There’s something magical about music festivals. It’s an atmosphere like no other. If you’ve never been to one before, it’s hard to explain.
The closest analogy is a gigantic party that goes on for days at a time with hundreds of thousands of people coming together as one.
Not only do you get to experience a load of new music, you get to hang out in a field, or a city, or both. You may even paint your face and turn out like this girl...
There's no getting away from the fact: they're fun. Period. You forget the chores of life - yes, and that includes washing - and let it all hang out.
To help you pick your next festival, we’ve put together a little introduction to a collection of the best music festivals around the globe. First up, the grand-daddy of all festivals:
- 12 Of The Best Music Festivals Around The Globe
- Glastonbury Festival - UK
- Mawazine - Morocco
- Summer Sonic - Japan
- Newport Folk Festival - USA
- Rock In Rio - Brazil
- Montreal International Jazz Festival - Canada
- The Park Live Rock Festival - Russia
- Primavera Sound Festival - Spain
- Roskilde Festival - Denmark
- Coachella - USA
- Bonaroo Festival - USA
- Woodstock Festival - USA
12 Of The Best Music Festivals Around The Globe
Glastonbury Festival - UK
We're a UK based music site, so it's no surprise that the first on the list is the Glastonbury festival, or simply 'Glasto' as it's known locally.
One of the most well known and easily one of the best music festivals around the globe, it’s a five-day long marathonazo of a music festival. The fields hosting the event will never be the same again. It still retains the hippie culture elements which inspired its humble beginnings from in the 1970s.
The festival consistently sells out within hours of tickets being released. If you’ve ever wanted to get a firm grasp of what the British music scene really looks like, there’s no better place to start.
It’s brought in massive stars throughout its history, such as David Bowie and Oasis. Anyone who's anyone has played Glastonbury. Headline acts also include Coldplay, Adele, Foo-Fighters as well as rock royalty like The Stones and Velvet Underground.
To date it’s the longest still running festival in the world.
Set in the rural southern county of Wiltshire in England, only a few miles from ancient stone circle Stonehenge, the setting itself is a bit magical too (with supposed links with the King Arthur legend, though recent studies say all that was made up by 12th-century monks). The truth is out there, somewhere.
Another thing that makes Glastonbury so special is that it doesn't run every year.
The land is a working farm and as such needs time to recuperate from the bashing it gets every time the festival is on. When it does come around, it's all the more special.
Where: Glastonbury Festival, Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK
When: Last June. The festival doesn't run every year, check out their site to register for the next one
Mawazine - Morocco
Mawazine is one of the second biggest music festivals in the world. In 2014 it brought over one million attendees.
If you’ve never heard of it, you might be wondering how you managed to miss something this huge.
The festival was designed as a celebration of Moroccan culture and identity and is sponsored by the personal secretary to Morocco’s king. The massive audience is a powerful lure, and some of the most famous singers and musicians on the planet have performed here, such as Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5.
Summer Sonic - Japan
Summer Sonic is an annual music festival, hosted in two locations, Chiba and Osaka.
It’s a massive event, comprised of multiple indoor and outdoor stages. It attracts huge international crowds and musicians alike, with headliners like Fergie and Weezer having appeared in the past.
Newport Folk Festival - USA
The infamous Newport Folk Festival has to be on any list of festivals in my book. Originally an off shoot to the Newport Jazz Festival, the folk festival started as long as ago as 1959.
Along with being one of North America's music festivals (along with Woodstock, see below) Newport Folk Festival has the habit of creating genre defining moments. With very close ties with the civil rights movement, a young bedraggled Bob Dylan stepped onto the stage in 1962 to close out the festival and captured the mood at the time, helping to catapult the young bard into the limelight.
He returned later in 1965 with a new electric sound - the audience booed and there started another music defining moment!
Since the 1990s the festival has showcased the talents of contemporary genres, such as alternative country, indie folk and folk punk. The festival is still going strong, with surprise appearances from James Taylor, My Morning Jacket and Kris Kristofferson in recent years.
Rock In Rio - Brazil
Although Rock in Rio takes its name from the original location of the festival, Rio de Janeiro, it’s actually gone across the Spanish speaking world, with locations including Lisbon, Las Vegas and Madrid - although this has been met with some controversy.
Since it starts in 1985, Rock in Rio has become one of the largest rock, metal and alternative music festivals in the world.
Previous acts have included Linkin Park and Metallica, alongside more puzzling choices like Taylor Swift.
Montreal International Jazz Festival - Canada
The worlds largest Jazz festival, Montreal International Jazz Festival in Canada includes a dizzying amount of artists (roughly 3000 bands and musicians) with a staggering 2 million visitors.
Not strictly Jazz (at all), the talent on offer includes blues artists like Buddy Guy and soul legends The Four Tops.
Different to most other festivals where everything is confined within a certain parameter, the Montreal Jazz Festival is spread out across the city in small dingy jazz bars, local theatres to outdoor shows where local roads are cordoned off while the festivities are on.
It not only makes the festival wonderfully diverse, it's also a great way of seeing the city.
The Park Live Rock Festival - Russia
Russia’s music festivals are just starting to find their feet, and The Park Live Rock Festival is relatively young compared to many of the others on this at less than a decade old.
Despite this, it’s quickly cementing itself in the Russian calendar as one of the events of the year - drawing in some of the biggest names in Western music such as Muse, Lana Del Ray, System of a Down and more.
Primavera Sound Festival - Spain
One of Spain's best festivals. The Primavera festival is relatively young in festival years (it started out in 2001) and takes place in Barcelona bringing over 200,000 visitors into the city across the month of June.
Hosting a wide range of bands and musical acts - attracting a mix of urban, rock and pop band - in the perfect setting (Barcelona itself is worth a visit, festival or no festival) it should definitely be on your itinerary if you're in the area.
Roskilde Festival - Denmark
Moving across the continent to Denmark now, we have another of Europe's largest festivals - the Roskilde Festival. Over 180 performing artists, with well over 100,000 visitors yearly, it's pretty big.
Across it's multiple stages the Roskilde festival caters for fans of EDM (Electronic Dance Music), hip hop and world music - showcasing the likes of Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers to name a few over the years.
Rather comically, every year there's a naked run on the Saturday of the festival just to mix things up a bit. Can't beat a naked run to get people in the festival spirit!
Coachella - USA
Coachella is something of a codifier for what a music festival is, and is probably the one that springs to mind for many people after Woodstock.
The festival is held every year in California, and features a huge range of acts from AC/DC to Drake to David Guetta and plenty more besides. It’s also one of the most profitable festivals in existence, grossing just shy of $100 million in previous years.
Bonaroo Festival - USA
Another relatively new festival, the Bonaroo Music and Arts Festival as its officially called (Bonaroo is a Creole slang word meaning "a really good time,") takes place in Manchester, Tennessee over 4 days.
With a crazy list of performing artists from across the spectrum (pop, hip hop, R&B, rock, indie, electronica) the festival organisers have a strong philanthropic drive - doing a lot for charitable foundations such as Doctors Without Borders and Rock The Earth. As the name would suggest, the festival is also a magnet for the performing arts with comedy tents etc.
The land is permanently set up for the festival too - the centrepiece, known as Great Stage Park, is a sight to be seen.
Woodstock Festival - USA
Next up is Woodstock - OK, no, this one isn't still going, but I figured any list of iconic festivals had to include Woodstock! It was the first mega festival of it's kind (serving as a pre-cursor to Glastonbury) and gained its notoriety in 1969 when it attracted an audience of 400,000 people.
That weekend, etched in the memories of most of it's participants, is widely thought to be a defining moment in the history of modern music and the counter culture generation in general (or hippiedom to be exact).
CSNY’s recording of the Joni Mitchell song Woodstock would later become a hit and the recording most associated with the festival. In fact Rolling Stone magazine called the festival one of the 50 Moments That Changed The History Of Rock and Roll.
No matter what kind of music you’re into, whether it’s heavy metal, EDM or britpop, you’re sure to find something at one of these music festivals.
Besides, is there any better excuse for stepping onto a plane than to go check out one of the best music festivals around the globe? It’s a much better vacation than sitting around in a hotel by far.
If you’ve discovered any hidden gems that you don’t think we’ve heard of, don’t be shy! Let us know what we’re all missing out on.
There's hundreds more to choose from...which would you add to the list?
Newport Folk Festival Photo by ljcurletta / CC By-2.0
Glastonbury Photo by Malcolm Murdoch / CC By-SA 2.0
Bonaroo Photo by Green Up Music / C By-SA 2.0
Woodstock photo by Tullio Saba / Public domain
Roskilde photo by Stefan Ravn / CC By-SA 2.0
Primavera Sound Photo by JasonParis / CC By-2.0
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Djangology’ and when he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his Campervan.