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10 European Music Festivals Only Locals Know About

Because there’s more to life than Glastonbury.

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Winter has set in and the summer festival season is a distant memory, but the fun doesn’t have to end just yet. Lucky for you, the party is just getting started in the northern hemisphere. The European festival season always offers a smorgasbord of options, from tiny to gigantic, for fans of every style of music from experimental prog-rock to crowd-pleasing EDM.

This year, skip the big names – every backpacker on the continent will be heading to Primavera Sound and Roskilde, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of smaller refreshingly different festivals showcasing incredible musical talent in unique locations that are just as deserving of your time and money. Whether you’re into electronic or acoustic, beaches or mountains, snow or sun, whimsical or hard-hitting, we’ve got you sorted with these not so ordinary European festivals.


#1 Freerotation

Where: Hereford, The UK
When: July 10th-13th

The members-only policy of Freerotation Festival makes it one of the most exclusive festivals in Europe, if not in the world. That exclusivity is due to the ~650 person capacity of Freerotation’s unique venue, Baskerville Hall (of Sherlock Holmes fame, on the border of Wales and England). Members are only allowed to invite one other person per year to become a new member, and even then are subject to a ticket lottery system. However, there are heaps of cool things about Freerotation that make the potentially years-long wait for a ticket worth it: strictly enforced 50/50 male and female attendance, a sacred tree or two, amazing audio-visual programming and an unreal collection of resident DJs, including Ben UFO, Move D and Shackleton. Freerotation 2015 will be happening from the 10th to the 13th of July, so you’d better hurry up and book your ticket…three years ago.


#2 Meadows In The Mountains

Where: Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria
When: June 12th-15th

Set in a remote area of Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, this festival is only accessible by a four-and-a-half hour bus ride through breathtaking countryside from the capital, Sofia. Meadows In The Mountains is run by a father and son team from England who, for the last five years, have been putting on an utterly unique festival experience featuring largely dance acts from all over the world in harmony with an incredibly lush mountain landscape. The 2014 line-up was a multinational affair, featuring German deep house producer Moomin, Israeli DJ Maayan Nidam (aka Miss Fitz), and Dutch underground dance figure San Proper. Other highlights: a leave-no-trace ecological policy, complimentary donkey cart rides to and from town, and even a bonus field trip across the border to Greece! Did we mention the absolutely incredible views?


#3 Festival No. 6

Where: Portmeirion, Wales
When: September 3rd-6th

Festival No. 6, in the storybook-perfect town of Portmeirion, Wales, might be called the UK’s answer to Meredith Music Festival. More of an all-encompassing celebration of culture than your typically debauched music festival (many families bring their young children), the lineup features a delightful array of bands, DJs, comedians, filmmakers, authors and artists. No. 6 has only been running for three years, but it is already set to become quite the institution, attracting big-ticket acts like Grace Jones, Belle and Sebastian, Kate Tempest, DJ Harvey and Optimo. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a range of accommodation options for every taste (and budget): cosy cottages, a historic castle, “boutique” camping experiences or just plain ol’ roughing it are all on the menu.


#4 KaZantip

Where: Popovka Crimean Peninsula, Russia
When: Dates TBA, but usually in July/August

This next one is definitely…out there. Started in 1992 on the Kazantyp headland of the Crimean Peninsula, KaZantip doesn’t like to call itself a “festival”. Instead, it prefers “project”, “imaginary republic” or “nonexistent state somewhere under the sun”. Attended by over 100,000 people on a 2 kilometres patch of beach in Popovka, Crimea, KaZantip takes place over the course of a whole month in July and August. The lineup features every style of electronic music imaginable, and attendees participate in a number of unique traditions, including dressing head to toe in orange and yellow. Burning Man too basic? We’ll see you on the dance floor.


#5 Field Day

Where: London, The UK
When: June 6th and 7th

Not to be confused with the New Year’s festival in Sydney that shares its name, Field Day Festival is a camping festival that takes place every year in Victoria Park, London. Since its inception in 2007, Field Day has both expanded and sold out every single year, and it’s easy to see why – each year Field Day slam dunks an absolutely monstrous lineup with something for everyone. The first day features a wide range of both established and up-and-coming electronic acts, while the second day focuses on guitar bands to pacify the rock dog contingent. This year’s line-up included Caribou, Patti Smith, Chet Faker, Mac DeMarco, Todd Terje, FKA Twigs, Ben Klock, SOPHIE, Cashmere Cat, and many, many more. Oh, you bought an early bird ticket for 2016 before you even finished reading that sentence? Thought so.


#6 Hideout

Where: Pag, Croatia
When: June 28th-July 2nd

It seems as though a million new festivals have popped up in Croatia recently, but Hideout, with its breathtaking island setting and legendary, hedonistic boat parties, is absolutely unmissable. For five straight days (not including pre-parties and after-parties), festival-goers dance their hearts out on the island of Pag in the Adriatic seas, going from pool to beach to boat and back again, all soundtracked by a carefully curated lineup of electronic artists. It’s like Spring Break for adults, and we guarantee you won’t ever want to come home.


#7 ATP Iceland

Where: Keflavík, Iceland
When: July 2nd-4th

All Tomorrow’s Parties, a London-based organisation that has been putting on events all over the world since 1999, is a notch above run-of-the-mill European summer festies. Called “the ultimate mix tape”, ATP Iceland always features an eclectic lineup. This year brings together heavy-hitters like Iggy Pop, Belle and Sebastian, Public Enemy and Drive Like Jehu, but the beauty of ATP Iceland is that you’re guaranteed to discover other incredible artists you never would have heard of otherwise. It almost doesn’t matter that in addition to music, ATP Iceland also showcases visual art, cinema, poetry and comedy. How many excuses to visit Iceland could you possibly need? This is the country that produced Björk, after all.


#8 Horizon Festival

Where: Bansko Ski Resort, Bulgaria
When: March, annually

For the festival connoisseur looking for something to break the sticky, sweaty, outdoor summer festy mold, there is Horizon. Held during the colder months at the Bansko Ski Resort in Bulgaria, the snowy, cosy vibes give Horizon some serious appeal. Not to mention, the Bansko is the largest ski resort in Europe, with over 70 kilometres of slope. Three years running, Horizon has blown it out of the water with a hedonistic program: 80 international DJs playing 30 parties held in surprise locations (secret forest stages, medieval banquet halls, and abandoned factories), all popping off over the course of seven incredible days.


#9 The Secret Garden Party

Where: Abbots Ripton, The UK
When: July 23rd-26th

Attending the Secret Garden Party in Abbots Ripton, England is like spending three days in a storybook wonderland where the music is only one of several elements that combine to form an experience unlike any other. Since 2004, the festival has grown to host more than 26,000 attendees, who can choose among 15 unique stages scattered across the grounds of a stately Georgian manor. The lineup tends toward indie folk-pop, jazz and soul, and every year there is a designated theme that informs the stage designs, art installations, theatrical performances, food options and costumes. This year’s theme is “Childish Things”, and we’ve never been so ready to leave adulthood behind.


#10 Tauron Nowa Muzyka

Where: Katowice, Poland
When: August 20th-23rd

As far as venues go, you really can’t get any better than the apocalyptic-utopian dreamland of Tauron Nowa Muzyka (“New Music”), which takes place each year in and around abandoned coal mine shafts in the post-industrial town of Katowice, Poland. Aesthetics aside, it turns out that a coal mine is the perfect acoustic environment for enjoying the innovative jazz, electronic and dance music that Tauron Nowa Muzyka has become known for. Experience techno the way it was always intended to be heard (in a defunct coal refinery), and then wind down by catching a workshop in music production or photography.

(Lead image: Festival No. 6/Facebook)

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