Once more into the abyss, old friend. We’re back to celebrating April, which is the tipping point for festivals around the world. Just before Summer in the northern hemisphere, when suddenly people have things to be happy about again. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere marches into its standard “winter” in which nothing is altogether cold anyway. From here on out, festivals are going to be happening more and more and more, and it’s going to be your job to figure out which ones you can see without ruining your own life. Check them out below.
And as usual, subscribe to the Elsewhere Plans Festival Calendar March 2015 via an easy-to-read Google Calendar version, as well as a downloadable iCal version. Don’t forget to tweet any that I missed to @theElsewhereman, and I’ll add them in.
The Elsewhere Man’s Top 5
TBD – FESTIMA (Dedougou, Burkina Faso) – I’ll admit, I’ve been unable to find an exact date for this event, which stands for the Festival of Masks and the Arts. Masks are a huge part of West African traditions, and this festival celebrates and protects that tradition with a huge gathering of dance troupes dressed as various animals and spirits. It’s a good bridge between the past and present, with fairly modern concepts like craft workshops and late night dance parties mixed in with everything else.
2-6th – Splashy Fen (Underberg, South Africa) – Splashy Fen is one of the relatively few pure music festivals that take place in Africa, though it’s not really an international one as far as the booked acts go. But hey, it takes place on a farm and it’s full of modern hippies escaping their problems, so you know it’s getting its inspiration internationally at least.
27-May 3rd – AfrikaBurn (Tankwa Karoo National Park, South Africa) – One of the biggest draws of Burning Man in America is the base, tribal aspect. The chance to exist in a closed ecosystem where the weights of modern civilization just doesn’t exist. That kind of logic exists just as much in Africa. I’m not going to pretend I understand the culture but anybody would admit it’s got problems. AfrikaBurn takes the same escape and offers it on another continent. The one in America is in a giant alkaline playa, which is cool, but this is Africa! A giant national park. There’s probably lions and shit. You think lions are fluffy now, imagine what they’re like when you stick a few pills in a steak and get them putting feathers in their manes and wondering why they ever wanted to eat zebras in the first place.
TBD – Konaki Sumo (Tokyo, Japan) – There’s always been a tight bond between sumo wrestlers and babies. One involves chubby, hairless people falling limply into each other while dressed in nothing but a diaper, and the other is babies. Thankfully, the people of Japan are fully aware of this, and they’ve organized a tournament involving nothing but babies sumo wrestling. The Japanese believe that crying is good for a baby and makes them stronger, and so the tots are forced into vicious combat, not unlike the Spartans of old. If you hate children, it’s a very cathartic thing to watch.
2nd – Naghol Land Diving (Pentecost Island, Vanuatu) – Land diving is basically improvised bungee jumping, where loincloth-clad tribal guys jump from rickety wooden platforms, falling 100 feet before being stopped by the tree vines wrapped around their ankles. It’s part of their ritual of becoming a man, which makes sense because the g-forces of that vine stop probably makes their balls drop instantaneously. Especially given how huge those balls have to be already to jump in the first place. But don’t worry about anybody finding out about your morbidity… only a few tourists are allowed to go each year.
5th – Kanamara Matsuri (Kawasaki, Japan) – Kanamara Masturi sounds pretty innocent – you might think it’s the new video game all those kids are playing. But in western culture, it’s more known as the Festival of the Steel Penis. Penis foods, penis costumes, penis toys. It’s at the point where you’re not sure if that guy over there is just indulging in the festival or if he’s the town pervert with the perfect cover. So if you’re one of those puritanical backpackers who freaks out when you catch a glimpse of a dude changing in the dorm, maybe try elsewhere. This festival has more cocks than John Wayne’s rifle.
6-9th – Forgotten Island (Bali, Indonesia) – With the Bali Spirit Festival finishing up, the Indonesian island will be chock full of hippies newly cleansed of all the toxins and bad vibes in their energy auras. So what better way to celebrate that purity than by destroying it with a good ol’ fashioned music festival? Forgotten Island is an EDM festival (featured Pendulum!) hosted in warehouses, beaches, boats, clubs, and pools all across the island. It’s fairly small, and considering how many backpackers are on the island at all times, sure to sell out as well.
9-18th – Bisket Jatra (Bhaktapur, Nepal) – Nepal has a pretty good reputation among people who don’t realize they’re actually thinking of Tibet. They think it’s the center of enlightenment where Buddhist monks live lives of chastity and study. They probably don’t realize that a huge institution of their new year celebrations involve a gigantic stone Lingam being stuck on an equally large Yoni. If that sounds like a euphamism for sex, then congrats on your astuteness. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Giant phallus, giant, I don’t know, what’s the polite term for vag? There’s also parades, red powder being tossed around Holi-style, and a tongue piercing ceremony where a villager spends the day with a giant iron spike through his lady-pleaser. I know I said up above that there wouldn’t be any self-mutilation this month. Sorry. Just keeping you on your toes.
13-15th – Songkran (Chiang Mai, Thailand) – One of these years, I’m not going to get to go to Coachella. I can’t think of a reason short of an asteroid striking the polo fields, but the day will one day come, and when it does, I’ll be going to Songkran instead. To the Thai people, nothing rings in the New Year with good will and friendship like blasting those friends in the face with a high powered water gun while utterly destroying any electronics they have in their pockets. For three days, it’s a chaotic, country-wide water war with guns, buckets, balloons, and any other way they can ruin a good suit. Sometimes, I actually wonder why I choose Coachella over this. It’s not like I even have an iPhone to ruin anymore. Somebody please break this cycle. I need to go to Songkran.
28th: 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.
17-18th – 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.
4-5th – DGTL (NDSM-Docklands, Netherlands) – I’m starting to wonder if the Netherlands listens to any genre of music outside of EDM, or if there’s just an entire population east of England going about their daily lives bouncing around like the grocery store is the hottest new club in town. DGTL is more of the same, so if you’ve seen any of these in the past, then you know what’s the sitch. Not to downplay the significance of the the festival, I’m sure it’s gonna be great fun. But if you’ve ever eaten an entire bowl of Lucky Charms marshmallows to see if it helps your hangover, you know that too much of a good thing makes makes your shit look like a rainbow. Come on Netherlands.
6-11th – Snowbombing (Mayrhofen, Austria) – Apparently April is a pretty dead season for European festivals. Gives South America more time to shine, which, cool, save the rainforest, but there’s gotta be some representation. Austria does it’s share. Snowbombing is like a better version of Snowball, with a full week of partying that actually takes place in the Alps. So the whole “bombing down a mountain sloshed out of your mind” isn’t just an aesthetic the promoters are trying to market with little relevance to the festival itself. You’re gonna be dodging naked guys on skis all over the slopes. Just don’t kill yourself… nothing kills a head buzz like putting an evergreen branch through it.
27th – King’s Day (Amsterdam, Netherlands) – A few years ago, my grandparents happened to be in the Netherlands over what used to be called Queen’s Day, before the lady realized that the queen is a nut and let somebody else do the facetime for a change. Now, my grandparents are pretty damn cool (got a nice weed brownie story there), but they’re still, you know, grandparents. The Dutch don’t care. Those pictures are just a mob of orange belligerents hounding two old Americans into drinking beer with them until somebody gets so drunk they call into the canals and get run over by a house. You ask any random American what day President’s Day falls on and I’ll bet less than a quarter could tell you. Compare the two, and you gotta wonder which country has the government thing right.
30th – Walpurgisnacht (Gothenburg, Sweden) – How sick is Halloween? One of my favorite holidays. Nowadays we lose too much of the creepy stuff in favor of dressing like sluts and acting the part. We need to get back to the childlike wonder and horror parts. And ideally we should do it more than once a year. Walpurgisnacht means “Witch’s Night” in Swedish, and falls six months from All Hallow’s Eve. It’s got the same mystic charm of Halloween, and people celebrate it by lighting gigantic bonfires. Finish off the month with something good for the soul by celebrating all the monsters in the world that don’t have one. After all these music festivals, you deserve it.
30th – Beltane Fire Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland) – As all great festivals are, the Beltane Fire Festival began long ago with one culture’s unhealthy pyromania. Originally, it was said to represent the beginning of Summer, but luckily, we’re all adults here, and we realized that we don’t have to engage in some charade of deeper meaning before we all admit we just want to watch shit burn down. Now, the Festival involves a few hundred different performers all swinging their fiery props around in synchronization, and you get to watch it with the vague, morbid hope that something catches that wasn’t supposed to catch.
2-5th – Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Festival (Las Vegas, Nevada) – Graceland may have been Elvis’ home, but Vegas is where he belongs. So what better way to celebrate his misplaced appropriation of black culture than an entire festival set in the town where many an idiot believes he still lives? The weekend is one giant call back to that classic 50s Vegas – that lovely, romantic period in time when the mob used the casinos to launder money and anybody taking them for a ride wound up in a back alley with broken legs. Good times. Good cars. There’s a car show during the festival with dozens of classic cars from that era, so if that’s the kind of show you’re into, or if you’re an old man who just wants to relive the glory days, then try it out.
2-7th – The Moody Blues (Miami, Florida) – Just a few days before this festival starts, Miami will have been hit by Ultra, funneling in thousands of preteens on so many drugs they’ll have love affairs with trees. It won’t recover very fast. Anybody coming for a music festival, especially one with a little more class, are gonna want to step over the bodies and get on a boat to get the hell out of dodge. Luckily the Moody Blues cruise is there. It brings in the classical music of the ’60s, like Jimi Hendrix covers, ELO, and all the other music your parents did drugs to. So if you want to feel superior to the kids at Ultra by embracing their culture’s spiritual successor while dropping loads of cash to do it, this is the cruise for you.
8-12th – One Spark (Jacksonville, Florida) – I’ve never been one to ask for money. When I started out doing this travel writing thing, I considered doing a crowdfunding, but I just couldn’t bring myself to bill my friends for something that had the possibility of failure. Luckily, most people don’t have such qualms, which brings us to One Spark, the world’s largest crowdfunding festival, where you can bring your idea to the people and hope they like it enough to donate. It’s not unlike panhandling while you’re sitting in your booth asking people to look at your product. But I won’t judge. Great things come from crowdfunding, and I’m sure great things will come out of this festival.
10-12th, 17-19th – Coachella (Indio, California) – Coachella was the first major festival I ever attended, barring that festival back in 2006 when I was only 16 and thought all those guys laying on the grass and rubbing it against them were just really drunk. Innocent days. This festival comes up in my life so often that any mention of it nowadays earns me an instant Bip Bip Bipping (see: The Inbetweeners), so I won’t try to sell it to you in a short paragraph in the middle of an event calendar. Coachella simply is. And it’s your job to make it to the polo fields this April and see what all the fuss is about. I’ll see you there.
10-12th – Lucidity (Santa Barbara, California) – Lucidity is the kind of festival where people who think Coachella has sold out will take shelter. A three day trance festival that focuses more on the experience than the music, Lucidity is split into seven different themed villages full of costumes, yogis, dreadlocks, and people who couldn’t afford to go to Burning Man. Obviously, the better Southern Californian festival to go to this weekend is Coachella, but if you can’t afford it, Lucidity is a decent second choice.
25-26th – Euphoria (Austin, Texas) – Travel is the death of stereotyping, but I maintain that Texas is too proud of its stereotypes for them to be true. I think it’s just because the chest thumpers drown out the rest. But for every “Don’t Mess With Texas” buckaroo, there’s a closet hippy too afraid to come out as Hip to his conservative parents. Euphoria is their escape – a two day camping festival where they can, like, just be themselves man. Although I don’t know if it really counts as camping when you’re just setting the tent up for one night. But hey, any little thing you can get, right? The festival has art and workshops and the kind of thing you’d expect to see at Burning Man, so if you’re in the area and need a break from the trucks and barbecue, then by all means detour through.
11-12th – Tortuga Music Festival (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) – Florida is a really weird state – the further South you go, the more Northern it becomes. That’s why Miami can have Ultra and loose morals and tolerance of blacks and gays, and the panhandle gets airboats and rednecks and scared families who dared venture away from Disneyworld. Fort Lauderdale is just north of Miami, but it already starts to see signs of the South. Namely, country music about trucks and unpaved roads and beer. And Tortuga is like it’s home city in festival form. It’s not quite sure whether it wants the hip cats of Miami or the country bumpkins up north, so it tries to lay claim to both, with a lineup of Pop Country and an audience of girls in cowboy boots who couldn’t tell you what a cowboy actually does. It’s Stagecoach for the East Coast, so if that’s your thing and can’t hit both, then by all means. Yee haw.
17-May 10th – Feria de San Marcos (Expoplaza, Mexico) – Mexico is a pretty religious state, but people are yo-yos. Fling ‘em far enough in one direction and they’ll flip back around just as far to the other. So once the dishes from Easter brunch are cleared, those Lent oaths can get to breaking. Feria Nacional de San Marcos is a giant national fair with seven million people coming and going each year. It used to be about winemaking, but nowadays the bullfights and cockfights take the main stage. That’ll put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but having been to a cockfight, I’ll tell you that the culture behind it is worth at least experiencing. Just make sure you eat the chicken afterwards so those gladiators don’t die in vain. And while my research hasn’t turned up a concrete answer on the bullfights, there’s a growing trend nowadays where the bulls aren’t killed anyway.
19-23rd – Tales of the Cocktail (New Orleans, Louisiana) – I don’t know what kind of tales you’d expect here. My tales of cocktails usually involve large blank spaces in memory and embarrassed texts the next morning trying to derive if I did anything horrifying to the people I’m supposed to care about. And based on what normally happens in New Orleans, I’d guess that the tales there can get pretty damn horrifying. But there’s only one way to find out.
23-27th – Moogfest (Asheville, North Carolina) – If you’re a fan of electronic music (and judging by the google terms that lead you to my site, I’m guess you are – looking at you Mr. “how to have sex at a music festival”), then you owe at least some recognition to Bob Moog. In addition to having a name that already sounds like a nickname bullies give people, Moog invented the synthesizer. So he essentially invented electronic music. He spent the last 30 years of his life in Asheville, so the city holds a festival in his honor. Three days of music spread all throughout town. It’s not limited to electronic music, with everything from post-rock to country thrown in sometimes, but pretty much everybody pays their respects to the dude during the show.
24th-May 3rd – New Orleans Jazz Festival (New Orleans, Louisiana) – This may be the only music festival I’ve heard of that draws both my 50 year old aunt and my friends half that age. Which either says a lot about the quality of the festival, the coolness of my aunt, or the lameness of my friends. Maybe all three, you decide. New Orleans has a long and rich tradition of jazz and crazy homeless people, and they like to celebrate one of those things. The city only just recovered from the chaos of Mardi Gras, which explains why they feel the need to kick things off again. The city can only go so long without something monumental (in either extreme) happening. Just gotta hope I don’t run into my 50 year old aunt there…
24-26th – Stagecoach (Indio, California) – Ah Stagecoach. Otherwise known as Coachella’s afterbirth. The country festival takes place in the rotting corpse of the fields Coachella took place in just a week before, with the grass trampled yellow under the feet of a thousand hippies. The country crowd takes over now. Of course, being Los Angeles, there’s no real Southerners in attendance. Every girl you see is actually a sorority girl who’s never stepped foot in the South but just loves the idea of “save a horse, ride a cowboy.” If a cowboy joined a frat and traded in the romanticized ideal of the outlaw for a 30-rack of shit beer and a plaid shirt from H&M, it would go to Stagecoach. Of course, he would only go to prey on those sorority girls in cowboy boots. There’s a reason Stagecoach has sexual assaults and Coachella doesn’t.
27-May 3rd – St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival (Pigeon Island, St. Lucia) – I don’t know much about the Saintly Caribbean islands except that it’s where less dedicated students go to get their med school degrees while drinking beer on boats. But the St. Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival bils itself as the premiere cultural event of the islands, so clearly it does have a culture to speak of. And with a runtime of over a week, you’ll have plenty of time to see some jazz music and still drink beer on boats.
29th-May 3rd – SunFest (West Palm Beach, Florida) – If you can’t make it down to the Caribbean islands, you can do worse than getting stuck in West Palm Beach. Florida is like the ass-backwards end of America – the further north you go, the more southern you get. Palm Beach is delightfully close to the tip of the Florida dick, meaning that you won’t be seeing any Dave Matthews cover bands at this festival. Thank God.
1-12th – Rip Curl Pro Surf Classic (Torquay, Victoria) – A surf festival in Australia fairly self-explanatory, but the Rip Curl Pro Surf Classic is an institution. You’re obviously not good enough at surfing to enter, so come to ogle the people in wetsuits and jam out to the live music they have lining the beach. Torquay is also the start of the Great Ocean Road just outside of Geelong, so if you’re backpacking through the area, it’s a good chance to see the Apostles afterwards.
2-6th – Byron Bay Bluesfest (Byron Bay, New South Wales) – Once you’ve been in Australia for a while, you start to realize that it has a pretty specific music taste, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a country that never ventures more than 20 miles inland. John Butler might as well be an Aussie for how much they’re obsessed with him here. The Blues Fest is the perfect little ball of that music in a part of the country that I can’t wait to get to. No joke, it’s supposed to be one of the best festivals in the world. If you’re in Australia and can get to Byron Bay, you should hit it up.
3-5th – Boogie Festival (Tallarock, Victoria) – Boogie is another boutique festival in a country that’s chock full of them at this point. But Boogie festival separates itself because it doesn’t really need you to attend. It doesn’t care either way. It doesn’t even allow press to attend and it prefers to keep the atmosphere private for those who discover the festival on their own and decide to pay to attend. Now, that may very well be an unsustainable business model, but it’ll be a sweet ride while it lasts.
21-27th – Festival of Colour (Lake Wanaka, New Zealand) – With Holi taking place recently, there are festivals of color taking place all over the world. But it’s pretty much impossible to beat New Zealand when it comes to natural beauty, and Lake Wanaka, being a massive glacial lake in the Southern Alps, is one of the country’s crown jewels. Throwing a powder party next to a gorgeous lake is just begging for a massive rainbow-colored pool party. Just make sure you put on your liquid wetsuit beforehand. That is, get drunk enough that you’re not going to care about the frigid waters.
25th, 26th – Groovin’ The Moo (Oakbank, Bunbury, Australia) – Having spent a lot of time living in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere, I can tell you that big name acts don’t exactly tour in the Boonies. But Groovin’ The Moo changes that – one of the few festivals that specifically only tours to small town Australia (though not exactly far from the backpacker circuit). The lineup is stacked with both up-and-coming locals and big name international guys, so it’s worth a visit no matter how far you have to hitchhike.
27-May 2nd – Targa Tasmania (Launceston, Tasmania) – It’s been a rare thing this month to find non-music festivals, but Targa Tasmania is anything but. The massive motor rally begins in Launceston, and involves a 2000km tarmac rally race with over 40 stages on closed roads with up to 300 cars. If you’ve ever seen NASCAR, you’ll know that the best part of watching road races is the beer you drink during it, which means that even if you’re not driving (and you should never be driving while drinking beer!), you’ll have fun.
And that’s it for April, guys. Again, subscribe to the Elsewhere Plans Festival Calendar March 2015 via an easy-to-read Google Calendar version, as well as a downloadable iCal version. Don’t forget to tweet any that I missed to @theElsewhereman, and I’ll add them in. For real. I was unable to find any significant festivals in South America for this month, which feels dirty. So help me out.