Happy September! We’re not quite there yet, but if you’re traveling, chances are you’re looking for things to do in the near future. If not, I like your style. Fly by the seat of your pants. Or maybe you’re just lazy. Either works.
So welcome to the second edition of my Out in the World event calendars, where I bring you antsy backpackers plenty of shenanigans to find. Music festivals, food festivals, whale festivals, weird gatherings. Go to all of them and win a prize (a deluxe hangover!). Here’s the usual disclaimer: this isn’t comprehensive by any means. If you’re only looking for music festivals, here’s a good resource. And to families stumbling across this page looking for family activities: fair warning. I skew towards the younger backpacking crowd, but honestly, there’s something for everybody this month.
So let’s get started.
1-Oct. 13th – Ibiza Closing Parties (Ibiza, Spain) – As if anybody under the age of 30 needs an excuse to go to Ibiza (which, coincidentally, is usually the cutoff where you become classy and educated enough to pronounce it right). But starting September 1st, the clubs and parties start to prepare for their winter hibernation (read: hangover recovery). And Ibiza isn’t the kind of place to go quietly into that good night. There’s a full schedule leading to the final soiree – pick a party and dance yourself silly.
1st – Il Saracino (Arezzo, Italy) – Remember when going to a Renaissance Fair meant a surefire wedgie come Monday morning math class? Now that the nerds have inherited the Earth, you can finally admit to yourself that dudes on horses in armor thrusting giant metal spears into each other’s faces is actually kind of badass. For Il Saracino (“Joust of the Saracens”), the whole town comes out to dress up in old clothes and watch four horsemen try to kill an effigy in the most glorious manner ever. With the authentic Italian atmosphere, it might just be the closest to living Game of Thrones you’ll ever get.
3-8th – MFNW (Portland, Oregon) – I guess I shouldn’t begrudge the organizers for calling their festival “Music Festival North West.” We all have creative stumbles occasionally. I mean, Batman is literally a Man dressed like a Bat, and he turned out alright. This three-day festival is like a mini SXSW (which is probably where it got its name, so its both boring and derivative), decentralizing the location in exchange for a more cultural feel. And with a lineup like this years, it deserves to sit next to all the other great American music fests. Just maybe not on paper. Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot… Music Festival North West. One of these things is not like the others.
5-8th – Bestival (Isle of Wight, England) – If we’re sticking to a theme of festival names, then we’ve just gone from creatively bankrupt to gloriously arrogant. I mean, if you’re gonna call your festival Bestival, then you need to be able to walk that walk. Winning Best UK Festival helps. Winning it several times is just rubbing it in your face. This year is Bestival’s 10th anniversary, so if you think your mind can take what’s in store when a giant party throws its own birthday party, then get yourself to the Isle of Wight. They’re pulling out all the stops. Bike there, swim there, I don’t care. And given how Green Bestival tries to be, biking there might be the best birthday present you can give it.
7-8th – Rock The Bells (Los Angeles, California) – Anybody reading this list can probably ascertain what kind of music I like. Just look at the pictures. Chances are the guys at Bestival wearing Indian headdresses and tie-dye shirts aren’t the same guys hitting up the Gathering of the Juggalos later (call me biased, that shitshow will never be making this list). But hey, guess what? I love hip-hop and rap. Rock The Bells is a great festival for it with all the big names. It’s got a few more locations (San Francisco and New York), so check the website for the dates if you’re interested. And speaking of 10th birthdays, Rock The Bells is hitting double digits too. If you’ve got the power of Super Speed (or Super Skip-half-of-Bestival-and-catch-a-plane-to-LA) , then try to hit up both of them and see how they compare. Chances are they’re making different wishes on those candles.
7th – The Braemar Gathering (Braemar, Scotland) – It’s every man’s worst nightmare: being intimidated by a guy in a skirt. But when that guy is tossing a 20-foot log (not what it sounds like, despite the skirt) and pulling twenty other guys into the mud for the tug of war, you’ll be forgiven for stepping aside when he walks through a doorway, kilt twirling ever-so-sweetly in the breeze. The Braemar Gathering is one of the original Scottish Highland Games. While you probably won’t be joining in the games (you weakling!), you’re more than welcome to grab yourself a kilt and buy a round of scotch at the bar. And make sure you congratulate the winner. After all, there can only be one (sorry).
10-14th – Unknown Festival (Rovinj, Croatia) – At a certain point, music festivals can start to blend together until the only difference is location. If you subscribe to that school of thought, then you can still do worse than a coastal forest in Croatia. But with its giant art installations and killer lineup, Unknown elevates above the rest. It’s also one of the only festivals in the world to offer more than just camping on-site. We’re talking four-star apartments for rent within a minute’s walking distance to the festival grounds. Combine that with the yacht parties taking place just offshore all weekend, and you’ve found yourself the trust fund baby’s festival. Buy your way into whichever VIP section you want – the bar for really ballin’ it up has been raised.
10-15th – Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival (Fredericton, Canada) – I’ll admit, a lot of the festivals I suggest aren’t the most family-friendly of affairs. They’re usually the kind of place where you can practically trip and fall into a big bowl of drug-addled 20-somethings. So allow me to get classy. The Harvest Festival in Canada has expanded beyond its Jazz and Blues roots – you can hear everything from hip-hop to pop there – but it retains its intimate atmosphere, with a collection of small venues hosting 400+ acts over the course of six days. There’s just something about jazz and blues that make you want to dress nicely and drink an expensive glass of wine. So take a break in your debauchery and get a little bourgeois.
13-15th – Riot Fest (Chicago, Illinois) – When I was a kid, I thought I was a punk. I listened to bands like Blink-182, Brand New, and Yellowcard. Of course, I wasn’t actually punk – I dressed like my good ol’ mother told me to and ate my vegetables – but the music at least defined my middle school experience. So Riot Fest is a bit like a time machine. All of those great bands (who admittedly kept making music after I was over them) are coming back together, and they’re bringing their friends from ska, metal, hip-hop, and even some quieter indie. So if you want to break out and rage against, I don’t know, some machine somewhere, then this is your stop.
13-15th – Festival No. 6 (Portmeirion, UK) – Festival No. 6 is either some kind of post-modern commentary on the increasing ubiquity of the music festival as a concept presented to youth culture through a façade of progress hiding a corporate shadow… or the creators were just lazy as fuck. Either way, congratulations Festival No. 6, you’ve officially surpassed “Music Festival North West” for least creative name. It’s reminiscent of some Levi’s Jeans, which makes more sense since it bills itself as a “bespoke” festival. I assume that means classy, and if you take a look at the pictures, you’ll think so too. For something claiming to be a “small” festival, it definitely has an air of decadence around the venue, and the big name lineup is the nail in the coffin to this thing’s identity crisis. I have no idea. Check it out.
13-15th – Lobster Festival (Los Angeles, California) – Finally, a non-music festival! It’s hard to imagine the days when lobsters were considered a shit food, the kind of thing you serve to prisoners and the poor (though their logic was sound – we’re afraid of little spiders yet are totally cool with these fuckin’ ocean roaches?). Now you’re lucky if you can afford to eat it once a year. And that once a year is here. The Lobster Festival holds the Guiness world record for Most Seafood Served in a Day. They fly in fresh Maine lobster at all hours and cook it on the spot for you. There’s a beach near me in Vietnam that sells fresh lobster, and even that’s, like, $17/kilo. I only wish I could be in LA for this.
13-22nd – Rock in Rio (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – South America doesn’t really show up on my lists very much. Outside of Carnival, there’s just not that many festivals down there that aren’t so regional that they’re worth thousands of miles of travel. Which is a shame, because Brazilians are some of the most beautiful people on Earth, and they know it. So with that in mind, it’s safe to say that when they do throw a party, the world takes notice. Rock in Rio is the largest music festival on Earth. Over a million people attend every year. If that doesn’t say enough about its credentials, then I don’t know what does. This year’s got everybody from Beyonce to Metallica playing, so if you’re able to go, you should. It’s safe to say that you’ll be able to find something you like. Besides the millions of gorgeous Brazilians.
15th – Cow Ball (Bohinj, Slovenia) – So, I’m not one to judge. Everything is a reason to celebrate. But the people of Bohinj really stretch for it when they throw the Cow Ball, a giant celebration… to their cattle. To be fair, it’s really more of an alpine celebration, with yodeling, cheesemaking, dancing, music, and everything that makes a festival great. But the centerpiece is still the cows coming back to pasture. So I hope you like milk. Or at least White Russians. Though you shouldn’t need the latter to start showing off your yodeling skills.
15-16th – Grito de Dolores/Fiesta Patria (Mexico City, Mexico) – Also known as Mexican Independence Day. If you thought Americans went HAM for their country, then you don’t know Mexico. They’re so patriotic, they start the party the day before. At 11 PM on the 15th, the President will utter the Cry of Dolores to signal the beginning of the event, at which point there are parades and music all over the city. If you can’t make it to the capital, there are celebrations in towns all over the country. And hey, maybe it’ll embody so much brotherhood and patriotic goodwill that even the cartels will stop beheading people while you’re there! Party in peace! Ha, just kidding. Like the cartels would stop beheading people. It’s like they get off on that shit. But seriously. Mexico’s a beautiful country, and as long as you’re not stupid, you’ll be fine to visit and celebrate with them.
19th – Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan, Thailand) – See previous calendars.
20-21st – iHeartRadio Festival (Las Vegas, Nevada) – Look, guys, I know you don’t want to go to Vegas. But, hey, come on, listen to me. I know Vegas sucks and doesn’t have anything fun to do. But let me just try to convince you. Paul McCartney just joined the lineup for this festival and… no, Paul McCartney. I don’t know, he was some old dude in a rock band. Yeah, I know seeing some old dude sing in a boring town like Vegas sounds terrible but come on, give it a chance? If it sucks you can always drive over and see, like, the world’s biggest ball of yarn. That sounds riveting.
20-24th – Festes de la Mercé (Barcelona, Spain) – It’s pretty clear that music festivals are the lifeblood of my travel ambitions. But sometimes the best festivals aren’t nearly so… restricted. For La Mercé, the entire city goes crazy. Over four days, there’s something like 600 events – from swimming races in the harbor to fun runs, from free concerts to parades. And those are just the normal ones. There are also papier-mâché giants roaming the streets and human pyramids in the squares. The human pyramids involve dozens of people and can rise over 40 feet into the air, so at least you know the person at the top won’t be blowing over with those balls of steel weighing him down.
20-24th – Hermanus Whale Festival (Hermanus, South Africa) – Seems like September is the month of animal homecomings. Though, to be fair, whales are a whole hell of a lot more exciting to see than cows (and they smell better). Everybody in town gathers on the bluffs to watch the whales come swimming back into the harbor. Or, well, I guess just the tops of them. Occasionally. When they need to breath. They fill the time between whale breaths with food, concerts, arts & crafts. So if you go, don’t get so drawn in to the distractions that you forget to check out the whale backs in that slim window where you can actually see them.
21st – Virgin Mobile Free Fest (Columbia, Maryland) – Man, it’s just creative name central up in here. But you know what? I’m okay with this one. You know why? Because it’s FREEE! I mean, if you don’t have tickets then scalping one will probably cost some bucks, but it’s the thought that counts, right? They didn’t have to make it free. Merriweather Post Pavilion is one of the best venues in the world, and the lineup is absolutely stacked for a single-day festival. Fun fact: the 2006 edition of this show was the first music festival I ever attended. I was 16 years old and thought that hippy with the dreads and weird dance moves was just drunk. The times they are a’changin’.
21st – Egremont Crab Fair (Egremont, England) – This fair was established in the 1200s. And like all things from the Dark Ages, it’s weird and a little backwards. Sure, some of it is fairly standard festival fare: the music, the food, the art. It’s the competitions that really make you scratch your head. The greased pole climb isn’t exactly the most complicated thing in the world (though obviously not the easiest either), but then there’s the gurning competition. You stick your head through a horse collar and twist your face into the most ridiculous shape you can, then snap a picture for all of your friends to laugh at for the rest of your life. It’s the kind of thing everybody has done in the privacy of their own home but would normally never reveal in public – just like all the other worst parts of the Dark Ages.
21-Oct 6 – Oktoberfest (Munich, Germany) – I really don’t feel the need to write too much about Oktoberfest on here. I will, however, laugh about how the majority of the fair takes place in September. Look, you know what this is. Hot chicks in dirndls serving twelve pints of Spatenbräu at a time, prost!-ing your maßkrüge so hard it shatters, sloshing all over your sauerbraten and laugenbrezel. You know, basic stuff. It’s the biggest fair in the world, so if you haven’t heard about it, chances are you don’t drink beer anyway. Just make sure you’ve got a handle on how to get home. There’s a reason every picture of Oktoberfest you see is taken during the daytime – at night, there are too many people passed out facedown in the shot.
26-29th – Galway Oyster Festival (Galway, Ireland) – Ireland’s oyster festival must have a bit of a younger sibling complex, seeing as it’ll never top St. Patrick’s Day in the world’s eyes. Which is a shame, because it’s still one of the biggest and best festivals in Europe, with shucking competitions, parades, music… and of course, all the seafood you could eat. Plus, it’s Ireland. You can expect all the pubs to get in on the action.
27-28th – City of Stars (Lilongwe, Malawi) – Man, it’s the month of double digits, September. But this anniversary is the biggest. It’s the only one that upgraded from a Lake of Stars to a City! The Lake of Stars organizers aren’t putting on a festival on the actual lake shore this year, so they’ve moved it inwards in an effort to expand both in size and scope. With more art, more music, and a whole new system, the City of Stars wants to become the entry port for visitors discovering the heart of Africa and finding out that it’s not all darkness. It goes down rain or shine, but don’t worry about rain. I hear it’s blessed.
27-29th – TomorrowWorld (Fairburn, Georgia) – Well that was a nice little run of non-music festivals, huh? I feel refreshed! But hey, culture’s overrated. Let’s get back to the debauchery! TomorrowWorld is the second festival to come out of the now-franchised Tomorrowland brand of electrowhatthefuckitude. When they announced it, everybody expected some new and exotic location (I mean, the original is in Boom, Belgium. How great a name is that?). Instead, it’s in Fairburn, Georgia. Hey, I guess that’s exotic to somebody. Because nothing says “young, open-minded, and willing to try new things with interesting people of different races” like the Deep South. Who knows? Maybe the locals will end up loving it.
28th – Shakedown (Brighton, England) – When I was in Europe earlier this year, everybody told me to go to Brighton. It’s got the fun atmosphere of the Geordie Shore scene without the, well, Geordie Shore scene. This single-day festival is a nice quick little jaunt through that town. It’s an electronic festival with a surprisingly great lineup, featuring a good mix of up-and-comers and international heavy hitters. If you’ve got a free day in England (and you’re traveling. You’ve got nothing but free days), then you might as well stop by for a good time.
28th – Sensation (Kaohsiung, Taiwan) – Finally, an Asian festival that isn’t the Full Moon Party! Although, to be fair, it’s not strictly Asian. Sensation goes everywhere. For its Taiwan edition, the theme is Wicked Wonderland, or as the website describes it, “a journey of sexual and emotional discovery.” I don’t know about you, but I have no clue how to dress for that. It sounds fun anyway. I don’t know how well known Taiwan is for cutting loose, but hey, I’m sure it’ll be Sensational (sorry again).
28-29th – Listen Out (Perth/Sydney, Australia) – It’s a one day festival taking place in two locations, so for the more mobile Elsewhere Fans out there, it’s probably possible to hit both. It’s billed under the made up genre of “IDM,” or Intelligent Dance Music. I’m not sure how intelligent music can be when it’s the kind of event people dope up their brain chemistry to attend, but hey, I like Disclosure. And Azealia Banks. Nothing says “intelligent dance music” like the song that goes, “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten.” That’s a lot of quotes. Maybe the intelligence is in all the different ways you can try to define it or make fun of it.
29th – Atlantic Antic (Brooklyn, New York) – It doesn’t seem fitting to end the month on one of the smaller offerings I’ve got for you, but the Atlantic Antic hits close to home. The Brooklyn block party turns an entire street into a walking festival. Explore the area, grab some food, check out some art. America’s got some pretty cool stuff.
For Future Reference – Tickets for Primavera Sound (May, Barcelona) go up in price on September 2nd. Glastonbury (June, Somerset) is still doing registration to buy tickets in October, so take care of that if you want to go. Tickets are on sale now for EDC Orlando (November, Orlando) and Big Day Out (January, Australia). The Mongol Rally (July, London) is open now as well and has reduced pricing until November.
Wow, a big month! Or maybe I was just writing more about them. Either way, check ‘em out! If you’ve got any suggestions about something I’ve missed, go ahead and send it my way! Elsewhere Man out.