10 music holidays
Beats on the beach . . . and everywhere else
Glastonbury music festival in the UK. Photograph: Redferns
DJ Bl3nd spins during Winter Music Conference 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida. Photograph: Getty
The Lake of Stars music festival, Chinteche, Malawi. Photograph: Getty
Caribbean trips generally conjure up private beaches and all-inclusive resorts, but Trinidad and Tobago’s main carnival in Port of Spain scheduled for early March (3rd-4th) is a raucous party far removed from poolside lazing. You’ll be well-versed in soca music by the end, but bear in mind it can be quite full on for lone female tourists, so travel safe. The cheapest flight to Trinidad around carnival time will set you back at least €750.
If you’re a serious gig goer, then South by Southwest in Texas, March 6th-16th, is the ultimate binge gigging experience. It’s the touchstone for all that is hip and hyped in the music industry – and the price of a pass reflects this (earlybirdmusic pass is €585 compared to the walkup rate of €950). The city of Austin has great bars and brilliant food trucks, and the energy of SXSW is unparalleled.
Electronics at the beach
Long before the fairly recent rebirth of dance music’s popularity in the US, the Winter Music Conference in Miami (March 21st-30th) was keeping the superstar DJ alive on South Beach. Ultra Music Festival coincides with WMC, and last year 330,000 punters turned up. Electronic music is hugely popular in the States but, as anyone who’s been clubbing in Miami knows, it ain’t cheap. A three-day VIP ticket is €625 (yikes!) and a regular punter ticket is €295.
Festival and Barcelona city break
Primavera Sound in Barcelona (May 29th-31st), the festival of choice for northern European hipsters, has lost some of its sheen recently, as beer prices climb and festivals become more homogenised around the continent. It’s still a good opportunity to twin a city break with some quality music, though, and you get to tell everyone at Electric Picnic, “Oh yeah, I saw them at Primavera”, which isn’t annoying in the slightest. The early bird price for Primavera is €99; the full whack is €195.
Glastonbury, in Somerset, is the mothership for music festivals. You can’t do Glasto by halves. Plan an early flight to Bristol on the Wednesday of the festival “weekend” (June 25th-29th). Leave the site on Monday morning and avoid the zombie-esque airport queues with an overnight in Bristol, a great, laidback city. A Glastonbury ticket is €250 (it’s sold out but returns are sold in April). Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly to Bristol.
Dancing in the dark
The remarkable Lake of Stars festival in Malawi (September 26th-28th) has been changing a lot recently, taking a break with a sabbatical in London and a relocation away from the shores of Lake Malawi to Lilongwe. It does appear to be kicking back into gear for 2014, though, and dancing to southern African music in the dark on a beach is unforgettable. You can fly to Lilongwe from London for about €800, but accommodation prices, ticket prices and private transport vary wildly, so do your research.
Jazz festival in Cork
Cork plays it fast and loose with the pigeon-hole “jazz” for this October (24th-27th) shindig, but there’s a reason this festival has been going since the 1970s: it’s fun, has quality and is diverse. There are also free and/or cheap fringe events, making it more accessible to jazz fans of all ages and incomes. Ticket prices vary from show to show. Expect to pay over €30 for the big names and less for the rest – and don’t forget the free events.
The comfort of city festivals is a plus, and Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik (November 5th-9th) is one of the finest in the world. An extremely discerning programme matches breaking international acts with Iceland’s fantastic local music, and the diversity of venues is excellent, including the famous Blue Lagoon. Take an extra few days to enjoy the awesome scenery of southern Iceland. Flight (from London) and festival pass package, about €425.
Chill in Dingle
There’s a reason everyone gushes about Other Voices in Dingle, Kerry, and that’s because it’s a brilliant, chilled-out experience that throws up some unforgettable music moments. Dingle in December might not sound appealing, but really it’s a good time to visit. The town is devoid of tourists and the landscape is at its most breathtaking. Free gigs, beautiful drives and quiet pubs rule. Tickets are free and by lottery. Accommodation in a cottage in Dingle for the weekend will cost about €120 each.
Beats and Beethoven in Berlin
If you like your beats as much as your Beethoven, then why not double up on a visit to Berlin with techno and classical music? Relax after nights (and days) in one of the best clubs in the world, Berghain, by experiencing the Berliner Philharmoniker, one of the world’s best orchestras, housed in a cool, pentagon-shaped concert hall. Berlin is cheap for music fans, although clubs still charge €10 upwards. You can buy tickets to the Philharmoniker on berliner-philharmoniker.de, with tickets ranging from free upwards.