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On The Road

The Best Festivals Of Summer 2019

From the UK to Africa, here at the best places to let loose in the coming months

  • Photograph by Mr Steve Stills, courtesy of GALA

Festivals in 2019 are not what they used to be – and that is no bad thing. It is a time of festival change, when the big names are being joined by equally intriguing smaller set-ups. Escapism and hedonism are still on the menu, but now they come with a side of things like eco-consciousness, diversity and, well, in some cases something no one could have predicted: jazz.

This year, there’s a refreshingly noticeable focus on giving male and female acts equal footing. And no better than at Primavera Sound, a MR PORTER favourite, which boasts a remarkable (although it shouldn’t be) 50/50 gender split on its bill. For intrepid party hunters, there are a number of creative new festivals abroad, all offering discerning music in enviable locations, and some excellent day festivals closer to home. Here’s our pick of the best.

Gala

  • Photograph by Mr Steve Stills, courtesy of GALA

London, UK

26 May

Just when you thought UK day festivals might be losing their welly, along comes one to knock it out of the park – Peckham Rye Park, to be exact. This year, Gala is attempting to channel the halcyon days of New York house and disco, and while it may be a stretch to create the Paradise Garage on a potentially sodden south London day, the line-up itself is transportative enough. Honey Dijon headlines, alongside Mr Chez Damier from Chicago, London’s beloved Horse Meat Disco and this year’s don’t-miss selectors, including Midland, Mr Gerd Janson, Palms Trax and Sassy J. London jazz is, as with many festivals this year, a big feature, here with trumpeter Ms Emma-Jean Thackray’s Walrus project, flute/beats mash-up merchants Tenderlonious and The 22archestra and more. There’s a fitting foodie highlight in local restaurant Levan (named after the DJ Mr Larry Levan), which will be serving its classy, Eurocentric small plates.

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Primavera

  • Photograph by Mr Eric Pamies, courtesy of Primavera Sound

Barcelona, Spain

30 May–1 June

For nearly 20 years, Primavera has been a guitar-slinging playground for alternative music, the preserve of indie fans in vacuum-packed jeans. But for 2019, there are as many female artists as there are male and a refreshingly heavy swing towards pop, R&B, hip-hop and reggaeton. The resulting programme is one of the most high-quality and diverse ever and includes everyone from rap queen Cardi B and hip-hop heavyweights Future and Nas and soulsters Solange and Ms Erykah Badu to the stars of the Latin-American explosion, including J Balvin, Ivy Queen and Hurricane G and hi-NRG pop performances of Robyn and Christine And The Queens. Home-grown pop talent, meanwhile, has a strong presence. Flamenco-R&B ingenue Rosalía’s dance routines are that of a superstar, plus there’s a trap stage curated by Spanish rapper Yung Beef.

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Terraforma

  • Photograph by Delfino Sisto Legnani studio, courtesy of Terraforma

Milan, Italy

5–7 June

The combination of “artistic experimentation” and “environmental sustainability” might sound like a snoozefest, but Terraforma is a world-class festival in the vanguard of high-brow hedonism. And there’s a reason it has quickly become a favourite among the cream of the left-field DJ crop. Set in the lush forest surrounding the Villa Arconati palace just outside Milan and with beautiful stage design, the focus is on electronic music as an art form, which is also shorthand for more explorative beats than you might usually get at a dance-music weekender. There are few better examples than uncompromising avant-gardists Ms Laurie Anderson and Ms Mica Levi, the Grammy-winning composer, or New York’s gender-fluid DJ Ms Juliana Huxtable and Mr Kelman Duran and his DJ mixes of dystopian dancehall. It’s also a low-impact event, with solar energy in the campsite and biodegradable dinnerware, so make sure you don’t get your recycling categories mixed up.

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Kala

  • Photograph by Khris Cowley for Here & Now

Dhërmi, Albania

12–19 June

Treading a beachfront less trodden, this boutique festival pitches up on the Albanian Riviera and channels the Balearic heyday with open-air parties on a private bay, in the beach forest and on various terrace bars dotted along this unspoilt coastline. Now in its second year, the music positions itself as an alternative to Mr Gilles Peterson’s long-running Worldwide Festival, with soul, jazz, techno, disco, old-school house and melon-twisting beats from 1990s dance legends Inner City, Hercules & Love Affair, London pianist Mr Joe Armon-Jones and DJ Jayda G, as well as five-hour shifts from celebrated international party boys Hunee, Midland and Mr Job Jobse. Plus, there’s a huge range of watersports, exploring nearby castles and canyons, sunset yoga and something called a “kanga soundscape”.

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We Out Here

  • Mr Gilles Peterson. Photograph by Mr Rob Jones, courtesy of We Out Here

Abbots Ripton, UK

15–18 August

UK jazz is thriving, so it’s only right that the scene has its own festival. We Out Here is the name of the compilation that came out last year on Mr Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings label and exposed the world to the fresh takes on jazz that were bubbling out of south London from young instrumentalists such as Ms Nubya Garcia, Mr Joe Armon-Jones, Mr Theon Cross, Mr Moses Boyd, Kokoroko and Mr Shabaka Hutchings. They appear among jazz legends (Mr Gary Bartz, Idris Ackamoor, Hailu Mergia), dance music pioneers (Mr Matthew Herbert, Mala, Mr Theo Parrish, François K), forgotten post-punk heroes (A Certain Ratio, Maximum Joy) and an embarrassment of DJs who are shaping the club scene and pushing jazz, house, hip-hop, electronic and soulful beats into thrilling new shapes. If you were looking for an introduction to the most exciting musical movement there is right now, this festival, set in the middle of the Cambridgeshire countryside, is it.

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Blue Dot

  • Photograph by Mr Anthony Harvey, courtesy of Bluedot

Jodrell Bank, UK

18– 21 July

Nerds, unite! Fans of mind-expanding computer music and the cosmos converge at this popular boutique event, which takes place at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Cheshire. This year it’s celebrating 50 years since the moon landings, so expect plenty of talks and workshops on the themes of science and space. The music programme is astronomically good, too. There’s supernova robots Kraftwerk, who perform in 3D, studious pop kings Hot Chip, synth-pop titans New Order and whatever kooky side project Mr Jarvis Cocker is doing now. It’s not all blokes. Poet and performer Ms Kate Tempest is returning to the stage and you may hear the mighty howl of Ms Anna Calvi’s electric guitar, plus feminist supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique, Ibibio Sound Machine’s jubilant afropop and new soul duo Oshun add a more global-focused dimension.

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Nyege Nyege Festival

  • Photograph courtesy of Nyege Nyege Festival

Jinja, Uganda

Dates TBC

Uganda might seem like a long way to go for a party, but it’s the location of east Africa’s largest and most forward-thinking festival, on the banks of the River Nile. Headed up by visionary independent label Nyege Nyege Tapes, it unfurls over three days and showcases traditional musicians you wouldn’t find at any other festival of this kind alongside cutting-edge electronic artists and DJs who span diasporic sounds such as South African gqom and Angolan kuduro and anything futuristic (as long as it bangs). It’s one of the most diverse festivals in the world and the best-dressed, as east Africa’s style-conscious and globetrotting artists rub shoulders. The line-up hasn’t been announced yet, but you might want to start looking into flights now. If that’s too far to travel, Nyege Nyege will be doing a showcase at Blue Dot, with core artists Mr Otim Alpha, Slikback and Leo P-layeng.

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Nova Batida

  • Photograph courtesy of Nova Batida

Lisbon, Portugal

13–15 September

As the end of summer nears, it’s the ideal time to visit the city everyone’s calling the next Berlin and whose temperature never seems to stray far from the twenties. New festival Nova Batida had its first edition last year and is a fine way to experience Lisbon arts and culture, with the added bonus of an excellent soundtrack. The line-up has an international focus – Four Tet, Floating Points, Friendly Fires and Mr Jon Hopkins in his DJ guise top the bill – but it’s also a chance to catch the confrontational African electronic beats of Portugal’s most exciting and cutting-edge label Príncipe Discos (“prinsp”), which is represented here by DJs Marfox and Nídia. Depending on your energy levels, the festival promises everything from surf lessons to rooftop yoga and museum tours to top off the party programme.

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