Combine your holiday with music for a total adventure
Elisa Bray provides a breakdown of the best overseas destinations renowned for their festivals
Thursday 13 May 2010
There was a time when going abroad for a music festival wouldn't feature on the agenda. Now it's pretty common – at Snowbombing in Austria last month, most festival-goers were British, while Benicassim is known for its British following who set up their own fansite to plan the route to the event. Now British people are travelling to even more exotic locations for festival fun.
Could it have anything to do with the weather? After years of rain drenched festival, you can't blame people for wanting a bit of a change, and what luxury to have almost guaranteed sunshine – and even seaside – instead. A festival abroad also incorporates a dramatic change of scenery for watching bands and a welcome culture change, including local acts.
With the cost of British festivals going up, it's efficient to turn the festival trip into a holiday. It would explain the rise in festivals at ski resorts – the perfect way of combining music with activity holiday. It provides a spectacular backdrop to bands you might normally see in a dingy pub or soulless arena. Many festival campsites allow guests to extend their stay, so you can end up having a cheap holiday, exploring the region when the music part is over. Here is a guide to help you plan your adventures.
Named best US festival by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008, Bonnaroo is one of the biggest, taking place on a vast 700-acre farm 60 miles from Nashville, from 10 to 13 June, its multi-stages hosting all genres of music and still retaining a free-spirited vibe. Expect indie, bluegrass, rock, pop, gospel and more from Jay-Z, Kings of Leon, Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews Band, The Flaming Lips, Norah Jones, The National and The Dead Weather. The four-day Lake of Stars takes place on the stunning shores of Lake Malawi from 15-17 October. This will be the seventh year for a festival which started with Groove Armada's Andy Cato spinning some grooves for some backpackers and now entertains 3,500 people.
Still leaning on the beats played by DJs, today Malawi artists perform on a bill alongside Western DJs and a few UK bands. The festival's local owner, Will Jameson, set it up to promote Malawi and once you've made the long haul from the UK, it's an opportunity to sample the water sports, do some trekking, mountain bike through forests and past waterfalls, and relax on the stunning beaches.
If you're more of a mountain fan then Fuji Rock Festival, held at the Naeba Ski Resort, in Niigata, Japan, 30 July to 1 August is the one. The 10 stages include the fabulously named "Field of Heaven" and the "Palace of Wonder", and the line-up is top-class – some of the best of the British festivals' bills with Muse, Roxy Music and Massive Attack headlining and Them Crooked Vultures, Ash, Air, Belle and Sebastian, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT and Scissor Sisters – as well as local Japanese bands. Fuji Rock also claims to be the cleanest festival in the world.
Best for sun and coast
Known as Glasto-on-sol to its large British fanbase, Benicassim is the ultimate festival for music-lovers who want to combine music with their annual seaside holiday with friends.
From morning, a steady stream of festival-goers leads to the beach, and when the sun starts to go down the music takes over, the site filling up and partying until dawn. Sleeping is not a priority – it's far too hot to sleep under canvas anyway, but other accommodation is available. The line-up is always brimming with big name acts – this year features The Prodigy, Gorillaz, Ray Davies, Leftfield, Kasabian, DJ Shadow, Ian Brown, Lily Allen, Goldfrapp and Dizzee Rascal.
One of the most striking vistas is to be found at Exit, held in the environs of an 18th-century fortress on the banks of the River Danube in Serbia. Launched by three students in 2000, the festival has grown exponentially. From 9 to 12 July 20,000 festival-goers will watch sets by Chemical Brothers, Placebo, Missy Elliott and Mika, performing across 27 stages, over the four days, in 30C heat. More intimate is The Garden Festival, in Croatia, spread out over the first week of July, an intimate boutique dance music festival set in the beautiful 900-year old village of Petrcane.
It's set on a pine-covered peninsula with a beachfront cocktail bar, while Petrcane is full of seafood restaurants and cafes. The site transforms into late night sets, and night-long partying at sunset. In its fifth year, the line-up is more DJ than live sets with Bonobo, Mr Scruff, Norman Jay, and live gigs from Mayer Hawthorne and the Phenomenal Handclap Band.
Even more luxurious and relaxing is Sunsplash Antalya taking place at the five-star Hillside Su Hotel in Antalya, Turkey, between 23 and 30 May. The boutique festival caters for an exclusive 500 guests and features Jamie Lidell with his full band, Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson.
Best for European city break
One of the Europe's five biggest festivals, with 70,000 guests, Roskilde in Denmark is also one of the most sustainable. The distinct orange "horns of Roskilde" on the main stage provide the backdrop to Muse, Gorillaz, Prince, and The Prodigy playing from 2 to 5 July. Other attractions include skating and rock- climbing facilities in Roskilde.
Landgraaf in Holland is best known for housing the largest indoor ski piste in Europe, but also for its rock festival, Pinkpop, launched in 1970. The democratic festival invites its 100,000 guests to have a say on three of the acts who this year (28 to 30 May) include Motorhead, Kasabian, Green Day, Editors, Pixies, John Mayer, and The Prodigy. And it's only a short train ride to Amsterdam.
Barcelona is the perfect holiday vacation where the popular dance festival Sonar takes place from 18 to 20 June, featuring a hip array of electronica acts Orbital, Animal Collective, LCD Soundsystem, and Little Boots. Sonar By Night takes place in an industrial hangar on the outskirts of town, but Sonar By Day is a chilled affair based around the courtyard of the city's Centre de Cultura Contemporania.
Rock Werchter in Belgium has become the country's biggest, with 70,000 entering on each of the four days. Its rock and pop line up features Faithless, Muse, Stereophonics, Green Day, Editors, Arcade Fire, Florence and The Machine and The Ting Tings.
Set in Oslo's Medieval Park, with nearby beaches, fjords and the Ekeberg Hill, Oya's festival other attractions lie in its green credentials, and organic food, and a rock, indie and hip-hop line-up including Paul Weller, The National, Air and The xx, from 10-14 August.
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