The Best Festivals in the World
We say this a lot, but while EDM stands for "electronic dance music," deadmau5 wasn't far off with his crack about the "E" in EDM standing for "event.
Image via Complex Original
We say this a lot, but while EDM stands for "electronic dance music," deadmau5 wasn't far off with his crack about the "E" in EDM standing for "event." While you can definitely enjoy dance music at home or in your headphones on the train, you're really only able to experience what's made fans worldwide help bring dance music back to the forefront by going out and experiencing the music live and in person. While raves are the easiest solution, the rise of the music festival worldwide has brought forth some really awesome opportunities to see an array of DJs performing in one space, bringing their best beats for scores of hungry dance music lovers. The act of putting on one of these festivals isn't easy, so it's always good to look back and really figure out what makes some festivals stand out. Today we take a look at the festivals around the world that are truly leading the pack, not just for the depth of their line-ups but the impact they're making on the culture of dance music. These are the best dance music festivals in the world.
Shambhala has been moving from strength to strength since 1998, creating the largest (and longest-running) electronic music festivals in Canada. The International Breakspoll Awards have recognized it as such, awarding Shambhala the "Best Large Event" award in 2011 and 2012, and with six stages filled with some of the best in the scene, it earns that distinction. What's even more astonishing is that they do this without sponsorship, making this a truly volunteer-run project. That's super difficult, but their hard work shows with the quality festivals they've been putting on.
Formerly known as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, it's important that Movement is held in Detroit, one of the undisputed birthplaces of electronic music (aka the place where techno was born). Since its inception in 2000, Movement has brought electronic music fans from the world over to Detroit, giving props to the city's history and bringing in millions to the Detroit economy. Detroit legends like DJ Godfather, Starski and Clutch, and others being asked to perform, while Detroit techno legends like Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson have had hands in producing the festivals over the years. Movement also charges a reasonable price (under $100) for tickets with bills of over 100 acts. In today's cash-grab dance music scene, that's a feat that many festivals fail to reach.
Seattle's Decibel Festival is all about live electronic music performances, visual art, and other forms of media. Decibel's seen it's number of attendees skyrocket, with 23,000 flocking to the festival in 2011, breaking ticket-buying records from previous years. This isn't your mainstream EDM sound, though; this is tens of thousands of people flocking to see a line-up that features acts like Moby, TOKiMONSTA, Richie Hawtin, ill-esha, James Blake, Kevin Saunderson, Machinedrum, and more forward-thinking acts. Great to see that events like this aren't restricted to cities like LA or New York.
Australia's Stereosonic festival finds two major promoters (Hardware and Onelove) linking up to take over five major cities (Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne) all in the name of dance music culture. Always saved for November/December, this explosive festival draws out the best of the dance music scene, with the 2013 edition (for example) already set to feature Armin van Buuren, I Am Legion, Destructo, David Guetta, Breach, and a host of others. Representing the different sides of the dance music scene is so key, and Stereosonic seems to get it.
The Electric Zoo has spent the last five years becoming a Labor Day Weekend institution for the New York area. Taking place on Randall's Island, EZOO made sure to feature the biggest acts in EDM alongside the most critically acclaimed, making for some diverse line-ups. Time will tell if the deaths and issues from the 2013 edition will halt future EZOOs, but the ride that Made took people on will not be forgotten.
Sensation is another reason why ID&T is seen as one of the premier dance music promoters in the world. It kicked off in 2000 with two distinct editions of the popular event: Sensation Black (for hard dance music) and Sensation White (for house music), although now the parties just go by "Sensation" and "Black." It spent its first five years at the Amsterdam Arena, but in 2005 Sensation parties and their extravagant stage designs and dress codes (yes, you better have white on at a Sensation party) have traveled the globe, hitting Brazil, Russia, Chile, Latvia, the Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and other countries before attacking America in 2011. With the Sensation tour hitting the U.S. in 2013, perfectly timing EDM's rise, this festival will continue to just get bigger.
Barcelona, Spain's Sónar has been providing one of the most forward-thinking electronic music festivals over the last 20 years. While they might not have attendance numbers that crush the EDCs or UMFs, their line-ups feature the cutting edge of the electronic scene. This isn't your formulaic dance music, but the upper echelon of high-quality DJs and producers, with everyone from Mary Anne Hobbs to Mixmaster Morris gracing the Sónar stage at some point in their careers. They don't keep the intrigue to the beats, though, as each year they select everything from art installations to presentations and workshops that mean to help educate and enlighten the Sónar attendees. Could truly be a life-changing experience for those of you who shun the "EDM" of the mainstream dance music scene.
Boom, Belgium's TomorrowLand is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the world. ID&T makes sure to include fanciful stage design, innovative decorations and attractions, and a superior line-up of the biggest and best DJs in the dance music scene. It's turned into its own world, and you can feel the magic people experience at the festival when they speak on it. 2013 is the year that ID&T brought TomorrowLand to the U.S. as TomorrowWorld, another huge step in helping nurture the American EDM scene, as well as keeping the TomorrowLand vibe alive.
Ultra Music Festival
When you think of EDM festivals, the immediately springs to mind. Since 1999, Ultra has been a huge part of Miami's Winter Music Conference, with the festival growing quickly from a one-day affair to three days for the 2013 edition. Ultra has some of the fiercest stage design, some of the most important DJs, and truly kicks off the EDM festival season in America. The U.S. did share Ultra with the world, with UMFs taking place in Korea, Buenos Aires, Ibiza, Brazil, Chile, and plenty of other spots across the globe. Ultra's not taking anything lightly, and their global domination will continue to climb as the years go on.
Electric Daisy Carnival
We're not sure if Insomniac planned for the Southern California institution known as the Electric Daisy Carnival to grow into the worldwide behemoth that it's become, but their inventiveness and desire to push EDM past the limit has paid off well. Due to issues in California, Las Vegas is now the premier city of the Electric Daisy Carnival, with over 300,000 people turning up for the 2012 edition, but if you factor in the EDCs that took place in London, Chicago, New York, and Texas in 2013, their expansion is only going to continue in the near future. When you factor in the alliance that Insomniac has forged with Live Nation, there's no telling what the future of the EDC will look like.