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European Music Festivals
The European summer’s just around the corner, and with it comes a great wave of fantastic music action – from Barcelona to Budapest – that’s sure to keep even the most diehard festival-heads happy. The chances are that (unlike Glastonbury, say) the sun might even shine, too…
And after a few day’s ‘festival accommodation’ – with all the sweat, mud and sleepless nights that are invariably involved in camping – you’ll be dying to check into a hostel, have a shower and then crawl into a nice, clean bed!
SONAR’s not a traditional greenfield music festival in the mud and tents sense. But every June, it comes rolling into Barcelona like an offbeat multimedia tsunami, leaving a trail of dazzled, occasionally confused, but nearly always delighted spectators in its path!
This year, musical ‘headliners’ (scattered across various venues in the city) will include Goldfrapp, Roisin Murphy, The Duloks, Madness and the legendary Chicago DJ Frankie Knuckles. But the event also draws some of the best independent filmmakers around and countless other eclectic acts.
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Alright, so it’s not, strictly speaking, in Europe, but the Gnaoua Music festival is a bit special. Held in the gorgeous town of Essaouira and licked by the rolling surf of Morocco’s seemingly never-ending Atlantic coastline, it’s a dreamy location.
Although the main draw is the weird, mystical music and tassel-spinning dancing of the Gnaoua, the festival always attracts a variety of world music greats from elsewhere in Africa, and even some top flamenco artists from Spain.
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Roskilde: 3-6 July; Copenhagen, Denmark
Surprising as it may be, Roskilde is actually one of the old-timers on the European festival circuit. Apart from having been graced by some of the biggest names in music since it started in 1971, it’s also (rather commendably) a non-profit making enterprise.
The full acts listing is due to be released sometime in mid-April, but the early signs are definitely good. A diverse range of big names include veteran Neil Young, Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers, in what promises to be one of the biggest musical splashes in Europe.
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2007’s ‘Best Festival on the Continent’ is back with a bang and some huge names. From evergreens Paul Weller and Primal Scream, to the far-too-old-to-be-rebels Sex Pistols, festival fodder, Gossip, and Belgian innovators, Soulwax, the line-up’s undeniably impressive.
But the music’s only half the story: the festival takes place in Novi Sad’s imposing Petrovaradin Fortress (where a settlement of sorts has stood for as long 20,000 years!), and the whole event ripples with its own peculiar energy from start to finish.
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Benicassim: 17-20 July; Benicassim, Spain
Nine days of music in the searing sunshine of the Spanish Costa del Azahar is not so much a festival, as a hedonists’ endurance test! But, down by the beach, it’s a good way to mix a traditional summer holiday with some great live music and decadent partying.
The big names come in thick and fast (far, far too many to mention) and by the end you feel like you’ve fought – and won! – a war rather than having been at a music festival.
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Sziget’s notable on the European festival circuit for a number of reasons. The festival (which takes place on an island in the middle of the Danube, just outside Budapest), is a truly 24/7 affair. What’s more so relaxed is it, that at the end of a long night, most people end up crashing in the laidback ambient tent.
Sziget’s also one of the best value music festivals around (with a week’s camping pass going for a fairly reasonable 150 Euros). And given that the festival runs for a full week, there’s always plenty of time to sneak off during the day and explore one of the most beautiful cities in Central Europe.