Festivals 2016

Best Festivals You Haven't Heard Of

We got Marcus Barnes to give us a tour of Europe's lesser known festivals.

A rundown of the best festivals you (probably) haven't heard of

This week we're bringing you our 2016 Festival Guide. Yesterday we had a rundown of the best student-friendly festivals and today we're looking at those a little further from home. English writer Marcus Barnes knows a thing or two about festivals, he literally wrote the book on them, so we got him to run us through his favourite festivals for people looking for something different.

Every year the number of festivals taking place in Europe, and the rest of the world, seems to swell massively. These days we really are spoilt for choice when it comes to spending a weekend away in sunnier climes with an electronic music soundtrack to accompany us on our adventures into the fantasy world of the modern-day music festival. There are brands that dominate the festival landscape; Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Hideout, SW4 and so on, but there are also lots of large-scale music events that you probably don’t know about. 

Here are merely a few of those hidden gems… 

Milkshake, Netherlands

Apart from Croatia, Holland is one of Europe’s festival epicentres, with a plethora of events taking place almost every week throughout the summer months. The country’s long-standing support of electronic music has allowed its club and festival industry to flourish, way ahead of many other nations on the continent. Promoters there are experienced and given much more leeway than, say, organisers in the UK, which means events like Milkshake can take place. The LGBT festival is a huge, kaleidoscope of music, fun and flamboyance with a firm emphasis on inclusiveness. You only have to watch the aftermovie from 2015’s edition to see what an utterly mesmerising and fan-filled festival Milkshake is. Colourful, permissive, electric. Milkshake is one of those gems that have to experience, if only once.

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Shoeless, Netherlands

Imagine going to a festival where the first thing you do when you arrive is take your shoes off… that’s the notion at Shoeless, where you’re invited to an environment set up for a homely vibe. Leave your shoes, and your inhibitions, at the door and get into a open, communal atmosphere where it’s a lot easier to socialise with strangers. Not only that but the environment is curated especially to make everyone’s Shoeless experience as pleasant as possible; no one drops litter so you can navigate the festival site without the worry of stepping on discarded cigarette butts or greasy food. Everything about this festival is geared around community and respect for the environment. Sadly though, this year’s edition is the last one as organisers plan new ventures for the future. Better get over to Amsterdam and leave those shoes at home…

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Garbicz, Poland

In Poland the little-known Garbicz Festival takes place every August. It’s an intimate affair, with no more than 2,000 people all gathered in the tiny little Polish town for a psychedelic, slightly ramshackle adventure. The peeps behind Kater Blau in Berlin form some of the core members of the Garbicz team, and if you’ve been to the infamous club in the German capital you will know what to expect. Hidden areas, lots of playful elements, smiling faces, great people and a second-to-none music policy. Techno don Lucy was one of the many names to play there last year, put it on your list of must-dos for 2016.

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Flow Festival, Finland

Up in Scandinavia the Finnish put themselves on the festival map with Flow Festival. If you don’t know it, or don’t have the intention of visiting Helsinki, you might change your mind when you see the list of top flight electronic music acts on the bill. The Black Madonna, Roman Flugel, Ben Klock, Phuture (DJ Pierre and Spanky), Jamie XX, Four Tet, Voices From The Lake, Oscar Mulero, John Talabot and the mighty New Order are just a few of the names on the lineup this year. The industrial setting and attention to detail also makes this a special one, just look at the colours and that huge sphere hanging over the dance floor… magic.

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Obonjan, Croatia

A new addition to the humungous list of festivals that take place in Croatia. Obonjan is more than a mere festival, it’s the offspring of Unknown Festival, which took place a few years ago... and it’s an actual island, that has been leashed by the owners of Unknown. Over a period of eight weeks, they’ll be welcoming a veritable smorgasboard of credible electronic music artists to the island, along with 500 discerning ravers. The capacity is limited to that number to keep it special, which is a very honourable move by the owners. Yoga, meditation and all manner of relaxation therapies are also on offer on Obonjan, so it’s the perfect place to party and recuperate this summer.

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Into The Valley, Sweden

One look at a photograph of Into The Valley’s location should be enough to convince anyone that it’s a worthy choice for their festival adventures this year. The event is held inside a massive hole in the ground, a quarry, with a stunning blue pool at the bottom of it. The breathtaking site is amazing in itself and would be worth a visit even if there wasn’t the added bonus of incredible music. Ben UFO, Bicep, Damian Lazarus, Dixon, Fred P, Dorisburg (live), George FitzGerald, Honey Dijon, KiNK and even the legendary Jamie Principle will be in attendance. One definitely not to be missed.

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Sea Dance, Montenegro

Montenegro is a tiny little place on the Adriatic Sea. This festival is one of it’s first large-scale music events and is organised by the team behind Exit in neighbouring Serbia, which means it’s run like a well-oiled machine, with excellent lineup curation and belting sound. Bass is the focus here, with one of the world’s biggest DJs, Skrillex, headlining along with Goldie, Andy C, My Nu Leng and Sister Bliss from Faithless throwing down a DJ set, no less. Add to this a beautiful beachside location, cheap food and drink, hot weather (and hot people), and you’ve got yourself a treasure trove of fun times.

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Have a look at our Student-friendly Festivals here

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Written by Marcus Barnes

10 May 2016