Travel in Germany is famous for its timely trains and impeccably clean cities. Within this at times hospital-worthy aesthetic, at the same time Germany’s music scene pushes limits and embraces innovative musicians. A product of its own historical rebellion and tumult, many of Germany’s music festivals are around 20-30 years old, which is a credit to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991. Many of these festivals have police checks and strict rules, but all stress the musical and artistic freedom of their festival-goers and performers. After the tragic event at the Berlin Love Parade Festival in 2010, where 21 people died and 500 were injured, Germany has upped their protective advances and ensure a safe and entertaining experience. Despite this other sad piece of history, Germany once again emerges with her head high and brimming with new ideas. With clear instructions and accessible directions to nearly every festival, Germany wants to help you with your next festival experience. Just like the only German composer we all know, Beethoven, once said, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Although it would have been difficult for Beethoven to imagine the scale to which people gather to celebrate music with light shows and heavy metal, we like to think he would appreciate the way Germany continues to break barriers with music. Although Germany’s trains are always on time, the music is always ahead of its time.
FestPop’s German Music Festival Top Picks
At the end of June, a former Russian military airfield hosts the Fusion-Festival in Lärz, a massive festival that covers the fields of northern Germany. If you’re into experimental attitudes towards art, this festival was pretty much made for you. Through an impressive diversity of performance art, these four days include over 500 artists and multiple musical and visual expressions. Aware of the financial burden of festival life, they provide an opportunity for festival goers to volunteer for six hour shifts and get part of their ticket price back. Also a philanthropic event, every drink you buy at this festival gives back to various local social groups like youth programs and cultural initiatives. www.fusion-festival.de
Held for the 30th time in 2013 in the Lower Rhine area, the Haldern Pop Festival in Rees-Haldern prides itself in its broad range of musical acts. Hosting mainly rock and pop genres, this festival takes place every August and has historical headliners from Patti Smith to the Kooks. This optimistic festival upholds its small town locale as well as its international reputation by promoting the idea of community within the event itself. This year hosting relevant artists like Alexi Murdoch, Hozier, and First Aid Kit, the Haldern Pop Festival stresses its peaceful environment but requires a parent permission agreement for festival goers under the age of 18. www.haldernpop.com
Although it sounds pretty treacherous, the Hurricane Festival in Scheeßel has an ironically high level of organization to its setup. With more than 130,000 visitors each year, the Hurricane Festival has a twin festival called Southside Festival that runs parallel to Hurricane with the same lineup. There’s also a direct coach travel service that goes from London all the way to Hurricane called Planet Festival. The rules at this festival are clear: no glass bottles, crowd surfing means being banned from the location for 24 hours, and you have to deliver a full garbage bag and provide your festival ticket to receive your 10 euro deposit. The Hurricane Festival motherly suggests bringing warm clothes for cold nights and bringing food with you if you’re camping. With Arcade Fire and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis headlining up this year, this festival is definitely on our own wish list. www.hurricane.de
Don’t be deceived by its name, the Mayday Festival in Dortmund occurs anytime between April and December. Originating in 1991, this festival is one of the oldest and most famous electronic festivals in Germany. Apparently having the power to “have the bass hit you as if you were being kicked by a buffalo,” this festival is all about the sensory experience. With a vibrant light and laser show programmed into the space, it also has a surround sound experience that doesn’t require any kind of drug enhancement. As the traditional German phrase goes for Mayday, “Tanz en den Mai!” or “Dance into May!” With a focus on techno and electronic music, the Mayday Festival provides plenty of opportunities to dance, whether or not it’s actually May.
Rock am Ring and Rock im Park are two festivals that take place simultaneously, but Ring occurs in Nurburgring and Park in Zeppelinfeld. Although the majority of the artists perform at both festivals, occasionally they will only perform at one, so make sure to double-check the lineup before purchasing your ticket. This year Linkin Park, Kings of Leon, and Metallica headlined the festival in June. www.rock-am-ring.com
Heavy metal is the sound of the Wacken Open Air Festival in the small village of Wacken in northern Germany. From folk metal to death metal to gothic metal, this festival sold out this year in under 48 hours. With names like Five Finger Death Punch and A Pale Horse Named Death, Wacken still gives festival goers an organized experience. Stressing the “open air” quality of its atmosphere, Wacken holds nearly 86,000 attendees in its area. With around 70 bands and four stages, Wacken also holds opportunities for festival-goers to experience all kinds of metal. www.wacken.com
Summerjam in Cologne is the opposite of whatever you expect from a German music festival–reggae. Forget the scenic, classically European landscape and embrace the funky jive of this multi-cultural experience. Located on an island, Summerjam hosts a if not tropical at least lake setting for its festival goers. Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the festival, so confuse your friends and grow out some dreadlocks and grab a beanie the next time you’re in August in Germany. en.summerjam.de
Hosted in the capital of Germany, the Berlin Music Festival occurs in September and comes with many advantages to being set in a large city with a bunch of accommodations like an ATM and an easy travel plan. It also offers an early bird loyalty ticket to people who have attended the festival before! Often nominated as one of the best music festivals in Europe, the Berlin Music Festival legitimately offers an award-worthy lineup. www.berlinfestival.de
OTHER NOTABLE MUSIC FESTIVALS IN GERMANY
Something Fun to Do Before or After a Music Festival
Germany has so much in terms of music and history, it’s nearly impossible to just pick one activity to do on your non-festival days. If you’re a history buff and want a better sense of just what the Cold War meant to Europe and the rest of the world, definitely visit the Berlin Wall. Next to a free museum, this wall provides a piece of history you can actually get your hands on. Although the site provides a lot of resources for information about the history of the Berlin Wall, definitely do some research on the condition of Berlin during the Cold War to really appreciate the importance of this place before your visit. Also the Neushwanstein Castle almost demands to be visited, boasting the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland and one of Wagner’s operas. Located in southwest Bavaria, this castle begs to be photographed as it’s situated between mountains and picturesque towns. Most likely you’ve seen this place in a coffee table book or calendar, with its tall white towers emerges from the hills. And let’s just be real, this setting would make a beyond impressive Christmas card or profile picture.
Getting to Germany from the USA
Traveling to Germany is just the beginning of your exciting music festival adventure! With the option of flying into either Berlin or Frankfurt, choose whichever locale is easily accessible to your music festival. Because of Germany’s pristine public transportation, you should be able to find out which option is better pretty easily. You’ll most likely stop through Paris or London, so don’t even worry about a boring or out of the way layover. Now is the time to fully embrace every aspect of Carpe Diem! British Airways offers flights to both Berlin and Frankfurt, and prides itself in providing a flight where its weary travelers can actually get a good night’s sleep.
Providing an eclectic music scene all over the country, Germany is both the novice and experienced traveler’s ideal to travel a great distance to visit. Not only does Germany have the benefit of a well organized and affordable process, but it also gives its visitors a living expression in artistic freedom. Whether you’re dressing up in medieval garb, waving glow sticks in a light show, or easing your toes in a lake while listening to heavy metal, Germany perfectly blends comfort with excitement. While you’re there, we encourage you to ask questions! If you’re lost, ask a local for directions. If you’re confused about an artist’s set, find a festival employee. Knowing the workings of Germany, that person will most likely be well trained and in the know. For more information, check out www.germany.travel and start dreaming about next summer. We sure are.
By Lauren Rogers, FestPop Sr. Editor
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