I’m gonna try to be positive here. There are so many awesome festivals to go to this month. A nice mix of cultural festivals to really make you feel like you’ve delved into a new part of the world, and a spattering of music festivals to keep your sense of karma and health chemically castrated. But I say I’m only going to try because I’m sitting here in the Hong Kong airport, a few days removed from Coachella, and the serotonin levels in my brain are flitting spastically between empty and getting shaken down by the Mind Mafia for being so far in debt. I had the best fucking time, you guys. I’ll do a write up about it soon.
There’s a lot to get through this month, so I’ll try to keep things a little shorter, both for your modern attention span and my writing schedule (aka laziness and that serotonin thing I mentioned). As per the usual, and by usual I mean since the last month, you can find an even shorter version of this calendar on a subscription basis on Google and iCloud below:
Let’s take a dive:
1st: Processione dei Serpari (Cocullo, Italy) – I’ve always liked the scene in Raiders where Indy jumps in the plane after coolly escaping from a tribe of killer pygmies, only to freak out at a snake in the seat. So many people are afraid of snakes. So I really want to see this little procession, where an entire Samuel L. Jackson movie’s worth of snakes are paraded through the city in a Groundhog Day style determination of harvest worth. The snakes are all defanged and released into the forest afterwards, so one can only assume how fun it is walking home in the country after dinner.
1-3rd: Liverpool Sound City (Liverpool, England) – Liverpool gets the honor of being the first music festival I write about after Coachella, when I’m still buzzing at the gills to go to another one. So I have no idea how great this one is – it claims to be the largest metropolitan festival in the UK with 350 artists over 25 venues, plus conferences, art, and films – but I’m gonna say it’s worth it regardless. A festival that large couldn’t fuck up an entire weekend worth of memories if it tried booking an Adolf Hitler art appreciation panel as a headliner.
2-3rd: Estrella Levante SOS 4.8 (Murcia, Spain) – A couple of months ago, I went on a tangent about dumb festival names. And that was for shit like Festival No. 6, which at least makes sense in context. Estrella Levante SOS 4.8 is the seventh edition of the festival, and unless it’s some viral marketing for a new Android OS, I’m not really picking up on the reason for the number system. I don’t know, everything’s in Spanish. From what I remember from college, I think we’re at “Eastern Star SOS 4.8.” Roll with it. I guess. Kick off the European festival circuit with a resounding “huh?”
2-4th: Combat des Reines (Valais, Switzerland) – There’s something delightfully weird about Switzerland. If my write-ups don’t specifically have to do with international bands or snow, they’re usually about cheese and cows. I guess cows are a big deal in the Alps. The Combat des Reines (Fight of the Queens) is a cow-fight, which is like a cat-fight but with any sexy implications replaced with big heifers slamming into each other with horns. Tickets are pretty cheap, but the real money is in the gambling, where even the winning cow’s calves can be worth their weight in golden cheese. It’s packaged with all the usual Swiss stereotypes, which I assume means you cheer on the cows by yodeling.
2-4th: Austin Psych Fest (Austin, Texas) – Nowadays, psychadelic music leans towards people like Ott and Shpongle, with big electronic shows and visuals that look like somebody took six tabs of acid and forgot to look at anything besides their own eyelids. Maybe all of music has an EDM tilt these days, but they stand on the shoulders of giants, and Austin Psych Fest is there to celebrate those roots. The days when velvet posters had such crazy font that only those in the know could even be bothered to lean in and see where the gig was. When those acid visuals still came from guitars and drums. It’s the true predecessor to the aesthetic so many festivals try to copy these days, so you know that it’s authentic.
3rd: Kentucky Derby (Louiseville, Kentucky) – Ah, the Kentucky Derby. It’s like Cannes meets your dumb buddy’s drunken go-kart track. The perfect way for the upper and lower class to stare at each other through contempt-soaked fences while simultaneously bonding over losing all their money on slow ponies. It’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Of course, high society attends in fancy hats and pretends it’s a classy affair. For the lower class – which I assume includes you, fair backpacker – it’s a shitshow of belligerent drunks having the time of their lives while being too blacked out to watch a single race. If you’re charming enough, you might be able to experience both.
3-4th: Rose Festival (El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, Morocco) – Morocco’s famous for two things. Well, one thing, mostly. Here’s looking at ya, kid. But it’s also one of the biggest growers of roses in the world. The Rose Festival celebrates this, so you can visit and pick out whatever roses of whatever colors you want. It’s a bit like the Tulip Festivals of the Netherlands, except instead of canals and loose morals you get camels and a slinking suspicion that every single local in the area is watching you intently. But hey, it’s Morocco. Cross a continent off your list. Play it again, Sam.
4-5th: Electric Zoo Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico) – Mexico is becoming one of the biggest countries in the world for electronic music. Side note; it’s also becoming one of the biggest countries in the world (fatties!). Massives like Electric Zoo, Electric Picnic, and Electric Daisy Carnival (we get it, raves are electric) have all started to move entries south from America for some reason that I’m not privvy to. Maybe it’s just economical. Maybe there’s some connection between drug use and music festivals, if that doesn’t sound too crazy. Why do I always tie my Mexican events to the cartels? I’m starting to sound like a one-trick pony.
6th: Cheung Chau Bun Festival (Cheung Chau, Hong Kong) – You know what? I’m still not entirely sure what this festival even is. It takes place on the island of Cheung Chau (like, whoa) near Hong Kong, and coincides with the celebration of Buddha’s birthday. To celebrate, three 60-foot tall bamboo mountains are built and covered with buns. Men then run up the bun mountains and snatch the highest one they can – the higher the bun, the better the luck. Of course, some of them fall, so maybe the whole luck thing is a bit of a placebo, but whatever makes people happy, right?
6-10th: Canadian Music Festival (Toronto, Canada) – Fun fact: the Canadian Music Festival prides itself on having a great deal of international acts in attendance. Haha, right? I don’t get it either. I mean, it’s not like there’s only one music festival in all of Canada. If anything, Shambalah is the one to go to. If you want to call yourself the Canadian Music Festival, you’d think it would mean that you only have Canadian music. Like, maybe a nice mix of up-and-coming bands with celebrated acts like Third Eye Blind. But nope, you couldn’t even get those guys. But what do I know? I wonder if the Biebs will be there.
8-10th: The Great Escape (Brighton, England) – The first girls I ever met abroad were from Brighton, England. They said it was the most fun place in England, and I believed it just because it was the only thing I’d ever heard. But everybody since then has confirmed it. Great Escape is a big festival covering the beach area of the town, which at least tells me the organizers have some logic when it comes to putting this thing on. And hey, maybe the sun will even come out for it. I mean, I know, it’s England, but a guy can dream.
8-10th: Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival (Thrissur, Kerala, India) – A lot of India’s festivals tend to either gravitate towards the weird (camel festivals, anyone?) to the holy (pilgrimages, holi, etc). The Thrissur Pooram Elephant Festival is as American as it gets – neon lights, fireworks at three in the morning, dancing, and 30 elephants all done up parading through the crowds. Fuck yeah. Kerala is basically festival central in India, but this one is one of the biggest and coolest. You’ll also be bopping around different temples just to make sure you get that cultural side as well, but we know why you’re really there. Elephants dressed like Daft Punk.
10th: Sweetlife (Columbia, Maryland) – Sweetlife may not be the biggest festival you’re gonna see on my calendars, but it’s got a pretty damn good story. It started as a healthy alternative store. A couple college kids got together to do something they loved, and once it took off a bit, they threw an anniversary party in the parking lot. The idea stuck. Now, Sweetlife is drawing ever-bigger names, expanding from the parking lot to the legendary Merriweather Post Pavilion venue. Not shabby for a couple of young dudes a few years out. Maybe in a couple of years you’ll see an Elsewhere Man festival. The gears of Inspiration are turning…
11-18th: Feria del Caballo (Jerez de la Frontera, Spain) – Ernest Hemingway was a man’s man. Drank too much, smoked too much, shot himself in the face with a shotgun. People grew mustaches just by looking at him. There’s a reason he loved Spain so much. There’s fewer things manlier than a cowboy. Except a cowman, I suppose. The Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair – come on, didn’t you take any Spanish in high school?) is a week long celebration of these ideals: horses and cowboys, bullfighting and food. Not to mention it’s one of the biggest fairs in Spain, and one of the first major post-Easter celebrations for the country. Yee-haw.
14th: Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival (Northeast Thailand, Laos) – Oh God. Northern Thailand is dangerous enough as it is, with backpackers passing out from buckets in the streets and getting fondled by not-quite-sanitary ladyboys. Throw in a shit ton of homemade fireworks, and you have a recipe not unlike giving a middle school boy a bottle of ammonia and bleach and telling him to go to town. The Rocket Festival is basically an excuse to launch fireworks into the air at all times of the day. It’s ostensibly in connection with an aspect of Buddhism, but different villages through Northern Thailand and Laos celebrate it in different ways at different times, which kind of dilutes the festival into its most raw element – the chance to be an absolute adrenaline junkie and blow some fingers off in the name of fun.
14-25th: Cannes Film Festival (Cannes, France) – There’s been a lot of talk about Coachella turning into a festival for the 1%, where celebrities go to be seen in nice clothes. Selfies while facing away from stages and all that. I don’t agree with it. Now, if we were talking about Cannes… then you’d have an argument. Everybody knows what Cannes is. The big fancy film festival where people in $4000 suits roll red carpets off of boats so celebrities can drink champagne and talk about their careers. It’s so uptight, hell, even celebrities are starting to hate it. But that doesn’t mean you’re not gonna have a good time in the area when everything’s done up in its Sunday best. The ants eat better when Gordon Ramsay has a picnic in their park.
15th: Corsa dei Ceri (Gubbio, Italy) – Corsa dei Ceri, also known as the Race of the Saints, is probably the only holy parade that involves desperately trying to shove the other person to the ground in the name of getting to church first. The race involves giant statues of saints (hence the name) being carried by teams clad in that saints colors. The goal is the bring the statues to the church before the others, and the course can be long and full of obstacles, not to mention lined with belligerent bystanders. I’m not sure if backpackers can actually join in the festivities, but they can definitely get in on the watching action. It’ll be the only time you don’t feel bad for laughing at a saint breaking his nose.
15th: Waisak (Java, Indonesia) – Waisak is one of the only truly cultural festivals this month, so put those drinking caps away unless you want to be that guy who ruins it for everybody else. The festival is Buddhist and celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. During the festival, monks transport holy water and flames from location to location to signify each event. Watch in solemnity as you realize that for once, you’re actually doing something your parents wouldn’t be ashamed of you for. Congratulations.
15-18th: Hangout Music Festival (Gulf Shores, Alabama) – I’ve mentioned stupid festival names before. I like them nonsensical. Gives them a sense of intrigue (I still don’t know what the hell a Bonnaroo is). When you ask if I want to go to Hangout Festival, I think you’re asking if I want to go sit on lawn chairs in some dude’s front yard while a guy in a wifebeater strums the first three chords to Wonderwall before apologizing and starting over. But, lo and behold, that’s not the case. Hangout is actually a big beach fest on the Gulf of Mexico that looks practically Bahama-esque. I’d go. I mean, I’m sure there will still be dudes who don’t know how to play Wonderwall there, but hey, it’s Alabama. What are you gonna do?
15-18th: Joshua Tree Roots Festival (Joshua Tree, California) – Outside of music festivals, I have two favorite places in the world. Phong Nga Khe Bang National Park in Vietnam is the newer entry on the list, but the original champion is Joshua Tree. There’s something magical about the prehistoric ocean desert with its truffula trees and Hexagonian (don’t look up that word) rock formations. But like I said, those are my favorites – outside of music festivals. But Joshua Tree hosts its own music festival: a blues and roots festival set within the very park I already love so much. It’s one of those obvious combinations that you’ve always wanted without realizing it already exists, like prosciutto and cantaloupe. Seriously, try that, guys. It’s bomb.
21st: Galungan (Bali, Indonesia) – One of my idols is a guy named Chip Conley, who founded a boutique hotel chain and went on to become obsessed with travel and festivals. I’d love to follow in his footsteps (if you’re reading this, Chip, call me!). In his biographies, he lists Galungan in Bali as one of the quintessential festivals, the one that made his obsession begin. For somebody that’s been to hundreds of festivals all over the world at this point, that’s a big endorsement. The festival celebrates the triumph of Dharma over Adharma, and on an island of 20,000 temples, any religious gathering becomes a big deal. Definitely worth checking out.
22-26th: Lightning in a Bottle (Temecula, California) – The first time I went to Coachella, I tried acid. I was tripping bear balls when I wandered into the Do LaB, a performance art collective that sets up a tent at the festival every year. The only way it can be described is a Dubstep Cirque du Soliel, a Cirque du Dirt if you will, a combination of everything glorious about Burning Man and Coachella in one. My addled mind could barely take it. That was just one tent, but fortunately, the Do LaB puts on an entire festival espousing everything it puts into its Coachella digs and more. Lightning in a Bottle is four days of music, art, and communal living. It’s the aesthetics of Coachella and the vibes of Burning man without those judgmental looks from your older coworkers.
22-June 1st: Hay Festival (Hay-on-Wye, Wales) – Wales is like the annoying little brother of England – whenever it does anything wrong, it’s described as Welsh, but whenever it does anything right, it’s described as British. Never any respect. The Hay Festival is one of Wales’ unique festivals that celebrates its location as much as any of the artists that are performing there. Throw in the chilled out vibe of any of England’s bigger festivals, and you’ve got a good answer for whenever anybody asks you, “why the hell are you going to Wales?” Because you will get asked that. A lot. English people just don’t find Wales very worth while. Change their minds.
23-25th: Sasquatch (George, Washington) – Sasquatch is one of those legendary American festivals that, along with Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza, comprise the big four nonsense names that people travel thousands of miles to attend. The Gorge Ampitheatre is one of the most gorgeous venues in the country, which explains one of the huge draws. There were plans to hold a second weekend with a different lineup this year over July 4th, but that fell through due to poor ticket sales (why they didn’t eat the loss is anybody’s guess). Because of that, they’re folding the second weekend into this first Memorial Day one, bringing in a lot more artists. The second weekend had their tickets refunded, but plenty of people are trying to go to the first weekend now, so if you want to go, plan ahead.
23-July 10th: Stars of the White Nights (St. Petersburg, Russia) – There are White Nights events all over the world now (I went to one in Melbourne in January, for example), but the original and biggest is still in Russia. For three weeks, the city turns into an all-night light festival, illuminating the sides of buildings with fantastic colors and patterns. I got too drunk and passed out early when I went (what can I say, goon), but supposedly the event extends from 7 PM to 7 AM, giving you plenty of time to watch the colors at night turn into the colors of sunrise. If you stay awake all night, you can’t get a hangover, right? That’s how Russian vodka works?
24th: Le Guess Who? (Utrecth, Netherlands) – You guys! I found the non-electronic festival in the Netherlands! I never thought I’d see the day! I gave the Dutch a lot of shit about being a one trick pony when it came to music festivals, but this one actually has a pretty nice, chilled out lineup. Neutral Milk Hotel! I missed them at Coachella, but by all accounts they were a pretty awesome sunset set. The festival is celebrating May Day, so lay down in the tulips and enjoy some chilled out Netherlands vibes.
24-25th: Electric Daisy Carnival New York (East Rutherford, NJ) – EDC in Las Vegas is the single largest electronic music festival in the world. Sorry, Ultra. But even with the full force of Vegas, its casinos, and even its politicians backing it, there’s just not enough to go around. They’ve thus expanded to Orlando, Mexico, and New York – and yes, East Rutherford isn’t in New York, but how many tickets do you think it would sell if EDC NJ was written on the banner? Come see our scenic smoke stacks and guidos? At least it’s not Orlando. And since the weather is gonna be warm this time of year, you don’t even need to tell anybody you weren’t in Las Vegas when you change your profile to yourself on some fucked-up dude’s shoulders.
24-26th: Movement (Detroit, Michigan) – I’ve always liked the logic behind music like grunge and metal. Moshing to angry music gives young people a healthy outlet to express their frustration and rage in a way that doesn’t necessarily hurt anybody. I gotta assume that’s the same logic for putting a major music festival in the warzone that is Detroit. And yeah, before anybody gets all offended that I’m making fun of a city that’s even worse than Cleveland, I know there are nice areas. But come on. It’s Detroit. I see people crying because Coachella is over and they have to go back to their homes in Beverly Hills. How do you think it’s gonna go when Movement’s over and people realize they’re still in Michigan?
26th: Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling (Gloucester, England) – Here at Elsewhere Man, we support the responsible use of mind-altering substances, but I would never suggest that those kind of things are actually necessary to have a good time at any of these festivals. But I’m gonna break that vow here. If you’re gonna participate in the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling, you’re gonna have to be drunk. Or just clinically insane. You’ll understand why in a second. You know those comically large wheels of cheese you see in markets? The kind Baxter ate? Imagine one of those rolling down a massive, steep hill, with dozens of drunkards throwing themselves head-over-heels after it. That’s cheese rolling. The alcohol will give you courage to jump, and numb the pain when you break every bone in your body on the way down. Probably more entertaining to watch for most.
29-31st: Primavera Sound (Barcelona, Spain) – You want to hear a bold statement? Primavera Sound 2014 in Barcelona Spain has the single greatest lineup to grace a music festival since I first started paying attention to music festivals back in 2011. Better than any Coachella. There, I’ve said it. Now, I can’t speak to the actual festival experience seeing as I haven’t been – and take it from Governor’s Ball in NYC, the lineup a perfect music festival does not make – but my heart is literally breaking over the fact that I probably won’t get to go. If only because I’m so jealous they get Volcano Choir and Coachella didn’t. So go. Avenge me. And take a lot of photos to send in.
30-June 1st: BottleRock (Napa Valley, California) – You gotta give points for trying. BottleRock premiered last year in the Napa Valley, and the organizers really shot for the moon. Or maybe the sun would be a more apt analogy. Icarus style. Dudes booked talent they couldn’t afford and paid for it by screwing over the caterers, builders, and every other backstage employee they thought they could get away without paying. There were a lot of lawsuits, and I’m not entirely sure how they worked out. If the event is going on this year, I’m going to assume it worked out for the best. Or maybe it didn’t. Use your best judgment when you’re deciding if you want to support these guys. But by all accounts, at least the festival itself was fun.
30-June 7th: Mawazine (Rabat, Morocco) – Morocco is one of those countries everybody knows about thanks to Casablanca, but very few could point out on a map. I blame the education system. Mawazine is the government’s attempt to rectify this, putting the city of Rabat on the world map as a modern, open, liberal city. To this end, the festival itself is put on by the personal secretary of the Moroccan King and features huge name international acts. This also gives it a bit of controversy in the country, since other people in the conservative areas say that Mawazine encourages “immoral behavior.” Like, no shit. No objections there. The question is, are they willing to put up with the immoral behavior that comes with a music festival if it also brings in the backpacking international crowd? I hope so.
30-June 8th: Melbourne International Jazz Festival (Melbourne, Australia) – You’d think Sydney, as the most iconic city in Australia, would be the place to go for festivals. But nope. Turns out, the only cultural leg-up Sydney has on Melbourne is a crazy looking opera house that movie monsters love to smash. Having lived in Melbourne for six months now, I’ll say that there’s always something going on. And while the southern city may be heading into its winter by this time, the cold has always been the best time to listen to some Johnny Coltrane. Good enough for Nas, good enough for you. Since it takes over the entire downtown area, you might as well put on a coat and check out the music you might not have known you loved.
30-31st: Time Warp (Buenos Aires, Argentina) – Time Warp is the melding of German electronic festival sensibilities with the aesthetics and culture of South America. Pretty damn good combination if you ask me. It’s like any of the Electric X festivals move towards Mexico. Maybe there’s some kind of new Imperialism going on here hidden underneath the facade of PLUR. I mean, I know politicians love to paint music festivals as something sinister, but I’m not gonna go into it. Illuminati. I’ve been writing this for hours on no sleep. Coachella. Peace.
And there we go. I’ve tried to keep it shorter this go-around, but once you get talking about something you’re interested in, it’s very difficult to shut up. Just tell all those guys I followed around at Coachella. Chatting away. They couldn’t get rid of me. See you guys.