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Electronic Music Festivals Stand Up Against Rock Revival

DW staff / AFP (tt)
May 28, 2006

Hard rock may be on the upswing in Europe -- as the recent victory of a Finnish band at the Eurovision Song Contest has shown -- but the cool, urban sounds of electronica will be heard at many festivals this summer.

The world-famous Berlin Love Parade will make its comeback this summerImage: AP

The recent rock and punk revival is set to hand guitar bands the limelight again at this summer's festivals across Europe. But the electronic music scene has been fighting back with events of its own where vinyl and samplers rule.

The undisputed leader is the Sonar festival in Barcelona, Spain, which runs from June 15-17.

Helped by the warm weather, the seaside location and the buzz of the city, the Sonar organizers also consistently select a line up of big name DJs and the most exciting breakthrough acts.

Expect electronica, hip hop and techno with appearances by London-based Goldfrapp and legendary producer DJ Shadow expected to be major draws during the three-day event.

Disco is not dead

Party in Mexiko
Whoever said that disco dancing was passe?Image: AP

"There are two main focuses this year," said Enric Palau, one of the three co-founders of the event, which began in 1994.

"One is the 'The Year of Japan' event with 20 artists from Japan including hip hop, breakbeat and beatboxing people," he said. "The second is 'Black Music.' We wouldn't have electronic music without disco or the first samples of rap. And reggae has been important for the minimal techno of today."

About 80,000 to 90,000 people attended last year and the same number are expected on the Sonar site this year.

"Barcelona is the perfect environment for the festival," Palau said. "The work we do has helped position Barcelona on the map for cultural and music events."

Europe goes electronic

Abschied vom Tresor
Hey Ms. DJ, pump up the jam!Image: dpa

Elsewhere in Spain, the Benicassim festival from July 20-23 features both guitar and electronic acts and draws big crowds for four days of dancing under the sometimes unrelenting Spanish sun.

In France, the Nuits Sonores festival in Lyon is already winning plaudits as a Gallic rival to Spain's Sonar despite this year being only the fourth edition.

Unlike Sonar, however, which is concentrated on one site, Nuits Sonores infiltrates the whole of the UNESCO-listed city of Lyon with performances in 50 different locations. A warehouse at the confluence of the two rivers in Lyon, the Rhone and the Saone, serves as the focal point of the festival which runs from May 24-28 and which attracted 40,000-50,000 visitors last year.

"It's a panorama of electronic music with all styles represented," said 35-year-old Vincent Carry, one of three co-founders from the city. "The line-up goes from techno house to breakbeat and electroclash. The comparison with Sonar is made by a lot of people. Artistically, we have a lot in common with them."

From Belgium to Berlin and beyond

In neighboring Belgium, the summer festival season is rich and diverse with the electronic scene led by the 10 Days Off event from July 14-24 as part of the giant Gentse Feesten, which takes over the picturesque town of Ghent in July.

"I think Gentse Feesten is the biggest city festival in Europe," said Phillip de Liser, an organizer of 10 Days Off. "About two million people came last year."

Love Parade in Berlin Straße des 17. Juni
The Berlin Love Parade was cancelled in 2004 due to lack of fundsImage: AP

He underlined the influence of Berlin on the electronic music scene in Europe at the moment. Berliners or international DJs based in Berlin are set to be an important draw for this year's festival.

"The best electronic music is coming from Berlin at the moment," de Liser said. "Berlin is really the capital for electronic music at the moment. It isn't London anymore."

Berlin itself hosts the Popkomm electronic festival from September 20-22 which hosted 1,200 artists in 20 clubs in 2005.

In the middle of the summer, the Berlin Love Parade on July 15 will could again bring over a million people onto the streets of the formerly divided city for a day of hedonism and ear-popping dance music. The city of Cologne in western Germany, the other hotspot for German electronic music, livens up when the C/O Pop festival gets underway on August 23-27.

UK still big on festivals

In Britain, the Glastonbury festival from June 22-24 continues to be the biggest music event of summer, with both guitar and electronic acts.

Timo Maas
Homeland Festival is now called HiFiImage: timo maas

Homelands festival, renamed HiFi this year is a two-day event dedicated to dance music on the weekend of May 27-28 and attracts large crowds from London, which is a short trip from the festival's site in Winchester, Hampshire.

Further north, the T In The Park festival from July 8-9 is the Scottish answer to Glastonbury, while The Big Chill festival from August 4-6 has a growing reputation and expects a crowd of 29,000 people this year. Located next to a lake in a deer park in western England, The Big Chill combines nature with cutting edge music programming.

"It's the ultimate in chilled, grown up partying and attracts people every bit as gorgeous as the lakeside deer park," said organizer Sam Pow.