Summer days and music festivals go together like steak and cheese. Which is to say: it’s totally possible to enjoy one without the other, but really you should combine them both as often as you can.
These days there’s an awful lot to choose from when it comes to the festival circuit. With events on offer to cater to almost every taste, experience, genre and location on Earth, finding the one that’s right for you can be almost as overwhelming as facing reality once the party is all over.
Are you in the market for big budget thrills alongside hundreds of thousands of other patrons, or is something smaller and more intimate your kinda vibe? Are you happy waving goodbye to all amenities and spending four days getting closer to your natural aroma, or is a hot shower and a firm bed non-negotiable at the end of each day? Do you want something predictable and reassuring, or do you want to find out how they “turn up” overseas?
All these issues are of great importance when it comes to rounding up the squad and investing your precious time, money and sanity in what will (hopefully) be one of the top weekends of the season. To help make that dilemma a little easier, we’ve teamed up with KEEN (maker of the fine, festival-ready piece of footwear that is the UNEEK) to handpick a selection of events from around the globe we think will appeal to Highsnobiety readers of all shapes, sizes, creeds and musical interests.
For those scorching hot events where sneakers are too sweaty, or those times when you just need to slip something on your feet to make it from the tent to the bathroom, the brand’s woven rope UNEEK, crafted from just two cords and sole, is everything you need.
And if you need any info on how to behave while you’re there, check out this little guide we produced a couple of years ago…
Festivals in North America
While the days of half-million-person crowds at Woodstock are long over, North America still boasts some of the largest, most well-appointed music festivals the world can offer. Unsurprisingly, for a region that so many of today’s most celebrated recording artists call home, festival line-ups in the US and Canada often read more like a scroll through your iPod’s most-played artists than a credible collection of acts booked to play at a single event.
LA’s FYF Fest (that’s Fuck Yeah Fest, Aug 27-28) has much to offer in terms of bang for buck but if you’re closer to the East Coast and don’t fancy the long flight, Governors Ball (Jun 3-5) and Panorama (Jul 22-24) both in NYC, are likely to offer a similar scale of spectacle in terms of the size and range of artists on offer, albeit in a distinctly more metropolitan setting.
Midwesterners can count on both Lollapalooza (Jul 28-31) and Pitchfork Festival (Jul 15-17) to bring a slightly more alternative flavour to the citizens of Chicago, while those to the North in Canada have the gargantuan Pemberton (Jul 14-17) to call their own that same weekend. If hip-hop is your thing specifically, then Drake’s OVO Fest (Aug 3-4) is certainly the name to look for in Canuck territory, while East Coasters have the imaginatively-titled Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival (Jul 13-16), and those oddballs out West can look forward to Odd Future’s own Camp Flog Gnaw (date TBC).
If you think lyrics are overrated and the thought of guitars makes you come out in a rash, North America has many excellent electronic music festivals to service your craving for chewing gum and glowsticks. For serious techno fans and anyone with a genuine love of dance music in its purest forms, Movement (May 28-30) in Detroit is like a pilgrimage to Mecca. Equally, MUTEK (Oct 24-26) in Montreal (with sister events in Mexico City and Barcelona), has a similarly formidable reputation for its discerning lineups, while Moogfest (May 19-22) in Durham, NC, does a great job of bridging the gap between the head-scratching and feet-tapping sides of the electronic divide. Finally, further up the Atlantic coast, Boston’s Together (May 15-22) is a festival born out of the city’s intimate clubbing community, uniting a diverse and discerning lineup of quality acts (2016 sees Bicep, Ben UFO, Jon Hopkins, Optimo and more) with a warm and passionate group of clubbers.
Finally, for those who prefer their beats with more cake and lasers, the unashamedly brash likes of Electric Daisy Carnival (now held at numerous locations across America) and Electric Zoo (Sep 2-4) take the crown as two of the commercial kings, although many European franchises have also infiltrated the scene in recent years with events like Mysteryland (Jun 10-13) and Time Warp USA (date TBC) fleshing out the schedule.
Then there’s also Burning Man (Aug 28-Sep 5), for those for whom music takes a distant back seat to the sheer experience of living for 10 days in the desert with nothing but installation art and glitter to survive on. But that’s a whole other story indeed…
Festivals in Europe
Europe has a rich and diverse history when it comes to music festivals, with many of the oldest names in the industry still selling out events year in, year out. Of these, the grandaddy is surely Glastonbury (Jun 22-26) — a uniquely liberated British festival with some 40 years of heritage under its belt and a deserved reputation as one of the most prestigious events any artist can play in their career.
On the European mainland, the closest comparison would likely be the giant Roskilde Festival (Jun 25-Jul 2), just north of Copenhagen, although Serbia’s EXIT (Jul 7-10) and Hungary’s Sziget (Aug 10-17) both dwarf them in sheer size (the latter of which boasts some 350,000 attendees across seven days). Primavera Sound (Jun 2-4) in Barcelona frequently books the kind of ridiculous lineups you might expect to find beyond the Pearly Gates, while Benicassim (Jul 14-17), further south down the Spanish coast, takes things to the beach with a similarly heavyweight, although somewhat trimmed down, booking policy.
While the Czech Republic probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think “hip hop”, Hip Hop Kemp (Aug 18-20) has been servicing rap fans for many years now with nearly 500 international acts to choose from, and is certainly worth your attention. Elsewhere, boutique events like Outlook Festival (Aug 31-Sep 4; electronic) and Fresh Island (Jul 12-14; hip-hop) scale things down for a more intimate vibe on the stunning Croatian coast, while London’s Wireless Festival (Jul 8-10) has carved itself a solid position as the place to see the biggest names in urban music from both the UK and US each year.
When it comes to electronic music, Europe has an even larger and more established tradition than the US, and that’s reflected in the sheer breadth of such festivals on offer. From long-established affairs like Sónar (Jun 16-18) in Barcelona, with its mix of left-of-center headliners and top class DJ talent, to huge production affairs like Amsterdam’s Awakenings (Jun 25-26) or the hugely respected Dekmantel (held Aug 4-7). For a truly unique location (a disused open-cast mine!), make sure you check out Germany’s MELT!! (Jul 15-17; electronic), or Splash (Jul 8-10) the weekend before if you’re a hip-hop head. Those seeking mega-budget commercial thrills should try Tomorrowland (Jul 22-24) for some of the most visually spectacular stage design you will find anywhere in the world (located in a Belgian town called Boom, no less). But if you want to see how they party in São Paulo, the festival’s sister, Tomorrowland Brasil, has got you covered.
Finally, no season would be complete without sampling some of the UK’s more extrovert events like Love Saves the Day (May 28-29), Secret Garden Party (Jul 21-24), Bestival (Sep 8-11) or Boomtown (Aug 11-14). The final three are big on the costumes and dressing up factor, while Boomtown involves the literal creation of an entire town — complete with distinct districts and living “inhabitants” — as the set for a festival really like no other.
Rest of the World
While it’s a little harder to provide a comprehensive roundup for the geographical region ‘Rest of the World’, there are some truly special events taking place in countries you may not have thought to visit otherwise, so a festival makes for a perfect excuse.
While technically on the very fringes of Europe, Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival (Jun 16-19) is such a unique prospect that it really stands out as something unlike anything else you’ll find on the continent (or anywhere else for that matter). Held during the time of perpetual daylight in Iceland (when the sun never goes down), and with a host of smaller parties thrown inside a dormant volcano and hidden glacier, this is an event where the location plays almost as much of a starring role as the music.
If you fancy another event that’s completely like no other, why not try to secure tickets to Shipsomnia (date TBC)? As the name suggests, the entire festival takes place on a cruise ship sailing around the sub-tropical waters of Southeast Asia, combining all the fun of a voyage with all the high-production thrills and spills of a major dance music festival.
Down in South America, Rock in Rio (date TBC) is the big name to look for in terms of major headlining bands in Brazil (doubling up this year with an a one-off edition in Lisbon). On the other side of the world, meanwhile, the infamous Fuji Rock (Jul 22-24) sees major bands literally performing halfway up the inimitable Mount Fuji, adding another truly memorable setting to the mix.
These events are obviously just a handful of the many diverse and interesting festivals taking place around the world this summer. If you’re struggling to choose one from all the information posted above, why not take the Highsnobiety x KEEN Festival Guide handy four-question survey to find an event that suits your tastes?
If you’ve already booked your tickets, but are wondering whether taking your favorite pair of white creps to a festival is a good idea, take our advice and check out the latest collaborations from KEEN and the UNEEK – made for summer and made for festival season.
- Header Image: Dylan O'Dowd
- Festival Photography: Dylan O'Dowd – Mysteryland, Bryan Mitchell – Movement, KEEN, Bex Brown Spinelli – Burning Man, Tony Nungaray – EDC, Dan Medhurst – Dimensions Festival, Ross Silcocks – Outlook, Secret Solstice Festival, Tomokazu Kitajima - Fuji Rock, Justin Wise - FYF Fest, Ali McCarley – Bestival, The Zender Agenda – Pitchfork Music Festival, Incase – Pitchfork Music Festival, -EMR- – Lollapalooza, Love Saves the Day, Dani Canto – Primavera Sound, Ruth Hartnip - Pemberton, Derek Hui – OVO Fest, Simon Abrams – Brooklyn Hip-Hop Fest, Camp Flog Gnaw, Monique Hernandez – Camp Flog Gnaw Bryan Mitchell – Movement, Álvaro Vega F. – MUTEK, Nile Rodgers - Moogfest, Tony Nungaray – Electric Daisy Carnival, Peter Kirn – Electric Zoo, Ross Silcocks - Secret Solstice Festival, Bexx Brown-Spinelli – Burning Man, Stig Nygaard - Roskilde Festival, Rudolf Getel – EXIT Festival, EXIT Festival, Maël Racapé - Sziget, Paul Williams – Sziget, Forest Woodward – Governors Ball, Edward Simpson – Glastonbury, Hunter Desportes – Roskilde Festival, Give Soul – Dekmantel, digboston – Together Festival, Nick Minieri – Together Festival, Tom Pratt – Manana, THESUPERMANIAK – Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York, Drew Gurian – Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York, Stephan Flad – MELT!/Splash, Achim Hepp - Wireless Festival, Fresh Island, Awakenings Festival, Sergey Zhirnov – Tomorrowland, Wonderlane - Secret Garden Party, Smoobs – Boomtown