Spring has arrived early and as the sun peeps out from those merrily passing clouds, you start to get that summer festival tingle. With such a broad range of festivals on offer, it’s difficult to pick just one. It’s definitely a better experience to get out to another country and experience a new culture as well as a new festival. So here are ten music festivals from ten different countries around the world to cherry pick from.
Check out my suggestions for summer 2010 festivals.
1. California, USA
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival | Tickets
Deep in the Colorado Desert, the festival of Coachella is as bright and as hot as you can bare in the day, but in typical desert climate, drops to chilly temperatures after sundown. The setting is truly remarkable and really is quite like no other because of the little amounts of shade. Now erupting in April to avoid the sting of the summer heat, Coachella’s three days of exuberance are some of the most stunning of all festivals. Famed for its non-repeating roster, this year’s highlights include British electronic legend Aphex Twin, the auroral Icelandic group Múm and Australian instrument-junkies, Architecture in Helsinki.
After several years of disruptions and false starts, Coachella is finally coming into its own. In this unique environment with such a huge selection of outstanding artists from around the world, you can prepare yourself for three days of guaranteed good weather and a totally sweet time. Make sure you keep an eye out for the awesome sculptures that line the Polo grounds. They’re another unique placement that makes Coachella really come into its own.
2. East Sussex, England
All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP) is about as close-knit as it gets. The festival has been running strong for almost ten years now and marks its explosion into popularity with a partnership with acclaimed Indie music website Pitchfork. ATP has always been slightly different to other festivals for two quite specific reasons. The first is that rather than choose any old line up, the organisers always bring in a curator to select their favourite acts to play. This makes every festival completely different musically and curators from the past include Autechre, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr, showing the range of styles on offer.
This year is a face off between ATP itself and Pitchfork, each will choose half the line-up to play, which will infuse a real mish-mash of bands. ATP’s choices include the likes of Ween and Sebadoh, whilst Pitchfork select more fashionable options with Of Montreal and Vampire Weekend being the highlights. The second factor to success is the venue of the festival. This May will see a return to Camber Sands in Sussex where the Butlins holiday site will once more be filled with eager partiers. Armed with chalets instead of tents and pubs instead of stages, it all feels a bit more civilised and is akin to a series of intimate weekend gigs one after the other, rather than a typical festival. It’s one of the friendliest festivals in town and despite its rapidly growing fan base, remains somewhat an unknown gem to the rest of the music world.
3. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is home to so many great festivals, that it’s difficult to pick just one to define the city. Yet, Sónar’s focus on both the artistic and multimedia side of music gives it the edge in the stakes. Whilst it’s easy to dismiss the contemporary nature of Sónar as pretentious, it’s better to just get involved with all that goes on there to see just how incredible and diverse it really is. By day, there’s a focus on art with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Center of Contemporary Culture opening up for all sorts of activities from record fairs to independent film viewings. By night the festival transforms into an amplitude of open-air and indoor areas filled with concerts and performances for you to explore.
There’s a definite focus on electronic music at Sónar, which seems like a natural extension from the multimedia side of events which precede the night shows. This year you can enjoy the vibrancy of Daft Punk understudies Justice, the melodic Swedish beats of Little Dragon and the unmistakeable throb of London’s funkiest artist, M.I.A.
4. Tromøy, Norway
Norway may not be renowned for a plethora of great festivals, but Hove (or Hovefestivalen to the natives) still manages to hold its own if you give it the chance. Having only started in 2007, this is just the second Hove festival and as such is still in the process of building a reputation. The sheer number of attendees last year is a testament to just how successful the launch was. Over 70,000 people visited, making it the biggest of it’s kind in Norway last year. The best part about Hove is the variety on offer, with its relaxed beaches, green camp sites and natural stage settings, it’s a truly peaceful and pleasant setting where you can amble about and enjoy all the different areas of the island.
With a slight focus on Metal, due to Norway’s obsession with the loud stuff, Hove still offers a decent range of other styles which mix in quite nicely. 2008 will offer dance-punk favourites Les Savy Fav, the disco dreamscapes of Hercules and Love Affair, and the formidable yelping Animal Collective. The five days of partying is set to solidify Hove’s position as another great summer music festival.
5. Gdynia, Poland
Growing steadily since the first festival at Warsaw in 2002 under the name Open Air, the Open’er Festival has now stood strong in Gdynia for five years and gets bigger every year. Famously held now in the Babie Doły military airport, whilst the sun will be shining in July it’s best to pack for the mud in mind just in case it decides to rain. Flash floods do have a tendency to happen here. The best thing about the festival though, is its price. It’s so cheap to pick up a ticket and going one better, the flights are cheap too, making it a great budget option for festival-goers.
A strong line up this year is upheld by the pounding vibe of Interpol, the curious and unique vocals of CocoRosie and the Uhs of England-based but Japan-loving Fujiya and Miyagi. Prepare yourself for a rampage of endless beats, rock and plenty of vodka.
6. Fuji, Japan
It wouldn’t be a worldwide festival list without mentioning Japan. The country prides itself on unique tastes and unashamed interest in manufactured Pop, yet there’s no doubting that no matter what the line up at Fuji Rock, you will party harder here than you ever have anywhere in your life. Held in Naeba, the festival runs for three days and is overlooked by beautiful mountain forestry. The festival did used to be held near Mount Fuji, however following a typhoon, the organisers were forced to find an alternative venue. So despite not being very close to the original placement, the festival still maintains the name Fuji Rock.
The best part of this festival is how huge the area is. There’s simply so much to explore and take in, that you’ll be totally spoilt for choice. Whilst yes, it does mean there can be lengthy walks in between stages, it’s worth it for the sheer variety on offer. This year the line up offers the simple Indie joys of Spoon, the darkened electronics of DatA and the colourful power beats of The Go! Team.
7. Montreal, Canada
Home to many festivals, Montreal is perhaps the most bustling city in Canada for music. Osheaga is just a taste of what’s on offer here, but the two days of this annual event in Parc Jean-Drapeau behold the best musicians around. In such a calm and cosmopolitan atmosphere, the festival is always friendly and overwhelmed with pretty scenery. With Canada currently holding such a strong music scene, it’s also a great opportunity to catch the latest great Canadian highlights. Previous renowned Canadian acts performing at Osheaga include Wolf Parade, Islands and Final Fantasy.
So who will be gracing the wonderful open stage this year? The line up doesn’t disappoint, with Cat Power, Broken Social Scene, Jamie Lidell and Plants & Animals all joining in the fun. It’s set to be another great year for Osheaga and perhaps best enjoyed as an accompaniment to a Canada holiday.
8. Gothenburg, Sweden
Way Out West | Tickets
In the delightful park of Slottsskogen, deep in Gothenburg, Way Out West took place for the first time in 2007. It was such a success that it’s due to return again this year with promises of more great music. In the first festival last year, there were many notable performances, though it’s the focus on Swedish acts that gives Way Out West a huge lift above anything else. There’s a real stir of amazement coming musically from the country at the moment and the festival featured some of the best artists Sweden has to offer. Last year’s highlights included the refreshing light Pop of Lykke Li, the gorgeous Indie hum of Hello Saferide and the delicate, thoughtful notes of Peter Bjorn and John.
This year is set to be even more exciting than the first. Featuring the delightful, plodding melodies of Iron and Wine, Girl Talk’s raucous beat mixes,The Dodos’ fluttering, polite sounds and YACHT’s playful electronic chips, it’s abound for more success.
9. County Laois, Republic of Ireland
Running since 2004, Electric Picnic has grown leaps and bounds into a fully-fledge three day festival with a line-up like no other. Deliberately emphasising a heterogeneous schedule, the acts that play here all offer something new and different. Throughout the years, a number of great artists have set the stage alight, from Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem in 2005 to Björk and Hot Chip more recently in 2007. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Stradbally Hall in County Laois, the festival ensures a gorgeous setting to match the music offerings.
Electric Picnic expects this year to be its most popular yet with 35,000 people due to attend. Visitors can expect to see the delights of sombre, Nottingham-hailed Tindersticks, beat-happy Brits New Young Pony Club and the aching vibrations of Icelandic band Sigur Rós. Hot on the heels of the more popular Irish festival, Oxygen, Electric Picnic’s better line-up and more relaxed atmosphere hopes to soon be Republic of Ireland’s leading summer music extravaganza.
10. Reykjavík, Iceland
This is the festival that remains deepest in the hearts of visitors. Not only is it set in the epicentre of Iceland’s mystical capital, but it also runs for some five days, meaning you can really get the most out of this prestigious event. Bands always seem to feature at Airwaves before their careers really get going, so it’s an amazing opportunity to experience the best up and coming artists before they’ve even made it. Memorable past performances include The Rapture in 2002 and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in 2004, both with their first shows outside of New York.
This year’s line up has yet to be announced, but it’s assured to be packed with numerous fantastic artists. Last year’s festival featured dance-punk favourites !!! (Or “Chk Chk Chk”), Morr Music gems Lali Puna and sleepy wonders Grizzly Bear. Here’s hoping for an equally wonderful line up this year. Keep your eyes peeled for its reveal.