After what some might charitably refer to as the unbelievable and depressing washout that was last year's British “summer”, keen raver-campers may be looking further afield for their festival treats this year. Here is part one of our guide to the best festival action that Europe has to offer in 2013, from the big names to the smaller, lesser-known treats.
This year will see Barcelona's 20th Sonar Festival of advanced music and new media art held from June 10th - 18th, and adventurous festivalgoers will enjoy a stunning line-up alongside exciting audio-visual installations and exhibitions.
The full roster of artists is something to behold, but we'll whet your appetite with a few – how do Jurassic 5, Skream, Kraftwerk, Fantastic Mr Fox, Darkstar, Lindstrom and Todd Terje, Nicolas Jaar, Major Lazer, Objekt, Diplo, C2C, Laurent Garnier, Foreign Beggars and Gold Panda sound, to start with?
Taking over a number of different venues around the city, Sonar offers an innovative day-night policy, with a diverse array of new talent performing across four stages during the day, and more established names ripping up three stages at night. There will also be showcases from Red Bull Music Academy, 50Weapons, Ed Banger 10 and Classicworks.
Now in its fifth year, Soundwave will be setting up shop in The Garden, in picturesque Croatian seaside town Tisno, described by National Geographic magazine as 'one of the most beautiful spots in Croatia', from July 18th - 22nd.
The festival – fully-equipped with three stages and a boat – will pay host to a diverse line-up including organic beatsmith Bonobo (with a full live band), idiosyncratic hip-hop don MF Doom, soul songstress Alice Russell and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink jazz funk magician Quantic, as well as Ghostpoet, Submotion Orchestra, Riot Jazz, Om Unit, Illum Sphere, Robert Glasper Experiment and Craig Charles.
Soundwave will be operating a deposit scheme whereby festivalgoers can purchase their tickets in manageable chunks, and launch parties will be taking place in Milan, Italy (6th April), Birmingham, UK (12th April), Manchester, UK (19th April), Bristol, UK (20th April), Brighton, UK (5th May) and London, UK (26th May).
Stop Making Sense
And if you have the time – and the dollar – to hang around in Tisno for a few more weeks, why not make it a double festival feature with Stop Making Sense, which takes place from the 1st to the 4th of August among the same lush, sea-and-sun-sweetened surroundings. Notable for its many label-curated boat parties, Stop Making Sense 2013 will feature Steve Bug, Lindstrom, Radio Slave, Will Saul, Midland, Mr Solid Gold and Appleblim, with many more to be announced.
This year's boat parties will be hosted by the likes of FACT, Trouble Vision, Love Fever, Crack Magazine and Croatia Calling, and they're incredibly popular, so festival goers are advised to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. VICE described Stop Making Sense as 'a smorgasbord of all that's currently good and exciting in electronic music', while DJ Magazine pithily suggests that 'contrary to the implication of its name – actually it makes plenty...'
You may have previously seen us extolling the virtues of this lovely little festival, now in its fifth year, and the more names they reveal the more excited we are. On top of the previously announced Norman Jay MBE, Gilles Peterson, Atjazz and Koreless, SunSplash has revealed the addition of such heavyweight names as Jamie Lidell, Mad Professor, Kyoto Jazz Massive's Shuya Okino and Simbad to its line-up.
Taking place in the Turkish Riviera at Antalya's luxurious Hotel Su between June 2nd - 9th, SunSplash – affectionately known as 'Turkey's biggest little festival' – offers multiple festival and accommodation packages, and The Times described it as 'seriously intimate, with guests casually mingling with the festival's master DJs and headliners'.
Germany's highly respected Melt! Festival is now in its 16th year, and the 2013 edition features a seriously impressive line-up. The Thom Yorke and Flea-featuring experimental supergroup Atoms For Peace has been announced as a headliner (their only festival show in Germany this year), joining such electronic luminaries as LA beat genius Flying Lotus, English wunderkind James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Disclosure, Soulwax, Digitalism and the legendary Trentemøller, along with Mark Ronson, Julio Bashmore, Ben UFO, The Knife and Scuba.
Blooming into life between July 18th - 22nd in Ferropolis, and featuring over 60 artists, showcasing the very best of German and worldwide musical culture, Melt! is an essential stopover for any expedition-inclined raver – check out the 'podpads', a quirky alternative to the misery / delight (delete according to your preference) of tents. A pre-party featuring Crystal Fighters, Kid Simius, Pool and Glass Animals will be hosted on July 18th at Intro Zelt.
'Where hedonism meets activism'. Starting life in 2000 as three students' protest against the tyrannical Milosevic regime, Serbia's non-profit EXIT Festival has quickly achieved semi-legendary status.
Taking place from July 10th - 14th, this year's line-up is typically impressive – Atoms For Peace, Snoop Lion (née Dogg) and Bloc Party have been announced, and the world-renowned dance arena will pay host to Fatboy Slim, Seth Troxler, Dubfire, Matador, Pan-Pot, Apollonia (who will be keeping things strictly vinyl, for all you traditionalists), DJ Fresh, The Prototypes, Dub Phizix, Brookes Brothers and many, many, many more.
On top of the amazing music, EXIT will also be maintaining its reputation as a champion of social issues, with debates, lectures, films and art exhibitions exploring the concepts of human rights and global freedoms. 'Music is a universal language that connects and brings people together to make the world a better place,' say the festival's organisers – we couldn't agree more.
Meadows in the Mountains
What with all the publicity that the heavy-hitters receive, it's a special pleasure to come across a smaller gem, and Bulgaria's Meadows in the Mountains certainly fits the bill. This is the festival's third year, and it has quietly gained a reputation as a truly magical getaway.
Set in the Rhodope Mountains from June 7th - 9th, the festival, curated by brothers Benjamin and Damain Sasse and inspired by Bulgarian revolutionaries Vasil Levski and Hristo Botev, celebrates 'disco, electronica, chill, funk, folk, jazz, art, sun and nature' amongst stunning surroundings.
As well as plenty of great music – this year including Wolf + Lamb's Baby Prince, Mt Wolf, Nick Monaco, San Proper, Just Jack, Moomin, The Colour Movement, Dead Echo and Jane Pitz – the festival offers such idiosyncratic diversions as horse and cart taxis, a mountain zip-line, downhill grass bobsleighing, waterfalls and a thermal spring, as well as locally-sourced food and drink. Ideally suited to those who prefer the more relaxed, homegrown delights of small UK festivals like Sunrise Celebration and Big Green Gathering.
Sun & Bass
Not tickled by disco, mountain views and horse riding? Luckily there is a festival for pretty much every conceivable taste (pretty much – sorry to all you lactose-intolerant Gregorian chant enthusiasts still looking for a festival to call your own), and those looking for non-stop beats and bass to go with your sunshine need look no further than the Ronseal-named Sun & Bass.
From September 7th - 14th, the festival will be welcoming ravers to San Teodoro, on the Italian island of Sardinia, to celebrate 'a decade of stunning beaches and the best in d'n'b'.
Unfortunately the line-up for this year's festival has not yet been released, but last year saw the likes of A Guy Called Gerald, Bailey, Calibre, Dom & Roland, E. Decay, Fracture, Goldie, Hayze, The Insiders, Jubei, Kasra, Logistics, Marcus Intalex, Nymfo, Phace, Randall, Seba, Tokyo Prose, Ulterior Motive, Youngsta and Zero T grace the decks and rip up the dancefloor, and you can expect a similarly gob-smacking avalanche of amen-infused hyper-breakbeat goodness this year.
What is it about Croatia? The Eastern European country has some of the best festival experiences on offer, and now you can add Echo Festival to the list. Taking place between June 6th - 9th at a brand-new location at Kanegra, less than an hour from Pula and Trieste airports, 2013 is only the festival's second year, but it's made quite an impact already, and promises bigger and better things this year.
The organisers hope to offer an 'interactive and dynamic experience' with beachside and woodland areas to explore, and a lip-smacking roster of artists including dBridge, Stray, South London Ordnance, October, Marcus Intalex, XXXY, Locked Groove, Youandewan, Doubting Thomas, Hodge, Lenzman and Xtrah.
Tickets are substantially cheaper than many festivals of this type – especially those based in the UK – and accommodation, which includes the option of comfortable on-site private apartments, is similarly reasonable. If you're just starting to dip your toe into more exotic festival waters and are looking for a bargain, Echo Festival seems an excellent bet.
Winner of the title of Best Major Festival at the 2012 European Festival Awards – the first time that an electronic music festival has won the coveted prize – Belgium's Tomorrowland will erupt into life from July 26th - 28th, and promises a seriously mind-boggling, foot-stomping experience.
The festival has been running since 2005 in the appropriately named town of Boom, near Antwerp, and is bright with rainbow-coloured fairytale décor, spectacular installations and massive stages.
This year's line-up includes Armin van Buuren, Benga, Crookers, Datsik, Dirtyphonics, Infected Mushroom, Knife Party, Ricardo Villalobos, Sneak and Todd Terje, and the festival's Dreamville accommodation area offers a choice of tents or, for the VIP-inclined, a 12-person mansion complete with kitchen, beds and a jacuzzi. Take a gander at some of the pictures and videos – this place is something else!
WORDS: Stefan Mohamed
Read part two of our 2013 Europe Festival Guide here. What's your favourite European festival and why? Let us know in the comments section below...
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