Music festivals. They’re an excuse to put on your craziest vintage garb or two-metre-long angel wings, dance in the mud in wellies and live in a tent, and of course, enjoy really, really good music with tens and hundreds of thousands of other people. Whether your beat is reggae or EDM, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 music festivals to keep an ear out for in 2019.
1. AfrikaBurn, South Africa
April 29 – May 5
AfrikaBurn is South Africa’s answer to Burning Man. Each year since 2007, the arid landscape of Stonehenge farm, just outside of Tankwa Karoo National Park, transforms into a playground for festival-goers who come to the desert decked in glittering outfits and riding outlandish floats. Technically more of an art event than a music festival, installations reaching several storeys are put up and then burned at the end of the week. This year’s theme is “Ephemeropolis”, so works will evoke the concept of ephemerality – something to ruminate while pitching your tent and bobbing to folk or EDM (all sorts of music are welcome).
2. Tomorrowland, Belgium
July 19-21, 26-28
It started in 2005, in the scenic hills of Boom, and this EDM festival has grown into a major international affair since, with 400,000 attendees in 2018. Tomorrowland was founded around the belief in cultivating a holistic relationship with nature in order to create a better tomorrow and this year’s theme, “The Book of Wisdom, The Return”, resurrects a popular theme from 2012. Past performers include David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia, and this year will see the Chainsmokers and Martin Garrix.
3. Exit, Serbia
Though it’s consistently rated as one of the best music festivals in Europe and the world, Exit seems to have slipped under the noses of floral-headband-wearing partygoers. It started in Novi Sad in 2000 as a student movement to protest Serbian communism and the Bosnian war and to celebrate freedom, acceptance and all things good instead. It’s all about the music rather than making a fashion statement, whether that’s techno or metal, punk or reggae, with performers that are not quite mainstream but still popular especially amongst true music nerds.
4. Splendour in the Grass, Australia
Queensland may be called the Sunshine State, but the sun never seems to set on the vast, grassy expanse of North Byron Parklands in New South Wales, just a stone’s throw from the South Pacific Ocean. This picturesque setting is where Splendour in the Grass is held each winter (temperatures are actually quite balmy, though). The alternative indie rock festival which began in 2001 has yet to announce its 2019 line-up but last year saw Kendrick Lamar and Lorde perform.
5. Fuji Rock, Japan
Held in a magical evergreen forest up in the mountain of Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture – not at Mount Fuji as is commonly thought – this three-day rock festival is one of Asia’s most celebrated and this year’s headliners include the Chemical Brothers and Sia. There’s no need to pack a wacky costume, though you won’t be stopped if you do. Attendees generally come in shorts, t-shirts and big hats, hauling foldable chairs and picnic mats, and interspersing themselves amongst the sky-high pine trees.
6. Rock in Rio, Brazil
September 27-29, October 3-6
Rock in Rio has been a high-profile event since its very first festival in 1985 where British rock band Queen famously performed “We Will Rock You” and “Love of my Life” in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s festival, held at the new City of Rock, which was also the site of the 2016 Rio Olympics, headlines Drake, Bon Jovi and Jessie J. In addition to Rio, the festival has also been held in Lisbon, Madrid and Las Vegas.
7. Mawazine, Morocco
Morocco’s often-overlooked capital city Rabat is home to ancient ruins, palaces with lovely gardens and surf beaches lined with waterfront bars, and come summer, it hosts Mawazine. Since its inception 2001, the festival has grown to be one of the largest in the world and showcases talent from all over the Arab region and beyond. Notable performers have included Whitney Houston, Bruno Mars and Moroccan-born French Montana. Best of all is the fact that most of the festival’s shows are free.
8. SnowGlobe, California
Each December, during the three days before the new year, the pristine pine forests of South Lake Tahoe transforms into a musical wonderland. One of the newer music festivals on the scene, SnowGlobe is already picking up interest, especially after MTV acquired it in 2018. The 2019 line-up hasn’t been released yet, but besides concerts, there’s also winter sports and art installations to look forward to. And that rainbow-coloured one-piece ski suit buried in your closet? You might want to bust that out, too.
9. Primavera Sound, Spain
May 30 – June 1
Fun fact: in 2012, The Cure played a concert at Primavera Sound for three hours straight, the longest ever performance at the music festival. Held at the Parc del Fòrum, a massive waterfront complex, Primavera Sound attracts a crowd that’s just as quirky and colourful as its host city, Barcelona. Be sure to download the festival’s app – this is where they’ll announce “secret” performances happening at pop-up stages throughout the festival. What’s known for sure, though, is that Cardi B and Solange will be headlining.
It’s full-on electronic vibes at Sónar, which takes place at the stunning Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik. The futuristic-looking venue was designed by Icelandic-Danish artist Ólafur Elíasson and its glass façade and roof allow spectators to gaze out to the night sky. It’s a truly otherworldly experience, especially if you’re lucky to catch the Northern Lights. This year’s line-up is an enticing mash-up of international and homegrown talent, including electronic band GusGus and experimental techno duo Kiasmos, both from Reykjavik.