Out of the countless cultural exports the United States of America has contributed to the world, one of it’s most significant is entertainment. Television. Movies. Music. The advancement of such artforms are engrained into the evolution of the U.S.. In the case of music, several core genres of music first came to fruition here including jazz, rock, rap, and of course, house. Regardless of how anyone feels about each of them, nobody could deny the level of influence those four styles have had on the world of music and the world itself. If there was a list of the most commonly found genres of music throughout all of iTunes, those would probably be two through five, with “pop” landing at number one.
America’s rich history in music is one of the reasons the festival scene has flourished the way it has the past few years. There is such a nationwide demand for music that pretty much every region has one or two signature festivals. People living in the big cities who are going to things like Lollapalooza and Coachella probably aren’t aware that the festival scene is just as affluent in cities like Ozark, Arkansas (Wakarusa) and Quincy, Washington (Sasquatch!). Festivals like this may not get as much press as the giants among the skyscrapers, but ask anyone who has been and they’re smiles won’t be any smaller. Plus, the lineups ain’t half bad either.
However, if a commentary of music is to continue, the land across the pond must be mentioned. America may have developed some of the most important styles, and in turn, some of the most important artists in the history of music, but without Europe, music itself would cease to exist. Other than the fact that Europe was the first place music was composed solely for entertainment purposes, European (but especially British) artists have redefined every contribution America has made to the world of music; in addition to making more than a few of there own. Rock n’ roll may have first been heard in the U.S., but the Beatles were the ones who used it to change the world. In addition to electronic legends like Daft Punk hailing from Europe, more than half the names on a massive American lineup like EDC or Ultra belong to European artists, spanning across all genres.
Now the European festival scene may not have changed the world in the same way European music has, but similarly, if a commentary of festivals is to continue, Europe must be included in the conversation.
European festivals are a whole different breed. While Europe’s music scene and America’s music scene have had each made their own essential contributions to the world, festivals themselves are just another type of party (from a certain point of view), and Europeans do partying way better than Americans.
Europe has always been known for their less conservative practices compared to America. Just think about Amsterdam and all the things that are legal there, but aren’t legal here. On European beaches, nudity is much less frowned upon, and many Europeans still laugh when they hear the drinking age is 21 in the U.S.. So when Europeans are putting on a festival, they take that party-hardy attitude and turn it into something massive.
First of all the lineups Europeans curate for their festivals aren’t just grand in scale, but inherently different. In America, artists have started to do festival tours in response to their ever-growing popularity. Just take a look at every major American fest with the past 18 months. Artists like Tame Impala and Major Lazer are two among a significant amount of artists that have been at all of them. America has it’s regional differences, but as the name makes very clear, these regions are united under one banner. That’s why artists can become such sensations in the U.S.. What one region likes, the other region is bound to like as well. Being both densely populated and technologically advanced, the people in the U.S. are just one click away from sharing a song with everyone else in the U.S., causing nationwide trends. (Which is exactly what happened with EDM.)
In Europe, at least ten countries take up the same amount of space as the American mainland, all of which have very different cultures. If an artist is to truly explode, they have to speak to the dozens of unique cultures defined by these countries. American festivals like to talk about how people come from all over the world to go, but European festivals rely on people coming from other countries, thus have to curate lineups that speak to a more diverse audience. This often leads to festivals with much larger rosters than any festival in America. Glastonbury festival, which has been happening for almost 50 years in the U.K., has over 80 stages. That’s right 8-0. Not all of these are dedicated solely to music, but well over half of them are. With such a comprehensive approach, you could probably hear an original take on literally every genre of music, and then later in the night you could listen to massive headliners like Kanye West and The Who.
On the electronic front, because the vast majority of well-known DJs are European, that means that European festivals are the ones they grew up with. Those are the fests that they were going to when they were younger. Those were the fests that inspired them. Which means when they play those festivals, their sets have that extra amount of love on top. So often at festivals like Hideout do DJs play extended sets and bless the audience with unscheduled back-to-backs. All of these DJs have been coming to these festivals for years now, and they are all stoked to be sharing this good time with each other.
Another noticeable aspect of festivals the Europeans have perfected are venues. Consider this. The oldest buildings in America are around 350 years old, whereas there are buildings in Europe that are thousands of years old. Compared to American festivals, which for the most part take place in big open spaces like farms and state parks, European festivals traverse land and sea in all conditions in order to bring the most unforgettable experience possible. When the winter hits the U.S., the festival season has been over for a few weeks already and other than some scattered new year’s eve parties, festies are confined to indoor activities when it’s cold outside. Well in some parts of Europe, snow falls well through to April (or beyond), but that doesn’t mean they’re missing out on the fun. Snowbombing is a huge festival that takes place in the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen and it is equal parts music festival and week-long ski trip. You can hit the slopes in between sets at this festival. Then the snow melts a few weeks later and even more legendary locations become available. Ibiza is already more well known than any beachfront party in the states, and it’s not even a festival so when Europeans put on a festival, there’s more pressure to come up with something new. Annie Mac’s second Lost & Found festival will take over the island of Malta at the end of March, and every year Exit Festival is held in the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Serbia. That’s right you’re raving in an ancient castle. Oh and I forgot to mention you can camp on the beach too.
The most important difference between American and European festivals though is that, European festivals are attended by (you guessed it) Europeans. The same people whose ancestors helped to form a continent where you can buy mushroom tea from a store and where more than two countries are known for their alcoholism will be partying with you all day and night. Every single Insomniac lineup has the word “YOU” draped across the bottom emphasizing the importance of the community over the artists themselves. Well the European community is known for going HAM.
Obviously Eurotrips are not the easiest things to accomplish. Unless you’re well off, snag a good deal, or you have an excess amount of frequent flyer miles, an international vacation takes serious planning and serious saving. However, even if someone doesn’t like festivals, everyone should visit Europe at least once in their life. The number of Americans who would say that they have absolutely no interest in visiting Europe is very small. So if it’s on your bucket list anyway, why not plan the trip around a festival? Instead of having to troll the streets of Europe hoping to run into cool people (who hopefully speak the same language) you can become enveloped in a community of people who share your interests, and if one of those interests is partying, you’ll probably never want to leave. All the basic aspects of American festivals that people love will still be there. Music. People. Venue. But they’ll be presented in a way you’ve never seen before.