture and the industry. By day, across Amsterdam’s five main districts, there are dozens of seminars, workshops, exhibitions, artist interviews, feature and documentary screenings, DJ showcases and tech classes.
ADE is the ultimate festival for electronic music fans, who can even learn more about the culture between the parties.
Amsterdam Dance Event takes place from October 16 – 20
Acts to be announced soon
Nikki McNeill | Global Publicity