Music Festivals For Adults
The Lakeside Spa at Wilderness, Oxfordshire, UK Andrew Whitton
From Michelin-starred banquets to Texan psych-rock, here’s how to enjoy live music in style this summer.
Finished with festivals? At some point, we all have an epiphany. A sober epiphany, that is. No amount of live music or hedonism can sweeten the bitter pill of spending roughly a third of a month’s wages to live in what is essentially a filthy, post-apocalyptic commune. Queues to wash under a hosepipe, no Wi-Fi, and an economic structure where money has no value (“tokens only”) and alcohol is exchanged with strangers for toilet roll. What kind of a weekend away is that?
There is, however, another way. With food, the arts and accommodation enjoying as much airtime as music at some events, it’s possible, if you so wish, to have a more rounded festival experience in relative comfort. Gone are the days where there was no choice but to commit to a weekend of mild sunstroke and warm beer for the meagre reward of a few decent DJ sets.
From Michelin-starred banquets in an Amalfi-inspired village to the best rock’n’roll event in Texas – here are some of the festivals we’re most excited about this summer, and how to enjoy them in style.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
The Fair Grounds Race Course stage at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, New Orleans, US Douglas Mason
Now in its 46th year, “Jazz Fest” has come a long way since Mr Duke Ellington and The Meters performed, in 1970, to a crowd of 350. “This festival could only be held in New Orleans because here and here alone is the richest musical heritage in America,” the organiser, jazz impresario Mr George Wein, said at the time. This year, more than 400,000 will come to see stars including Sir Elton John, The Who and Mr Lenny Kravitz play alongside smaller local acts. Food is one of the hallmarks of the festival, and some cooks have been trading here for 40 years. It’s all about “fine dining on paper plates”, and we’ve been advised to try specialities such as pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo, or the African dish Jama-Jama (sautéed spinach) and fried plantains. After the festival finishes, the party continues throughout New Orleans – with some clubs only getting started at 4am. If you want to sleep in style, get some rest at W French Quarter. Should you want to go high-end at the festival, too, the Big Chief VIP Experience is a fine idea.
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Austin Psych Fest: Levitation
The Black Angels performing at Levitation 2012, Texas, US Poonah Ghana
Carson Creek, a private ranch on the banks of the Colorado River, has the air of an iconic rock’n’roll hang-out from the annals of music history; it’s the type of place bands went in the 1960s and 1970s to record experimental third albums or blow off steam. One such band might have been legendary Texas outfit The 13th Floor Elevators, who essentially invented psych-rock in 1965. They are headlining Levitation this year – their 50th anniversary – and will be joined by, among others, The Flaming Lips, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream. Despite the impressive line-up, the festival is contained to a small, idyllic site with a mere 6,000 capacity – so there is none of the intensity of, say, SXSW. At night, you can rent a tent with a bed or, alternatively, stay at Hotel Saint Cecilia. With décor inspired by the rock’n’roll history of Texas, you can pretend you’re there for an authentic experience, while secretly enjoying the 50ft pool and continental breakfast.
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Pitchfork Festival Chicago
Rapper Pusha T at Pitchfork 2014, Chicago, US Jessica Lehrman
When? 17-19 July Where? Union Park, Chicago, US Tickets: $65 (1 day); $150 (three days) Line-up: pitchforkmusicfestival.com
As you might expect from indier-than-thou online music bible Pitchfork, the line-up here reads like a carefully curated Spotify playlist of the best new rock, hip hop and dance around. Headliners are local rockers Wilco, hip hop star Chance The Rapper – who also hails from Chicago – and female punk band Sleater-Kinney. To fuel yourself for all the head nodding/ chin scratching you’ll be doing (it’s not cool to look as if you’re enjoying yourself, remember), Pitchfork publicist Mr Patrick Tilley recommends “Randolph Street in the nearby West Loop. It offers some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, including Girl & The Goat, Au Cheval and Nellcôte”. The latter, named after the villa where The Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main St., is our pick. Afterwards, hole up in a room above the “whiskey-fueled tavern” at Longman & Eagle, or – if you want to get some proper shut-eye – Soho House Chicago might be a better bet. If you want to take a break from the music, check out the festival’s Flatstock poster fair, CHIRP record fair, or Coterie craft fair for something a little bit different.
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Headliners don’t come much bigger than Björk – so it’s pretty good going for a festival that prides itself on food and the arts as much as it does music to bag the Icelandic goddess. Away from the main stage, you can expect a few surprise performances of the more intimate variety. Founder Ms Jo Vidler is keeping tight-lipped, but says, “Keep an eye on the Bandstand. Past secret sets have included London Grammar on the Busking Stage.” When you need a break from the noise, dip into the estate’s lakes – which are so clear they produce their own bottled water, say the organisers. But if H2O isn’t your thing, the Lakeside Spa has a champagne bar. And for the foodies? “A gastronomic enthusiast is spoilt for choice at Wilderness,” explains Ms Vidler. “If you like your chefs Michelin-starred, you can find them in the Long Table Banquet hall, where Angela Hartnett of Mayfair’s Murano is in charge.” For rest and repair, we have our eye on the Royal Safari Tent For Two – or indeed any of the accommodation on offer at the boutique campsite, which includes an exclusive dining area, fire area and a personal grooming salon.
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Ampitheatre concert at Dimensions, Pula, Croatia Don Medhurst
Although it offers an impressive array of electronic acts this year – Little Dragon, Four Tet and Ben Klock to name three – heading to Dimensions is as much about experiencing the Croatian coastline as it is the festival’s bass lines. “Come out for a week and spend a couple of days either side exploring,” says festival creative director Mr Jonathan Scratchley. “There are private beaches and coves – hire a boat and go up and down the coast. Kamenjak National Park which is south of Pula is a must.” And with that coastline and clear Adriatic Sea comes the freshest of seafood. “We’re on a peninsula out into the ocean and Pula, the closest city, has an amazing fishing tradition,” says Mr Scratchley. “Take advantage of the food.” On the other hand, you can of course take your partying seriously. “The headliners will be doing unannounced sets either up at the fort or on boats,” says Mr Scratchley. “It’s as much a party for them as it is for you.”
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Portmeirion, North Wales, UK Richard Johnson
Subtropical plants and Mediterranean architecture aren’t what you would usually associate with a village in North Wales, but they are part of the eccentric charm of Portmeirion – the setting of this remarkable boutique festival. Inspired by the Amalfi coast and designed in the 1920s by architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, the Italianate village (which lent itself perfectly to 1960s cult TV show The Prisoner) will play host to headline bands in lush gardens (Ms Grace Jones and Belle and Sebastian are confirmed), string ensembles on an estuary promenade, and DJ sets in thick woodland. But before you’ve even heard a note – try the food. “A personal favourite is Dinner At Clough’s,” says festival organiser Mr Luke Huxham. “It’s a candlelit banquet overlooking the River Dwyryd estuary, and chefs prepare Michelin-standard food.” The accommodation doesn’t disappoint either. “No.6 is the only festival where you can stay in a cosy cottage, stately gatehouse or historic castle in the heart of the site. Alternatively, try a luxurious bell tent, tipi or yurt under the stars,” says Mr Luxham. Unlike Number Six in The Prisoner, we can’t see ourselves wanting to leave Portmeirion in a hurry.