So here we are, barely two months into 2018 and still in the throws of the northern temperate zone’s long winter. Still, there are signs that our corner of the earth is rousing from her slumber; the days are getting longer, and supermarkets have been rid of Christmas songs for long enough that it’s just a faint memory. And of course, festival lineups are beginning to rack up. As our attention returns to the promise of enjoying the outdoors, so too must we begin to consider what to do with all that sunshine. Read on for Point Blank’s essential guide to festivals in 2018. Fair warning – none of them are in Croatia.
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Any guide to what festivals to attend wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Amsterdam promoters. They have gradually built up from a series of small parties to become the generally agreed-upon industry leaders. The fact that weekend tickets for this year’s festival sold out in just minutes is a testament to the reputation it has garnered over the years.
In interviews, the organisers maintain that the festival is special because of the line-up. That’s where it all ends and begins for them. Sure, the setting could hardly have been purpose-designed any better, and is remarkably central in one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic cities, but it is the music that people visit music festivals for, and this party is always soundtracked by the exciting, the forward-thinking and the technically-gifted.
This year, that amounts to a huge list of live sets from Mount Kimbie, Shackleton, Phase Fatale and Karen Gwyer, plus festival favourites in Helena Hauff, Floating Points, Shanti Celeste, Young Marco and Juju & Jordash. Two opening concerts featuring Tangerine Dream, Four Tet and James Holden & The Animal Spirits are announced so far, and there’s still the night programme to come. It’s no exaggeration to say Dekmantel is the world leader right now, so if you can get your hands on a ticket, there’s nowhere else you need to be.
It’s no secret that dance music has infiltrated practically all aspects of the musical landscape. Whether its the USA embracing EDM or four-to-the-floor returning to dominate pop production, all signs from the last five years suggest it is here to stay, front and centre. Among these signs is the rise of the dance music festival. Despite the history of outdoor raves, festivals have traditionally been the stronghold of music made with live instrumentation, but the flip-side of the rise of the dance festival is a real decline in festivals in a more traditional mould.
One festival that bucks this trend is Green Man in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. Port Meirion’s Festival Number 6 in North Wales is comparable due to the country of its location and the similarly wide scope of its programming and tends to get more attention due to the town’s unique architectural style (that of an Italian village) and vibrant colour scheme. But the natural beauty at the banks of the river Usk is at least its equal, resulting in a dreamlike atmosphere that stays true to the hippy dream of the likes of Glastonbury festival over the border.
There is much still left to announce, but of the already announced acts there are plenty to get the mouth watering. Fleet Foxes and Mount Kimbie each released some of the most accomplished albums of last year. Joining them are the inimitable talents of John Grant and Anton Newcombe (the renegade psych-preacher figure at the helm of The Brian Jonestown Massacre) as well as the all-conquering War on Drugs. John Talabot’s presence proves the festival doesn’t completely shun electronic sounds, while Public Service Broadcasting will fittingly tell the story of the Welsh mining industry’s decline, having released ‘Every Valley’ in July of Last Year. An idyllic escape on this green island.
The self-styled ‘dirty little rave’ returns for its sixth year, somehow still carrying a best-kept-secret reputation. FM is a special weekender due to its absolute commitment to that which makes parties enjoyable. You don’t put on a festival for four successful years without gathering some attention, and you get the feeling that should the organisers please, they could increase the capacity beyond the 700 mark and sell out comfortably. But the reason they don’t is the same reason it stands apart. The site is tiny, less than a five minute walk from one end to the other, which makes it impossible to lose anyone, plus all of the organisers and security’s effort is put into encouraging a friendly and welcoming atmosphere – the recurrence of so many names on the lineup year-on-year is a testament to this – which trickles down to a sense of freedom and safety from judgement that goes a long way to fulfilling its promise of reviving the spirit of rave.
They’ve yet to announce the line-up this year, but given his appearance at every edition thus far, you can bet on Auntie Flo being in attendance. So too Ben Sims, Ryan Elliot and Mark Archer, who have scarcely missed a chance to visit this field somewhere north of London. And of Course Jane Fitz, who since 2014 has curated the Field Moves tent.
Tickets are still on sale but don’t expect that to stay the case long, especially after the line-up is announced. Take a chance on this one.
In recent years Morocco has started to become something of an unlikely festival destination, though perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. The country has a rich musical history (the yearly Gnaoua festival in Essaouira is a fantastic showcase for some of this), and although most Moroccans don’t drink, you can grab a beer or a glass of wine in bigger towns and cities easily enough. Connections with the world of dance music are beginning to ramp up as well – James Holden’s widely-adored ‘The Animal Spirits’ took much inspiration of the musical traditions of the Gnawa, previously explored on collaborative projects with Maalem Mahmoud Guinia. Oasis festival in Marrakech is entering its fourth year in 2018, and Moga festival is tipped to return to Essaouira this year two years on from its successful first year.
We would recommend either if Moga does go ahead, but as much more is known about the Oasis in 2018 at this point that’s what we’re focusing on here. As with previous years, the festival’s first phase of line-up announcements sees a collection of respected stalwarts and those who made waves in 2017. Perhaps taking their lead from last year’s Dekmantel, they have paired several DJs for b2b’s designed to complement each other. Derrick Carter b2b The Black Madonna is a pairing we’re particularly excited by – the pair have been residents at Chicago’s Smart Bar simultaneously, and are highly respected ambassadors for House music’s city of birth, so sparks should fly for this one.
The festival leans to the luxury end of the spectrum, with champagne bars and baccarat among the attractions at the site’s relaxing pockets in the shade. Great music in a great setting is the bedrock of any good party, and Oasis has both in spades.
Last year’s inaugural edition of Houghton Festival felt special. Previously, if you wanted to keep dancing for longer than the regular 3 or 4am cut off, you had to leave these shores and head for a country with more relaxed licensing laws. When Craig Richards and Gottwood Festival got together to organise Houghton Festival at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, the goalposts were well and truly moved, with a license for 24-hour music all weekend. The result was that people could dip in and out the dancefloor at their pleasure, which in turn encouraged a more relaxed atmosphere than the race-to-the-finish vibe of many British festivals. Extended sets of 5 hours or more were the norm, and DJs made full use of the freedom that allowed to take their sets in unexpected directions. Having put all of that together with consistently weighty speakers, and an idyllic lakeside setting, a benchmark was set.
Richards, the esteemed DJ and longtime (former) Fabric resident has built up an enviable address book over the years, and given that first tier tickets last year started at just £80, one assumes many of the massive artists on the bill must have agreed to play for a discounted fee. This year’s tickets started at almost double that, but the initial line-up announcement looks no less impressive, with Monolake playing live, along with Nathan Fake and Smagghe & Cross. Many favourites from last year return to the bill, including Margaret Dygas, Optimo, Ricardo Villalobos, Cosmo Murphy, Saoirse and Nicolas Lutz.
Practically the only gripe levelled at the festival last year was the paltry effort to include female DJs on the bill. We’ve only had the initial lineup announcement thus far for 2018, with more names on the way, but as it stands it’s extremely disappointing to see this unchanged. Houghton remains on this list because last year it felt like a watershed moment for UK festivals, but, in 2018, to have just 8 women on a bill of 80 is not good enough. If this is addressed in the upcoming additions, then fair enough. If not, it will a sad reminder of progress yet to be made and will tarnish an otherwise fantastic addition to the calendar.
Utrecht’s Le Guess Who? flies the flag for those pushing at the outer membrane, in the tradition of All Tomorrow’s Parties (RIP). Every year they ask a diverse group of artists to curate several shows around the city, allowing for a programming about as wide-ranging as you are likely to see anywhere. Last year the list of curators included the wiggy Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces, who brought with them the murky poetry of Gonjasufi, and Astro-jazz royalty in Pharaoh Sanders. Perfume Genius, of the same city, with his poignantly revealing yet anthemic indie rock, was responsible for the inclusion of Aldous Harding and Cate Le Bon.
Another curator was James Holden, who, as well as performing with The Animal Spirits, shone a light on the Gnawa great Maalem Mahmoud Guinia (mentioned in the Oasis festival recommendation too), London jazz’ man-of-the-moment Shabakah and the Ancestors, and the cosmic genius of Hieroglyphic Being. There was much more besides, but this serves to demonstrate what an amazing breadth of genius was on show last year.
There’s no real info about what’s on this year, but the festival tend to announce the programme in stages. Honestly though, this is one weekender you would do well to trust, especially given that tickets are currently just over £100.
Festivals play a massive role in the economy of music, and there are few greater pleasures in life than wandering around some magical place, with all those man- and woman-hours put in, and discovering something new that you would never have done otherwise. They can be amazing to be a part of as well, and we can help you get there. Learn to produce with us and you could be playing live somewhere like Le Guess Who? Hone your DJ skills in our studio full of Pioneer DJ gear and you could be spinning records at Field Maneuvers someday. Or study live sound engineering with us and end up a key component of a festival like Green Man. Whatever your into, call us on +44 20 7729 4884 to talk to a course advisor, who would be happy to help.
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