By Charlotte Cox
Festival season, ahoy! Time was, that meant mud, mediocre rock music and, quite possibly, a dose of E.coli from the food stalls. But no longer. Now, a festival can be anything you want it to be – a confetti-filled costume party, a chic boutique soiree, an ultra-hip Euro hideaway … or even just some good old-fashioned mud-based merriment. We bring you our top five picks from each category, plus five newbies well worth a try. All you need now is your Hunters…
Wilderness, Oxfordshire, 4-7 August
IN A NUTSHELL: Sure, Wilderness has its middle-class niceties. But while it's true that you can eat at Moro before heading to the Laurent-Perrier Orangery, there's so much more to it than that. The rolling site (complete with swimmable lake) has a magical vibe all of its own, and hosts a huge array of performance art, talks and plays as well as sets from Robert Plant, Andrew Weatherall and The Flaming Lips. Besides, who doesn't like Laurent-Perrier?
THE USP: It may be the only festival where you'll see a man in chinos next to someone dressed up as a unicorn. And they'll both be eating artisan hotdogs.
GO IF: You own chinos. Or a unicorn costume.
Wilderness, tickets from £164
End of the Road, Dorset, Sept 2 - 4
IN A NUTSHELL: Remember when festivals used to be about the music, man? Well the bookings team at EOTR evidently do, curating a yearly line-up covering the finest in alt-rock, indie, folk and Americana. This year's bill includes Joanna Newsom, Animal Collective, Bat For Lashes and Local Natives. Prepare to nod earnestly and agree that yes, their secret B-side demo sessions were totally seminal. Man.
THE USP: This fest is known for putting plenty of women on the bill, and 2016 is no different with a 2:1 female headliner ratio.
GO IF: You buy albums on vinyl. For the sleeve artwork, y'know.
End of the Road, Tickets £195
Shambala, Northants, 25-28 August
IN A NUTSHELL: If you like your festivals a little more on the cosmic side, step this way. For this friendly shindig is the place to break out the tie-dye and bindies and learn how to make a dreamcatcher in the Craft Area (an ssential life skill, you'll agree). It's also home to an eclectic line-up of music (Nightmares on Wax, LTJ Bukem, Krafty Kuts), theatre, performance art and food – and there's a cocktail bar by the hot tub. Now THAT's Zen.
THE USP: This year, Shambala has gone vegetarian. Fear not though, there's a Bacon Lovers' Anonymous support group to help you cope.
GO IF: You know what chakras are. Or would like to.
Shambala; Tickets rom £159; shambalafestival.org
Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon; 21-24 July
IN A NUTSHELL: Don't be fooled by the whole civilised-sounding 'garden party' thing – the glittery, spandex-clad crowd here came to play. Hard. The theme this year is The Gardener's Guide to the Galaxy, so expect all kinds of space oddities – hidden stages, parallel universes and a hell of a lot of surprising performances await. The soundtrack comes courtesy of Caribou, Air and Primal Scream, while the round-the-clock party atmos is, ahem, out of this world.
THE USP: This festival has no SPs that aren't U. Just don't be planning much sleep…
GO IF: You're a dab hand at fashioning spacesuits from tin foil.
Secret Garden Party, Tickets £185.99 secretgardenparty.com
In The Woods, secret location, Kent; 2-3 September
IN A NUTSHELL: Feeling spontaneous? This ultra-boutique event (which has acts on the Friday night for early birds, with the main action on Saturday) is not only held in a secret location, but the line-up is kept secret till you arrive too. So you're essentially buying a ticket for who-knows-where, to see who-knows-who. But we CAN give you some clues: the venue lies in natural amphitheatre among trees just an hour from London, and the line-up is renowned for breaking the next big indie things (alumni include Alt-J, Laura Marling, Years & Years, AlunaGeorge…). Exciting, huh?
THE USP: With a capacity of just 1,000, 'intimate' isn't quite the word. The organisers themselves even hand-make burgers to sell.
GO IF: You're up for an adventure.
NOS Alive, Lisbon; 7-9 July
IN A NUTSHELL: Surely a contender for line-up of the year, NOS Alive offers a whole lot of big-band bang for your buck. Radiohead, Chemical Brothers, Arcade Fire, Pixies, Foals, Tame Impala, Hot Chip, Grimes… And all in a sun-drenched site where the campsite has a pool, the toilets actually flush (Portaloos: officially over) and the bar has (gasp) a reasonable price list. Could this be the perfect fest?
THE USP: Ten minutes from downtown Lisbon and in easy reach of the coast, it's a city break/festival/beach holiday three-for-one.
GO IF: You fancy dancing till sunrise in flip-flops. Flip-flops!
Nos Alive; EUR 59 day ticket, EUR 119 weekend
Øya, Oslo; 9-13 August
IN A NUTSHELL: Scandi is shorthand for effortless cool – and here it is in festival form. Filling the leafy Tøyenparken with huge acts such as Massive Attack, PJ Harvey, New Order and Jamie xx, here Nordic efficiency means that everything (bar/loo queues, recycling, food stalls) just WORKS. Weave to through the crowd stress-free, have space to sip a chilled sauv blanc down the front, and make friends with the universally friendly folk. This is how to festival, Scandi-style.
THE USP: Much as we talk about festival-chic in the UK, here it really EXISTS. Imagine the Glastonbury crowd dressed by Acne Studios and you're getting there.
GO IF: Nonchalant Nordic cool is your thing.
Oya Festival, Approx £240 for a 5-day pass (no camping), £78 per day pass
Sonar, Barcelona; 16-18 June
IN A NUTSHELL: The daddy of dance music festivals is still the coolest. This multi-location bash takes over the whole of Barca for three days of cutting-edge beats, bass and 'advanced' dance music. Basically if someone's doing exciting things with digital sounds, they're on the bill – Four Tet, Fatboy Slim, Boys Noize, Booka Shade and The Black Madonna to name but a few. Split into Sonar By Day and Sonar By Night, and with offshoot parties popping up all over the city, there really is no excuse not to be dancing at any given moment.
THE USP: It may be massive, but cult cool remains at Sonar's core. Bragging rights assured.
GO IF: You prefer clubbing to camping.
Sonar; From £145 for a three day and night pass, £100 for a two-night pass, £58 for one night pass and £43 for one day pass
Primavera Sound, Barcelona, 1-5 June
IN A NUTSHELL: Oh Barca, how you spoil us. Because the Catalan capital also hosts Europe's biggest draw for fans of rock, indie and all things alternative: Primavera. This year's monster line-up features Radiohead, Sigur Ros, The Last Shadow Puppets, Air, Suede… the list goes on (and on, and on). Not that electro lovers go begging for beats – Floating Points, Kiasmos and DJ Koze are among those making damn sure of that. With timings stretching through the night, recover in the Spanish sun before doing it all again.
THE USP: This year's bill includes the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson playing the whole of Pet Sounds. PET SOUNDS, people!
GO IF: You like any music of any genre of any era… Erm, just go, then.
From £150 (no camping option); primaverasound.com
Melt! Ferropolis, Germany, 15-17 July
IN A NUTSHELL: Who says a festival has to be in a field, huh, huh? Here hay bales are swapped for huge industrial machinery – and boy, is it cool. Taking over a former surface mining site and filling it with 20,000 ravers, this electronic fest is as atmospheric as they come – the perfect backdrop to a host of beat-laden acts including Disclosure, Digitalism, Jamie XX and Chvrches. What's more, there's a lake you can swim in and a vintage train you can sleep in. True story.
THE USP: True to its name, The Sleepless Floor stays open from the minute the festival opens until the minute it ends. Consider it a challenge.
GO IF: Your favourite city in the world is Berlin. You'll know why.
Melt; Around £110 including camping
Field Day, Victoria Park, London; 11 & 12 June
IN A NUTSHELL: So you want bands and beats and bushy beards? Then this is the festival for you, alliteration fans. With the muddy-marvellous feel of a traditional fest, yet still just a Tube-ride home, Field Day (or DAYS, more accurately, now it has evolved across Sunday as well), brings impeccably curated indie, rock and the cooler end of dance to Victoria Park. Headliner-wise, we have PJ Harvey and James Blake in prospect, while Four Tet and Tale of Us have beats to spare. As for the beards? The suitably hip crowd are sure to take care of those, don't you worry.
THE USP: Fancy having a go at a human steeplechase? How about a duck-egg-and-spoon race? All is possible at the Village Green…
GO IF: You like the idea of Glastonbury; the prospect of your own bed more.
Field Day; £54.50 Saturday only, £49.50 Sunday only, £94 weekend ticket
Love Saves The Day, Bristol; 28-29 May
IN A NUTSHELL: From a field in Glastonbury to a fully-fledged two-day dance fest, my hasn't Love Saves The Day grown? This year's line-up is surely its finest yet, covering a sonic spectrum from Hot Chip to Everything Everything to Dizzee Rascal. Plus there's Ben Klock, Joy Orbison, David Rodigan, Hudson Mowhawke, Disciples… Shapes shall surely be thrown.
THE USP: UK Garage stalwarts DJ Luck & MC Neat are headlining the Dance Off stage. The mind boggles.
GO IF: You spend all your time at festivals in the dance tent.
Loves Save the Day; £39.50 day ticket, £65 weekend
Eastern Electrics, Hatfield House, Herts; 6 August
IN A NUTSHELL: What started in the east end of London (hence the name) decamped to country and has gone HUGE in the three years since. Now a full-scale 'hedonistic playground' (their words), it offers house heavyweights, rave tents, secret forest stages and a tropically themed Electric City. The task of keeping such a supersized party rolling falls to the likes of Seth Troxler, Groove Armada, Skream and The Martinez Brothers. We reckon they're up to it.
USP: It's not often you get a dress-up tent at an event that takes its music so seriously. Thumbs up.
GO IF: A day of full-on debauchery is what you need.
Eastern Electrics, £39.95
Citadel, Victoria Park, London; 17 July
IN A NUTSHELL: Everyone loves a Sunday social – and there's none finer than this one-dayer with its lo-fi, folksy vibe. Music comes from Sigur Ros, Caribou and Lianne La Havas; feasting comes from chef Stephen Harris of Michelin-starred pub The Sportsman (we predict: NOM); and sack races and disco dodgeball come from Citadel's very own Sports Day.
USP: This fest has a pop-up pampering boutique, a mass yoga session – and we did mention disco dodgeball, right?!
GO IF: You like to take things easy like Sunday morning. And afternoon. And evening.
Parklife, Manchester; 11 & 12 June
IN A NUTSHELL: It's not just the south that know how to throw a day festival; Manchester does it in style too, ta very much. The team behind the Warehouse Project take over Heaton Park for two days of electro hedonism and eclectic indie sounds, this year starring The Chemical Brothers, Major Lazer, Ice Cube, Jamie xx, Years & Years, Bastille… And, whisper it: Craig. David.
USP: Party starters par excellence Elrow are taking time out from their Space Ibiza residency to run a stage. Expect Playa d'en Manchester vibes aplenty.
GO IF: You've ever been to a Warehouse Project – and fancy supersizing it.
Parklife; £59.95 one day, £104.50 for two.
We Love Green, Paris, 4-5 June
IN A NUTSHELL: The first thing to clear up: it's green as in the ENVIRONMENT we're loving. (Not sure what you were thinking.) The second thing: this is surely the continent's coolest eco festival. Moving to the Bois de Vincennes, Paris' largest park, for the first time (making it new enough for us), it's powered solely by renewable energy, recycles as much as humanly possible and is premiering its first anti-waste restaurant, serving up past-sell-by-date scrumptiousness. Oh, and then there's the small matter of the music: LCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey, Air, Diplo and James Blake, to name a few.
USP: It's the most wholesome way to have an unwholesome amount of fun.
GO IF: You are a member of Greenpeace, or have a compost heap, or shop local and organic. Or just like awesome music.
We Love Green; Around £30 for a day ticket, £60 weekend (no camping option)
Sunfall, Brockwell Park, London; 9 July
IN A NUTSHELL: This new electronic shindig is very much a festival of two halves. By day, Brixton's Brockwell park becomes a big ol' underground dance love-in with the likes of Jamie xx, Goldie, Joy Orbison and Ben Klock bringing the beats. Then by night the festival invades London's edgiest venues, leaving you to choose where to party till dawn. Jamie xx at The Coronet, Derrick Carter at Brixton Electric or Moodymann at Corsica Studios? Decisions, decisions…
THE USP: The after-party is included in your ticket price: efficient.
GO IF: You always want to kick on after a day's festival-going (and come on, who doesn't?).
Sunfall; http://sunfall.co.uk day ticket only, £50, day and night ticket from £55
Junction 2, Boston Manor Park, London; 4 June
IN A NUTSHELL: How's this for a supergroup of party-starters: The Hydra, overseers of the London's most raucous all-nighters, uber-cool techno label Drumcode, and edgy club night Closer. They've come together to transfer their collective party-starting expertise to the green yet industrial-feeling space of Boston Manor Park, bringing bleeding-edge acts such as Ame, Adam Beyer and Carl Craig along for the ride. Boom.
THE USP: This one is for fans of all things heads-down; you'll be troubled by no radio-friendliness here.
GO IF: You're all about the beats, the whole beats and nothing but the beats.
Junction 2; £35
Odyssia, Attiki, Greece; 31 August-4 September
IN A NUTSHELL: Things are always better when they're secret: missions, admirers, sevens… And the same applies to beaches, as proven by the location of this idyllic new festival. Set in the unspoilt private cove of Cariocas Beach, its your own piece of party paradise, complete with shore-side stage, secluded bars and sets from the likes of DJ Harvey, Body & Soul and Gilles Petersen. Just don't be telling anyone, y'hear.
THE USP: How many other secret beaches holding festivals do you know?
GO IF: Tanning and tunes is your dream combo.
Odyssia Festival; £60 (no camping option)
Peckham Rye Music Festival; 13-15 May
IN A NUTSHELL: It was always going to happen – after years of getting hipper and hipper, Peckham is finally getting its own multi-venue music fest. Filling the Bussey Building, CLF Art Café, Canavan's and many more with live sets, DJs, artists and workshops, its well worth going exploring. Try Pangaea, Benji B and Juan Atkins for starters.
THE USP: Multi-venue fests let you dip in and out. In Peckham, that means you can nip off for dinner at Pedlar or Mr Bao between sets. Nom.
GO IF: You prefer small venues to the Pyramid stage.
Peckham Rye Festival; £24.50