Once more ’round the mountain, guys. We’ve officially started Year Three of the Elsewhere Plans festival calendars. It’s been a bit slow at times, a bit hectic at others, but there’s still lots of things to do. Let’s see what’s up this month. And as usual, subscribe to the Elsewhere Plans Festival Calendar 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
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.
31st – Umhlanga (Lobamba, Swaziland) – I know you won’t believe this, fair readers, but I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life as a single man. It’s tough talking to ladies, yo! But apparently, it’s just as hard for them. You’d think so, given how many different courtship festivals there are in this feature each month, where young ladies dance and create art and basically do everything The Game tells you not to to pick up a partner. Umhlanga, the Reed Dance, is Swaziland’s version, where tens of thousands of women come to the royal village to find love. You probably won’t be participating, but hey, if you’ve been single a long time…[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Asia”]
5-7th – Crocodile Festival (Wewak, Papua New Guinea) – In America, kids grow up thinking transformers and superheroes are the coolest goddamn things on the planet, and they’ll dress up like Superman and jump off their balcony if they want to feel like one themselves. In the remote Wewak area of PNG, kids grow up watching crocodiles rip animals apart, so it makes sense that they’d want to emulate that. The Crocodile Festival is an initiation into manhood where the kids are ritually scarred from hip to shoulder to give themselves the appearance of a crocodile. Personally, when I went through puberty, I just got stretch marks. This seems cooler.
7-9th – Rainforest World Music Festival (Kuching, Malaysia) – I’m a big fan of the rainforest. World’s lungs, yo. And yes, I know that title actually belongs to the giant ocean algae fields, but until they host one of the top 25 music festivals in the world, I’m gonna pass ’em up. I hope their feelings aren’t too hurt. The Rainforest World Music Festival is both amazing and for a good cause, benefiting the conservation of the jungle and the animals within it. I consider myself a bit of an environmentalist, so much respek. Also, I want to party in a rainforest. Whatever your reasons.
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…
15-16th – 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.
15-16th – 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.
18-28th – Onam (Thiruvananthapuram, India) – In Keralan culture, there was a great King Maveli who returns from the netherworld every year to bestow gifts on the region at the beginning of the harvest. This is not unlike the great King Makaveli, who returns from the netherworld once every few years to drop the latest posthumous mixtape or Coachella performance. Because the celebration is about Keralan heritage rather than any one religious sect, the entire area comes together for food, dancing, and competition. It’s like when the Red Sox won the world series, but with less rioting.
20-30th – 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.
29th – 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.[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Central & South America”]2-3rd – Crop Over (Bridgetown, Barbados) – Cropover takes place over the entire Summer, but most of the biggest events aren’t until August. There are whole months dedicated to celebrating the harvest with music, dancing, and all that sweet Barbados rum, but this last weekend is an explosion of color and celebration unlike anything that’s come before. Except for the rum. That’s exactly like what’s come before.
12-25th – Tango Festival (Buenos Aires, Argentina) –South Americans take their dancing seriously. For two weeks, the city practically turns into High School Musical with dances going on everywhere. If you’re a bit left-footed, you might want to stick to the beginner classes – there’s dozens of them. And find a partner. After all, it takes two to… you know what, nevermind. That’s low hanging fruit. Sorry.[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Europe”]3-9th – 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.
5-9th – 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.
6-9th – 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.
6-9th – 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.
7-31st – 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.
9-10th – 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.
10-17th – 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.
11-15th – 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.
13-15th – 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.
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.
20-22nd – Pukkelpop (Kiewit, 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.
20-22nd – Hip Hop Kemp (Hradec Králové, Czech Republic) – The Czech Republic gets some major ups for Prague, but most people just pass through the capitol on their Eurotrip. So it’s a bit surprising that the town with the alphabet soup name actually hosts the biggest hip-hop festival in Europe, featuring up-and-comers like Hopsin and big name acts like Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. The destination is worth breaking off the beaten path for once.
21-23rd – A Camping Flight to Lowlands Paradise (Biddinghuizer, Netherlands) – If you can’t make it over to Pukkelpop (or you hate it so much it literally makes you leave the country), then try Lowlands, the only festival on this list that sounds like it was named by Dave Eggers. It’s an isolated little festival an hour out of Amsterdam that still manages to draw in dozens of huge name acts. These kind of camping festivals are relatively rare in the Netherlands, so check it out while you can.
22-23rd – 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.
26-28th – 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.
26th – 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.
28-30th – 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.
28-30th – 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.
28th-October 2nd – Matchmaking Festival (Lisdoonvarna, Ireland) – Historically, the Lisdoon festival has involved guys and girls of all ages coming together to find love, with various matchmakers pairing couples up and seeing how they work together through dances, pub crawls, horse races, and other essential aspects of a healthy relationship. Now that Tinder’s a thing, it’ll probably just involve a whole lot of right swipes and dick pics, but hey, the spirit is still alive.
29-30th – Mysteryland (Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands) – If you’re still on a comedown from Tomorrowland (5HTP, trusmedaddy), then head to Mysteryland in the the Netherlands. While not quite as big, the festivals are put on the same organizer, so the feel and ethos are much the same. Mysteryland also focuses on up and coming talent, so while you go hard and go often to Tomorrowland, Mysteryland is a chance to kick back and figure out who you’re going to pretentiously promote for the next six months before anybody else hears of them.
29-31st – 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.
29th – 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.
30th – 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.[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”North America”]1-2nd – 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.
7-9th – 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.
7-10th – 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.
10-16th – 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.
13-17th – 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.
22-23rd – 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.
27-30th – 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.
28th-September 7th – International Mariachi Festival (Guadalajara, Mexico) – When I was a kid in Tijuana, I wouldn’t eat until the Mariachi bands came up to the table to play. Those guys are nothing compared to the gathering of brimmed hats and black suits in Guadalajara every year. It’s the home of both Mariachi and tequila, so it’s safe to say you’re going to find something you like, even if the music isn’t doing it for you. But why wouldn’t it?
29-30th – Imagine (Atlanta, Georgia) – Atlanta is best known for its hip-hop scene (and really, thank you for giving us ringtone rap, it’s much appreciated). Now they’re getting into the EDM game. Within a month in 2014, Tomorrowland expanded into Georgia and Imagine popped up. TomorrowWorld undoubtedly has the better festival, coming from such a tried and true franchise, but if you can’t wait just another month, then Imagine will do the job.
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?
30th-September 7th – 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 more power to you.[/accordion_section][accordion_section title=”Oceania”]9th – 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?
15th – Snowtunes (Jindabyne, New South Wales) – Splendour in the Grass is a lot of fun for a winter music festival, but it sure didn’t feel like one. Snowtunes is Australia’s first proper winter festival, a Snowball-style party in the mountains. Most people don’t even realize Australia has snow. It’s only a single day, but if that day is spent blasting down slopes while listening to the best of local Australian music, then it’s a day well spent. Besides, it’s winter in southern Australia. There’s not much else to do in the cold.
15th – 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.
6-23rd – 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.[/accordion_section]