Easter has just gone, so it’s time for the daily blitz of festival updates and line-ups in the next few months — a head wreck if you’re not part of the Electric Picnic brigade after it sold out in minutes, before the line-up was even released.
But as usual there’s a load of other options to choose from across Europe. You’ll be well aware of the other big Irish ones begging for your ticket money, but here’s a selection of festivals that’ll be well worth the extra effort (and a couple from Ireland).
Honourable mentions to Primavera Sound in Barcelona and Dekmantel in Amsterdam — two of the most revered festivals in Europe, but they’ve have sold out.
Sherkin Island, Cork
Bank Holiday, June 2-4
€110 for the weekend
Open Ear is only one of two Irish festivals on this list – do you really need anyone else banging on about the big ones? There’ll be plenty of time for Facebook spamming over the coming weeks. The big Irish festivals have the blockbuster names and budgets, but Open Ear digs a little deeper with a line-up of underground Irish electronic artists.
There’s no big-name hierarchy on the poster, but a few names that stand out include Eomac, Lolz, Simon Conway, Chris Chapman, Dreamcycles, The Cyclist and Ambulance.
And don’t forget the main headliner – Sherkin Island itself, one of the most stunning corners of Ireland, and as far from a row of burger vans as you can get.
This is the second edition of Open Ear, and it seems from social media that every single person who went last year is going back – so best get a ticket before it sells out. openear.ie
€185 for the weekend
Lowlands is probably Europe’s closest version of the Picnic in terms of its national hype levels and range of indie, hip-hop, dance and the more leftfield – and it goes the extra mile with its electronic music bookings.
Like the Picnic, it’s also billed as a “music and performing arts festival”, with hundreds of pop-up installations, theatre, global cuisine, movies and workshops.
It’s celebrating its 25th edition this year, so expect more of an anniversary buzz, and because it’s a Dutch festival it’ll be organised to the nth degree.
If you’re missing The xx at the Picnic they’re headlining Lowlands, with other big names including Iggy Pop, Elbow, Skepta, Death Grips, the resurrected At the Drive-In and current hype machine Migos.
There’s a few inspired bookings in the electronic sphere, with Detroit techno pioneer Carl Craig presenting his Versus Synthesizer Symphony, Warp veteran Clark showcasing his Death Peak live A/V show and sets from Robert Hood, Dublin leftfield R&B artist Bonzai and ghetto house legend DJ Deeon. Oh, and Cypress Hill. lowlands.nl
Novi Sad, Serbia,
5 days: €125; 4 days: €99
EXIT in Novi Sad has the most spectacular setting of all the festivals on the list – the stunning 17th century Petrovaradin Fortress on a rocky cliff that overlooks the River Danube.
It also has the best dance stage of any festival we’ve been to – with thousands packed into a tiered level system within the moat of the fortress and the perfect place to catch the sunrise (the stage finishes at 8am so every day is a rollover).
Music-wise this year, there’s a fair share of big commercial acts like Liam Gallagher, Faithless, Hardwell and Rag & Bone Man, but the Dance Arena has the likes of Black Coffee, Dixon b2b Solomun and Jamie Jones.
There’s also an Explosive Stage with some serious underground metal, hardcore and punk, and there’s still dozens of acts still to hit the bill yet.
It’s one of the cheapest festivals while you’re there, so it’s well worth the extra planning, and there’s plenty of packages available. exitfest.org
7 days: €299; 5 days: €275; Day tickets: €65
If you have a spare week to party in August, you could do a lot worse than Sziget in Hungarian capital Budapest for less than €300.
Organisers describe it as “an electronically amplified, warped amusement park that has nothing to do with reality”, or simply, “Island of Freedom”.
Hungary’s biggest festival is also one of Europe’s most raved about, with up to half a million visitors to the huge site on Buda island in the middle of Budapest.
As well as the hundreds of live acts, there’s also a focus on “spectacular installations, colorful sculptures, unique art projects, stunning and amazing visuals”, which is handy if you’re going to be there for the week.
There’s plenty more acts still to be announced, but there’s a wide range of pop acts to underground hip-hop – with big chart names like Pink, Major Lazer and Rita Ora up against Vince Staples and Danny Brown. Veteran rock fans are catered for too, with PJ Harvey booked, and hardcore punk icons Bad Religion on the bill. szigetfestival.com
N.O.S. PRIMAVERA SOUND
3 days: €110; 1 day: €55
Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is probably the most Pitchfork-friendly indie-muso festival in Europe, but it sold out months ago on the back of its impeccable line-up and the promise of sun, late opening times and a chilled crowd.
But in case you didn’t know, its Portuguese cousin has all of the above. It has been been going for six years with a more chilled buzz, and plenty of the acts are transferred over to Porto.
The setlist may be more streamlined, but you’ll still get Aphex Twin, Bon Iver, Run The Jewels, Justice, Death Grips, Swans and Sleaford Mods, just for starters. nosprimaverasound.com
€95 (one day €62.50)
Awakenings is the biggest brand in techno, and the Dutch festival is celebrating its 20th edition, so expect a hell of a party in the woodland park area close to Haarlem and Amsterdam.
The biggest outdoor techno festival in the world, this year’s edition has 110 live acts and DJs over eight stages, with all types of music catered for – as long as it goes bleep and has a 4/4 beat.
It’s the ultimate top trumps techno fest, but a few names that stand out include Sven Väth, Ricardo Villalabos, Dave Clarke, The Black Madonna, KiNK, Matador, Nina Kraviz, Nastia and Floorplan. awakeningsfestival.com
Sonar By Day + Night: €180; By Night: €125
Sonar truly is an electronic music festival of two halves, so you need to pace yourself in the Barcelona sun. Sonar By Day takes place in a pop-up village with several venues near the one of the city’s grand squares, Playa Espanya, while Sonar By Night is a rave in a vast disused aircraft hangar a bus ride away.
Fly too hard at the hangar, and you may crash the next day and miss the more leftfield performances and showcases – but no matter what happens you’ll inevitably miss a few favourites.
This year there’s dozens of acts playing, including Earl Sweatshirt, Soulwax, Carl Craig, Heidi, Optimo, Elysia Crampton, Floorplan and a sweet-sounding six-hour b2b set from Tiga and Seth Troxler. sonar.es
Weekend: €140; day pass: €49
If you want your festival with a side order of apocalyptic Mad Max vibes, Melt in Gräfenhainichen, in the former East Germany, ticks all your post-industrial boxes.
The weekender is set in Ferropolis, or ‘City of Iron’, an open-air museum devoted to the region’s mining history, with hulking metal cranes and digging machines the backdrop to the festival by Lake Gremmin.
If you can stop taking selfies at the 100ft cranes and diggers, there’s plenty of blockbuster acts to catch, with a big nod towards the electronic. South African performance art pranksters Die Antwoord are the top billing, with other notable names M.I.A., Richie Hawtin, Ben Frost, Egyptian Lover, Bicep, Bonobo and Recondite. meltfestival.de
2-day: €67; 1-day: €49
One of Europe’s leading techno weekenders, Futur takes place in Turin’s Parco Dora — a vast industrial warehouse space that’s been reclaimed by the council but not demolished, with green spaces amid towering remnants of a Fiat plant.
Some 40,000 head to the park for the festival to dance among the rusting girders and trees, with DJs including Carl Cox, Sven Vath, Fatboy Slim, Mano Le Tough, Nina Kraviz, Jackmaster and The Black Madonna. kappafuturfestival.it
DIMENSIONS & OUTLOOK
August 30-September 3 (Dimensions); September 7-10 (Outlook);
€188.50 (Dimensions); €178.50 (Outlook)
Two for one here, as Dimensions and Outlook are run by the same crew and take place at the same site – an abandoned fort next to the beach in the Croatian holiday resort of Pula.
Outlook began in 2008 riding the dubstep wave but has since become Europe’s biggest festival for heavy bass music, dub, grime, hip-hop and anything else that punches you in the gut. Acts this year include DJ Shadow, Wiley, The Bug, DJ Shadow, Ghostface Killah, Roots Manuva, Goldie and Horace Andy.
Dimensions was set up in 2012 as an alternative – inviting more techno, house and disco acts, while still grabbing some of the ‘bass music’ acts. This year’s festival has one of the most striking line-ups of the summer – including Grace Jones, Jeff Mills, Theo Parrish, Dopplereffekt, Nina Kraviz, Radioactive Man and a showcase from Dublin’s Bodytonic crew. outlookfestival.com / dimensionsfestival.com
Weekend: €197.50; 1 day: €77.50
Running on the same weekend as Longitude in Dublin, Latitude is one of England’s most popular family-friendly weekenders, with a massive focus on arts and crafts, theatre, an enchanted garden and an actual school if you’re feeling too guilty for leading the kids astray.
The festival also shares some of Longitude’s headliner in Mumford & Sons, but they won’t be hosting anything as rowdy as Skepta or Stormzy.
Still, it’s not all indie-rock – among the likes of Ride, Placebo, the 1975 and Jack Garratt, they’ve also roped in BEAK, Forest Swords, John Cale and genius pianist Lubomyr Melnyk. latitudefestival.com
Anaklia Beach, Georgia
July 14 – August 14 (32 days!?)
Full pass: €196; daily pass varies
That’s not a typo above – GEM Fest aka Georgian Electronic Music Festival really does go on for 32 days, which sounds like it could cripple the Happy Mondays in their prime.
GEM is the work of the creative team behind the (in)famous Kazantip festival which ran from 2002-13 and formed an annual pop-up republic with its own currency and passports.
GEM will have 500 artists over nine stages around the stunning beach resort of Anaklia, ranging from glow stick & whistle EDM like Steve Aoki and Martin Garrix, to tougher leftfield house and techno from the likes of Solomun, Dennis Ferrer, Honey Dijon and Irish techno DJs and Maeve label bosses Mano Le Tough and The Drifter. gem-fest.com
GRASPOP METAL MEETING
3-day: €195; 1-day: €95
There are a few legendary pilgrimages for metal fans – with Download, Hellfest and Wacken a few of the obvious ones. But Graspop this year probably has a more rounded line-up – from the darkest black metal, to hardcore, to classic rock and the daftest of cheeseball hair metal.
Graspop has been on the go since 1996 when it was started as a mainstream rock festival with Joe Cocker headlining, but it’s since become one of Europe’s biggest headbangers balls.
This year’s meeting goes from the sublime (Mastodon, Helmet, Ministry, Prong, Dillinger Escape Plan) to the ridiculous (Steel Panther, Scorpions, Europe) and the vile (Rotting Christ, Decapitated, Mayhem). Deep Purple are even playing ffs. graspop.be
THE ARK CRUISE FESTIVAL
August 31-September 3
Cabins from €699
This one’s an extra special treat if you’ve got plenty of cash to spare and you’ve been a good boy or girl this year. The Ark is a four-day party for 4,000 people on a vast cruise ship, Royal Carribean’s Freedom of the Seas. But forget about pensioners watching Susan Boyle and some dog that won Britain’s Got Talent – this is far from a variety show cruise ship nightmare.
The Ark sails from Barcelona to Marseilles and Ibiza and back to Barcelona, soundtracked by 90 DJs and live acts, including B. Traits, Chris Liebing, Felix Da Housecat, KiNK, Sven Vath and Irish techno hero Matador. theark.cruises
B.A.R.E. IN THE WOODS
Garryhinch Woods, Portarlington
Weekend: €125; 1 day: €50
This one’s going straight on the list for having the most bonkers line-up of any Irish festival this year. You can bet your house and your salary for the rest of your life that B.A.R.E. is the only weekender to book legendary post-hardcore act Helmet alongside Jump Around culprits House of Pain, rapper/poet/activist Akala and (wait for it) Right Said Fred.
With the Picnic scrambling for brilliant 90s throwbacks in the last few years at the Electric Ireland stage, they missed a trick with the Fairbrass brothers. There won’t be a funnier festival moment this year than the pure daft joy of I’m Too Sexy and Deeply Dippy.
Elsewhere on the poster, you’ve got the Rubberbandits, HamsandwicH, Adultrock, RSAG and a spoken word and comedy area. Info on their Facebook page