1) Burning Man Festival, Black Rock City, Nevada
This is an unconventional one. Each summer close to 50,000 festival-goers gather in the Nevada desert for eight days of hedonism, climaxing in the burning of a giant, Wickermanesque effigy. During those eight days there are no rules, other than the prohibition of any form of cash – instead there exists a barter economy. Those who attend don’t perceive the Burning Man as a festival but as the formation of a desert community. Participants form ‘villages’ and enjoy a ‘contemporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance’. They can create their own ‘mutant vehicle’ – an adapted street vehicle – yet it must be unrecognisable as one. All those who attend are on an equal footing while at the festival, they even discarded the main stage a few years ago because it created division between the audience and performers. Everyone is welcome to take part.
2) Gathering of the Juggalos, Illinois:
Not one for the faint hearted. A Juggalo is someone ‘who’s down with the clowns ’til they’re dead in the ground.’ AKA, fans of acts such as the Insane Clown Posse – a ‘horror-themed’ rap duo, invariably bedecked in clownish facepaint. Those who call themselves a ‘Juggalo’ (including Charlie Sheen and Vanilla Ice among others) call it a family and the Gathering of the Juggalos is their home. For fans of ICP’s violent rap, the ‘Gathering’ is a “family-fun-times-underground-hardcore-hip-hop” music festival. This strange synthesis of an emphasis on family, violent music, drinking (and in some cases drug taking), has even been documented, well worth a watch: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/27/newdocumentary- sheds-lig_n_984096.html
3) Expecto Patronum:
On a more light-hearted note, this was a Harry Potter-dedicated festival in 2009. Although not strictly musical, they did feature a bunch of Harry Potter-themed Wizard Rock (Wrock) bands: Draco and the Malfoys, The 8th Horcrux, Harry and the Potters, Solitary Snape and Swedish Shortsnouts. Sadly it was only a one-off festival.
4) All Tomorrow’s Parties, East Sussex:
An alternative to the larger UK festivals. ATP is sponsorship-free and all the organisers, artists and fans camp together in the Camber Sands Holiday Camp. The line-up is curated by a different artist each year, and is described by its founder as ‘like an excellent mix tape compiled by your favourite musicians’. ATP is seen by festival-goers as a rare opportunity to take a trip through an artist’s record collection, and thus features all the legends as well as those more obscure artists you could imagine. Past Curators of ATP have included Mogwai, Pavement, Belle & Sebastian, Animal Collective, Mudhoney, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Devendra Banhart, Dinosaur Jr, The Shins, Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth, The Dirty Three and Portishead. ATP has achieved such a level of cult status that a film has even been made about it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0870210/
5) Shambhala Music Festival:
Canada Shambhala began in 1998 when approximately 500 people gathered at the Salmo River Ranch. It has grown into a community built upon ‘Shambhalove’. Today Shambhala is a four-day progressive electronic music festival in British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountainous forests and now features the popular ‘Acid Friday’ – need I say more? The festival is produced by a family of five, takes place on their farm, and does not accept any corporate sponsorship. When not hosting the festival, the 500-acre Salmo River Ranch is a working farm; however, during the festival a crew of 2000 workers and volunteers combined with ten thousand festival-goers makes Shambhala the largest city in the West Kootenays for five days – all of this on a farm without even an electricity hookup.
6) Lost Events, Sydney:
‘Lost Events’ are a group of party organisers who only reveal the location of their parties at the last minute. You buy your ticket not knowing where it will take you. The first event was called ‘Lost on Shark Island’ with everyone dressing up as castaways and catching a ferry to an island. This has since been followed up by other themed getaways, including ‘Lost at the Alter’, ‘Lost in the Badlands’ and ‘Lost in the Blitz’. A recent example was ‘Lost on the Trans Siberian’ in which attendees dressed Cold War themed outfits. ‘Lost Events’ then hired a 500-seater train, packed it full of speakers, and headed for the mountains with their revelers.
7) Snowbombing, Austria:
Snowbombing is held at the Austrian Ski Resort Mayrhofen – think Ibiza in the snow (pools and saunas) but with winter sports and traditional Austrian culture (visualise lederhosen, sausages and Oompah bands). Music and events are held in cool locations such as an igloo village, a forest clearing and a remote alpine farmstead. The most exciting part is the Snowbombing Road Trip – a drive from the UK to Mayrhofen through a series of collecting points, pitstops and the arrival procession to open the event. Past acts have included Fatboy Slim, 2manyDJs, Zane Lowe, Dizzee Rascal, Dirty Pretty Things, Grandmaster Flash and Foals.
8) Llangollen International Eisteddfod, Wales:
A slightly different one to round things off with: every year the Welsh town of Llangollen stages a six-day festival of music, dance and song, in which over 4,000 performers from across the globe head to this beautiful little town to partake. In 2005 Luciano Pavarotti added his name to the competition in recognition of his appreciation of the festival and its influence on his career. There are around 25 different competitions, climaxing with the prestigious ‘Choir of the World’ where winning choirs compete for the Pavarotti Trophy.