Happy new year, everybody! Congratulations on surviving another lap around the sun. At this rate, you could probably hit at least another six or seven. I’m sure you’ve made plenty of resolutions for the new year. You’re probably going to fail most of them before February. But if you need to pick one to stick with, let it be this one: do something awesome at least once every month.
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
Africa & The Middle East
2nd – Kaapse Klopse (Cape Town, South Africa) – Kaapse Klopse is a minstrel’s carnival, where hundreds of people dress up in bright colors to dance and perform. It used to be called the Coon Carnival, but for some reason, South Africa doesn’t wMant to associate itself with a word that most tourists would identify as incredibly racist. Now, I have no idea why they wouldn’t. South Africa doesn’t have anything to prove, does it? Rest in peace, Nelson. Anyway, these minstrels march through town, singing their songs and dancing around for the world’s entertainment, so line up and laugh at their antics. Just try not to feel bad about it later.
20th – Timkat (Gondar, Ethiopia) – African festivals outside of Cape Town tend to lean towards the spiritual, and they aren’t necessarily the kind of thing a rowdy backpacker would go out of his way for. I list them, though, so I don’t feel like such an asshole talking about drugs all the time (wait, whoops), and because there’s a chance you too could stand to gain some good karma before you hit the backpacking trail again. Timkat is an Ethiopian festival celebrating either the Baptism of Christ or Christ’s acceptance by the Magi, depending on who you ask. It’s a religious festival, but there’s plenty to celebrate from people of all faiths. Such as your detox before heading back out into the world of hostel bars.
5-Feb 25th – Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (Harbin, China) – As somebody who can’t stand being cold, I’ve always wondered what sort of madness brings people to celebrate the arrival of the cold. Then I saw pictures of the Harbin Ice Festival, and thought, “maybe I can buy a big coat.” Harbin is one of the coldest places this side of Boomerang Nebula, and during the coldest months of the year, they deal with it by turning the entire area into an ice city. Because if you have to be ass-chapping cold, the least you can do is look good at the same time. Locals carve out over four million cubic feet of ice, by hand or laser, and then illuminate it until you’re not quite sure whether you’re in the arctic or a sketchy London warehouse party. With the amount of tourism it brings in, the locals have gotta be on the fence with the whole global warming thing.
17-26th – Ati-Atihan (Kalibo, Philippines) – The Philippines have had a rough year. They had to put up with me for two months. Then to make it worse, Typhoon Yolanda, to put it lightly, tore that shit up, and while aid to the area is pretty heartwarming, there’s only so much a free concert by Bono can do. But the Filipino people are some of the most upbeat around, so it’s safe to say that they’ll bounce back. Ati-Atihan is a massive street festival, celebrating the arrival of Malaysian immigrants to the area with dancing, singing, and eating. And if you get tired of this (what’s wrong with you?), Boracay is right nearby to replenish your need for touristy segregation. It’s impossible to say what it will be like this year, but it’ll be a wild ride finding out.
22nd – Bikaner Camel Festival (Rajasthan, India) – Last time I wrote about a camel-based festival in India, I wrote, “India is an endurance test for the nostrils as it is.” I mean, curry and camels can’t be good for the sinuses in large amounts. And that was before I found out just how much India loves its camel-centered holidays. The Bikaner Camel Festival a few months removed from it’s Pushkar cousin, but the song remains the same for the most part. And with the camel beauty pageants, which are exactly what they sound like, you have to wonder how much they really love their camels. But hey, it’s better than the camel wrestling of Turkey, going on at the same time. I won’t devote a full spot to that because I find it cruel, but let’s just say I’ll take my camels looking pretty over watching them kick the shit out of each other because they’re starving.
23rd – Thaipusam (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – Remember that scene in the Dark Knight, where the Joker talks about how knives are a much more intimate way to kill somebody than guns? That’s basically what Thaipusam has going on (especially compared to Pasola), minus the weird death wish (the colorful dress can stay). The festival centers on a pilgrimage to the Batu Caves (Dark Knightu tie-in) while draped in knives and hooks, as a way to atone for sins past. If you’re gonna go, keep in mind that there’s about 300 steps to climb. So if self-mutilation sounds like a gas, but physical exertion is just a step over the line, maybe stay home.
23rd – Wakakusa Yamayaki (Nara, Japan) – So, in California we have really bad droughts sometimes. To prevent fires, we cut little strips out of the mountain called fire breaks, so that if a fire did start, it would be contained by the fire breaks, with nothing to light for fifty feet all around it. It work pretty well. Japan has a similar tradition. They set their entire fucking mountain on fire for an entire night. Ostensibly, this helps control the boar population, or its a border dispute between two temples that got out of control, or adults just need an excuse to sate their childhood pyromania. Either way, you get to see a massive wildfire without praying it doesn’t destroy your home. That’s worth it here.
23-25th – Dinagyan (Iloilo City, Philippines) – This one’s actually immediately following Ati-Atihan earlier in the month, so if you’re in the area, you may as well go for the Twofer. It’s similar to the other festival in it’s origin, but with a particularly religious lilt. But in the Philippines, religion means dressing up, eating good, and having some good musical fun. So if you’re one of those douchebag atheists who get offended when somebody wishes them a Merry Christmas, just shut up and enjoy yourself. You may actually find yourself enjoying yourself for once.
23rd – 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.
Central & South America
2-4th – Storyland (Cartagena, Colombia) – Colombia’s Storyland festival is one of the few large-scale electronic festivals in the country, which is strange given the fact that you can literally order a tasting menu of cocaine there. I’m sure that has literally no effect on what the organizers call “an Ibiza-style rave on the beach.”
2-7th – Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (San Juan de Pasto, Colombia) – I don’t really want to put two “when you think of this country…” bits so close together for Colombia, but then God shouldn’t have put those two bits on Sofia Vergara’s chest. The Carnival of Blacks and Whites is one of the biggest celebrations in all of Colombia, taking place over several days and including multiple celebrations, from the Whites and Blacks game to every color in between being splashed over floats, confetti, clothing, and people themselves. The Carnival technically starts in December, with games and celebrations being held through the New Year until finally exploding on the 2nd, where each day is dedicated to a particular theme leading up to the great parade and finish.
15-17th – Day After Festival (Panama City, Panama) – Even though it’s January, the equator countries still feel a bit like summer. Enter: the first real music festival of the month (in the western hemisphere, anyway). This three day electronic music festival takes its cues from its larger, more established cousins in America and Australia, bringing in talent like Tiesto and Borgore. I’m not sure what January 15th is supposed to be in Panama, but if they celebrate it ending with a party like this, it must really suck.
29th-Feb 13th – Tapati Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) – Easter Island is one of the most remote places on Earth, so chances are you’re not just going out there to get stoned and look at stone heads. Which is good, because if you pulled that here, you’d probably get stoned in the bad way. This isn’t a music festival, and it’s not really even a festival that cares if tourists come. This festival is a celebration of Polynesian culture, the kind of culture that buries gigantic stone people up to their necks and then doesn’t tell anybody why. Maybe they were stoned.
14-17th – Eurosonic Nooderslag (Groningen, Netherlands) – And the award for the most Eurotrash-sounding name goes to… this little ditty of a festival, taking place over a weekend outside of Amsterdam. The event is actually two music festivals and an industry conference, jam-packed into one weekend where up and coming artists have a chance to strut their stuff in what may just be the Electronic capitol of the world. Keep in mind that it’s actually a bit of a professional gig, with big industry folk walking around like the dudes who check a horse’s teeth at auction. So, hey, that’s not to say you shouldn’t do drugs and get ridiculous there. Just wear a suit while you’re doing it, yeah?
15-17th – Bugged Out Weekender (Bognor Regis, England) – My friend used to keep a bug out bag. Just in case things went south, or as south as they can go in fucking Los Angeles. It had things like extra money, a bad fake ID he made himself, and a can of beans. It wasn’t a a very good bug out bag. I imagine the bug out bag you prepare for the Bugged Out Weekender isn’t very good either. Although I’m sure it also contains a bad fake ID you made yourself.
20th – La Tamborrada (San Sebastián, Spain) – Everybody’s had that loud musician annoying the shit out of them at night. If you haven’t, chances are you were the loud musician, and everybody hates you. Mine was a mariachi band on Sundays, and I have to say, I’m proud of how much they improved. But if you want to hear some drums in the middle of the night that don’t sound like they need another 10,000 hours of practice, head to San Sebastián in the country of Spain. On the night of Saint Sebastian’s feast, the entire city lights up with drumming corps, marching the streets and celebrating the rupture of at least a thousand people’s ear drums. Stay up and join the fun, or go to bed early and be the guy shoving a pillow over his head at 2 AM. Either one’s fine, but one of them is more fun.
23rd-Feb 9th – Carnevale di Venezia (Venice, Italy) – We’re still building up to the big one here, but if you couldn’t make it out of Europe, and that coin flip didn’t send you to Viareggio, then chances are you’re gonna be celebrating Carnival in Venice. They’re two sides to the same coin – Viareggio is all about that street level energy. Venice classes it up a bit, becoming a city-wide masquerade ball. Of course, it’s gonna cost a fortune to get into the actual balls, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw on a mask and get in on the festivities anyway. Nothing helps the embarrassment when you get drunk and fall into a canal like a little anonymity.
26th – Up Helly Aa (Lerwick, Scotland) – Admittedly, it takes a while to get up to this remote area. But if the vikings could do it, why can’t you? Outside the civilizations of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the viking tradition carries on. Up Helly Aa is a winter celebration involving enough fire to power a fucking jet plane and enough alcohol to put you in a kilt by 8:30 PM. You’d think that would be a dangerous combination, right? It is. But that’s what makes it awesome. Make sure you arrive in time for the torch parade at around 7:30. And make sure you survive to the after parties… Transvestite Tuesday exists for a reason in Lerwick.
27-30th – Kiruna Snow Festival (Kiruna, Sweden) – If you ever actually make it to the kind of latitude Kiruna sits on, then chances are you enjoy freezing temperatures (or you’re a masochist), and I don’t need to convince to check out the Kiruna Snow Festival at all. But if you’re just the kind of person who likes knowing that snow makes a decent building material, then, well, here you go. The Kiruna Snow Festival is a bit like the Harbin one, but with less illumination. All the focus is on the architecture, which, given the fact that it will disappear from the face of the Earth in a few months time, is actually fairly beautiful. The Ice Hotel is probably the most famous landmark there, so if you end up inside of it, please let me know if you wake up in a body-shaped indent of melted ice. I’ve always been curious.
3-6th – Holy Ship! (Miami, Florida) – These floating festivals are getting all too common. They seem to be the only way to trick otherwise socially-conscious travelers into shutting up and enjoying the all-you-can-eat buffet, ignoring the economic depravity they wreak on unsuspecting stopover villages and the annoyingly regimented scheduling. But hey, lasers! Holy Ship! was one of the first cruises, inspiring loads of copy cats like the ill-fated SS Coachella. Remember the SS Coachella? Goldenvoice hopes not. If dropping a few grand at a moments’ notice is your kind of thing, then maybe Holy Ship! actually is a great idea. Just pay attention to the initial “what to do if you’re rolling balls and fall overboard” announcement.
6-11th – Jam Cruise (Miami, Florida) – It’s a relatively slow month for festivals in America, given that we’re in the dead of Summer, so I’m gonna assume you care about every single festival cruise leaving Miami this month. There’s a lot of them. Pick an arrival date and you’re set for at least one of them.
8-17th – BPM Festival (Playa del Carmen, Mexico) – BPM started as an industry showcase back in 2008, but over the past few years, it’s grown into a huge festival to rival any of America’s trademark shitshows, complete with world class lineup and idiotic patrons buying drugs from shady people. Not that buying drugs is necessarily idiotic. But you gotta wonder what kind of presence an all-powerful drug-peddling cartel is gonna be putting in a place like this. Have fun, kids!
13-17th – Tomorrow Never Knows (Chicago, Illinois) – As an Angeleno, I really gotta hand it to the Chicago music scene. They have their shit together. Most of America (especially the places where frozen water actually falls out of the sky) is shivering and saying, “we’ll put on some music festivals when it’s warmer.” Chicago says, “fuck it, we’ll move indoors and keep it going.” Tomorrow Never Knows is basically six different venues cooperating to turn themselves into stages at a winter music festival that doesn’t know it’s winter. It may be smaller than, say, Lollapalooza, but it’s bringing in some great talent who are almost guaranteed to actually show up (lookin’ at you, Death Grips).
15-17th – 30A Songwriters Festival (Santa Rosa Beach, Florida) – Part of me thinks that a songwriters festival will entail a big group of hipsters sitting in a circle, banging sticks against things with glazed eyes, occasionally lighting up, saying, “yeah, YEAH!” as the moment of inspiration hits, before lighting a doobie and forgetting all about it. But actually, now that I think about it, that sounds pretty fun. So hey, write those songs baby!
15th-Feb 2nd – Banff SnowDays (Banff National Park, Canada) – Winter Wonderlands are magical enough without festival organizers beefing them up even more with events and colored lights. And Banff is already one of Canada’s most picturesque backgrounds. So Banff Snowdays may in fact be the coolest place on Earth for the two weeks it’s running.
18-22nd – Shiprocked (Miami, Florida) – Another cruise leaving Miami, this one rock-themed. See how well alcohol and sea-sickness mixes. My guess? Not well.
21-31st – Sundance Film Festival (Park City, Utah) – To the average person, Sundance is the pretentious film festival where Vince found out he got the part as Aquaman and everybody went snowboarding. And yeah, it’s that. But what film festival isn’t a little – check that, a lot – pretentious? But Sundance has another side to it, bolstered by the fact that Park City is one of the best towns for skiing in America. Hell, that’s the reason Sundance exists in the first place (ask Robert Redford). If you’re in the area, you can go grab a beer, hit the slops, see a movie, spot some celebrities, and still avoid acting like riding coattails makes you better than other people.
25-30th – National Cowboy Poetry Reading (Elko, Nevada) – There’s something beautiful about prairie poetry. Maybe it’s the awe of that quiet frontier beauty being expressed in words far more eloquent than you or I could express (okay, just you. okay just kidding). Maybe it’s just kind of funny to see a John Wayne type with a tear in his eye over the description of that jackrabbit in the snow. Either way, the poetry reading in Elko is full of fantastic poetry and good times to be had with people who know and love the land. Set it to music and you have yourselves a Killers song.
29-14th – Quebec Winter Carnival (Quebec, Canada) – The Winter Carnival is like the Harbin Ice Festival mixed with Rio’s, well, Carnival. It’s a cold weather alternative to a season most people associate with skimpy bathing suits and samba parades. And hey, it can be that too. Just expect a dogsled to be leading that float.
31st-Feb 4th – One Big Holiday (Riviera Maya, Mexico) – Normally, the one big holiday people take to Mexico is to Cabo or Cancun, where they promptly get shifted and stay in the resort the whole time. Riviera Maya is a bit further off the map, but the festival taking place there is world class, so you get the best of both worlds – the chance to rock out to great music with cool people, without the usual tourist traps.
1st – Let Them Eat Cake (Werribee, Victoria) – New Year’s Day celebrations always sounded like a bit of a chore to me. I’ve rung in the last few new years with a pounding headache and an aching desire to do absolutely nothing but contemplate how little I’m actually going to change in the next year. But hey, if you’re trying to start the year with a bang, this is the place to do it. Let Them Eat Cake is a private music festival at a mansion outside Melbourne, with plenty of fancy champagne and cake to live up to the bourgeoisie name. Only problem – after this, your year is all downhill from here.
1st – Field Day (Sydney, Australia) – Field Day is Sydney’s annual NYD festival, so if you’re in the wrong state to attend Let Them Eat Cake, this is your other option. It might even be the better option, with a killer lineup in a world-class city. I suppose it’s all going to depend on how hungover you are after the parties last night.
4-5th – Beachlife (Surfer’s Paradise) – Surfer’s Paradise is practically a drive-through town between Brisbane and Byron Bay, but there are fun nights to be had there when the Schoolies aren’t in town. Beachlife will almost certainly not be that time, but with a relatively big lineup for the number of names on the card, you might as well see for yourself.
7-26th – Sydney Festival (Sydney, New South Wales) – Every city in Australia has their own individual festival. Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane, and Melbourne have had theirs in the past few months, but it makes sense that Sydney, the biggest and flashiest, claims the first new month of the year. Melbourne may be the cultural heart of Oz, but with all the space in Sydney, there’s plenty of time to challenge that.
8-10th – Southbound (Busselton, West Australia) – Most of the festivals popping up this month are littered with electronic music. Spirit of the age, I guess. Southbound has a few artists of the ilk, but the vast majority are spread across every conceivable genre of music. It’s a camping festival as well, which means it may very well be the first real “hippy dippy” type of scene you’ll run into this year. Worth a look.
8-10th – SoundSplash (Raglan, New Zealand) – SoundSplash is a camping festival out in the boonies of New Zealand, dedicated almost entirely to the idea of getting away from society in a hippie-style aesthetic. Their logo is a VW Bus for God’s sake. Despite the fact that it’s hard NOT to get away from society in a country like New Zealand, it should be a good time.
9th – FOMO (Brisbane, Australia) – I hesitate to call this a festival, because it really only takes place on one stage. But there are multiple acts to be seen, and the Riverstage is one of my favorite outdoor venues of all time, so if you’ve got the afternoon off, you should definitely make your way over.
10-12th – McLaren Valley Music Festival (McLaren Valley Park, New Zealand) – Western Australia recently got a festival billed as “Australia’s version of Glastonbury or Coachella,” ignoring the fact that Splendour in the Grass more than fills that role. Now, New Zealand is getting in on that qualifier, with McLaren Valley Music Festival aiming to be the Coachella of the Land of the Long White Cloud.
10-12th – Echo (Auckland, New Zealand) – Echo is really more of a concert than a festival, taking place in the Vector Arena, which is really the only place larger international acts play, since the smaller international acts never bother to come to New Zealand in the first place.
13-18th – MONA FOMA (Hobart, Tasmania) – I’m usually not a huge art guy. I love museums, don’t get me wrong, but outside of dinosaur bones, I don’t really get them. But MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) won me over with its juxtaposition of ancient antiquities, such as Egyptian sarcophagi, with such tantalizing modern art as an artificial shit-making machine that, in the artist’s own words, is meant to show that “art is crap.” MONA FOMA is a music festival held at the museum, and if MONA’s modus operandi as an irreverent house of culture stands, then it will be a hit.
14-24th – World Buskers Festival (Christchurch, New Zealand) – I’m all about live music. When I first got to New Zealand, I assumed most artists didn’t bother coming all the way down here. I mean, there’s, like, four cities in this entire country and only one of them has more than 200,000 people in it. But gradually I’ve found that, while the bigger artists swing by once in a blue moon, this country has a huge music scene. The World Buskers Festival is a chance for all those smaller artists to come together and play for free. Remember, this is the country that brought us Lorde and Broods, so there’s a certainty you’ll find somebody you fall for.
16-24th – Tour Down Under (Adelaide, South Australia) – See? I can do non-music festivals. The Tour Down Under is a massive bicycle race through South Australia – the equivalent of the Tour de France for the island continent. Unless you’re already an avid biker, you’re probably not going to be participating in this on a whim. But then again, you’re also not going to be participating in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festivities surrounding it. The race begins in Adelaide, so head to the starting line to send everybody off like the champions they are. Then, when they’re out of sight, go chug some champagne like you’ve earned it and think about your life choices.
18-31st – Australian Open (Melbourne, Victoria) – Last year, I won four tickets to the Australian Open Finals in a contest. It included seating in the VIP section, a private bar, a chance to hang out with all the celebrities who would also be there, and all the tennis you could watch, not that many people actually watch the tennis here. I didn’t know I won until a week after the Open ended, because the email got shuttled into my spam folder. After spending the entire tournament watching the event from bars, seeing how amazing it looked from a distance, I broke down and cried like a white girl after 11 at a party.
22-25th – Rainbow Serpent (Lexton, Australia) – Festivals nowadays are becoming very polarized. They’re either 100% about the music, in which case production quality goes stratospheric to the detriment of the atmosphere and crowd quality, or it goes the opposite way, leading to the disjointed (but still amazing) clusterfuck of Burning Man and it’s ilk. It’s hard to find a middle ground, a music festival that doesn’t sacrifice on either end. Rainbow Serpent is one of those middle ground festivals, where producers skimped on big name DJs in order to preserve the atmosphere being created beyond the main stage. See some great DJs, or walk around and enjoy the warm night surrounded by lights and art. I’ll be seeing you there.
23rd, 24th, 26th – Soundwave (Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne, Australia) – I don’t know why I’ve never written about Soundwave before, given that it’s Australia’s premiere hard rock festival. They had to cut the west coast iterations and reduce it to a single day everywhere else this year, so it may also be the last time I write about it.
24th – Sugar Mountain (Melbourne, Victoria) – This weekend is usually reserved for Big Day Out. I went last year, and it was great. Unfortunately, the idiot managers ran that shit into the ground, and so one of the most iconic Australian festivals was cancelled for this year. The copyright was sold to C3, the same guys that run ACL in America, so maybe it’ll come back one day. In it’s place, however, Sugar Mountain has risen up to fill a necessary niche. We’ll see if it lives up to its predecessor.
26th – Australia Day (All Over) -It’s funny. I don’t think Australia Day is nearly as big a deal for locals as it is for tourists. Oh sure, they’ll grab some VBs and have a picnic on the beach. But tourists, man. Backpackers will just eat that shit up. It’s the perfect chance to grab your Aussie flag and start shouting “love it or leave it” to other foreigners, because today we are all racist bogans. There are usually events all over the country – Avicii played a huge mini-festival in Melbourne last year – so wherever you are, just ask around and you will not be led astray.
28th-March 12th – Twilight At Taronga (Sydney, New South Wales) – When I was a kid, I wanted to be a zookeeper. And don’t get me wrong, I love what I do now. But when I hear about things like this, Twilight At Taronga, a massive summer concert series taking place right in the zoo, it makes me wonder “what if.” Over the entire summer, good, chill bands (I don’t think the animals care for death metal) come in to play for the audience, humans and beasts alike. All the proceeds go to the zoo’s conservation efforts, making it not only an awesome concept, but a green one as well.