Electrifying the world through dance:

The greatest EDM festivals in the world

Introduction

Back in the 1980s, there was a song by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine that predicted that eventually, “rhythm is gonna get you.” With Electronic Dance Music, that prophecy has been fulfilled. From techno, to trance, house to dubstep and every other conceivable sub-genre that at one point was relegated to the background of hip-hop and electronica tracks, EDM has come a long way, to being the mainstream powerhouse it is today. With rock music, a spent force, EDM is now the genre that leads the world in terms of live events and concerts.

Where once rock bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam, Metallica and others gave some epic live performances at gigs that have gone down in music legend, today collectives and DJs like Tiesto, deadmau5, Hardwell, Armin Van Buuren and others are major crowd pullers with fans numbering in the thousands, turning up at gigs and music festivals the world over.

EDM concerts are mad, trippy, happy affairs that have superstar DJs mixing and performing for long hours and fans dancing to their hearts’ content. Unlike a rock concert, the quality of sound, when played live does not vary at all, considering that the music per se is computer generated and therefore sounds just the same.

EDM is an all encompassing and inclusive music scene and almost all genres of music can combine near seamlessly to form a cohesive sound. For instance David Guetta’s epic collaboration with Kaz James, ‘Blast Off’, features a guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a rock track by a band of some note. Or the Prodigy’s various collaborations with pop, rock and even classical artists to make music that sounds nothing like anything you’ve ever heard before, but is actually a complex infusion of distinct genres!

EDM festivals, like the music itself, attract a weird, eclectic and happy group of people and take place in the unlikeliest of places and create a vibe of trip-happiness that needs to be experienced to be believed. At first thought of as a niche, Euro scene, EDM festivals have gone global and now even some festivals on the Asian circuit feature amongst the world’s best. Let’s take a look at some of the world’s foremost EDM festivals.

Tomorrowland

Located 16 miles from the diamond capital of the world, Antwerp is the town of Boom. Until about 10 years ago, a silent little town in the picturesque Belgian countryside, since 2004, this town has played host to the world’s most epic music festival ever, Tomorrowland. The tagline of the fest reads, “Yesterday is history. Today is a gift. Tomorrow is mystery” and the vibe of the festival can only be described as mysterious. Not in the least bit sinister, but weird and trippy are two words that come to mind.

This is one of the world’s most chilled out parties that takes place over a weekend in July, when the weather is pleasant. There’s a bit of a nip in the air and yes, you would feel like dancing all night! With multiple sound stages set across the venue and some of the world’s most awe inspiring acts performing here, chances are you are going to party the night away. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Tomorrowland in 2014, the event was held over two weekends (18-20 and 26-27 July) and the crowd turnout was unprecedented. Nearly 400,000 people from all over the world attended.

Since its inception, Tomorrowland has always drawn the most sought after EDM musicians. Industry heavyweights like David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, AfroJack, Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, Hardwell, Tiesto, Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold and several others have performed here; many of them on more than one occasion. Little wonder then that Tomorrowland has consistently won accolades for being the world’s most sought after and attended music festivals having won the honor in 2011-12 and 13, at both the International Dance Music Awards and the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards.

Ultra Music Festival

The Ultra Music festival in Miami, Florida is proof of how much the genre of EDM has grown over the past two decades. Started in 1999 to acknowledge EDM as a growing art form, the movement has gone global with the festival now being organized at multiple venues across the world. Miami, with its natural flamboyance, verve and multiculturalism lends itself brilliantly to the EDM movement. All inclusive and happy in nature, the genre of music and the host city meld together perfectly to make one weekend in December a particularly trippy and happy one.

Held at the massive Bayfront Park, in downtown Miami, Ultra Music festival brings together people and acts from around the world. Some of the most noteworthy musicians to have performed here include Tiesto, deadmau5, David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren, Sasha & Digweed, Above & Beyond, Avicii, Steve Aoki and others. Little wonder then that the tickets for the event sell out in seconds (according to Ultra’s Facebook page). Scalped tickets can go for up to thrice as much the original price (which at around $145 to $229 is high enough).

Ultra Music Festivals have ever since sprung up in Ibiza, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Seoul, Tokyo, Bogota, Split/Hvar, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires and are an indicator of the growing reach and popularity of the genre!

Electric Daisy

If you want to chart the growth of electronic dance music in the States, you need to only follow the growth and spread of the Electric Daisy Carnival. The first Electric Daisy was a rave held way back in 1997 at the Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. The first ‘Carnival’ however was held in 2008 in California, from where it spread in subsequent years to Colorado, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, and even Milton Keynes in the UK.

An event record of 700,000 in 2014 made the Electric Daisy, the most populous music festival outside of Europe and won it the nickname of the “American Ibiza”. Acts like Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk, Benny Benassi, Subfocus, David Guetta and many others have performed here, giving the Electric Daisy Carnival, both street cred and status of the place to be seen at.

The Electric Daisy Carnival is held across so many diverse venues and cities in the States and UK that no one can say that if you’ve attended one, you’ve attended all. In fact, concert goers who’ve attended the California and Nevada editions in the same year, have reported having a diverse set of experience across the two events, simply because the vibe of the cities hosting the event are so glaringly different from one another.

Sunburn

Beaches, the hippy vibe and the most laidback destination this side of the Caribbean, make Goa home to Asia’s premier EDM festival, Sunburn. Instituted in 2008, Sunburn has now become a must stop on the international EDM tour calendar, not just for the music, but for the place and people too. Goa has always been one of the world's counter-culture capitals and its association with music goes back decades to the hippies who discovered it in the 1960s as a virginal beach paradise. Sunburn takes these hippy roots and lends to it a 21st century flavor in terms of both scene and sound.

Since 2008, Goa has become synonymous with Sunburn and has chronicled the exponential growth of the EDM scene in the Indian subcontinent as well. Artists of international renown like Nadia Ali, Sasha, Roger Sanchez, Paul Van Dyk and others have all performed here. The 2014 edition is slated to be held in late December and there are murmurs of it being the largest Sunburn so far, with more than 100,000 (2013 record) people expected to attend. What’s incredibly cool about Sunburn is that the number of Indian fans and foreigners are nearly 1:1 which makes for a really eclectic dance scene that is both a spectacle to watch and to be a part of. Here’s to the growth and prosperity of the EDM culture in Asia as well!

Movement

Started in 2000 as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Movement is easily one of EDM’s showcase events in America. One of the largest music festivals in the genre outside of Europe, Movement has been a showcase to the immortals of the EDM movement. Artists like the reclusive Moby, Fatboy Slim, Ministry of Sound, Paul Oakenfold, Flosstradamus, 69 and a number of others have displayed their mettle here to millions of fans from around the globe.

Add to the lure of the festival, the culturally diverse motor city of Detroit, Michigan. Some excellent fast food, a vibrant street art and culture scene and a budding theatre district, and you have yourself a great destination to visit as well.

Stereosonic

Whatever happens Down Under, is more often than not, a big surprise. From the Australian Open and The Australian Grand Prix in sports to the surprising array of wildlife in nature, the scene in Australia is always one of spectacle and showmanship. So why then should its EDM scene be any different. Welcome to Stereosonic, Australia’s answer to any and every EDM fest anywhere in the world. A multi-city, multi-arena event, that traverses the heartland of Australia through Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, Stereosonic draws crowds of screaming fans, both Aussie and international ones, to its amply large venues.

Featuring the best of Australian and international talent including Kaz James, Calvin Harris, Avicii, Paul Harris, Trentemoller, Kevin Saunderson, Tiesto and scores of others have performed here. Need another excuse to visit? Well any of the cities you visit in Australia are going to be a real treat for the senses, especially your tastebuds, considering that Aussie cuisine has been consistently been voted amongst the best in the world. The art scene, sports, wine and nature travel, including the Great Barrier Reef, The Uluru and other awesome natural wonders make it a must visit.

Sonar

Barcelona has always been known for its music. But ever since 1994 when the Sonar Electronic Music Festival was established, Barcelona also transformed into a hotbed of the EDM revolution in Europe. Amongst one of Sonar’s most enduring legacies is the fact that every June for over 20 years, it transforms Barcelona into one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, as scores of international fans converge upon the city to witness their favorite acts and deejays spin their web of music. According to a study done by Deloitte, in 2004, Sónar contributed 47 million Euros to Catalonia's GDP; three years later, in 2007, the figure had risen to 52 million Euros. Even during the global recession, this figure showed no signs of slacking. As far as the music goes, Sonar is the haunt of stalwarts such as Daft Punk, Massive Attack, Ministry of Sound, Steve Aoki, The Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris, deadmau5, Tiesto and a host of others.

Come for the music, but Barcelona also provides a rich offering of culture, food and sports. Voted as one of the world’s most livable cities on multiple occasions, a trip here will definitely do more than reaffirm your faith in music; it will refresh and recharge your batteries!

Creamfields

Started in 1998 in Winchester in Southern England, the Creamfields festival has today grown to become one of world’s most respected and celebrated EDM showcases. Internationally acclaimed DJs including Calvin Harris, deadmau5, AfroJack, Fatboy Slim, Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk headlined this year’s edition of the event at Daresbury, held as always during the Bank Holiday weekend in August. The soundscape was awesome, as reported by the multitude of fans that were in attendance.

In fact, such is the success of the original Creamfields, that it has spawned clone in such far off places as UAE, Chile, Brazil, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico and Argentina. This goes to show the immense popularity and appeal of the EDM genre the world over. This year the Chile edition of the festival had some of the most sought after names in the industry like the Chemical Brothers, David Guetta, Dmitri Vegas, Like Mike and others headlining the show. While in Daresbury Bassjackers, Hannah Wants, and other stalwarts really tear it up in style over three days of absolute nirvana for EDM heads from all over the world!

Mysteryland

One of the world’s oldest EDM festivals, originating in the Netherlands and spawning across the globe, Mysteryland is a state of mind representing the hopes and tastes of a generation that has seen the evolution of EDM into a mainstream art form. This year’s edition held at Picquarin Mostazal, Chile, shows how far and wide EDM has spread over merely three decades of its existence. And since Mysteryland opened its gates in 1993, this makes it the grandfather of all EDM festivals. Some of the world’s most unique and sought after acts have graced the stage at Mysteryland including acts like Swedish House Mafia, 2000 and one, Sick Individualz, Wildstylez, Felix Da Housecat, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, Kaz James and scores of others.

The Croatian Scene

One of the world’s youngest nations, Croatia, emerged as a sovereign state after the bloody implosion of the erstwhile Yugoslavia. After nearly a decade of bloody civil war, the early part of the 21st century ushered in an era of peace, that brought along with it economic inflow that helped rebuild a fledgling nation. The once war ravaged Croat countryside was again restored to its pre-war beauty and the influx of tourists brought in prosperity to this troubled land. EDM has played a huge role in the influx of tourists into this part of the world and festivals like Outlook, Exit and Hideout have brought this excellent form of vitality, we know and love into Croatia.

Hideout, held since 2011 in Zrce, is a relatively young festival that celebrates both international and local talent, and since it started, has consistently made it to the Guardian’s list of best European festivals. Exit, though not an EDM festival in the strictest sense of the world was proclaimed in 2014 as the Best Major European Festival at the EU Festival Awards in Groningen. Outlook, one of the world’s foremost bass festivals, is unique as its sound stages are set in the ruins of an ancient Slavic fortress, and in tunnels that lead to breathtaking beaches. Do you really need any more of a reason to explore the Croatian scene, other than the one’s you already have?

Conclusion

Music has the power to unite. Whether it was slave music in the late 1600s, that birthed the blues, or rock’n roll that brought down the divide between black and white in the 60s and 70s, music always ushers in change. Electronic Dance Music too has revolutionized the way we look at music as a form of entertainment. The presence and popularity of such music festivals across the globe illustrates the fact that this form is here to stay and that the values of being in the moment and enjoying the night, for all it is worth are in sync with the modern times and therefore strike a connect with people of all ages, races, creeds and nationalities.

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