One thing I learned entering the second year of Elsewhere Plans: it’s gonna be a hell of a lot easier this year. Turns out, a lot of things worth going to are worth going to twice. Who know? I’ll be updating as necessary, but much of the information is a foundation on which to build a solid Animal House. We’re in the last month of Summer in the northern hemisphere, which means we’re getting to the end of Festival Season. Lots of music festivals hitting the climax, not so many cultural ones. As before, you can look into even more music festivals near you through this guide courtesy of Music Festival Junkies.
As has become the staple here, an easy to read Google Calendar version.
The Elsewhere Man’s Top 5
1-3rd – Nozstock the Hidden Valley (Hereford, England) – When I think about Jurassic Park style surroundings, that seclusion, Costa Rica jumps to mind. Maybe Guatemala or Brazil. Not fuckin’ Hereford, England. I don’t think the dinosaurs were into tea and crumpets. But god bless ’em for trying. I love the theme. And it does have the small, intimate atmosphere that you’d want from a festival, so if they want to play the Land That Noz Forgot, then by all means, get your rawr on.
1-3rd – Lollapalooza (Chicago, Illinois) – One of America’s premiere music festivals in the heart of one of it’s biggest cities. It’s also one of the only big festivals to lack a camping portion. Because of this, it tends to skew a little further away from the drugged out hippy culture you may expect. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go out of your mind in a mildly-offensive native headdress, just that some parents may cover their kids’ eyes when you do. This year, they’ve gone cashless, meaning you can pay just by tapping your wristband. Because if there’s one thing intoxicated people needed, it was an easier way to spend money.
1-4th – Þjóðhátíð/Westman Islands Festival (Heimaey, Iceland) – If somebody sends me a recording of themselves saying this festival’s name five times fast, I will personally mail you my jaw after it falls to the floor. I’ll even sign it. But be careful, the last guy that tried pronounced it wrong and accidentally summoned a demon. So, you know, there’s that. This is a three-day party for the locals, so make friends with them. You might get some puffin kebabs out of it.
1-11th – Esala Perahera (Kandy, Sri Lanka) – I’m not sure how a display of the original Buddha’s tooth turned into an extravagant parade of elephants dressed up like Christmas trees, but there you go. Cultures are weird. It’s a bright and festive mood, but your enjoyment of it might hinge on whether you think it’s abuse to dress the elephants up like that. Some people do. Personally, I think the only abuse going on is how ugly some of the dressings are (heeeeeey!), but it’s up to you.
1-25th – Fringe Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland) – When I was in Edinburgh last year, I was told that Fringe was both the most amazing and the most infuriating time of the year for the whole city. That’s the trouble with hosting something cool… lots of people want to go. Personally, I can put up with a lot of shit from crowds for the smallest things (I may be the only Angeleno on Earth that doesn’t mind traffic, who knew?), so a month of music, art, books, and shows are worth a little jostling to me.
2nd – Street Parade (Zurich, Switzerland) – In 2010, Berlin’s Love Parade was cancelled after a crowd rush killed dozens of people and injured hundreds. But you know what they say, when you fall off the horse, and that horse crushes you to death in a crowd rush, get your mangled body back in the saddle. The Street Parade is the Love Parade’s spiritual successor, but it’s got better planning to (hopefully) prevent any huge disasters. But hey, if people are down to run with the bulls, then walking with people should be a breeze.
2-3rd – Hard Summer (Los Angeles, California) – My opinion of Hard’s events has shifted a lot. I used to think they were fantastic and I would never want to miss them. Then again, I also used to think the whole Kandi PLUR culture was cool. Now, they’re really kind of gross and very saturated with 15 year olds rolling tits for the first time, sucking on pacifiers and asking you for your Rave Name. But hey, if that’s your thing (that is, if you are also 15 years old, or a predator), then you’ll have a good time.
4-10th – Guca Brass Festival (Guca, Serbia) – It’s hard to believe a town of 5,000 people could draw 600,000 visitors just to watch a Battle of the Brass Bands. But hey, bigger crowds have gathered for worse reasons, and when Miles Davis is impressed with the trumpet section, it lends a bit of legitimacy to the bands on stage, no matter what kind of name recognition they have. And considering how shitty EDM festivals have become lately, it’s a good chance to get outside your comfort zone. And when EDM becomes the comfort zone compared to jazz, the world is a very strange place indeed.
4-11th – Boom Festival (Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal) – Boom is such a great word. It’s the thumping bass that rattles your ribcage. It’s the town Tomorrowland takes place in. It’s short enough that saying it, like, five times gives it some semantic satiation, and it no longer sounds like a word. Boom boom boom. Hard to think about, but that’s the point of music. To make you feel it, not think it. Boom Festival in Portugal is on a Biennial schedule, which means if you don’t make it this year, it’s gonna be a long two years before you get the chance again. Boom boom boom.
5-9th – Øyafestivalen (Oslo, Norway) – Norway is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. The writer of How To Train Your Dragon set it there just so he could visit for “research purposes.” That really doesn’t matter much in the context of Øya, considering the festival is set in the city of Oslo and you’re not gonna be watching the bands perform from the tip of Trolltunga. But it’s still one of the best music festivals in Europe according to dozens of authorities, and if it’s enough to draw you into the country, it’ll be enough to make you want to see more.
6-10th – Boardmasters (Cornwall, England) – No matter what people tell me, I still don’t believe the English can surf. I mean, they say they can. I had a good friend visit who told me she and her ex surf all the time, and that they were really good at it. Then we visited Byron Bay, and though you could trip and fall onto a surfboard in that town, I never saw her on the water. So this festival celebrating English surfing could very well be a great time on the beach. Or it could be a bunch of people in monocles talking about a wave they once caught. English culture.
7-9th – Oppikoppi (Limpopo, South Africa) – When you read down to Sziget, you’re gonna get a sense of my love of festivals with ridiculous names. Sure, they can mean something in another language or be the name of a place, but they’re so much easier to remember and connect with when the name originally reminds you of something you’d find in a Batman sound effect. And Africa needed a festival like that. The African landscape is a nice draw, but if you want to get there for free, enter some of the events on site (read: Naked Olympics, exactly what it says on the tin) to win passes to next year’s fest.
7-9th – Way Out West (Gothenburg, Sweden) – You gotta hand it to the Swedes… they make awesome tunes. From the indie folk of José Gonzalez to Shout Out Louds’ rock to some kind of techno mafia or whatever they’re called, they run the gamut of great. And they all seem to go home for Way Out West. Of course, there’s a good chance that half the people I’m thinking of are actually Swiss. I’m American, forgive my geography.
7-9th – Isle of Dreams (Sea of Galilee, Israel) – Maybe it’s the constant threat of warfare and the hot chicks in bikinis carrying assault rifles, but Israel never really seemed like a party town. And Isle of Dreams isn’t an Israeli festival – it’s also going on in Switzerland and Turkey – but the Israeli festival is definitely the one to attend. It takes place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have performed most of his major miracles. So hey, even if you don’t believe in that stuff, it’s got a reputation for neat stuff happening.
7-10th – Wilderness Festival (Charlbury, England) – I learned a new term while looking up this festival. “Bobo.” It’s an affluent person who still maintains the hippy idealism of their drugged out youth. So basically, you backpackers, plus twenty years and the idea that you may actually have some money one day. Wilderness Festival is apparently full of these Bobos, which could either make it mom-trying-to-impress-your-friends lame, or really motherfucking fun. I guess it’s up to your tastes.
7-10th – Bristol Balloon Festival (Bristol, England) – It’s a shame balloons aren’t that popular anymore. Who knows why, but oh the humanity! They’ve gone from “Around the World in 80 Days” to “Up and Down a Street in New York on Thanksgiving.” But they still have potential to be awesome, and the Bristol Balloon Festival is one of the events trying to make sure they’re seen that way. The Nightglow, when the balloons are inflated in the dark and lit up like lanterns, give the event a music festival vibe, so their heads are in the right place.
7-24th – Darwin Festival (Darwin, Australia) – I’m a sucker for long festivals. After a few days, it stops being an event and starts being a way of life. Darwin is already a backpacking destination during the winter months (it’s the only place in Australia that stays warm and tropical, really), so arriving to a platter of workshops, concerts, and cabarets is akin to finding Nirvana. It may be a bit crowded, given the small nature of the city, but hey, sharing is caring.
8-10th – Outside Lands (San Francisco, California) – Take the world class lineup (and world class looking audience) of Coachella, the cool, inner-city location of Lollapalooza, and toss in the cuisine and drink of NorCal. That’s Outside Lands. Like Lollapalooza, there’s no camping, so expect an older crowd again. Feel free to drug it up – it’s San Francisco, you won’t be alone – but I find this to be a better opportunity for spending your attention on the food and wine, as far as festival accoutrements go.
8-11th – Shambhala (Salmo, British Columbia) – In Buddhism, Shambhala is a hidden paradise city in Asia. You’ve probably heard of it by its bastardized western name, Shangri-La. I’ve said for a while now that music festivals are the modern paradise, but even still, It’s a lofty eponym to aspire to, but if the War of 1812 taught us anything, it’s that Canadians don’t shy away from something that could come back and bite them in the ass.
10th – Full Moon Party (Koh Phangan, Thailand) – I always give EDM festivals a hard time for involving ridiculous foreigners getting out of control. So I don’t know why I’ll give the Full Moon Party such high marks. Maybe because I’ve been. I’ve seen the people fucking in the water while logs of human shit float right into them. And yet, there’s still something fun about the beach party that makes it okay, if only just once. And while I normally just refer to past articles for info on this one, the August event will involve a Super Moon. Which has no bearing on anything at all in reality, but you can bet people there will make it a thing.
10th – City2Surf (Sydney, Australia) – I totally forgot to include San Francisco’s Bay 2 Breakers Run in the Elsewhere Plans past, which is a shame, because it used to be the largest city run in the world. Until Sydney started its City2Surf run, so I guess it all balances out. City2Surf is directly inspired by Bay 2 Breakers, which means that it comes with all the delightful weirdness. Costumes, naked runners, course-wide drinking… of course, you could take it seriously and run it as a real champion, but why would you?
10th – La Pourcailhade (Hautes-Pyrénées, France) – When you’re’ traveling, your nutrition goes to shit. Living off Instant Noodles and cheesy beans only keeps us alive because we’re in our early 20s and our metabolism is spicy hot fire. So when you do get the opportunity to feast, you take it. The Festival of the Pig, in France, is literally that. All the pork you can eat, along with porcine races, shows, and even impressions. It’s like that opening scene of Spirited Away, but without the nightmares.
10-12th – Puck Fair (Killorglin, Ireland) – Did you know that, despite all reputations, all bars in Ireland close at 2 am? And people give America shit. That’s why everybody loves the Puck Fair, when the King Puck (a wild goat found in the mountains) is captured and put on display for three days. Goats don’t care about drinking laws, so while the King Puck rules over the town, bars stay open for an extra hour and the townspeople take advantage. Somehow they stay coherent enough to put on a bunch of other events as well, but we know why you’re going there.
11-17th – Monterey Auto Week and Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (Carmel, California) – This one’s for the motorheads out there (that’s car enthusiasts, not crack fans). Every year, one one week, Monterey turns into the biggest and best place to check out all the cars you will never, ever get to drive. The final day is the Concours d’Elegance, the only place to see the 200 nicest cars in the world, including the only extant Phantom Corsair around. Take a look at these things, and imagine how much classier the drunk driving must have been back in the day.
11-18th – Sziget (Budapest, Hungary) – I love nonsense festival names. Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza. Sziget is either the name of the island where the music festival is held or the sound Hungarians make when they sneeze. What I do know is that this seven day island bash is one of the craziest and biggest festivals in the entire world. The organizers have successfully fought off lawsuits by the city to keep the noise levels down, because fuck the man, punk’s not dead (though it is a little more self aware, I guess). They operate a “party train” service to bring people in from all over the world. Try to get on it.
13-15th – Obon (Japan) – When I first started this these guides, I told myself I would have a nice amount of cultural events to balance out all the deliberate monstrosities of debauchery I’d be focusing on. Karmic balance and all that. Summer months tend to swing a little further towards the sunny sessions, so Obon is gonna have to make up a lot of work. As the Japanese version of Day of the Dead, Obon is heavily about family, so don’t expect too many lavish public gatherings. However, it does have some local extravagence. Take note, though. Obon is celebrated at different times in different parts of the country, so don’t miss out because you got on the wrong train.
13-16th – Tetsuya Odori (Gujohachiman, Japan) – You’re already in Japan for Obon, but for some reason the locals aren’t too keen on having you sit in on their family gathering. That’s okay. In Gujohachiman, Obon is more of an interruption for a festival already taking place – the Gujo Odori, a gigantic month-long dance party for everybody involved. During Obon, it turns into the Tetsuya Odori, and for four nights straight, you’ll be dancing from 8 PM to 5 AM. It doesn’t matter how good you are at dancing – just stand next to the people that do and see how well you can blend in. Now, if you’re already a good dancer, you should be on your way to Argentina already…
13-26th – Tango Festival (Buenos Aires, Argentina) – Last year, I wrote about how seriously South Americans take their dancing. For two weeks, the city practically turns into High School Musical with dances going on everywhere. This year, it’s gonna be a dangerous game of wait-and-see with the World Cup going on. If Argentina does well (and hey, Neymar’s out), then there will be reason to be dancing in the streets. If they don’t, well… the locals may not be too enthusiastic.
14-16th – Pukkelpop (Kiewit, Belgium) – Ah, here we go. Back to the straight up music festivals. And sure enough, it’s in Belgium. Why does Belgium get all the great music festivals? Pukkelpop sounds like it should be the embarrassingly inebriated cousin of Pinkpop, vomiting on the table in front of guests and falling out of its chair. Like Pinkpop, Pukkelpop is a little more rock-oriented, but it still brings in plenty of pop and electronic acts. It also gives free camping along with the ticket, because Pukkelpop has learned a thing or two about tent management in years past.
15-17th – Philadelphia Folk Festival (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – A year or so ago, my parents went to a Jimmy Buffet concert in Philadelphia. Parrotheads are a special brand of old person – they’re generally upstanding members of the public, pay their taxes, take their metamucil, but get a margarita in them and suddenly they can make their teenage children look like the Cosby Kids. Now, I’m not saying that the Philadelphia Folk Festival will have that kind of audience. Shit, I’ve never even been. But I do know that it’s a very parent-friendly festival, and parents at festivals like to remember what it was like to be teenagers at festivals. It’s a tough call whether the better show is on stage or in the crowd.
16th – Henley-on-Todd Regatta (Alice Springs, Australia) – The only regatta in the world to be cancelled because of wet weather. Maybe the only one that encourages boat-to-boat combat. This overland boat race combines the ridiculousness of San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers Run with the awesome drinking power Australians are known for the world over. Put a boat together (or, well, a trash heap that looks like one) or race on a giant hamster wheel… just don’t puke on it. Save that for later.
16th – Il Palio (Sienna, Italy) – I’ve written about Il Palio several times in the past, including last month. It’s a horserace for people who don’t like horseracing. The actual event is, like, 90 seconds long around a single plaza, and you have to stand in place for hours to actually see it. The real fun is wandering the city and taking in the party atmosphere. Pick a Contrada to root for and act like you’ve lived their your entire life. And if that horse finishes the race without its rider in sight, well, there’s always the afterparties.
16-17th – Mount Hagen Cultural Show (Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea) – Cultural shows are a little weird. On one hand, the tourism dollars do wonders for the small local economy, and anthropologically speaking, it’s probably the best way to preserve these island cultures. On the other hand, it’s a little, I don’t know, zoo-ish? I don’t think I’d feel good if a Martian came to my dance recital and started taking pictures to put on Thoraxbook. Either way, it’s the Mount Hagen Cultural Show. Take it or leave it. I hope the dancing is entertaining.
16-17th – Summer Sonic (Tokyo/Osaka, Japan) – Asia doesn’t have a whole lot of music festivals that appeal to me. It’s often more about culture and tradition, and when it’s not, you get shit like Gangam Style and J-Pop. Summer Sonic takes its inspirations a little further, making it more accessible to western tourists. So if you decide that you’re not too into listening to three chicks with giant pink anime hair, you can at least go listen to an artist you know with giant purple curly hair. You can go to either location, as they share acts.
16-17th – V Festival (Staffordshire, England) – When I was 16, I went to my very first music festival. Virgin Mobile Festival, in Baltimore. I naively wondered why all these 20-year-olds with beards were acting so funny and laughing at everything, and eventually I had to drive my brother and his friends home while they slept in the front seat. It was awesome. V Festival is the English equivalent, and while I’m not going to be there, I’ll be willing to bet there will be just as many 20-year-olds acting strangely.
22-24th – Reading/Leeds (Wetherby/Leeds, England) – As far as European festivals go, I’ve heard fewer great things about these ones. The younger crowd (16+) seems to be a big reason, and there are probably better options. But Reading did give me this video, which is one of my favorite live performances ever (especially because of the audience participation), so I’m still calling it a must visit.
22-24th – Creamfields (Cheshire, England) – England is one of the last bastions of the classic rave. The warehouse party with a small and intimate audience dancing to cutting edge musical styles with a culture all their own. It’s great. Cool. Creamfields doesn’t do that. Creamfields is a massive festival in the spirit of EDC, with top notch DJs and an audience that doesn’t know if its PLUR or mainstream. I’ve never been, so I can’t comment on whether it looks more like EDC or Tomorrowland (for better or worse, really), but it’s worth a shot. I’d rather go to Reading/Leeds.
22-25th – Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival (Los Angeles, California) – People love to say that Los Angeles doesn’t have a culture. That’s correct. Los Angeles is every culture. It’s one of the few places in the world you can get Ethiopian, Korean, Jewish, Thai, or any other kind of cuisine on the same day, and not get sick of a single one of them. I’m not being biased. Want proof? Come to the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival. Come see why Los Angeles is the best culinary destination in the United States.
23-24th – FYF (Los Angeles, California) – FYF has always been a no brainer – the cheap tickets, the great lineup, the easy access. There are fewer reasons to skip it than not, so if you happen to be in Los Angeles over this weekend, just go. You’ll be spending the ticket price on drinks otherwise, so put the money to something better. Foreigners take note: those people camping nearby? On the street? Homeless, not festival goers. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
24th – World Bog Snorkeling Championship (Llanwyrld Wells, Wales) – World Bog Snorkeling sounds like something a couple of drunk guys came up with while they were stumbling home from the bar. But then again, that’s where some of the best ideas come from. WBS is exactly what it sounds like. You strip down, climb into a bog, and paddle a few laps through the mud and snakes. There’s a lot of liquid courage and liquid wetsuits going around this place, which really just brings it full circle.
24-25th – Notting Hill Carnival (London, England) – When I went to Thailand, I had a quick travel romance with a London girl. I thought it was gonna be the one (I mean, it was my first travel love, of course I did), and when we went home we stayed in constant contact. Then she went to Notting Hill Carnival not too long after, and had such a good time that she forgot all about me. I mean, I assume that’s what happened. Please let that be what happened.
25-September 1st – Burning Man (Black Rock City, Nevada) – Burning Man shouldn’t even be on this list. If you weren’t planning on going for the past year, then chances are you’re not going to make it. I mean, sure, you’ll attend. But you’ll probably die. It’s a gigantic desert full of drugged out hippies who sometimes mistake the giant art car hurtling towards them for their spirit animal. Not to mention the fact that the organizers turn away anybody who doesn’t look up to the challenge. But then again, Burning Man has always attracted the crazy ones, so if you can manage a last minute skydive into the festival, then
27th – La Tomatina (Buñol, Spain) – The Spanish love festivals that involve throwing things at each other. I mean, they’ll do that anyway, but a legitimized event makes it seem less mean-spirited. And since I’m willing to bet money you’ve never actually gotten to participate in a large scale food fight (Thanks Bin Laden!), make your dreams come true here. La Tomatina is like a crack in the dam for all the frustrations you’ve built up by not being able to peg a stranger in the face with a tomato. Trust me, it’s in there. Let out the animal.
27-30th – Air Guitar World Championship (Oulu, Finland) – When I was ten years old, I picked up the guitar. I was a rocker. I played that thing so hard that my fingers bled, and everybody I knew stood in awe and asked, “Colin, when will you get yourself a record deal and trash your first hotel room?” I’m just kidding. That thing was too hard and I went back to playing video games till 3 AM and wiping the cheeto dust off on my shirt. I’m assuming everybody entering into this thing went through a similar lack-of-character development. Hopefully they’re at least tongue-in-cheek about it.
29-31st – Electric Picnic (Stradbally, United Kingdom) – I’ve decided to break EDM festivals down into two different categories. There’s the amazing, unique, special festivals you should try your hardest to attend (Tomorrowland, Lightning in a Bottle). And then there’s the festivals with Electric in their name. From now on, if you see a festival branded Electric X, you can just assume it’s gonna be another unoriginal event lousy with pilled out kids and bad planning.
29-31st – Electric Zoo (New York City, New York) – Hey, case in point! Last year, two people died at Electric Zoo, which forced it to shutter it’s last day. I wrote a bit about responsible drug use after the fact, but sometimes it’s bound to happen when you have events where teeny bopper kandi kids can borrow a sibling’s ID and waltz right in. It’s always touch and go at these things. Tomorrowland does it great, for example. But if you want to risk it, go for it. And hey, look, it’s Electric X. I hate it already.
29-September 1st – Telluride Film Festival (Telluride, Colorado) – There’s gonna be a few people who heard about a massive film festival in Colorado and show up to Telluride, straight-faced expecting to meet Ari Gold. Telluride ain’t no Sundance, but hey, the best parts of Sundance are the mountains anyway. So if you can go and watch some great films with a much more mellow atmosphere, why not?
30-September 1st – Bumbershoot (Seattle, Washington) – The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite places on Earth. I lived near Seattle for a while. The entire city has an atmosphere of art and culture that’s hard to find anywhere else. Bumbershoot is the culmination of that. It’s one of the oldest and largest festivals in America, and with comedy, music, food, and everything in between, it’s definitely worth checking out. I mean, it’ll rain and pour for sure, but you can deal with that, right?
And that’s August. Big month for sure. I feel it prudent to also mention that my Facebook will feature updates on festival ticket sales and the like, so make sure you follow that. Also, bit of an update. In an attempt to introduce some regularity to this blog, Elsewhere Plans will now be published on the first Monday of the month. More updates on this new schedule to follow.