It’s ruining your dinner dates by commandeering conversation and screwing over your holiday plans by ramping up the cost of going away. Which is why, in 2017, more and more music fans are looking to combine their summer holiday with their summer festival. There’ll be no more fretting over Oaxaca or Wilderness: according to festivalinsights.com, “with festival fans choosing to travel abroad more than ever before, it has become a priority for festival promoters to attract that foreign audience with a compelling and simple offering.”
Europe is, for now at least, still a short-haul winner. In a recent survey by travel package specialist Festicket, Portugal and Spain were found to be the fastest-growing destinations for festivalgoers last year. Primavera led the way, first with a festival in Barcelona and then more recently in Porto – they claim to have seen a 50% increase in British attendees to both events over the past two years.
As well as securing major artists such as, this year, Frank Ocean and Arcade Fire, a large part of festivals like Primavera’s appeal is the opportunity for their Airbnb-ing audience to shake their hangovers by strolling around the city, or collapsing on a nearby beach during the day. Its organizers insist that, increasingly so, location is a huge part of Primavera’s magic. “Our festivals wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t take place in those beautiful, interesting cities,” says Primavera director Alfonso Lanza.
This year northern Portugal has another draw in Neopop. While the electronic music festival is in its 12th year, it’s hoping to attract more visitors from abroad to enjoy banging sounds in scenic coastal surrounds and, says founder Gustavo Pereira, “seafood that will make you fall to your knees.” He’s also keen for his “UK-inspired programming” of international acts to appeal to clubbers used to broad churches likeFabric, with Kraftwerk in the headline slot.
While sun-drenched festivals attracting Brits abroad aren’t exactly a new phenomenon (Benicàssim has been going since 1995, for example), over in the Balkans, music, and climate have more recently coalesced into a summer-long party destination. Festicket offers packages of flights, hotels and festival tickets to 29 festivals in the states alone, Croatia being the biggest draw. One of its mainstays, Outlook, turns 10 this year, and its organizers say that fans wanting the trip of a lifetime every summer are behind the trend. “Nowadays, people are spending their savings on experiences rather than material possessions, so combining travel with festivals has significantly increased,” says Joe Barnett, one of Outlook’s founders. “The more investment someone makes, the more heightened their experience will be.”
But while more money doesn’t necessarily equal more fun (see the recent Fyre festival that went belly up in the Bahamas), it’s true that foreign festivals are capitalising on the rising demand for retox paired with detox. You need only look to one of the newest festivals on the fast-evolving Moroccan circuit for an idea of just how “heightened” it can get. The swanky Oasis in Marrakech, at the foot of the Atlas mountains, is where you can party in a pool with a dedicated champagne bar to DJ sets from techno stalwartRichie Hawtin, followed by downtime in the onsite spa.
Bands playing live at Worldwide festival’s ancient amphitheatre. Photograph: Pierre Nocca
DJ and label boss Gilles Peterson also has form in creating memorable escapes in luxe locations, having established Worldwide festival in the picturesque French seaside town of Sète 11 years ago. It stretches over an entire week, with DJs on the beach in the daytime followed by live acts in an ancient amphitheatre by nightfall. And although Peterson’s primary concerns are the programming (this year features Sampha and Sun Ra Arkestra), he’s aware his location is seductive. “It is a rave, but it’s a lot more than that,” he says. “Totally by chance, we’ve got this great place with more theatres and galleries per person than anywhere else in France.”
The festival-holiday trend is happening less further afield, too. In Wales there is Green Man, which since 2014 has let ticket-buyers spend the four days leading up to the main event at their “Settler’s” camp. Founder Fiona Stewart says that a crowd of around 3,500 do it each year. “Offering people a nice, easy and friendly week away is a nourishing thing to do,” she says. “Some people go walking, while others do extreme sports or go surfing.” So you can get back to nature by caving, horse riding and rambling in the countryside before PJ Harvey’s headline performance.
After Brexit, perhaps more UK fests will make like Green Man. In the meantime, while the rest of the nation suffers the election comedown, you might want to enjoy Europe while you still can.