As we slowly slouch into the final months of 2013, most of us are only too aware that it’s ‘that’ time of year again. Time, that is, to start planning another hectic year of festivals and parties. Currently, all signs seem to point towards 2014 being an absolute doozy of a festival season – with the biggest getting bigger, the best getting better and a whole host of newbies, oldies and everything-in-between to get involved in. So whether your taste extends more to Kraut rock, indie electronic, experimental drone or simply having the biggest party the world has ever known, here are our picks for the best festivals of 2014:
Iceland Airwaves (November, Iceland)
Described by Rolling Stone as one of the hippest music festivals in existence, Iceland Airwaves annually transforms the city of Reykjavik into a dizzying collection of incredible clubs delivering incredible music from international acts. Headliners aside, Airwaves’ best aspect comes from its home city: a vibrant blend of chic Nordic cool and cosy Northern tourist town. Between the music, coffee and literary delights, you may find you never want to leave the Icelandic capital.
Unsound Festival (Oct, Krakow)
Lecture series, experimental drone pieces, art experiments and a cerebral riff on electronica… it could only be Unsound Festival, Poland’s premier gathering for slightly-pretentious electronic obsessives. Set around the gloomy, gothic town of Krakow as the dark nights begin to draw in and the shadows grow long, this atmospheric, intellectual take on the musical festival is somewhere between a decent club night, a city-wide art installation and a psychedelic European trip. The line-up is yet to be announced, but you can bet it’s going to be stellar.
Glastonbury (summer, UK)
Yes, it may be a total cliché. Yes, it may be of variable quality. But Glastonbury remains one of the friendliest, most-popular festivals in the whole of Europe and continues to attract big name acts at a fraction of their usual cost. Away from the stages though, Glastonbury is all about the atmosphere – the limitless number of clearings filled with poetry tents, theatre troupes and steampunk dance acts; not to mention all the weird tents, cider bars and salacious joints that leap up around the place. For all its faults, Glasto is a British institution.
Ultra Music Festival (March, Florida)
Harmony Korine’s recent B-Movie masterpiece Spring Break is practically a homage to UMF – a weekend knees up that one should only enjoy whilst a) young, b) pretty and c) very, very drunk. Utterly awful to some, and the apex of sunny spring break madness to others, UMF consistently attracts the largest crowds, stars and headlines of any festival. Expect Deadmau5 and Daft Punk in 2014.
Donauinselfest (June, Austria)
The world’s biggest music festival (3.2 million people attended last year!) is a Mecca for Austro-pop lovers. German-speaking rockers, singers, DJs and electronic artists sweep in from across Europe, defiantly eschewing the US/UK focus that haunts so many other festivals. And their approach clearly works: for 3 days every year, a 6.5km stretch of Vienna’s Danube Island squashes in more people than the populations of Iceland, Estonia and Latvia combined. In short, Donauinselfest has to be seen to be believed.
Coachella (April, California)
What do you get when you blend rock, hip-hop, electronica and sculpture beneath the blistering Californian sun? Why, you get Coachella of course: one of the most-popular festivals in America. A potent mix of installation art and rabble-rousing tunes from some of the biggest names in music, Coachella has been going from strength to strength of late, with next to no end in sight.
Burning Man (August, Nevada)
Part festival, part radical political statement, Burning Man is to festivals what Occupy is to Wall Street boardroom meetings. The radical older brother of laid-back Glastonbury, this strange festival set in the heart of the burning Nevada desert promotes ideas of self-reliance, responsibility and the destruction of commercial gain – an odd position indeed for a world-famous festival. Mad, liberating and deeply strange, Burning Man has to be seen to be believed.
ATP (Various, Worldwide)
Now the dust has settled on ATP’s original ‘holiday camp rave’ vision, perhaps 2014 is the year to embrace their move onto the world stage and into the cities. 2013 may have been the end of an era, but we’re sure 2014 will usher in a whole new host of excellent raves.
About the author: Daniel Kendal loves to travel and recently had a great flight with Icelandair to see the Iceland Airwaves.