DJ Mag's Top 50 festivals 2019
Team DJ Mag asked DJs featured in our annual Top 100 and Alternative Top 100 polls to vote for their absolute favourite festivals. Collating all that data, we've charted our 50 top festivals for 2019. But did your favourite festival make the final cut? Find out below...
Over the years, we’ve kind of made polls something of a speciality here at DJ Mag. Over 1.2 million people voted in the Top 100 DJs in 2018, and 600,000 had their say in this year’s Top 100 Clubs. So, to celebrate the start of another jam-packed festival season, we thought it’d be fun to see which fest is best. Rather than ask for public opinion this time however, we put the questions to the DJs themselves, asking hundreds of jocks from the Top 100 DJs, Alternative Top 100 DJs (which ran for the first time last year in partnership with Beatport), and a huge list of others from right across the dance music spectrum — from house to techno, drum & bass to hardstyle — to make sure the list was as comprehensive as possible. Plus, we’ve kept all the answers strictly anonymous to make sure the DJs could be totally honest with their picks.
But did your favourite festival make the final cut? Are there any glaring omissions? Check out the results below to find out...
Each year, the sleepy town of Boom in Belgium is invaded by legions of dance music fanatics, all of whom have been eagerly waiting 12 months to get back to the behemoth that is Tomorrowland. Selling out in mere minutes, the 180,000-plus-capacity event is best known for its outlandish themes and unmatched stage production, the crowning glory of which is the maassive main stage, which each year seemingly comes decked out with more pyrotechnics and performers than every other event put together. Each stage is heavily themed, from the over-the-top organic vibe of the Garden of adness, to the dark depths of the Core stage to the retina searing bombast of the Organ of Harmony.
First held in 2005, the festival packs in so many artists it’s held over not one but two weekends, and although primarily known for its EDM bookings — Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, and of course local heroes Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are staples of the line-up each year — Tomorrowland offers a wide range of sounds. The tech-house, trance and hard dance contingents are always out in force, while techno superstars like Carl Cox and Belgian native Charlotte de Witte head for the mainstage each year.
Glastonbury’s is one of the oldest music festivals in the world, having taken place most summers since 1970. Initially born from the hippy movement, it’s grown exponentially every year and is now the largest greenfield festival on the planet.
It began embracing dance music in the late ‘80s when an assortment of renegade soundsystems fired up on-site, officially gaining a Dance Tent in 1995 and then a Dance Village a few years later. In recent years, Glastonbury has become a veritable playground for dance music fiends, with the Silver Hayes, Glade, Shangri-La and Block9 areas providing the best that our scene has to offer. Its unique mix of music acts from across the spectrum, alternative culture, environmental activism, amazing art, circus and cabaret and general madness make it a favourite place to play for many DJs, who virtually fall over themselves to get a ticket and quite often play for free.
Ultra started on Miami Beach in 1999, soon moving to its long-time home downtown in the compact Bayfront Park where it remained for most of the ensuing years (apart from a few years at Bicentennial Park in the noughties) until its shift to Virginia Key in March of this year. Josh Wink, Paul van Dyk and John Digweed were among the DJs who played the first Ultra for 10,000 people, and as it grew in size it attracted the cream of dance music’s worldwide acts. Carl Cox has had a long association with Ultra, initially hosting the Carl Cox Global Arena which soon became Carl Cox & Friends and, latterly, the Carl Cox Megastructure — showcasing all sorts of techno. As well as every well-known mainstage DJ you can think of, Ultra Miami has also put on assorted bands such as The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital, Kraftwerk, Groove Armada, Justice and tons more.
The ultimate daytime festival, Ultra Miami has become a three-day event this decade, while Ultra has also staged festivals in many far-flung countries such as South Africa, Singapore, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, Colombia and more.
Awakenings has been organising events at the former gas reservoir of Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek since 1997, bringing together some of techno’s biggest names for multiple events each year since then. In 2001, the team behind the events launched Awakenings as a full-blown festival establishing a base in Spaarnwoude, not far from Amsterdam. It has since gone on to become the country’s biggest techno festival, eventually growing into a two-day event. Awakenings attracts more than 80,000 visitors and over 100 of the biggest names in techno across its two days each year. The likes of Adam Beyer, Joseph Capriati, Nina Kraviz and Richie Hawtin can frequently be seen heading up the main stages of the festival, with Beyer in particular racking up more than 70 appearances for the promoter since it began throwing events over 20 years ago. Awakenings has also continued to organise slightly smaller events elsewhere in the Netherlands setting up shop in Eindhoven and at Amsterdam’s Gashouder. Belgium, USA, Chile and the UK have all also hosted Awakenings showcases over the last two decades.
Sonár launched in its main base of Barcelona in 1994 as the brainchild of Ricard Robles, Enric Palau and Sergi Caballero. Since its founding, the festival’s programme has been divided into two main parts: Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night, and later grew to take in the technology-focused Sónar+D programme in 2013. The event was initially founded as a “Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art” and hosted Sven Väth, Laurent Garnier and more in its first year. Sonár’s programming is largely split between DJs and live acts, covering a number of bases across the world of electronic and experimental music. Its annual Barcelona editions now attract upwards of around 130,000 people, and over the years, the likes of Daft Punk, Kraftwerk (performing their 3D show), The Chemical Brothers, Skrillex and Björk have all played headline sets. Sonár has also hosted events in Hong Kong, Istanbul, Reykjavik, Buenos Aires and Bogota in addition to its main Barcelona festival over the years.
Electric Daisy Carnival began life as a warehouse party in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, later going on to take over various LA venues each year through the late 1990s as its popularity grew. It continued to be held at a number of venues in California throughout the 2000s, hosting occasional sister events through that decade in Austin, Texas and Aurora, Colorado. With around 185,000 attendees in 2010, cracks began to show for EDC in LA following a crowd stampede and the entry of people under 16. EDC made the move to take its flagship event to Las Vegas in 2011 following the difficult previous year, taking place at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and attracting roughly 230,000 people across its three days. The festival now attracts more than 400,000 attendees each year, hosting the biggest names in EDM such as Marshmello, Martin Garrix and Porter Robinson. Various heat-related incidents in recent years saw organisers make the decision to hold the annual weekender a month earlier than usual in mid-May.
Taking place across four days at the start of July each year since 2000, Serbia’s EXIT Festival grew out of a student protest that year against the country’s government. Held at the Petrovaradin Fortress in the city of Novi Sad since 2001, the festival’s line-ups have combined international live acts such as Massive Attack, Skepta, Beastie Boys, LCD Soundsystem and lots more - who’ve all played on the main stage over the years - with the biggest names in dance music who traditionally play the Dance Arena. That area can hold over 25,000 people and has steadily grown to become as big an attraction at the festival as the main stage. The Dance Arena runs from the evening through until early morning, with DJs such as Solomun, Tale Of Us and Carl Craig all having made appearances, in addition to a number of very special b2b sets from Adam Beyer and Eric Prydz, Carl Cox and Green Velvet, and Heidi and Kim Ann Foxman. The EXIT team also organises four other festivals in South-East Europe: Belgrade’s No Sleep, Sea Star in Umag, Timișoara’s Revolution and Sea Dance in Budva.
Untold is Romania’s largest electronic music festival having attracted 355,000 people across its four days in 2018. Held every year since 2015 at Central Park in Cluj-Napoca, its base mainly revolves around the city’s Cluj Arena which acts as the festival’s main stage. Some of the world’s biggest DJs have played the festival with Armin van Buuren, Tiësto, Hardwell, Afrojack and Martin Garrix all notching up multiple appearances. Armin van Buuren, in particular, has developed a tight-knit bond with the festival playing for five hours in 2017 and in 2018 closing out the event with a seven-hour set that continued well into Monday morning. In addition to a sizeable DJ roster, Untold also books a number of live acts to play each year, with The Prodigy, Charli XCX, Bonobo and Tinie Tempah having all featured at the festival. Untold also became an international ambassador of Romania in 2016, with visitors’ festival bracelets granting them free or discounted access to a number of Romanian tourist attractions.
Coachella was founded by Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen in 1999 and has since taken place every year at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California (save for a one-year break in 2000). The festival is now organised by promoters Goldenvoice, and each year pulls together a line-up that spans electronic music, pop, hip-hop, indie and more. The line-up mainly revolves around the five key stages: Coachella Stage, Outdoor Theatre, Gobi Tent, Mojave Tent, and Sahara Tent. The Yuma stage was also added in 2013 providing another base for the festival’s DJ bookings. Amongst the most memorable sets in the festival’s history is Daft Punk’s 2006 appearance with their well-storied pyramid-shaped stage and reunion sets from Outkast and LCD Soundsystem in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Other key bookings over the years have included Björk, Aphex Twin, Calvin Harris, and Prince. Coachella permanently became a three-day festival in 2007 and in 2012, it expanded to be held across two weekends with the same line-up. The festival now hosts around 250,000 attendees across its two weekends.
Amsterdam’s Dekmantel Festival has steadily grown year-on-year since its founding in 2013, with head honchos Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij building it out of a series of parties of the same name that they’d been running in the city since 2007. Setting up shop in the leafy surroundings of the Amsterdamse Bos - where it continues to be held six years later - Dekmantel’s programme has consistently married some of house and techno’s biggest names with up-and-coming talent. Dixon, Ben UFO, Ben Klock, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood and more played the very first edition in 2013, which also saw Boiler Room begin its long-standing association with the festival, beaming sites directly from the event live to viewers around the world. In 2015, the festival expanded to add a series of opening concerts, first hosting Autechre at the grand Muziekgebouw, before taking over a number of other nearby venues in the following years for live sets from Shackleton, Four Tet, Steve Reich and lots more. 2018 saw the festival add the UFO II, a sister stage to its techno-focused area with a slant towards more experimental techno. The Dekmantel team have also hosted festivals in Sao Paulo and Tisno, Croatia which is home to Dekmantel Selectors, while the Oostzaan area of the Netherlands is the home of their smaller Dutch festival, Lente Kabinet. They’ve also established connections with artists such as Palms Trax, Young Marco and Robert Hood via their record label which was founded in 2009.
11. BURNING MAN
16. WORLD CLUB DOME
17. LOVE INTERNATIONAL
28. 51ST STATE
30. KAPPA FUTURFESTIVAL
31. JUNCTION 2
34. ROCK IN RIO
36. LOST VILLAGE
37. DEFECTED CROATIA
41. ELECTRIC ZOO
42. LET IT ROLL
43. BALATON SOUND
46. WE ARE FSTVL
49. HOSPITALITY IN THE PARK
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.