Festival Guide: 10 Best European Festivals 13

Festival Guide: 10 Best European Festivals

Sziget_profile pic

According to the European Festival Market Report 2014, an impressive 39% of the 35,000 respondents from 35 European countries attended a festival outside their own country last year. Given our national obsession with festivals, there is no doubt that a large proportion of those who travel abroad to attend music and cultural events are British. Better weather, cheaper tickets, and a holiday adventure as part of your festival experience; these are just some of the factors making more and more of us look across the channel for new festival destinations. Add to this opportunities to discover new artists and music styles, cheaper food and drink, less regimented genre-driven line-ups, and you start to wonder why we bother with our own festivals at all.

The good news for British festival-goers is that the European festival market is rapidly unfolding, with more events put on by both local and international promoters every year. From dance parties in Croatia to the more established Scandinavian rock festivals, there is plenty of variety on the scene. As with our guides to metropolitan and boutique festivals, we aimed to reflect a broad range of different sizes of events and musical preferences, with a strong focus on the new and more experimental music. As well as the line-ups, we took into account each festival’s environmental record, their demographic profile, unique features and geographic location.

Primavera Sound

28th – 30th May, Spain

imageArguably, the 2015 line-up doesn’t match up to last year’s bill that included Pixies, Arcade Fire and The National. It is, however, one of the biggest and best known European festivals, attracting both big names from across the Atlantic and more experimental acts. Although not dissimilar to ATP in its eclectic booking policy, Primavera’s size and abundance of corporate sponsorship make it a less intimate experience than many British festivals. Last year’s festival saw crowds of over 70,000, and this year’s 15th anniversary event is likely to be even bigger; so much so that getting to see bigger acts could be difficult. However, if you don’t mind navigating the crowds, you can expect late night parties running into the morning, a beautiful seafront location, and the comfort of sleeping in a hotel bed rather than a rain-soaked tent. In addition to the music, there is a massive vinyl market, the biggest music poster exhibition in Europe, and plenty of clubbing adventures to be had.
Music highlights: Caribou, Hookworms, Interpol, James Black, John Hopkins, Panda Bear, Sleater-Kinney, The Strokes, Sun Kil Moon, Swans

Tickets and line-up information: http://www.primaverasound.es

5th – 6th June, Greece

Plissken Logo black & dateOne of the most exciting and diverse line-ups this summer, Plisskën also continues to push the boundaries of their environmental and social ethos. Wanting to be more environmentally-conscious, in 2010 the festival developed an Environmental Policy Strategy, and in 2013 they were the first festival in Greece to be awarded a ‘Commended’ rating from ‘A Greener Festival’ Awards global governing body. The Lab, an annual workshop run in Athens prior to the festival, allows participants a chance to learn about putting on a festival through a number of theoretical and practical seminars hosted by professionals in their respective field. Given its relatively young age (started five years ago), its success has led to an extension to a 2014 winter edition. With tickets costing only €50, it’s a serious contender for the best European boutique festival line-up of 2015.

Music Highlights: Ariel Pink, The Horrors, Iceage, Mogwai, Mudhoney, Thee Oh Sees, Perfume Genius, Savages, Sleaford Mods, The Twilight Sad

Tickets and full line up information: http://www.plisskenfestival.gr

ATP Iceland
2nd – 4th July, Iceland

imageDespite last year’s Jabberwocky fiasco, it’s impossible to deny the importance of All Tomorrow’s Parties, who for over a decade have been at the vanguard of new music and new concept festivals. If you can’t wait for the return of ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, ATP Iceland offers a line-up causing well-deserved joyful agitation. Held at Ásbrú, the former NATO base in Keflavík, the site is located only five minutes away from Iceland’s main international airport, fifteen minutes from the Blue Lagoon, and half an hour from Reykjavík. The festival site hosts two indoor stages and a cinema with films picked by ATP and the bands, as well as the usual fringe activities like DJs and Pop Quiz. The capacity for the intimate festival is just 5000 people, so you may be advised to get your tickets early.

Music highlights: Deafheaven, Iggy Pop, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swans, GrimmGrimm, Loop, Mudhoney, Ought, Public Enemy, Younghusband

Tickets and full line-up information: http://www.atpfestival.com/events/atpiceland2015/view/eventinfo

Milhões de Festa
23rd – 26th July, Portugal

imageOrganised by the Porto label and promoters Lovers & Lollypops, Milhões de Festa is three days of intense partying from 1pm to 6am in a town called Barcelos, in northern Portugal. Those with nowhere to stay are invited to camp in the city park, and the festival has a friendly party rather than a massive show vibe. People feel relaxed and comfortable with each other, united in their interest in more experimental sounds from across Europe. This year’s line-up shows a very diverse and strong UK presence, ranging from the hot Liverpool grooves of All We Are to psychedelic pop of Grumbling Fur and electronic wilderness of The Bug. On top of this you’ll get a chance to hear some fresh sounds from Portugal. As you might expect from an Iberian event, the party goes into the night (morning?) and your three-day early bird pass will only set you back £40. Yes, almost too good to be true.

Music highlights: All We Are, The Bug, Cairo Liberation Front, The Cosmic Dead, Grumbling Fur, Gum Takes Tooth, Hey Collossus, Michael Rother plays Neu!, TREE

Tickets and full line-up information: http://www.milhoesdefesta.com

OFF Festival
7th – 9th August, Poland

OFF_festival_posterTaking in everything from rock to drone, psych, hardcore, folk and hip hop, OFF has been quietly gathering pace, making a name for itself as one of the key trend-setting events in Europe. With its focus on new and more experimental sounds, it’s managed to curate some of the best festival line-ups of recent years. If you want to find your new favourite band and hear some genuine, esoteric oddities, OFF is the place to be. Apart from music and cheap beer, there are films, poetry, talks and performances. Unlike many festivals, it is also environmentally-friendly, with green packaging for food and drink, and a serious commitment to recycling. And if camping is not your thing, there are plenty of hotel options that won’t make a serious dent in your budget. Creative, compact, well-organised and affordable, it rises head and shoulders above many of its UK and European counterparts.

Music highlights: Girl Band, Golden Teacher, Patti Smith, Peaking Lights, Ride, Run the Jewels, Sun Kil Moon, Sunn O))), Xiu Xiu plays the music of Twin Peaks, Young Fathers

Tickets and full line-up information: http://off-festival.pl/?lng=en

Sziget Festival
10th – 17th August, Hungary

sziget_angol2014Winner of this year’s ‘Best Major European Festival’ award, Sziget is one of the biggest multicultural events in Europe. Attracting fans from over 70 different countries, it provides the ultimate festival-holiday experience with a week-long, non-stop party on a leafy island in the heart of Budapest, within minutes of all the tourist attractions a capital city can offer. The line-up is an eclectic multi-genre, multi-cultural mixture of big international and local names, with special areas given to world music, blues and Irish music. To survive the whole week you’ll need plenty of stamina and enthusiasm, but despite its colossal size (over 415,000 visitors in 2014) this ‘European Burning Man’ never feels crowded.

Music highlights: Alt-J, Blasterjaxx, Enter Shikari, Florence and the Machine, Gogol Bordello, José Gonzalez, Jungle, Passenger, Robbie Williams, The Ting Tings

Tickets and full line-up information: http://szigetfestival.com

16th – 17th August, Finland

imageHelsinki’s Flow Festival has become synonymous with bringing music from old school legends to topical newcomers. From indie to jazz, hip hop, pop and soul, Flow’s line-up has secured its reputation as one of the most open and diverse festivals in Europe. Last year it booked the reunited OutKast, psychedelic soul diva Janelle Monae and American indie rock royalties The National. Beyond the music, Flow offers local culture, visual arts and an exceptional array of world cuisine guaranteed to please the most discerning tastes. Only a short walk or a bus ride away from the centre of Helsinki, it is set in a former power plant area transformed into an urban futuristic funfair for a few days of festival escapism.

Music highlights: Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Diplo, Flying Lotus, Florence and the Machine, Future Islands, Pet Shop Boys, Skepta, The War on Drugs, Years and Years

Tickets and full line-up information: http://www.flowfestival.com/en/

Lollapalooza Berlin
12th – 13th September, Germany

imageBranching out into Europe for the first time this year, America’s best-loved festival, Lollapalooza, has been causing a stir across the Atlantic. Joining Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the original – Chicago.  In 2015, Berlin will see the arrival of this US institution. Known for its all-inclusive vibe and global span, Lollapalooza can command big bookings aimed at attracting diverse crowds of all ages. With an added bonus of Europe’s coolest city and some ‘art on the ground’ thrown into the bargain, this new Berlin event is likely to become the next big European festival destination.

Music highlights: Belle & Sebastian, Chvrches, Everything Everything, Hot Chip, The Libertines, Little Dragon, My Morning Jacket, Pond, Tame Impala, Wolf Alice

Tickets and full line-up information: http://www.lollapaloozade.com/

14th – 20th September, Holland

imageA rare instance of a genuine multi-genre international festival that accommodates everything from free jazz to folk, house, metal and indie. Live music is supplemented by film, poetry, contemporary dance performances, interactive arts projects and panel discussions. The scope of this festival is truly mind-blowing and the organisation is equally brilliant with excellent sound, perfect stage times and a very user-centric website. Last year’s 200-strong line up included 65daysofstatic, The Wytches, Goat, Gazelle Twin and Carter Tutti Void. Tilburg may not be your stereotypical pretty Dutch ‘tulips and windmills’ town but the festival’s community ethos and radical independent curatorial approach make it a very special place. Hotel and couch-surfing options are available in addition to camping.

Music highlights: Keep an eye on our news – 2015 line-up has not been announced yet!
Tickets and full line-up information: http://incubate.org/2015/

Iceland Airwaves
4th – 8th November, Iceland

imageSince its humble inception in an aircraft hangar in 1999, Iceland Airwaves has become one of the most celebrated and loved showcases for new music in the world. Most of the venues are within a short walking distance of each other, which makes it possible to see a lot of things in a short space of time. It may not be cheap but Reykjavík knows how to party, and entertainment is supplied throughout the night. If the Scandinavian scene is your thing, this festival is a great opportunity to keep your finger on the pulse of all the new developments in sound. There are plenty of ‘off venue’ free shows, the famous Blue Lagoon is only half an hour away – you might even get a chance to see the northern lights.

Music highlights: Ariel Pink, BC Camplight, Bjork, East India Youth, Father John Misty, Fufanu, John Grant (with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra), Lapsley, Perfume Genius, The Pop Group

Tickets and full line-up information: http://icelandairwaves.is/


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