All Points East, London
Blockbuster rock-centric names in the hip heart of Bethnal Green
What In just its second year, this supersized double weekender from the creative team behind Coachella already has the swagger and slickness of a major festival. Expect expert sound and the kind of enormous signings that bespeak deep pockets.
The headliners Skinny-jeaned New York survivors The Strokes have reunited, Bon Iver plays glitchy post-folk and socially conscious London rapper Little Simz reps her home town.
The other stuff Music is the focus for APE’s snappily dressed horde of grown-up Noughties kids. But expect culinary returns for vegan junk food masters Biff’s Jack Shack and Patty & Bun’s best-in-class burgers.
Oh, and don’t forget The Neighbourhood: a free entry festival-within-a-festival that brings film, art and music to the days between weekenders.
24 May – 2 June
We Love Green, Paris
Eco-minded revelry and acclaimed, eclectic acts – the French do it better
What Water-free toilets “flushed” with sawdust, cigarette butts that are collected and turned into recycled furniture, renewable energy generators that run on vegetable oil; few events can match this two-day affair in Bois des Vincennes when it comes to both sustainable virtuousness and killer bands.
The headliners Neo-soul queen Erykah Badu and politicised British mosh-starters Idles typify We Love Green’s unusual, characterful booking approach. But native pop sensation Christine and the Queens will probably provide the biggest “hands-in-the-air” moment.
The other stuff Saving the planet is hungry, thirsty work and the 200-person banquets here – fuelled by very good Champagne that doesn’t cost much more than a beer at a rival festival – are rightly revered.
Oh, and don’t forget Expanded from the small tent it occupied at the festival’s inception, Think Tank is a lively, must-visit symposium populated with scientists, artists and forward-thinking environmentalists.
Heaton Park’s glitter-sprayed neighbourhood party returns
What As it approaches its first decade, this Mancunian city festival – founded in 2000 and set over two days – looks like an ever-savvier live snapshot of all that is interesting in modern music – complete with rowdy northern crowd.
The headliners With so much spread across Heaton Park’s eight stages, expect some clashes. Freshly Grammy-anointed rap queen Cardi B tops the bill, Midas-fingered producer Mark Ronson will bring 15 years of hits and R&B innovator NAO is worth catching.
The other stuff Away from the crush of the tower block-shaped main stage, an area programmed by feted Liverpudlian techno night Circus will be an under-the-radar boon.
Oh, and don’t forget The 11pm curfew can feel abrupt so make for one of the official, wee-hours Afterlife events where huge guests are announced at the last minute.
Paraiso Festival, Madrid
A sophomore year of bleeps, bass-drops and achingly cool madrileños
What Established by Benicàssim co-founder José Moran and set within the verdant campus grounds of Madrid’s Universad Complutense, this event brings a curated, calming and fittingly scholarly approach to a crowded electronic festival market.
The headliners The presence of Charlotte Gainsbourg – experimental scion of a French pop dynasty – speaks to Paraiso’s fast-growing reputation. Ditto Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES.
The other stuff The crowds that make the short trip from Madrid’s city centre (the festival is capped at 15,000 to stop things getting too squashed) will be treated to large-scale art commissions as well as high-BPM tunes.
Oh, and don’t forget This year the all-new Nido stage will offer a platform to the local acts, club nights and collectives helping to defibrillate the Spanish capital’s music scene.
All back to Worthy Farm for the original outdoor bacchanal
What After sitting 2018 out, the Eavis family’s influential, mind-bogglingly massive originator returns with huge-name headliners and a hotly anticipated new piece of visual razzmatazz.
The headliners As ever with Glasto, it is easier to list who of consequence isn’t playing. However, homegrown rap sensation Stormzy is a fascinating Friday headliner, Janet Jackson will capably fill the legends berth and flute-playing R&B hit-machine Lizzo should be lots of fun.
The other stuff In a bold move that reflects a watershed year for waste-awareness, the festival will not sell single-use plastic bottles to its mini-metropolis of 135,000 attendees.
Oh, and don’t forget The fire-belching, giant metal spider in the Arcadia night time arena has become a selfie-worthy mainstay but this year it will be replaced by a secretive “evolving show in the sky”. Like, wow.
Get into the lagoonside groove at France’s grown-up dance fiesta
What Nestled in the sun-scorched port city of Sète, BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson’s week-long annual soirée has grown from a cult success into something approaching a beat-fuelled religion. Beware: the Worldwide congregation is always growing.
The headliners London new wave jazz trio The Comet Is Coming will draw Worldwide’s vinyl-hoarding masses; ditto two-step originator Wookie.
The other stuff A seven-day affair engenders a languorous pace and late starts but the daytime DJ sets at the beach stage – where local sunbathers and Worldwide devotees meld into one grooving mass – are non-negotiable.
Oh, and don’t forget Peterson’s team have been known to offer free passes to the following year’s event via the medium of a giant, Wonka-style gold ticket, hidden in the merch stand. Be lucky.
28 June – 6 July
Vida Festival, Barcelona
Indie-hearted acts in a coastal Catalan paradise
What Now in its sixth year, this party in the grounds of a neoclassical mansion has turned pleasing a diverse crowd into an art form. Ska obsessives, diehard rockers and parents not yet ready to hang up their raving shoes are all catered for a short shuttle ride from Barcelona.
The headliners Indie sorceress (and occasional actress) Sharon Van Etten will be playing songs from her acclaimed recent album while bleepy British party-starters Hot Chip will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of their debut.
The other stuff As mentioned, the El Niu area – festooned with picture books, children’s entertainers, workshops and activities – is the sort of thing to make a tired parent weep with gratitude.
Oh, and don’t forget El Vaixell, a tiny stage set in woodland and housed in an old boat, is an essential pilgrimage and site of some of Vida’s most spine-tingling acoustic sets.
Exit, Novi Sad
High-decibel, socially conscious mayhem in a picturesque Serbian stronghold
What Multiple spin off events (including Montenegro’s Sea Dance Festival) haven’t blunted the appeal of this hard-partying descendent of a Serbian student protest movement. Nineteen years down the line, they have the coup of a mammoth three-hour set from revered DJ Carl Cox.
The headliners As well as Cox, gravelly Scots soulman Tom Walker and grime pioneer Skepta are among the cohort testing the strength of the Petrovaradin Fortress’s 300-year-old foundations.
The other stuff Sweltering summer conditions mean Exit is all about the evening and the early morning; make sure to preserve your energy for the famed 7am after-parties beneath the canopy at Bastion bar.
Oh, and don’t forget The sensory overload of the Dance Arena (an amphitheatre-like pit dominated by a looming wall of speakers and lasers) is worth experiencing. But the No Sleep Novi Sad stage is where seasoned Exiteers head for a more intimate party.
Mad Cool, Madrid
The Spanish capital’s newest player returns with an irresistible line-up and a retooled site
What It wasn’t quite a Fyre festival-level calamity but Mad Cool’s third edition in 2018 had long delays, ill-tempered crowds and serious teething problems. Things have been shrewdly scaled back this year (the front-of-stage VIP pen has been wisely axed) but the assembled acts are just as tempting.
The headliners Amid a sea of formidable, if familiar, 2019 names, there are gutsy surprises. Preppy Brooklynites Vampire Weekend will be ripping through hits and punk survivor Iggy Pop will be bringing the shirtless thunder.
The other stuff Mad Cool Walk – an on-site fashion show that highlights the coolest streetwear brands – should hopefully be back to offer some sartorially stimulating calm to contrast the frenzied partying.
Oh, and don’t forget Last year saw a tripling of food options at the capacious, astroturfed venue in Valdebebas. Track down Amasa’s heartily filled Venezuelan arepas if they’re there.
Mind-expanding music and discussion on hallowed scientific ground
What The 50th anniversary of the Moon landings – and the key role Bluedot’s Jodrell Bank Observatory location played in assisting Apollo 11 – will give an added celebratory feel to the fourth edition of this truly unique, Cheshire-set melding of science, art and cosmic thinking.
The headliners A veritable who’s who of science-minded musical legends, ranging from German electro pioneers Kraftwerk 3-D to local post-punk survivors New Order.
The other stuff Among the veritable cosmos of real-time, moon landing commemoration (including talks on Afrofuturism and an appearance from pioneering British astronaut Helen Sharman) a trio of full moon parties will be essential.
Oh, and don’t forget Snap the customary night-time shot of the hulking Lovell Telescope by all means but make sure you delve into the Luminarium, a twisting, trippy network of colourful tunnels and domes.
The beachside behemoth toasts 25 years of fun in the Spanish sun
What Not many festivals make it to their quarter century but FIB (or Festival Internacional de Benicàssim) has real proven pedigree and an enticing coastal location. The usual constellation of music stars will be helping them blow out the figurative candles.
The headliners Lana Del Rey’s woozy noir-pop may not scream mosh pit but she’s an intriguing counterpoint to the feelgood indie of Franz Ferdinand. Lower down the bill, grungey British quartet The Big Moon are an exciting prospect.
The other stuff FIB’s youthful crowd fall into a steady groove of hitting the beach in the day and venturing onto the festival site in the evenings. But the South Beach Pool Party area is a fun, sand-flecked place to cool off between earlier sets.
Oh, and don’t forget Impatient to get festivities started? New pre-party event Midnight by FIB will be taking over a pair of local nightclubs for shows aimed at the hearts of ageing indie kids.
Melt Festival, Germany
Electro-inflected big hitters in a brooding industrial playground
What Ever wanted to feel like you’re attending an illicit, A-list rave in a decommissioned German coal mine? Well, you’re in luck. This studiedly hip three-dayer in Ferropolis returns with an extra sprinkle of fashion world stardust.
The headliners A set from newly minted Louis Vuitton Men’s Artistic Director and DJ Virgil Abloh is a legitimately big deal. Boundary-pushing Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky and post-grime innovator Octavian are two more to catch.
The other stuff The lakeside forest stage – programmed this year by rising Berlin dance collective Paper and peppered with hidden bars and inviting hammocks – offers a necessary, leafy contrast to all those rusting machines.
Oh, and don’t forget The non-stop party in the sandy Sleepless Floor area is absolutely worth seeing. They don’t call Melt “the Berghain of festivals” for nothing.
Midi Festival, Paris
Ineffable electronic cool and bright young things in an arty Gallic idyll
What Where most continental dance music festivals are monuments to whumping sound and ostentatious visuals, this 15-year-old event – in Toulon, a rustic French Riviera town – makes a case for something more refined but no less captivating.
The headliners Metronomy’s heartfelt, prog-influenced electro should be a perfect fit for the Mediterranean sunshine while genre-hopping Caribbean singer WWWater could be the latest act to kickstart a career at Midi.
The other stuff To toast its 15th birthday, Midi will be expanding to other venues for the first time; the pick of these looks to be three shows on the ancient archaeological site of Olbia.
Oh, and don’t forget Make sure you catch one of the sets in Villa Noailles, a gleaming modernist building that was a favoured holiday spot of Picasso and Man Ray.
The Dutch beat collective’s forest-shaking urban jamboree
What It says something about the relaxed Dutch character that – for the seventh year running – the tranquil 1930s Amsterdamse Bos park will be given over to the chest-rattling sound systems of this esteemed house and techno party. What’s more, the four-day affair now spills over into ever-more intriguing parts of the city.
The headliners Futuristic pop enigma Róisín Murphy is one familiar name in a typically eclectic brew of artists from across the dance spectrum. US noise experimentalists Sunn O))) should also provide a blast of rocky originality.
The other stuff Don’t let Dekmantel’s eardrum-punishing reputation as a record label and promoter fool you; plentiful bar-token ATMs and an app that gives real-time updates on set changes mark them out as some seriously organised ravers.
Oh, and don’t forget With Amsterdam’s centre so close at hand, Dekmantel Festival is a good on-ramp to explore the city’s blossoming club scene; head to an after-show at brooding subterranean hot spot Shelter.
31 July – 4 August
Gigs, gong baths and premium gastronomy in an Instagram-filtered Oxfordshire paradise
What Superstar chefs, wild swimming, an actual game of Quidditch – in this multi-discipline, determinedly civilised outdoor fantasia, there’s no guarantee that the crowd spilling out from a packed tent has gathered there for anything as traditional as a band.
The headliners On the music side, there will be mournful electro pop from Robyn and folky tales of teen life from Northern Irish solo star Soak.
The other stuff You mean beyond the planned record attempt for World’s Largest Spooning Cuddle? Well, legendary chef Yossi “Papi” Elad (of storied London restaurant Palomar) is coming out of retirement for a special, sure-to-sell-out long-table banquet.
Oh, and don’t forget: Letters Live – which in 2017 featured surprise guest Benedict Cumberbatch – is a must for some intellectual nourishment amid the boutique hedonism.
Rock en Seine, Paris
The slick, picturesque grand-père of the French scene
What Set at the end of August, this 16-year-old Parisian institution has the feel of a grand finale for the entire European festival season. Hop on the Metro to Domaine National de Saint-Cloud for sparkling views across the Seine and blue-chip stars in an efficient, sprawling setting.
The headliners A rare live show for reclusive dance music pioneer Aphex Twin feels like a genuine event. But preternaturally gifted British soul star Jorja Smith is another shrewd capture.
The other stuff The grassy knolls in Rock en Seine’s park setting (landscaped by Versailles designer André Le Nôtre) mean fighting your way to the front is unnecessary. And the cashless wristbands speed up the bar queue too.
Oh, and don’t forget In recent years, Le Village du Disque – a sprawling, pop-up record store – has been one of the coolest places to loiter between sets.