Ten best overseas festivals


Positivus Festival, Latvia

Positivus is the largest festival in the Baltics, attracting 20,000 people to a remote, tranquil forest in Salacgriva (pop. 3,467), nestled next to the beach. Latvia’s Positivus feels like Latitude by the sea, with its emphasis on arts and crafts, and the music line-up is, as always, robust. The bill features the anthem-heavy Keane, the punchier Friendly Fires, The Vaccines, Damien Rice, Niki and the Dove and, best of all, the Manic Street Preachers.

Fuji Rock Festival, Japan

If you can stump up for a plane ticket to Japan, there’s some blistering rock lined-up here. The Stone Roses, Radiohead, The Specials, Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and Jack White are all performing. And, more provocatively, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds are likely to rub up against Liam Gallagher’s new act, Beady Eye. Will there be a rapprochement or pistols at dawn for the warring brothers in this spectacular mountain setting?

  • Venue: Naeba Ski Resort, in Niigata Prefecture, Japan
  • When: 27-29 July
  • Ticket info: www.smash-uk.com

The Off Festival, Poland

The Off Festival, which won the prestigious European Festival Award for Best Medium-Sized European Festival last year, takes place in the gorgeous green oasis of the Three Lake Valley in Katowice and features a typically eclectic line up. Now in its seventh year, stand-out acts this year include the experimental indie act Battles, the mighty Iggy Pop and the Stooges, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins (whose Diamond Mine was one of last year’s most exquisite records), the belligerent Henry Rollins and The Wedding Present perform Seamonsters. This festival’s not for the timid…

Lollapalooza, Chicago

Lollapalooza, which started out in 1991 with acts such as Soundgarden and Pearl Jam playing to a few grungers in a moshpit, has turned into one of America’s largest rock festivals, situated at the sprawling Grant Park site. The typically strong line-up features veterans the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the resurgent Black Keys, the re-formed Black Sabbath, Jack White, Florence and the Machine, Dawes, Sigur Ros and the much lauded Southern rockers Alabama Shakes.

Sziget, Hungary

Winner of last year’s Best European Major Festival award, this epic, week-long festival features Saint Etienne, Anna Calvi, The Roots, The xx, Wild Beasts, The Horrors, The Ting Tings and, wait for it, The Stone Roses; they’re everywhere this year.

Oya Festival, Norway

Now in its 14th year, Oya has emerged as one of Europe’s premier festivals and it’s set in Oslo’s striking Medieval Park, which is surrounded by sandy beaches, the fjords and Ekeberg Hill. This year’s impressive line-up includes The Stone Roses, Bjork, The Black Keys (on a high after their magnificent El Camino last year), Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine and Feist. Plus, Bob Mould will perform his exquisite jangly pop masterpiece Copper Blue. 

Way Out West, Sweden

It’s only in its fifth year, but Way Out West has firmly established itself as one of Europe’s loveliest festivals and this year its headliner is none other than the magnificent pop royal Prince. The festival takes place in Slottskogen Park - in the heart of the Gothenberg – where there are large lawns, wooded areas, lakes, and even a zoo with elks, seals and penguins. The impressive bill includes Blur, Kraftwerk,  Florence & The Machine, The Black Keys, Hot Chip, Refused, Feist and much more.

  • Venue: Slottskogen Park, Gothenberg, Sweden
  • When: 11-13 August

Pukkelpop, Belgium

The Stone Roses, 2012’s festival mainstays, pop up again at Belgium’s second largest music festival. Also on the bill are Snoop Dogg, Foo Fighters, Mark Lanegan Band, Bjork and the fabulous alt-rockers Wilco.

Burning Man Festival, United States

It started out as a beach party in San Francisco before morphing into a “radical” event of “self expression” for 48,000 hedonistic people in the Black Rock Desert. The website claims that “There are no rules about how one must behave or express oneself at this event”. Yikes. Anyhow, it’s an artistic and mind-blowing happening, which culminates in the burning of a 12ft-effigy. The Wicker Man, anyone?

  • When 27 August – 3 September
  • Where Black Rock Desert, Nevada, America?
  • Ticket Info: www.burningman.com

Berlin Festival

This eccentric festival returns to Berlin’s historic Tempelhof Airport where acts perform in the giant former airplane hangers or dance deep into the night at the Silent Disco, which features the biggest names in electronic music. This year’s star-studded indie line-up includes Sigur Ros, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Little Dragon, Kate Nash, Metronomy and Orbital.

  • Venue: Tempelhof Airport and various venues (including Club XBerg) around Berlin, Germany
  • When: 7-9 September
  • Ticket Info: www.berlinfestival.de

La Tomatina Festival, Spain

Alternatively, if you want to avoid music altogether and just fancy lobbing tomatoes at strangers, then take in the La Tomatina festival (which started as a vegetable hurling brawl in 1945) in the Valencian town of Bunol. Kick off time is 11am and approximately 150,000 tomatoes are thrown. Red-splattered mayhem.

Venue: Bunol, Spain
When: 29 August
Information: www.latomatinatours.com