Decks on the Beach: The Best Dance Festivals Around Europe

With the UK festival scene becoming saturated with mobile phone company sponsored summer events offering nothing more than The Tings Tings and a warm ale, pack your bags and head off to some of these heavenly delights. Chris Duncan looks at a few of the highlights...

Feature by Chris Duncan | 19 Dec 2008
  • Daedelus at sonar

Snowside Festival

Nassfeld, Austria

If your New Year's resolutions include the vow to enjoy yourself a little more, then let us make a suggestion. Like winter sports? Great! Nassfeld, Austria, in the heart of the Alps, is one of the most picturesque areas in the region, with ski-friendly mountainscapes, beautiful lakes and interesting snow pursuits available from hiking and tubing to sledging and even snow biking, as well as excellent nursery slopes for beginners and first timers. Don't care too much for winter activities? Well, you're also in luck. Snowside Festival makes its debut in the stunning surrounds featuring an amalgamation of two of the most innovative clubbing communities in the UK, those of The Secret Garden Party and XFM DJ Eddy Temple Morris’s The Remix. At Snowside, The Remix will be presenting over sixty of the most talented DJs and live artists from the UK and around Europe, in keeping with its now famous mission statement: ‘Where Dance Rocks’... and everything in between! Those expected to perform include Rennie Pilgrem, DJ Fresh, TC, CTRL Z, Kris Menace, South Central, Qemists, the Japanese Popstars, Brookes Brothers, Matrix and Futurebound, and Silent Witness. The Secret Garden party was voted best small festival of 2008 at the recent UK Festival Awards and will be producing eccentric and colourful mountainside parties each night just over the border in Italy. If that hasn't got you sold already: the late night frivolities will all take place in an old WWI military border crossing lookout post, complete with DJ in turret.

Tickets cost between £289 and £329 with an extra £110 for full ski pass.


Barcelona, Spain

Sonar always swings a powerful right hook when it comes to the international festival scene. Layered on thick across three days during June, and taking place in the heart of Barcelona, the entire event is a mixture of various genres of music, split into Sonar by Day and Sonar by Night. The sheer size of the festivities may be slightly daunting to clubbers as hundreds of acts appear in eight areas across the city. But the festival is famed for its friendly atmosphere and located in a stunning city, so even if you do take a wrong turn looking for Manu Gonzalez & Vidal Romero at the Sonardome, you probably won’t even care. No line up has been announced as of yet, but a sly gander at last year’s schedule should exorcise any fears of a sub-par line up. Soulwax, XX Teens, Richie Hawtin, Krazy Baldhead, Boys Noize, Roisin Murphy and Hercules and Love Affair all appeared alongside many more artists.

Advance general passes are now on sale for €125 via Sonar starts on 18 June and ends late on 20 June.

Primavera Sound

Barcelona, Spain

Also taking place in Barcelona is the world-renowned Primavera festival. Teetering on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea the festival takes place from 28-30 May in a perfect start to the summer season. Some of the line up have already been confirmed and include the wonderful Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and the legendary My Bloody Valentine. Sunny Barcelona may be a stark contrast to the normal surroundings of the shoegazer kings but no doubt it’ll work. Also dipping their oars into the Mediterranean waters are Gang Gang Dance, Throwing Muses, The Soft Pack, Michael Nyman, Extra Life and Spiritualized. A varied bunch indeed, and with more acts to be announced in the new year this could be the best way to start the sunshine season. Primavera? Sound.

Three day tickets are available for the very reasonable price of €90 from


Novi Sad, Serbia

All quiet on the Serbian front in terms of line up announcement so far, but the tenth Exit festival will no doubt stick to its guns and provide an absurdly fun four-day extravaganza. The Exit festival website is currently running a survey to find out what performers the visitors would like to see, with the aim of booking as many of them as possible for the event in July. Spread across the huge area, with almost as many stages as there are performers (22 stages at the 2008 event) Exit is a goliath of an event. Last year saw the likes of 2 Many DJs, Booka Shade, Tiga, N.E.R.D., Paul Weller and even The Sex Pistols all performing live. For 2009, who knows, the crowd decide.

Four-day access tickets are available from for the bargain price of just £72 each, camping not included. Exit takes place on 9-12 July.

Coma Festival

Al Maya Island, and Beirut

When I was a kid my mum used to tell me that my bedroom “looked like Beirut!” before flinging me a roll of black bin bags and some industrial strength bleach. An unfair comment on her behalf because Beirut hosts one of the boldest dance festivals the world has seen of late. Just confirmed for 2009, Coma Festival sees the return of the first dance music festival to take place in the Middle East, and it didn’t break the ice gently. The festival takes place on Al Maya Island, twenty minutes off of the coast of Abu Dhabi, and the event is an obscene sixteen hours long, featuring a variety of DJs. The party continues at the Forum De Beirut on the same weekend.

Coma takes place on 14-15 November. Forum De Beirut tickets range from $30-$90 each, whilst Al Maya Island tickets are $425 for an all day pass. But it takes place on something that resembles Tracey Island from Thunderbirds, so it’s worth every