The 5 Best Alternatives To Glastonbury Festival
Cast your mind back to 1970 (and, if you weren’t born then, which is highly likely then just use your imagination) to Worthy Farm in Pilton, where a man called Michael Eavis, inspired by seeing an open-air Led Zeppelin concert, set up the Pilton Pop, Blues & Folk Festival.
This was, essentially, the first ever ‘Glastonbury’; tickets were the princely sum of £1 and included free milk from the Glastonbury farm, although it’s fair to assume that the first 1,500 Glastonbury attendees imbibed something a little stronger as they watched headline act T. Rex.
Fast forward 44 years and Glastonbury is now the largest festival in the world, with over 175,000 attending annually, and tickets selling out within two hours. If you fancy heading down to Somerset this summer to see the likes of the Arcade Fire, Kasabian and Dolly Parton but are yet to bag yourself a ticket then time is running out. The last chance to get a ticket is this Sunday 27th April on the Glastonbury ticket resale - but if you’re not in the mood to spend a Sunday morning pressing refresh repeatedly on your laptop then it’s time to start thinking of contingency plans to get your festival fix.
Here are five of the best foreign alternatives to England’s iconic party in a field:
The one thing you can’t guarantee at Glastonbury is the weather; you’re just as likely to be watching your tent slide away in a torrent of mud as you are sunning yourself in a field with a pint of cider. Bilbao, on the northern tip of Spain, has no such problems, with an average temperature during the July festival of 25°C. Held from the 10th-12th July, Bilbao BBK takes place in its entirety on a special complex built specifically for the event on the slopes of Mount Cobetas, southwest of the city. This year you could be sunning yourself in Spain whilst watching headliners Franz Ferdinand, The Prodigy and The Black Keys for an incredibly reasonable £92 for a 3 day ticket which includes camping.
Sziget Festival, otherwise known as the ‘island of freedom’, takes place every August on Obudai-Sziget (Old Buda Island), a leafy 266-acre island on the Danube in northern Budapest. Prepare for more than just a weekend in a field watching bands, as Sziget is actually a week-long extravaganza of a festival once described as an ‘electronically amplified, warped amusement park that has nothing to do with reality’. Also, similar to Glastonbury, the festival incorporates music from many genres with a blues stage, a jazz tent and a world music stage alongside the main stage with the more popular rock and pop acts which, this year, including Outkast, Manic Street Preachers, Calvin Harris and Lily Allen. Sound good? Advance tickets are available for €209 for a weekly pass which includes camping.
Splendour In The Grass
Fancy going somewhere a bit further afield? Although you’ll have to fork out for flights, you certainly won’t regret a trip to Byron Bay in Australia for the spectacular ‘Splendour In The Grass’ festival, held annually July 25th-27th. Your ears will thank you for exposing them to a sound system to rival any in the world as 2014 sees the main stage move to the site’s majestic natural amphitheatre. Gloomy rockers Interpol, Brighton’s own Metronomy and Kelis makes for an intriguing line up, but, as always, it’s not just about watching bands. There’s also a global village with three full days of performances, workshops, market stalls, yoga, dance and fusion food. Alternatively, you could get drunk and head to Miss Saigon karaoke to join hundreds of people jammed into the same space to belt out the lyrics to a never-ending stream of classic sing-along tracks.
Oslo probably doesn’t strike you as the ideal place for a music festival, but this smallish Norwegian boutique gathering generally has a superb line-up traversing electronica, arty rock, hip-hop and metal. Ideal if you want to avoid the more mainstream acts and see something a bit different. Held from August 6th-10th, it’s set in a beautiful spot just a 10 minute walk from Oslo’s main train station on the historic site where Oslo was founded a thousand years ago. This year, headliners are The National and Royksopp, supplemented by intriguing sounding artists such as Spidergawd, Yoguttene and Deafheaven. Tickets are a very reasonable £85.
If you fancy something closer to home and a little later in the summer, Ireland’s Electric Picnic could be the answer. From Friday 29th to Sunday 31st August, the Stradbally Estate in County Laois hosts a plethora of music, comedy, theatre and circus performances. This year Portishead and Beck are already confirmed, although there’s plenty else on offer for more ‘eclectic’ tastes such as the area called Trenchtown, based in the Jamaican Village (which represents the strong links between the two islands of Jamaica and Ireland ...obviously). Each year it houses the hottest home-grown and international Reggae, Dub, Ska and Dancehall artists, so get ready to feel the beat and follow your feet.
Although you can of course book tickets directly through festival websites and arrange your own flights/transport, it’s worth looking at the packages provided by travel specialists like Contiki, who offer specialist tours for festivals like Sziget, combining festival tickets and accommodation with stops in Berlin, Prague and Vienna ahead of the festival itself.