Music festivals are a beautiful thing. In a nutshell, a music festival is a weekend full to the brim with all sorts of magic. Amazing bands play each stage, you run around with your friends all day, you eat food truck food and drink that freshly-squeezed lemonade that only shows up at big events. You spend so much time listening to good music and singing along to your favourite songs and dancing around in a crowd of people that you feel as if your heart is about to explode with happiness. Music festivals are something special.
I’ve attended a few different festivals over the past few years –TURF and Field Trip and Osheaga and, most magically, WayHome’s inaugural year. Each one has its own pros and cons and each one does different things to stand out from the rest. TURF’s stage that sits under the Gardiner feels cool and urban, Field Trip is chill and relaxing, Osheaga is spread out and has lots to discover, and WayHome is absolutely full of incredible visual art and wide open spaces. I’ve loved every music festival I’ve attended, and I know I’ll be returning to at least one each summer for the foreseeable future.
For most of my life I’ve been especially intrigued by international music festivals. Aside from Woodstock, the UK seems to have invented the very idea of a festival, of a weekend spent camping in a field, wearing rubber boots and trekking through mud puddles, and listening to great bands amidst tens of thousands of other people. They all seem so huge and important, and although Canadian festivals are definitely growing, they aren’t quite there yet. As a result of my fascination with these events, I’ve come to create a mental list of all the festivals I’d attend if I had the chance. The list is long, but there are definitely a few standouts, and I thought I’d share them with you.
1. Glastonbury – Glastonbury, UK
Glastonbury just seems like the festival to end all festivals, doesn’t it? I’ve lusted after it for years and years, and I am just about dying to go and experience such an intense (but surely magical) weekend. Glasto always draws massive acts and massive crowds, and I’m sure it would be an overwhelming and unforgettable experience. Also, the fact that it’s still cold enough to wear jeans and leather jackets while at the festival is a definite draw.
2. Reading and Leeds – Reading and Leeds, UK
Reading and Leeds always looks cool. The fact that it’s in two different locations on the same weekend is pretty awesome, and it would be interesting to experience each one. It’s also always in late August, and I can’t think of a better way to send off summer than a giant music festival.
3. T in the Park – Strathallan, UK
T in the Park has definitely grown in size over the years, resulting in me being even more drawn to it. Festivals in the UK just seem like a different breed, and I’d love to go to this one in Scotland. Scottish accents, beer brewed just 36 hours before the festival, and great UK and international acts – what more could you ask for?
4. Hangout Fest – Gulf Shores, Alabama, USA
I hadn’t heard of Hangout Fest until this year, and it quickly found a spot on my festival bucket list. Held in Alabama, the festival is situated on the beaches of Gulf Shores. Great music, sandy beaches, and water as far as the eye can see sounds like a winning combination to me, and I can only begin to imagine how beautiful the sunsets at the end of each day would be.
5. Governor’s Ball, New York City, New York, USA
It honestly pains me to say that I’ve missed Governor’s Ball all these years, especially when The Strokes have played the festival not once, but twice. The event seems just as eclectic as New York City itself, and the organizers are doing a great job with the lineup as well as the vibe of the festival – from what I can tell from social media, at least. At this point I’ve made a vow that I’ll be there the next time The Strokes are, I’m just waiting for my time to shine.
6. Pemberton – Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada
Straight up, Pemberton looks like something out of a dream. Waking up each morning to be surrounded by mountains and watching the sun set over them each night sounds absolutely perfect to me. One day I’ll surely be making my way out to this festival.
7. Bonnaroo – Manchester, Tennessee
Often Bonnaroo seems like one of the most fun music festivals you could ever attend. Aside from the music itself, Bonnaroo is full of other attractions. From craft markets and a silent auction, to a cinema and comedy theatre, to parades, games, workouts, DIYs, and a splash pad, there’s no way you could ever get bored there. I can’t wait to experience it for myself one day.
8. Secret Solstice – Reykjavik, Iceland
Held in Reykjavik, Iceland each year, Secret Solstice sounds too good to be true. Occurring over the course of the summer solstice during the period of midnight sun, the festival never sleeps, and the sun never sets. Often showcasing new and emerging talent, Secret Solstice is said to have a unique vibe and great entertainment.
9. SXSW – Austin, Texas, USA
What kind of music fan would I be if I didn’t want to go to SXSW at some point in my life? Held in many different venues across Austin, South by Southwest showcases new talent, screens great movies, hosts informative talks and networking events, and much more. It’s an event all about discovery, as well as the intersections of various forms of media, and it sounds like a beautifully overwhelming week.
10. Outside Lands – San Francisco, California, USA
San Francisco is one of the best cities I’ve visited, and a festival held in Golden Gate Park is something incredible. Listening to great bands while surrounded by all sorts of wildlife as well as the most breathtaking views seems like a perfect weekend to me.
I realize that ten festivals is a lot – and to be honest, this isn’t even all the ones I have on my list. I’d love to attend each one at some point in my life, and I can’t wait to check them all off as I do so.