With spring recently rearing its disappointing head and summer on the horizon, you’re probably starting to think about how you’re going to top off last year. Perhaps you’re tired of British festivals with unpredictable, and mostly soggy, miserable climes. Maybe you want to do a holiday with a group of mates, but you can’t face another year of going to Ibiza or seeing your life-savings quite literally go up in smoke in Amsterdam. With those two options feeling a bit tired, the idea of being on the Mediterranean coast, whilst the sun’s beating down to a complimentary vibe du jour of soothing house and soulful grooves well and truly cuts the mustard. Aside from the biggies such as Dimensions and Sònar – which are still highly recommended as festivals to head to – this list will focus on five festivals from the European circuit that will still blow your socks off with equally impressive line-ups delving deep and exploring the parameters of electronic music, whilst remaining much more low-key, but with a intimacy that the bigger festivals struggle to maintain.
Meadows in the Mountains
When? 13 – 15 June
Where? Polkovnik Serafimovo, Bulgaria
Who? Albrecht Wassersleben, Andrew Ashong, Brand New Wayo, Hrdvsion, Jazzanova, Maayan Nidam, Moomin, Ruede Hagelstein, San Proper
Entering its fourth year, Meadows in the Mountains is gradually developing a reputation as a truly distinctive festival amongst Europe’s saturated market. Situated in the breath-taking Rhodopian landscape in the humble Bulgarian village of Polkovnik Serafimovo, festival organisers and brothers Damian and Benjamin Sasse have hit the nail on its head, pairing the stunning surroundings with a magical atmosphere that makes other festivals pale in comparison. The line-up isn’t too shabby, either with Berlin-based jockey, Maayan Nidam, the eccentric/insane/amazing San Proper, Moomin with his ocean-deep, house textures, and Uncanny Valley head honcho Albrecht Wassersleben as just a few of the names cropping up. To add to this charm, there’s a big emphasis on the crowd that attend, all adopting the mind-set of a fun-loving hedonist, on the quest for a memorable weekend of self-exploration with like-minded individuals. So, basically getting off your tits and making new friends at ear-popping heights.
When? 30 June - 6 July
Where? Sète, France
Who? Connan Mockasin, Ebo Taylor, Floating Points, Four Tet, Gilles Peterson, Jonwayne, Lefto, Morphosis, Osunlade, Sadar Bahar, Shigeto, Swindle, Theo Parrish, Zara McFarlane
With revered radio DJ and all-round musical tastemaker Giles Peterson at the helm of Sète’s Worldwide Festival, you know expectations will be exceeded. The first wave of announced acts, alone, encompasses a refreshing selection only Mr Peterson could muster. Truly original selectors and crate-diggers Sadar Bahar, Floating Points, and Theo Parrish will be spinning to the suitably balmy climes and scenic Sète backdrop. The festival’s scope also shifts towards the sounds of legendary Afro-funk and highlife guitarist Ebo Taylor and eccentric experimentalist Connan Mockasin in tow. From the listed acts to the clued up curator; the idyllic surroundings to the festival’s length, everything has been planned, in order to provide a week-long party that brings a knowledgeable and positive crowd to an unspoilt part of the world, far from the saturation of festivals over in Croatia.
The Garden Festival / Electric Elephant
When? 2 – 9 July / 10 – 14 July
Where? Tisno, Croatia
Who? Axel Boman, Baba Stiltz, Damiano Von Erckert, Dan Beaumont, Delano Smith, Eats Everything, Felix Dickinson, Genius of Time, Justin Martin, Leftside Wobble, Max Graef, Medlar, Midland, Prosumer, Ray Mang, The Revenge, Tim Sweeney, Underground Paris, Willie Burns
Ashley Beedle, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Chez Damier, Chris Duckenfield, Derrick May, The Emporer Machine, FCL, François K, Horse Meat Disco, Justin Robertson, Krysko, Max Essa, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Munk, Rahaan, Ruf Dug, Simian Mobile Disco, Soul Jazz Soundsystem, Tom Findlay (Groove Armarda)
On second thoughts, the promoters who put together some of the festivals around the Adriatic Sea, know their stuff when it comes to programming a killer event. The tough bit is deciding which one to pick from the wide range on offer. Aside from biggies such as Dimensions, Outlook and Hideout, there are some alternatives that are on a par with the potential to even outdo their peers such as Suncébeat (23 – 30 July), stopmakingsense (31 July – 3 August), and the double-header (well, if you and your body can handle doing a two week bender) of the Garden Festival and Electric Elephant. Both marketed as individual festivals, but the option is there to purchase a ‘Double Whammy’ pass, allowing you to prolong the amount of time to bask in the sun and soak up the vibes.
The Garden has a stellar range of club-nights (Just Jack, Louche, Tief) and labels (Burek, Futureboogie, Wolf Music) joining the fold to put on some cracking boat and beach parties across the festival; add to this, the sprinkling of Live acts (Crazy P, KiNK, Seven Davis JR) and plethora of DJs (Craig Richards, Greg Wilson, Wolf + Lamb), and you have got a recipe for the perfect Adriatic get-down.
Meanwhile, Electric Elephant, whilst being on a smaller-scale in comparison to its predecessor, it still manages to draw in the big guns from Chicago (Chez Damier, Rahaan), Detroit (Derrick May), and New York via Rodez (François K).
Sadly, a lot of us have a thing called a job, and your killjoy boss will probably not allow you to take all that holiday off in one go. Regardless, you’ll never be short of fun, even if you miss out on either one of the festivals.
When? 1-3 August
Where? Amsterdam, Netherlands
Who? Andrew Weatherall, Ben Klock, Bicep, Daphni (aka Caribou), DJ Koze, Efdemin, Jay Daniel, Jeff Mills, Joey Anderson, Julio Bashmore, Karenn, Kyle Hall, Levon Vincent, Marcel Dettmann, Mortiz von Oswald trio ft. Max Loderbauer & Tony Allen, Mount Kimbie, Nicolas Jaar, Nina Kraviz, Plaid, Robert Hood, Rødhåd, Steffi, Surgeon, Tale Of Us, Tom Trago, Young Marco.
Initially established as a party in 2007, then making the natural transition to establishing a highly successful label 2009. Three years, dozens of acclaimed releases and parties later on, the collective established the next milestone in Dekmantel’s timeline with the festival. Last year’s festival was a success, which is no mean feat considering the logistical problems most new festivals face. The festival returns this year with a bill that ticks all the boxes for any discerning house and techno fan. Legendary supergroup Three Chairs will be spinning anything from rugged Detroit techno to velvety signature Motown sounds, the UK will be representing in full force with Ben UFO, Joy Orbison, Luke Slater as just a few of the home-grown names from these shores making appearances. Amongst the abundance of big-room sounds; disco, strains of leftfield, and everything else in between will be explored and represented by the ultimate “DJ’s DJ’s” Prosumer, DJ Harvey and a special Gerd Janson / Prins Thomas back-to-back set. I could continue blabbering on about who else is playing, but because the festival is one of the most well programmed ones I’ve seen for this year, I would probably end up name-dropping each and every single DJ and performer, surely a sign of a decent festival?