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Diary Of A Festival Addict

BDSM workshops, train hotels, naked races and more in our roundup of summer fests in Europe


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Disclaimer: I do not attend music festivals for scouting drugs or to get fucked-up on alcohol, even though they might come as a part of my experience; my addiction to festivals is strictly about “losing it.”

 

Anyone who has ever attended a music festival will probably vouch for my addiction. The festival life is of a different kind. An escape from reality, you are free, free to be, whoever and however you want to be, a place where strangers become best friends, dancing, camping together, surrounded by good music, laughter mixed with various intoxicants and sharing everything you have got. It is easy to get used to this life.

Summer time in Europe marks the beginning of festival season and this year has been another great summer of some great festivals. In case you missed my last year’s festival excursions, here it is – 20 days of European Summer. This year, my festival journey started with Northern Europe’s biggest festival, Glastonbury equalent in size and diversity:

 

Roskilde Festival, Denmark.

Roskilde Festival | Photo Credit: Bill Ebbesen

Roskilde Festival | Photo Credit: Bill Ebbesen

Just 30 kms outside Copenhagen, resides this massive festival. Roskilde was started by two high-school students in 1971 making this year the 44th year in the running and unlike Glastonbury, it has never taken a break. This year, the festival drew an attendance of more than 100,000 visitors and 30,000 festival volunteers, over 150 artists from more than 30 different countries playing on eight stages, and if this is not impressive enough, Roskilde is 100% non-profit; all the money raised is donated to charities for cultural purposes. Roskilde is a powerhouse of festivals, the biggest of bands have played on the famous Orange Stage tent including U2, Bob Marley, Kraftwerk, Nirvana, Daft Punk and Coldplay. This year’s biggest draw was no other than the biggest band in the World: The Rolling Stones, followed by Arctic Monkeys, Outkast, Stevie Wonder, Jack White of the White Stripes, Diplo’s dancehall project Major Lazer, Deftones, electronica pioneer Trentemoller with his live band, Nicolas Jaar’s collaborative project Darkside, Manu Chao, our very Indian Barmer Boys from Rajasthan along with hundreds of other artists.

If live music is not your thing, there are enough activities to keep you busy – from swimming in the nearby lake to fishing in a pond, interactive art zones, cinemas, massage zones, 3-D installations, free art and yoga workshops, video game zones. And, if none of this excites you, how about a naked race perhaps? Roskilde has been organizing a naked run since the festival started and is quite a popular event that attracts hundreds of naked people who race to win a free ticket to Roskilde for the following year.

 

Melt! Festival, Germany.

Melt Festival | Photo Credit: Stephan Flad

Melt Festival | Photo Credit: Stephan Flad

It‘s the third week of July, the summer has officially kicked in, it is hotter than hell, and the irony is too obvious to miss, the festival is called Melt! The festival, which kicked off in 1977, is held at the most jaw-dropping, psy-fi locations I have ever seen in my life. While big fields, farm lands or forests are the most common sites of every other festival, Melt! unfolds in a town called Ferropolis, also known as “City of Iron” a two-hour drive from Berlin. Ferrolpolis is an open unused, coal mining site which reminds you of an apocalyptic, post World, location, straight out of an Isaac Asimov novel where colossal machines stand tall and mighty.

While I was mighty impressed by the location, the festival’s line up of artists was even more impressive; they were not the obvious Billboard chart toppers, A-listers, Top 10 DJs of the World, but a carefully curated mix of alternative, underground and popular artists with an edge: Portishead, Royskopp featuring Robyn, Bombay Bicycle Club, Boyz Noize, Chet Faker, Ellen Allien, Frtiz Kalkbrenner, Four Tet, Haim, Jeff Mills, Moderat, Omar Suleyman, Pretty Lights, Who Made Who, Tiga, Ten Walls, SBRKT, Seth Troxler and Little Dragon.

Melt! also provides one of the most unique experiences for a festival I have ever come across in its roundtrip transportation option on their special “MIXery Melt! Train”. The train departs from Cologne one day prior to the festival. Festival goers on this train can live in it for the next three days. The “MIXery Melt! Train” transforms into a ‘hotel on wheels’ offering beds, toilets, a seperate compartment for parties with a DJ booth and a bar. Unlike many other festivals Melt! has no late night restrictions on music, making it literally a three-day non-stop party.

To sum up Melt!, I think it ticks all the boxes of must attend music festival. For a small-medium festival of 20,000 people, it has everything to offer and more – happy people, lake side stages, best of electronic and indie line up, great location, no restrictions on sound, all night parties, massive stages decked with even bigger LEDs, extremely well curated and planned laser and light shows – this and so much more is what makes Metl! one of the best festivals I have ever attended.

 

Tomorrowland, Belgium.

Tomorrowland2013-Stage

Tomorrowland | Photo courtesy the festival

There is nothing new to be said about this festival which has not been said before. It is still that ONE festival you must experience in your lifetime if you are a true dance music fanatic.Tomorrowland is your fantasyland come true in every possible way!

This year was Tomorrowland’s 10th anniversary and to celebrate it they hosted the festival on two consecutive weekends, doubling the number of festival guests from previous years. Tomorrowland in 2014 sold 360,000 tickets in less than one hour this year and like ever year, people from all over the globe, 214 countries to be precise, attended this festival, making it the most international event in the World.

For every festival, there is only one thing that holds them together and that are its people; it‘s about these “People of Tomorrowland” that make these three days unforgettable.

One quick Google search and one may find hundreds of photos, reviews, videos on the internet about Tomorrowland but none do justice to that feeling you go through while standing on the hill opposite the main stage over looking 60,000+ people dancing, singing together. It was for this sight, I couldn’t resist going back to this magical place for the second time.

And, finally, my last festival for the summer

 

Wilde Möehre Festival, Germany.

Wilde Mohre Festival | Photo courtesy the festival

Wilde Mohre Festival | Photo courtesy the festival

There is something very special about being a part the first edition of a small festival. There is a sense of pride and possesiveness you develop when you understand that it‘s an independently-run festival, invested and organized by a bunch of guys like you and me, based on the foundation of sharing the love for music, art, culture, dance, nature and wilderness. While every festival I went to this year had a very unique history, setting and experience to offer, Wilde Moehre happened to be unlike any other festival I had ever imagined and exceeded my expectations in every possible way.

Wilde Moehre translates to “Wild Carrot“ in English. Just 100 KMS outside of Berlin, a small town called Altdobern hosted this crazy three day carnival. The festival was organized for the first time by a bunch of Berliners, coming together from different backgrounds with a common goal of bringing people together with music and nature. Tucked away in an old village, the Wild Moehre site had unexplored pathways each leading to either an activity playground, secret stage or an art installation.

The whole festival experience was planned on the ground of three basic but primary human senses – Hear, See, Feel – the festival site was a carefully designed fantasy world, a playground for adults. With four open-air stages, the line up was dominated by deep house & techno DJs, probably among finest ones I‘d heard at any festival, while the other stages hosted every other genre along with some really cool indie bands and singer-songwriters from the indie, underground scene in and around Berlin. To See, there was ample flora and fauna with hidden art installations, mini mazes to lose oneself into and artist works spread across the festival site amongst the wilderness of the forest. As you walked around, there was always something amusing, fascinating and intriguing you’d come across.  And, to Feel, there were free workshops organised on pottery, drumming, yoga, contact improvisation, massage, BDSM, sewing, gardening and so many more, all run by professionals in the field, and, all this inclusive in the ticket priced at meagre 55 Euros (Rs. 4200 approx).

Although music festivals have the tendency to be too rigid with rules and regulations, door policies, camp site restrictions, but Wilde Moehre came across as a pure utopian land where people were not restricted by any athourity but dealt only on the basis of love, care and respect towards each other. With a crowd of only 3,000 people, it very quickly became a community built on the ethics of pleasure and festivity.

Wilde Moehre turned out to be one of the best festivals I’ve had this year. I traveled to the fest all by myself but returned with a bunch of new friends, danced my arse off until dawn,  and got to go to some of the craziest workshops (no, it was not sewing, stop thinking dirty). I can’t wait until Round Two of Wilde Moehre.

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