Summer is upon us. Honestly, it is. Some people have been parked at their computers for weeks, desperately trying to book Glastonbury tickets, purchasing designer wellies for Bestival, and trying to determine which over-priced café is closest to Victoria Park. Can’t let Lovebox get in the way of that mid-morning flat white. But there’s plenty more festivals out there. Not just beyond the M25, but over the channel and across the continent. Disorder has trawled the listings, picking out the best from across the UK and Europe. Where should you pitch up this year?
BEATS AND BASS
Grime rules, Skepta won the Mercury prize, Stormzy went platinum, and not even Giggs could have known he’d appear on so many Drake songs. Accordingly, many of the biggest names in hip-hop and dance music are headlining the biggest brand name festivals. But elsewhere? Who has the bassiest, beatiest sets?
After 2016’s successful debut, this year’s Sunfall (Brockwell Park, July) has looked over the ocean, drafting in the prolific blunted-out beat-magician Madlib and the ever-elusive, perpetually-eclectic Jay Electronica, plus stalwarts such as Gilles Peterson and the Motor City Drum Ensemble. Meanwhile, Field Day (Victoria Park, June) assembles Aphex Twin and Abra, Flying Lotus and Flamingods, Slowdive and Survive, as well as the punk poet pioneer Dr John Cooper Clarke, for an electronic experience in the East End that doesn’t involve having your phone nicked.
Ben UFO seems intent on invading every stage on the continent this summer, but catching him at AVA (Belfast, June) will also net you a chance to see Jeff Mills and Guillaume Marmin show off their Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind project in a wonderfully post-industrial Belfast warehouse. With its synthesis of natural and urban aesthetics, high-end production and iconic venue, Junction 2 (Boston Manor Park, June) puts up the best techno-led festival around. Featuring DJ Koze, Daphni and co., this is a line-up dedicated to delivering deep-end delights.
But why subject yourself to English weather? Head to Primavera Sound (Barcelona, June) and soak up sunshine and Skepta Spanish style. Also present are proverbial heat-crankers Aphex Twin (again), Nicolas Jaar, Justice, and Run the Jewels. Direct flights to Barcelona cost a little over £50, while the festival website provides in-depth, in-English directions for under €20 via bus, bike, train, car, cab or hoverboard. With tickets available for less than £100, it’s still cheaper than Glasto (and that’s not including the wellies). If you like the idea of crossing two seas, then the Atlas Electronic (Marrakech, August) offers an otherworldly line-up in a marvellous Moroccan locale. The trans-continental bill includes Kosh, Habibi Funk, Gerd Janson, and – quelle surprise – Ben “Ubiquitous” UFO.
BLOOD AND THUNDER
Dance music doesn’t have a monopoly on festival fun. Rather than a sweaty tent, you might prefer swaying in an open field, reverb-drenched guitar noodling and roaring above your head. Inside or outside, a bit of blood and thunder could spice up your summer. But what are your options?
Festival No. 6 (Portmeirion, September) offers a refined alternative to the usual summer slugfest. Boutique tents, a special agreement with Virgin Trains, and a commitment to “balancing nature and eccentricity in equal measures” might not sound like a recipe for a festival. But on stage you can see the unique stylings of Goldie, Mogwai, the Flaming Lips, Bloc Party, Rag’n’Bone Man, and, presumably providing the aforementioned eccentricity, the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir. Refined indeed. Out west, ArcTanGent (Bristol, August) bills itself as the “ultimate music festival for connoisseurs of Math-rock, Post-rock, Noise-rock, Alt-rock and everything in between.” Rock-heads can expect Explosions in the Sky to establish a mournful, drifting serenity, before Japanese noise merchants Boris rattle eardrum from skull in a full-on, scuzzed-out sonic assault.
If Dorset’s your creek, then End of the Road (Larmer Tree Gardens, September) is showcasing some of the best singer-songwriters of the last two decades. There’s Bill Callahan, the man behind the always-adored Smog project, and current folk-provocateur Father John Misty, as well as grim Scottish static-lords The Jesus and Mary Chain. Like your music with a little more bite? Bloodstock (Walton-on-Trent, August) promises a line-up that’s heavier than god’s own anvil. Melodic death metal from Sweden's Amon Amarth is fused with the classic thrash metal of Megadeth and the Connecticut metal core of Hatebreed.
And why go to Glastonbury for Radiohead when you could catch them at Poland’s Open’er Festival (Gdynia, June/July), along with the Foo Fighters, the XX and James Blake? The site is 40 minutes from Gdansk airport, meaning you can get there and back for around £100, plus a few extra quid for your tent and your Tuborg. In a similar vein, you could even swim to Hellfest (Clisson, June) in Northern France, though getting a bus is a lot less hassle. The festival website even has information about living with the locals as a way of cutting down your accommodation costs. Just remember to avoid the crazies.
OTHER AND OUT THERE
Some festivals are impossible to categorise. It’s not just about music, or any one thing at that. Wychwood Festival (Cheltenham, June), for example, caters to the family crowd. Better facilities, kids’ literature festivals, hundreds of workshops, and acts like Buzzcocks and Billy Bragg mean that you don’t have to leave the family behind this time. At the other end of the spectrum, M.I.A.'s delicately-named Meltdown (London, June) plays decidedly to the avant-garde. The latest in the Southbank Centre’s celebrity curators (a list which includes Davids Byrne and Bowie), Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam is a world-famous rapper, producer, director, visual artist and activist. She’s hatched a plan to “bring together music’s best forward thinkers who have contributed to all our lives.” Assume provocative pleasure.
Some of the best, most out-there options, meanwhile, are abroad. Switzerland’s Bad Bonn Kilbi (Düdingen Bad Bonn, June) boasts the best contemporary jazz has to offer with Kamasi Washington and the Ash Ra Tempel Experience. Fly to Geneva for cheap, catch a perfectly-punctual Swiss train and camp for the week. Likewise, the Italian Terraforma (Milan, June) is an “experimental and sustainable music festival” which will attempt to “terraform a new dimension” with music, lectures, and workshops. Laraaji and Rashad Becker provide the tunes, a stunning villa the backdrop. Between terraforming sessions, you can check out the gothic cathedral and the world’s fashion capital. Can’t do that in Aberystwyth.
For a truly unique experience, the exclusive Joujouka Festival (Joujouka, June/July) promises to let you live as one with the master musicians of Morocco. Expect ritual song and dance a thousand years in the making. The tiny-village festival includes rooms, board, and, well, the potential to transcend. Impossible to replicate, the flight and the ticket will set you back £500 but you’ll be dining out on Joujouka until at least summer ’18. Joujouka? Joubetcha!