The eight best music festivals in Spain this summer
Written for The Local:
With summer upon us, festival season is in full swing. Primavera might have concluded on Sunday, but there’s still plenty to look forward to on Spain’s festival calendar, with everything from Basque forest raves to all-night beach concerts on offer from June through to August. Here are The Local’s highlights.
UVA, Ronda, June 8th-11th
A newcomer to the Spanish festival circuit, UVA’s big draw is its fairytale location, nestled on a hillside in a converted 15th century monastery in the beautiful town of Ronda. Boutique events like this offer a contrast to the gargantuan spaces and hectic mobs of festival giants like Sónar and Primavera – UVA’s capacity of 500 ensures a far more intimate and relaxed experience. It’s the perfect setting for a laid-back summer shindig soundtracked by underground darlings like Call Super and DJ Sports.
Sónar, Barcelona, June 14th-16th
LCD Soundsystem are playing this year. Sonar. Photo: Sonar
Undoubtedly one of the main events of Spain’s festival season, Barcelona’s Sónar celebrates its 25th anniversary this June with headliners Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem and Thom Yorke. Sónar has always booked interesting and diverse acts that reflect contemporary trends across the electronic music spectrum, and this year’s lineup is no exception: Friday night’s SónarLab will see house favourites Bicep and Bonobo share a stage with grime icons Wiley and Preditah, while over at ‘SónarPub by Thunder Bitch’ you can catch a live show from Swedish rapper Yung Lean before an early morning set from German techno star Helena Hauff.
It’s also worth remembering that if you can’t afford the substantial admission, Sónar is an event that reaches beyond the festival site and takes over Barcelona for a few days, with various ‘Off-Sónar’ parties occurring at different venues around the city showcasing top DJs at affordable ticket prices.
Bilbao BBK Live, July 12th-14th
Situated in the picturesque Basque Country, Bilbao BBK Live offers a great balance of pop-oriented and underground acts. The main lineup, which includes Gorillaz, Florence and the Machine and Childish Gambino as headliners, is counterbalanced by the electronic-focused ‘Basoa’, a festival-within-a-festival that takes place in the forest and this year plays host to Glasgow heroes Optimo and Korean party-starter Hunee.
Mad Cool Festival, Madrid, July 12th-14th
Located just south of Madrid’s centre at Caja Mágica, recent arrival to the festival circuit Mad Cool is a worthy rival to Primavera in Barcelona, boasting an impressive roster for a young festival that includes rock heavyweights (Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age), alternative acts du jour (Wolf Alice, Young Fathers, Slaves) and dance music luminaries (DJ Koze, The Black Madonna, Daniel Avery). As a bonus, the festival’s early evening start time offers the perfect excuse for attendees to get out and explore Madrid during the day.
Festival Internacional de Benicassim, Valencia, July 19th-22nd
At FIB, hordes of raucous young music fans from across Europe descend on the coastal town of Benicassim to see bands play through the night on the beach. If that perfect recipe for a summer festival isn’t enough make you pack your bags and head to the Costa del Azahar, then the stellar lineup should convince; this year sees The Killers, Pet Shop Boys and Liam Gallagher headline the main stage with Eric Prydz, Belle and Sebastian and Madness playing over the weekend.
Arenal Sound, Valencia, July 31st-August 5th
Just down the coast from Benicassim lies the town of Borriana, where another beachside festival is giving the well-established giant a run for its money. Its long duration in the height of summer generates a real party atmosphere, with a line up this year including Crystal Fighters, Azealia Banks and Steve Aoki.
DGTL Barcelona, August 10th-11th
Closing out the summer festival season is this mid-august two day party, which exports the Dutch techno festival DGTL Amsterdam to the industrial Parc del Fòrum on the outskirts of Barcelona. Taking place at the hottest time of the year and favouring the uncompromising four-to-the-floor techno music of artists like Carl Craig, Maceo Plex and Amelie Lens, hydration will be essential.
DCODE, Madrid, September 8th
If you don’t want to commit to several days worth of partying, consider this compact one day festival in Madrid. Coming in just after the main festival season on September 8th, DCODE manages to pack plenty into its short timescale: this year, Albert Hammond Jr, Jorja Smith and The Vaccines will take to the Universidad Complutense de Madrid campus to mark the city’s last hurrah before the end of the summer.