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Power of Ten

The 20 most-anticipated dance-music festivals of 2013

By Ken Taylor
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Sure it’s just February, but with festival-announcement season in full swing, it’s high time we took a look at the most promising dance-music gatherings of the year ahead. Whether it’s been going for 20 years, like Barcelona’s venerable Sónar Festival, or if it’s a relative newcomer to the scene, like Playa Del Carmen’s BPM Fest, if it rocks, it’s got our attention—and hopefully yours, too. Read on for a killer list of must-attend parties this year.

20. Monegros Desert Festival (Fraga, Spain; July)

Now in its 19th installment, the Monegros Festival is billed as a “desert” festival, but don’t mistake it for a Burning Man-type gathering—the Spanish shindig is high on production value and talent. Last year’s Monegros brought in an international array of DJs and artists from across the electronic spectrum, delivering house, techno, electro, and even a bit of drum & bass to the middle of the desert for a day of non-stop dancing.

19. Time Warp (Mannheim, Germany; June)

For a one-day festival, Germany’s Time Warp sure packs in a lot of music. DJ sets from Sven Vath, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Dixon, Ellen Allien, Visionquest, Dubfire, and tons more are bound to make this engagement a memorable one. No doubt, the focus of the day’s 40-plus performers will be on techno, but don’t be surprised if a bit of house—and who knows what else—slips in to keep things moving. Regardless, Time Warp seems to appeal to the festival goer with an insatiable appetite for raw electronic sounds—probably because those guys know how to dance their asses off.

18. Southport Weekender (Minehead, UK; May)

Launched in the true era of rave, the now 25-year-old house-music mecca Southport Weekender remains an intensely soulful three-day affair. This year, house legends such as Kerri Chandler, Dennis Ferrer, DJ Sneak, and Karizma will be joined by South Africa’s biggest dance-music export, Black Coffee, alongside Detroit’s Andres and plenty more of the genre’s top-notch jocks. A great deal of low-end weight complements this soulful focus as well, with guys like Mala and Goldie keeping the bassheads smiling.

17. Exit Festival (Novi Sad, Serbia; July)

Serbia’s Exit Festival has quickly established itself as one of Europe’s best dance-music destinations due to its expert curation and its unique venue—Novi Sad’s Petrovaradin Fortress. Filling the grounds surrounding this Medieval structure, Exit presents many of the world’s best DJs and producers speckled amongst equally huge rock acts; last year, Duran Duran and New Order shared billing with Addison Groove, Brodinski, TEED, and Jon Convex. Adding an extra fifth day for its 2013 edition this July, it’s safe to say that this year’s Exit Festival will be its most epic ever.

16. T in the Park (Kinross-Shire, UK; July)

Scotland’s T in the Park is set to celebrate 20 years of existence this July with three days of top-notch musical offerings. While the festival is not entirely electronically oriented, they did end up pulling in one particularly legendary headliner this year—Kraftwerk. Yes, the godfathers of all things electronic music will be standing perfectly still behind their laptops as a beautiful array of synchronized visuals and lights flash and the group’s timeless music blasts across a Scottish park. More names are yet to be added to the lineup, but do we really need them?

15. Tomorrowland (Boom, Belgium; July)

Tiësto, Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Dixon, Benga, Datsik—and that’s just a sampling of who is signed on to perform at the opening day of this year’s Tomorrowland festival in Belgium. Add to that impressive start names likes Armin van Buuren, Avicii, Jamie Jones, Jeff Mills, Thomas Gold, and many more, and it’s clear to see that the three-day European event has done its homework and will be the place to be come the last weekend of July. Last year’s event saw attendance of around 190,000 revellers, and it’s been growing steadily since its 2005 inauguration.

14. Creamfields BA (Buenos Aires, Argentina; November)

Since the late ’90s, the British-born Creamfields—which sprouted from Liverpool club Cream—has been the, uh, cream of the UK festival circuit, and it’s also planted its seeds internationally. One such market they’ve successfully tapped into is Buenos Aires, which last year hosted the likes of David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Paul Van Dyk, Jamie Jones, and Guy Gerber. Clearly, this year’s installment will be just as much of a no-brainer if you can find a way there.

13. Sensation America (New York, NY; October)

Sensation is the kind of festival that not only attempts to just bring great music to the people, but also looks to create a unique atmosphere and spectacle like no other. Last year’s first US edition of the Dutch party took place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and, with all its attendees wearing white, transformed the arena into an adult wonderland where pyrotechnics, synchronized dancers, and—most importantly—some of the world’s best DJs made it a night to remember. We expect similarly unique and extravagant things from Sensation’s 2013 USA edition.

12. Bestival (Isle of Wight, UK; September)

Bestival is one of those festivals that seems to take liberally from every genre. But since it’s curated by BBC Radio’s Rob Da Bank, it’s grown to become one of the music world’s most trusted lineups—who else would pair Elton John and The Flaming Lips alongside Squarepusher and Disclosure? Still, the four-day music extravaganza has put together quite the roster of electronic acts and DJs including Richie Hawtin, Seth Troxler, Carl Cox, Julio Bashmore, Maya Jane Coles, and Joy Orbison—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the 50-plus acts so far announced.

11. The BPM Festival (Playa Del Carmen, Mexico; January)

Although the 2013 edition of BPM Mexico already took place back in January, it’s not too soon to get excited about the 2014 edition (also likely to take place within the first full week of January)—especially when one considers the breadth of its beach-centered events, which included performances by John Digweed, Josh Wink, Stacey Pullen, Miguel Campbell, and Justin Martin. The early-2014 event is sure to deliver the same amount of musical quality and diversity.

10. Melt! Festival (Ferropolis, Germany; July)

Melt! is the kind of festival that most likely appeals to those who wish to go off the beaten path. Taking place in the German peninsula town of Ferropolis, Melt! has showcased a vibrant mixture of adventurous electronic music (along with a sprinkling of sophisticated indie rock) since its inception in 1997. This year’s edition brings the likes of The Knife, Jamie Jones, Ben Klock, Ellen Alien, Flying Lotus, Julio Bashmore, James Blake, SBTRKT, Scuba, and many more out for a sun-filled summer weekend.

9. Electric Zoo (New York, NY; Aug-Sep)

Electric Zoo has quickly become one of North America’s most anticipated weekends, transforming New York City’s Randall’s Island Park into a playground for DJs, live acts, and—of course—tens of thousands of attendees every Labor Day Weekend for the past four years. Another fest that packs plenty of big-name DJs into one weekend—last year’s included Skrillex, Datsik, A-Trak, Martin Solveig, and Porter Robinson—E-Zoo also showcases its share of burgeoning underground talent.

8. Decibel Festival (Seattle, WA; September)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Seattle’s Decibel Festival, a homegrown institution inspired by high-brow gatherings like MUTEK and Sónar. Over the past nine years, Decibel has brought a slew of forward-thinking artists and DJs to the Pacific Northwest for its many showcases, which are spread around the city’s various clubs and venues over a five-day run. Furthermore, the festival organizes workshops and A/V performances to shed some light on the processes and inter-disciplinary possibilities that fuel electronic music.

7. Future Music Festival (Australia; March)

Australia’s Future Music Festival is a traveling event, hitting the country’s five major cities—Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide—in a little over a week’s time. Each city is privy to the same star-studded cast of music makers and DJs, not the least of which is Avicii, whose gigantic presence on the festival’s roster is only enhanced by that of Boys Noize, A-Trak, Hardwell, Steve Aoki, Seth Troxler, Richie Hawtin, and many more.

6. Coachella (Indio, CA; April)

It’s hard to think of a North American festival that has set more of a benchmark in popular music culture than Coachella. The festival will encompass two separate weekends, although each run will boast the same lineup. While the musical offerings do lean heavy on the rock and indie side of things, there is a plethora of impressive electronic acts hidden away on the bill, too, such as Richie Hawtin, Maya Jane Coles, Thomas Gold, Moby, Eric Prydz, Luciano, Disclosure, and even the “Harlem Shake” man himself, Baauer, among many more.

5. Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas, NV; June)

Despite being hit by some dangerously high winds last year, which temporarily shut the festivities down, the long-running Electric Daisy Carnival festival brought in over 300,000 people for its main weekend in Las Vegas—making it arguably the largest electronic music festival in North America. Although no lineup has been officially shared for the three-day 2013 edition, you can rest assured that many of the largest names in dance music will be throwing down on the ones-and-twos for EDC come June—with a couple run-up dates in Chicago and New York in May. The 2012 performance card featured Above & Beyond, Thomas Gold, Steve Aoki, David Guetta, Carl Cox, Zeds Dead, Tiësto, and virtually everyone else imaginable—so yeah, this year will be huge, too.

4. MUTEK (Montreal, Canada; May-June)

Montreal’s MUTEK is essentially the grandaddy of the hybrid experimental/experiential electronic music festivals taking place throughout North America. Since its official launch back in 2000 (it was originally a side-gig of the city’s Festival of New Cinema and New Media), MUTEK has focused its curation around the cutting-edge and forward-thinking strains of electronic music, usually premiering audio-visual performances and high-profile collaborations while presenting an international cross-section of budding and established talent. This year’s lineup was just announced yesterday, and includes Andy Stott, Matthew Herbert, Robert Hood, Jamie Lidell, and John Talabot.

3. Ultra Music Festival (Miami, FL; March)

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For the first time ever, Miami’s Ultra Music Festival has extended its event to two weekends—probably a good look considering the second weekend has already sold out—and for the occasion has recruited an even more jaw-dropping lineup than ever before. The fast-approaching Miami dance party is set to feature mega-headliners Avicii, Afrojack, Kaskade, Boys Noize, Hardwell, and Swedish House Mafia (on their last tour ever) alongside some of electronic music’s fastest rising stars like Nicolas Jaar and Disclosure.

2. Movement Electronic Music Festival (Detroit, MI; May)

The Movement Festival, which began in 2000 as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (and is still commonly referred to as “DEMF”), not only takes place in the heart of the city, but also champions techno’s founding fathers and the legacy they set forth for young electronic music makers the world over. All the big Detroit names have hit this stage numerous times over the years, and this May’s edition is no different, featuring Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson as the High-Tech Soul Concept, Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Stacey Pullen, and many more international acts as well.

1. Sónar (Barcelona, Spain; June)

Over the past 20 years, Sónar has become recognized worldwide as the gold standard of electronic music festivals (while still presenting plenty of popular indie rock), particularly within the realms of house and techno, but also dipping into electro, dubstep, bass, and beyond. This year’s lineup is as solid as ever, with a wide range of artists such as Major Lazer (as well as Diplo on his own), Skrillex, Laurent Garnier, Justice, Hot Natured, Breakbot, Derrick May, Modeselektor, Nicolas Jaar, and many more set to take over Barcelona for three days this summer. And, as if that weren’t enough, Kraftwerk’s special 3-D performance is also set to make the 2013 edition of Sónar a memorable one.

So which festivals are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo by Jordan Loyd for ElectricZooFestival.com