RA's monthly round-up of the festival scene returns for 2011.
Here we go again. March, in our minds, represents the start of the cycle; the month you draw breath and
prepare once again to do this whole festivals thing for another year. The unofficial first page of this calendar, WMC, decided to bring their event forward this year (and caused a stir in the process) but wherever and whenever you decide to get things going, you'll have options from Melbourne to Minehead.
10. Jazz Not Dead
January 18 - April 5
Vicenza's Jazz Not Dead will never be ranked among the major players of the international festival circuit—but for electronic music fans in and around the city that shouldn't matter one iota. The event's calling card is intimacy, after all. And the curatorial team behind this seventh edition have opted for an even more localised affair in 2011. Over the course of eight consecutive Tuesdays, Bar Sartea will host a string of Italian talent, which began back in January with Restoration Records bosses Lucretio & Marieu performing as The Analogue Cops. The notable out-of-town appearance falls on March 15th, when Metro Area's Darshan Jesrani comes to Vicenza, while Italian DJing legend Beppe Loda will blast off on March 8th.
RA pick: Go as local as it gets and catch resident Dax DJ at any of the eight events.
09. Awakenings Rotterdam
If Dutch techno is an empire, the Awakenings outfit holds the crown; the Amsterdam-based organisation turns out raves in the Dutch capital, Eindhoven, Halfweg and Rotterdam like clockwork throughout the year. The annual Rotterdam chapter is one of their smallest in scale, relatively: this year Graansilo, the site of their 11-hour, three arena New Year's Eve Special is dialled back to a more traditional one night/one room affair. As expected, there will be plenty of proper techno to punch the air to: Dave Sumner and Karl O'Connor will both go stag as Function and Regis respectively, as well as teaming up for a Sandwell District live set. Chris Liebing will represent for Berlin, as will Berghain veterans Len Faki and Marcel Dettmann. On a slightly less traditionalist tip, Karotte and Joris Voorn will offer up some of the main room sounds that have endeared them to Cocoon and Space over the last year, while James Holden will add a pinch of anything-goes eclecticism to the proceedings.
RA pick: Pantha Du Prince's sensitive melodies might go down a storm. Or a lead balloon.
08. Rio Music Conference
March 2 - March 8
Marina da Glória
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The importance of events such as the Rio Music Conference cannot be overstated in a fledgling scene like Brazil's. Since starting out in 2009, RMC has offered the first and only opportunity for industry figures and fans in the world's fifth largest country to be in one place at one time. In terms of tangibles that means almost a week of workshops, lectures and panels, set against the shimmering backdrop of Rio's Marina da Glória. And there'll be a party or two as well. RMC coincides with the world's most famous carnival, which means the likes of Dave Clarke, Booka Shade, Trentemoller, Dubfire, dOP, Fatboy Slim and Gui Boratto will enjoy working over an already feverish crowd. RMC's program is naturally geared towards matters of Brazilian interest, but if you're an international visitor in town for carnival then it's nonetheless intriguing to see how this rapidly developing country views itself as part of the bigger electronic music picture.
RA pick: The Samba Parade is an obvious must if you're in the city at this time of year.
March 16 - March 20
Austin: the land of upside-down bumper stickers, mind-blowing barbecues and more music venues per capita than anywhere else in the United States. When SXSW is rolling through town, you can hardly walk a yard down 6th Street without passing by a teeming club. Sure, the programming favors the guitar over the turntable, but with something just shy of 2,000 acts booked, there's hardly a lack of electronic sounds, especially coming from live artists like Mount Kimbie, Darkstar and Brandt Brauer Frick. And in case you're curious about this Skrillex character (you know, the dubstep producer that used to sing in a hardcore band), he'll be there too.
RA pick: No better time and place to catch one of indie's brightest lights, Toro Y Moi.
06. 5 Days Off
March 2 - March 6
Just how does Amsterdam do it? Year after year, the relatively tiny European capital supports a niche electronic music festival industry that would cripple cities that are larger, richer and more densely populated. Whatever the magic formula is, it allows for gatherings like 5 Days Off, which is less a traditional festival— no queues, no waiting, no programming clashes—and more a rolling series of boutique events. With the bustling Leidseplein at its geographical centre, 5 Days Off settles in at major venues Paradiso and Melkweg, as well as the Dutch Institute of Media Art, for five consecutive nights, offering the practical option of a composite ticket to access all parties, or individual passes to cater for individual tastes. The opening night will see Matthew Dear, Caribou, Gold Panda and Zomby banding together to define eclecticism at Melkweg. 2 Many DJs will take on Paradiso solo on the Tuesday, London's DMZ crew and local Amsterdam club night Colors will each govern their own bass-heavy nights, while Modeselektor's simian juggernaut Modeselektion will roll over the closing night, with Kyle Hall and Hudson Mohawke as guests.
RA pick: Hercules & Love Affair's sequined, neon, polysexual disco party
March 7 - March 13
In case you hadn't heard, there was a bit of a brouhaha surrounding this year's Miami Winter Music Conference—something about it taking place earlier than everyone expected. But whether it starts on the 9th or the 23rd hardly changes its position as one of the single most important events on the electronic music calendar. And even if the dates are different, you can still count on some WMC traditions staying the same, like Timmy Regisford opening the weekend at Shine. Plus, where else can you catch a live set from Octave One while bobbing around in the pool?
RA pick: Pretty hard to argue with We Love's Detroit-heavy lineup at The Shelborne.
04. Future Music Festival
March 5 - March 14
Brisbane | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne | Adelaide
Australia's annual travelling behemoth, Future Music Festival, will return for its fifth showing in 2011. As one of the last chances the majority of Australian clubbers will have to dance in the sun for a few months, the festival has unofficially served as the country's farewell to warm weather. As in previous years, the lineup will feature a balanced mix between stadium-fillers and more underground names across its half-a-dozen stages. For the former, regular Australian visitors The Chemical Brothers, Dizzee Rascal and MGMT will each be on show, while Plastikman, Sven Vath and Loco Dice are on hand to please the techno fans. Homegrown heroes The Presets and Pendulum will both be hopping on the festival tour bus after an extended absence from Australian stages, as will the dub-heavy house of Leftfield's Neil Barnes. It'll all be kicking off in Brisbane on March 5th, before moving on for four other dates that wind to a close in Adelaide.
RA Pick: Plastikman's long-awaited return to Australia should go down nicely.
03. Time Warp / Jetztmusikfestival
March 26 - April 2
Widely regarded by the DJs that play there year after year as the official start to the European festival season, Time Warp once again ranks as one of the essential festivals for lovers of stadium-sized electronic music. All the acts that don't require a last name will be there: Sven, Richie, Ricardo, Magda. And so will a few that do (but shouldn't): Henrik Schwarz, Loco Dice, Chris Liebing and Carl Craig. In one of the most anticipated sets of the enormous event, the Planet E man will be going back-to-back with Luciano. But don't miss Garnier's live presentation, L.B.S., either. With the week-long Jetztmusikfestival providing the more artistic warm-up (Kollektiv Turmstrasse soundtracking a improv dance troupe, Move D doing the same for the 1920 silent film The Golem), Time Warp will provide the ideal end to the festivities.
RA pick: If you need a house fix amid all the techno, Seth Troxler is your man.
02. Ultra Music Festival / Miami Week
March 22 - March 27
There's no losing if you head down to Florida during the month of March if you're a dance music fan. The week of Winter Music Conference has plenty on offer, and so does the week around Ultra Music Festival. For those ready to brave Bicentennial Park, you'll be once again greeted by some of the biggest mainstream stars the genre has to offer. David Guetta, Deadmau5 and The Chemical Brothers all headline. For those going underground, Sunday School starts on Friday, the Shelborne is crawling with special events and Electric Pickle will be where to Get Lost (among other things). Many will be watching to see which week prevails. Our view? Everyone's a winner here. Especially Ray-Ban.
RA pick: La Sandwicherie have the best (and cheapest) sandwiches on Miami Beach.
RA pick: La Sandwicherie have the best (and cheapest) sandwiches on Miami Beach.
March 11 - March 13
If you're reading this from outside the UK you may not be familiar with the British holiday camp experience. It does take a bit of imagination, but try and picture an exquisite Mediterranean beach break—only without the sun, food and culture. Thankfully then, BLOC aren't in the business of 5-star getaways: cutting-edge electronic music is more their thing. So instead of the Butlins staples of sunburn, chavs and Red Coats, you get Aphex Twin, Magnetic Man and Laurent Garnier. It wouldn't be hyperbolic to suggest that the event offers one of the world's most comprehensive assemblies of underground dance music, which in addition to the above headliners, this year includes LFO, Moderat, Four Tet, Visionquest and Dopplereffekt playing among promoters such as Mulletover, Modeselektion, Subloaded, Numbers and, erm, us: Soul Clap, Floating Points, Will Saul and Space Dimension Controller will all help us make our BLOC debut.
RA pick: Artists such as Richard D. James were probably the reason BLOC started in the first place.