Modern music festivals supposedly date back to the 1950s and ‘60s, to the Newport Jazz Festival and the Monterey Pop Festival. Soon after, the music gods gifted the world the now world-renowned events like Woodstock and Glastonbury; surprisingly, the now-revered Coachella didn’t get its Californian debut until 1999. Nowadays, despite these festivals still being instant sellouts thanks to their infamous reputations and star-studded line-ups, people are looking for the new, the more intimate and the slightly off-the-grid rave to while away the summer.
We find happiness in the novel and the new: it opens the mind, enhances our engagement with the world, and lets us escape our mundane daily routines. Discovering a festival that’s a little more under the radar engages all of the senses; it’s an experience that’s guaranteed to create memories that will last a lifetime, forever to be recalled when you hear a particular song, eat a particular food or smell a particular fragrance.
To help with the discovery process this year, we teamed up with footwear label Birkenstock to share some of Europe’s best festivals in 2017 that you might not yet have considered. Our guide takes us from the dust and heat of Marrakesh to the greenery of Lincolnshire, and even a village high up in the Bulgarian mountains. But whatever the location or terrain, Birkenstock’s recognizable strapped sandals offer just what you need for the season, and those to come.
Discover our coveted list and share your experiences in the comments below.
If trudging through muddy fields like a dairy farmer isn’t your scene, Oasis Festival will be more your vibe. Living up to its name, Oasis swaps soil for sand at a paradise retreat in the Moroccan desert and takes place this year between September 15 and 17.
At the luxurious music resort, The Source in Marrakesh, the days and night are soundtracked by a stacked dance music line-up including multi-instrumental composer Nicolas Jaar, pioneering electronic artist Richie Hawtin, Ellum label founder Maceo Plex, Berghain resident Marcel Dettmann, and Detroit DJ and producer Moodymann. Others acts include Henrik Schwarz, Marcellus Pittman, Daniel Avery, KiNK, Karenn, Mike Servito, Chloé, Auntie Flo, Jeremy Underground, Young Marco, Charlotte de Witte, Thris Tian, Polyswitch and Young Marco.
However, it’s not just the musical offering that makes this one special, it’s got a combination of unique traits that give it a chilled out and stress-free atmosphere. It’s no surprise considering there are stage-side pools, daily yoga sessions, heavenly gardens and, of course, the incredible Red City. Plus, the dates make it an excellent escape toward the end of the festival season when the weather and temperature are nosediving in some places. What better way to say farewell to summer than a laid-back celebration in the sun-kissed Marrakesh?
Getting lost by yourself at a festival can be both daunting and empowering. Before you know it you’ve lost four friends but made five, surfed a raucous crowd and woken up covered in glitter under a magnificent tree. When you find everyone again, no one believes your story and a distinct shimmer is the only evidence of your adventure. Now imagine that experience at an immersive festival that intentionally blurs the line between what’s real and what’s not in a desolate British forest.
Lost Village creates the distinct feeling that if you attempted to return to any part of it, there would be no trace. Luckily, the program offers enough unforgettable experiences for the memories to last a lifetime. There are Michelin Star level Tribal Banquets, alongside London foodie favorites Claw, The Cheese Truck, Le Swine and more. The Lake of Tranquility offers hot tubs, yoga, massages and therapies; Forger’s Lane organizes creative workshops; and the Institute of Curious Minds hosts talks, live interviews and games. The line-up is yet to be announced, but they promise first class comedy acts at the Lost Theatre.
And let’s not forget the music line-up. Headlining this year’s festivities are electronic heavyweights Moderat and legendary hip-hop trio De La Soul. The entire schedule is as diverse as one would hope from such a dynamic festival featuring Hot Chip, Loyle Carner, Jackmaster, Nina Kraviz, The Black Madonna, Maribou State, Hannah Faith and many more.
Bring your loudest, most colorful clothing and accessories too because it’s customary for woodland inhabitants to put their personalities on parade.
Now that we’ve ticked off desert and forest festivals, what about one 850 meters above sea-level? There’s nothing like a bit of altitude to get the party started and Meadows in the Mountains is located in the picturesque Rhodope Mountains in the Bulgarian village of Polkovnik Serafimovo.
The festival is inspired by Burning Man and focuses on experiences. “Meadows is all about intimacy, atmosphere, diversity, culture and community,” explains Co-Founder Benjamin Sasse. “We strive to provide a platform for up and coming unsigned acts and DJs, curating our line-up rather than cramming the list with headliners.”
In its sixth year, intimacy remains key to the unique atmosphere despite growing interest. The festival started when founders Damian and Benjamin Sasse invited 50 friends, all working in music, to the remote Bulgarian mountain where they’d regularly visited their parent’s retirement home.
This year’s line-up is yet to be announced, but previous artists include Bicep, Crazy, P, Will Saul, Moomin and Last Japan. Alongside the music, the festival is home to holistic treatments, spirituality sessions, and workshops including educational talks, yoga practices, meditation classes, healing and cacao ceremonies. The latter uses raw cacao (yes, the stuff used to make chocolate) to produce euphoric states, release emotions and aid introspection — I’m sure experts would quickly correct us, but it’s essentially chocolate therapy.
Even the accommodation options offer a unique experience, alongside camping facilities, festival-goers have the opportunity to be housed in traditional Bulgarian family homes or boutique bell tents in flower-filled meadows next to the site.
Melt won’t be new to some people – it’s actually 20 years old this year – but the killer location, chilled atmosphere, and non-stop party vibe make it more than worthy of mentioning.
Ferropolis – an open-air industrial museum in Gräfenhainichen, Germany – hosts the festival and makes for one of the sickest festival scenes imaginable, particularly when it’s illuminated after sundown. Though not quite a heavenly beach, Lake Gremmin is ideal for a refreshing swim and also provides a stunning setting for the sunset beckoning in each day. Melt is big enough to get some famous names on the lineup but not so big that you’re overwhelmed by crowds or walking for hours to find your campsite.
The Sleepless Floor is Melt’s beating heart and provides sounds ceaselessly across the festival’s three days. As for the rest of the lineup, Sampha, Bonobo, Die Antwoord, M.I.A., Fatboy Slim, Soulection, Richie Hawtin, and more have been confirmed. The festival takes place between July 14 and 16.
One-upping Melt, Pohoda Festival is celebrating 21 years this year and is also the biggest music festival in Slovakia, but you probably still haven’t heard of it. To sum it up, the festival organizers have said it’s “a music and arts festival with an international acclaim, where alternative, indie, electronica, world music and punk meet classical; alongside literature, dance, visual art, film and theater.”
Pohoda means ‘peace’, ‘ease’ or ‘contentment’, and in 2016 the festival hosted 30,000 visitors (fun fact: together they drank a combined 270,000 pints of beer). Compare that to Glastonbury’s 175,000 estimates, and the name makes total sense. The former military airfield in Trencin, Slovakia that provides the festival grounds is generously sized in relation to the attendance figure, truly embodying its Slavic name.
Festival reviews regularly describe Pohoda as a welcome escape from the misbehaved crowds and disorganized setups some festivals are renowned for (ahem, I’m looking at you Britain). Yet, the lineup is no less exciting. This year festival-goers can expect performances from Solange, alt-J, M.I.A., Benjamin Clementine, Slaves, Sleaford Mods, Mykki Blanco, TOMM¥ €A$H, Ho99o9 and many other artists.
Tickets are as cheap as €89 right now, but once this wave has sold out, they’ll go up to a whopping €99. The festival dates are July 6-8 and if you’re worried about getting to Trencin, they’ve got a webpage for that.
Sandbox Festival celebrates its fifth year in 2017 and is another small, intimate affair in a stunning location. This one takes place in the Egyptian town of El Gouna by the Red Sea, so you can tick off a coastal getaway and festival in one trip.
Rather than excessively filling the lineup and keeping set times disappointingly short, Sandbox welcomes fewer artists but gives them more time to perform — and more time for the audience to enjoy it. The beaches and town offer horseback riding, trekking, kiting, diving, snorkeling and more. And then, of course, you can enjoy typical beach activities like building sandcastles and lounging in the sand and sea. El Gouna is also known for its array of boutique hotels, high-end restaurants, bars and clubs.
The lineup features Âme, Butch, Mike Servito, The Mole and Mimi Love amongst the 35 names confirmed. Sandbox takes place May 4-6, so if you’re looking to get the festival season, and summer, rolling as soon as possible, this could be for you. Sun, sea, sand, and all the regular festival delights, what could possibly go wrong?
- Main Image: Dominik Schulte
- Main Image: Ahmed Chrediy
- Oasis Festival Photography: Lahcen Mellal and Yassir Laghdas,
- Lost Village Photography: The Zeitgeist Agency
- Meadows in the Mountains Photography: Jack Pasco and Aron Klein
- Sandbox Festival Photography: Sandbox
- Melt Festival Photography: Stephan Flad, Borkeberlin and Christian Hedel
- Pohoda Festival Photography: Cibor Bachraty and Martina Mlcuchova