The Best of the Rest: Alternative Festival Guide
This year there were grandparents at Glastonbury. Which says a lot of things. Two of them being: ”Go you good grandparent things! I hope I'm still going to festivals when I'm a grandparent.” and ”Surely we're too cool to be going to a festival that grandparents have not only heard about but are going to - you guys already had Woodstock!”
When a festival gets famous it not only attracts big headline acts it also attracts record breaking crowds, at which point it's not quite the same experience as it used to be back when so and so played with the wotsits. Not that not for profit Roskilde -of the annual naked race - and the Berlin Love Parade are any less appealing, it just raises your cache of cool if you're a festival frontrunner. By the time it gets really massive you've already got your war stories from previous years down pat. The festivals on this list are by no means a couple of people in a field with some sheep, they're just ones hip grandparents probably won't have heard of yet.
Crossing borders to see your favourite band is a good way of expressing your appreciation, partying with a new crowd and being the first in your own crowd to attend a big festival. Depending where you go it might even be cheaper. Croatia doesn't charge euro prices, so the Electric Elephant, on the sand-tastic Dalmatian Coast, is a summer holiday and summer festival in one: run by the people from Manchester's Electric Chair, this is a mega beach party, boat party, dance party, music festival combined. Germany's Haldern Pop Festival, in the Rhineland, may look like a local festival with its single stage and chill vibe, but that scenic appeal also attracts the biggest bands, and there aren't many other festivals where you're as intimately involved with what's going on on stage. Bulgaria's Spirit of Burgas and Amsterdam's Lowlands are other fine examples of small festivals getting THE bands. Calvi on the Rocks, happening out of the Octopussy Beach Club on Corsica, is a favourite of a few big name DJs who come to party by the azure sea as well as play, and get their friends down to do the same.
The Frequency Festival is Vienna's Glastonbury: a same-ish blend of guitar pop laced with electronica, hip hop and rock – this time in a race course just out of Vienna, and the Melt Festival is even cooler, held in a converted coal mine. Kudos for location alone, this festival is like an extension of Berlin's trendy club scene: around 80 live indie, electro, dance and disco acts, ones that the cool kids are getting down to, over six floors, under disco balls hung off old mining equipment. Sziget Festival is another large festival in a slightly more exotic location – an island in the middle of the Danube River. The numbers and line up are pretty serious, over 1000 performances, with names from all genres: R.E.M. to Fatboy Slim, to the Foo Fighters, to the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra. Sziget Festival goers get a chance to choose where they sleep, camp on the island or stay in Budapest somewhere with hot water and clean toilets.
Best of the Rest: British
Your Nan may have heard of Reading, even if she thinks it's a literary fest, but she probably hasn't heard of the Green Man Festival, an eclectic and atmospheric cacophony of psychedelic folk, ethical world music and up and coming local bands, or Buddhafield, as different from the drug fuelled mud mess she thinks you're going to be up to your thighs in, with instead group yoga and meditation classes, and talks from Buddhist teachers about how to be happy in today's world.
Glade Festival is a breakaway from Glastonbury, its electronic moves and grooves turned pied piper and branched off, glow sticks and hedonists in tow, to make its own way in the world.
But why just party at the next Glastonbury when you can try something a bit different from your standard festival fare? The Moor Music Festival still has music, including reggae, rock and electronica, and camping, but it also has a kid's tent, a cycle powered disco, and performance spaces for cabaret, circus skills and break dancing, among other sightly off beat festival flavours.
Serbia's Exit Festival, attracts the big names to play in its spectacular fortress setting, but it's not the country's largest music festival: that honour goes to the Guča Trumpet Festival which may not sound as cool, but its 600,000 strong party atmosphere has been favourably compared with both Burning Man and Glastonbury. And it's a competition. A big hooting brass folk competition! Which means your grandparents probably have heard of it – and that you're actually becoming retro cool, especially if you invite them along - hopefully your own grand-kids will do the same for you one day.
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