• UO Music: Top 10 Destination Festivals

    While our favorite big name festivals always deliver the sets we’re dying to see, we're always looking for our next musical adventure. So with that, we'd advise you to pack your passport and read about this year's beachside dance festivals, experimental Poles, upscale themes, and the rest of the wide world of live music that's out there, ready to be experienced.   
    Words and photos by Laura Studarus

    OFF Festival
    Katowice, Poland

    If Dolina Trzech Stawow (translation: Valley of Three Ponds) sounds like a storybook location, that’s because it kind of is. As the setting of Katowice, Poland’s OFF Festival since 2010, the area boasts its fair share of greenery, trees and—yes—bodies of water.  The lineup is, of course, a musical dream, as well, as you probably won’t see any of the usual suspects headlining the three-day event. OFF books everyone from the cool Polish bands you probably haven’t heard of yet (electro heads would do well to check out Kamp! Rebeka, and Coldair) to international acts aiming to try something new, like Xiu Xiu performing the music of David Lynch. Last year featured a heavy helping of experimental jazz acts, but this year Anohni, Willis Earl Beal, The Kills, and Polish pop princess Brodka are among the first names announced—and there's plenty more where that came from.  


    by:Larm Festival
    Oslo, Norway
    It’s old news that Scandinavia and the Nordic countries are pretty much the go-to location for the most impossibility cool tunes. But just in case there was ever any doubt, by:Larm has been around since 1998, quietly proving the point. The Norwegian festival prides itself on showcasing upcoming talent from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Their ability to predict winners is pretty impressive. MØ, Taken by Trees, Say Lou Lou, Highasakite, AURORA, and Tove Lo have all taken the small theaters and clubs of by:Larm before hitting the international stage. As a special added bonus, the festival also hosts the public presentation of the annual Nordic Music Prize. Previous recipients include The Knife, First Aid Kit, and Jonsi. 

    Isle of Light
    Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that every country possession of a wealth of music fans must be in want of a festival. Which is why we’re thankful the Dominican Republic hosts the Isle of Light. (Not may international acts hit the small country, so festivals are doubly welcome.) Located in the port city of Santo Domingo, Isle of Light is heavy on both the DIY and sunshine, providing a showcase for upcoming Latin American artists who this year took the stage alongside Neon Indian and Shamir. Pass the sunscreen and queue for the zipline—we’re doing this. 


    Iceland Airwaves
    Reykjavik, Iceland
    Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, Iceland Airwaves is just as cool as you’ve heard it is, and yes, any and all music fans should add it to their bucket list as soon as possible. How could you not? Just look at last year, with performances by Börn, Agent Fresco, Reykjavíkurdætur, and Vök proving that Björk and Sigur Rós aren’t the only names in the local game. That, on top of international favorites like Father John Misty, Hot Chip, and Beach House, make for a lot to take in. This year, PJ Harvey, Julia Holter, Lush, and Mammút are just a few of the names we're looking forward to obsessing over.

    Flow Festival
    Helsinki, Finland
    Held in Helsinki’s defunct Suvilahti power plant, Flow Festival certainly looks the part of a post-apocalyptic gathering. But behind the crazy walls and twisted pathways is one of the best arts and music festivals the Nordics have to offer. By day, take in upcoming names in the Finnish scene. Have You See the Jane Fonda Cassette Tape?, LCMDF, and French Films—all performed last year. By night, dance it out to the international headliners. 2016 is already slated to be another amazing year for the August festival with sets from New Order, Sia, and Jaakko Eino Kalevi. So, what’s Finnish for “Let the good times roll?” 


    Le Guess Who? 
    Utrecht, Netherlands
    If there’s one thing that Le Guess Who? can be praised for, it’s programming their stages full of like-minded artists—because if you’re having a good time, the last thing you want to do is run across town praying that you can squeeze your way into yet another venue. But the Dutch music festival has (even) more going for it that an excellent grasp of logistics. From events like the 24-Hour Drone Fest to special programs curated by Jacco Gardner and Sun 0))) and a team-up by psych masters SUUNS and Jerusalem in My Heart, there is art and music being made in equal part. And with Wilco announced as their 10th-anniversary headliner, this year is already off to another promising start. 

    Secret Garden Party 
    Abbots Ripton, United Kingdom
    Fun fact—London isn’t the only place in the United Kingdom that’s rocking. Take Abbots Ripton, the small English parish that hosts Secret Garden Party. Wolf Alice, Years and Years, and MØ have all played previous editions of the —and it's easy to see why. From the upscale garden party theme to the more casual Ferris wheel, fireworks, and mud wrestling, Secret Garden Party is one of the few festivals that can actually claim they have something for everyone and deliver. 

    Beaches Brew
    Marina Di Ravenna, Italy
    Italy’s coolest music festival is actually its hottest one as well. Held on the beach at Marina Di Ravenna over the course of five(!) days, Beaches Brew draws star power that ranges from Wooden Wisdom (Elijah Wood’s DJ project) to Shabazz Palaces. This year’s edition, running from June 6-10, has Ty Segall, Destroyer, and Car Seat Headrest on deck, so expect another scorcher. And as if taking in tunes with sand between your toes wasn't enough, the whole festival is free. Just think of it as more beer and sunscreen money. 


    Meltdown Festival
    London, England
    Every year a different musician takes over and curates London's Meltdown Festival—so it’s difficult to say exactly what the vibe will be like each time. But with a list of previous curators that includes Yoko Ono, Jarvis Cocker, Patti Smith, and David Bowie, you can pretty much guarantee that you’re in for a treat. Think of it like a jukebox in concert form, as your favorites bring their favorite artists and bands to perform and vie to become your next new favorites. 

    Labyrinth 
    Niigata, Japan
    Why go to an American dance festival, full of fake (albeit pretty) light up landscapes, when you can head to Niigata and dance it out in the wilderness? Artists for the 2016 event are still yet to be announced, but it’s safe to anticipate another larger than life, cooler than thou event is in store.