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Europe’s Top Music Festivals: Tomorrowland, Mad Cool, Primavera Sound, Way Out West, Sziget, Nos Alive, Rock in Rio

Top 5 Festivals in Europe 2024

Music lovers have endless European festivals to choose from next year. Let’s explore some of the most popular.

Tomorrowland is an outer-world festival experience for electronic music fans, whose line-ups read like a who’s who of EDM artists. Then there’s Mad Cool, Madrid’s tribute to global dance music.

Primavera Sound

Since its inception in 2001, Primavera has become one of Europe’s most famous music festivals. Its characteristics are its eclectic lineup and vibrant atmosphere. It embraces rock, pop, indie and electronic music.

In the same way, it seeks to broaden minds and break down boundaries between genres. For example, black metal band Mayhem plays a ripping affair that brews up a mosh pit. Clearly, it’s out of character for this festival, but it fits perfectly with its unconventionalities.

The organisers of the event also strive for an environmentally friendly approach. For example, they encourage punters to reuse their pint glasses (EUR1 discount). They also ask them not to talk during sets and to “dance hard and sing loud”. This helps create a wildly mixed crowd that includes indie-kids, toddlers with ear-protecting headphones and Latinx Gen Z.

Way Out West

Like most modern musical festivals, Way Out West caters to a broad range of musical tastes. The festival’s curation process is based on a diverse array of musical genres and most attendees seem to find the acts that appeal to them.

Rap and hip hop fans were well served with Spotify’s 100 Live programme at the new Hojden stage, while rock lovers found a rich mix of boundary-defying artists such as Danish punk band Iceage and the hard-rocking Thastrom. Swedish singer-songwriter Beabadoobee and Nilufer Yanya also enthralled the crowd with their playful and dynamic songs.

When the last note is played at Slottsskogen, the party continues at venues throughout central Gothenburg. This keeps the audience in a state of constant motion, which in turn helps keep revenue up for the event.

Sziget

Often referred to as Europe’s Glastonbury, Budapest’s Sziget is an utter joy. The festival, founded in 1993, has become a site for liberation and unity (the campsite asks campers to donate their tents when they leave) and boasts an incredible line-up of headliners that has included the likes of David Bowie and Radiohead.

The event itself is actually many festivals in one – the programme includes pop, rock, world and metal music but there’s also plenty of other genres to enjoy. As well as an impressive array of ancillary events like a drag brunch in the Magic Mirror tent, Sziget has an obvious commitment to social and environmental sustainability.

The festival’s ethos is evident in everything from the blaring noise to the absurd extras. It’s a great place to see how the future of music festivals will evolve.

Nos Alive

According to a recent study by brand consultancy onStrategy, NOS Alive is one of the top festivals in the world when it comes to global reputation. The Portuguese festival, also known as Optimus Alive, was launched in 2007 and is famous for its varied line-ups that give equal weight to stadium filling international headliners and alternative independent acts.

This year’s edition was arguably more dominated by rock than previous instalments, with a number of bands bringing their own riff-heavy interpretations to the stage. For example, Throes + the Shine’s ebullient post-punk grooves on the NOS Clubbing stage brought in the crowds. It was a little like the festival’s own little surprise act, a crevice of unexpected delight that was well worth checking out.

Rock in Rio

Rock in Rio is a festival of massive scale, and with that comes enormous ambition. The ethos hasn’t changed since its first edition back in 1985, which saw the likes of Queen and Metallica headline, but now it also hosts three tents dedicated to music from across the globe as well as lectures and exhibitions at the Better World arena.

The last edition – which took over the Cidade do Rock at the Parque Olimpico, turning it into an entertainment city for two weekends – was full of circus of the Cirque du Soleil variety, with people flying on highwires and DJs attacking the audience with wind machines. The next one is slated for 2-9 September, with Drake, Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi already announced as headliners.

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