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Where to party in 2018: a clubbing, nightlife and festival guide

a light installation by Christopher Bauder and Kangding Ray at CTM Berlin
Beam me down … a light installation by Christopher Bauder and Kangding Ray at CTM Berlin

January

The start of the year sees the return of CTM Berlin (26 Jan-4 Feb), the “festival for adventurous music and art”. This year the event, across venues in the city – from Berghain to the Kraftwerk building – features artists from the sincere German techno producer Recondite to Peruvian electronic-pysch band Dengue Dengue Dengue - is on the theme of Turmoil – expect artistic responses to a growing sense of global instability. Berlin will be absolutely freezing this month, so those seeking a vitamin D-fuelled party (and can afford the short notice flights) should head to Goat (26-28 Jan), a boutique festival in Goa, India, with a lineup including Horse Meat Disco and Moxie. January also means the start of Laneway Festival (27 Jan-11 Feb), which starts in Singapore, before touring cities across Australia with a lineup including Bonobo, The Internet and Wolf Alice.

February

Jayda G will be performing at Bahidora in Mexico.
Jayda G will be performing at Bahidora in Mexico

February means Carnival season. The biggest street party in the world is in Rio de Janeiro, but in Europe, both Venice and Nice host carnivals attended by millions, and this is also the month that New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras. For a different pace, and to embrace the season, head to Denmark, where the Vinterjazz festival (2-25 Feb) means hundreds of concerts across the country all month, while in Quebec, Canada, Igloofest (12 Jan-19 Feb) offers a programme of electronic music in the “coldest music festival in the world”. Other unique events include Les Dunes Electroniques (20-22 Feb), a dance music festival featuring Derrick May, Kölsch and more in the Tunisian desert used as a location for the Star Wars films. In Mexico, Bahidora festival (17-18 Feb), is celebrating its fifth year, with another event driven by community idealsin a magical site, the natural Las Estacas water park two hours south of Mexico City.

March

US singer Tinashe on stage at SXSW last year.
US singer Tinashe on stage at SXSW last year. Photograph: Amy E Price/Getty Images

A fusion of conferences and festivals across music, film and interactive media, SXSW (9-18 March) is a expansive event that takes over the city of Austin, Texas, with an overwhelming amount to see, do and learn about. Another festival on similar lines is Sonar, which fuses music, creativity and technology and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Though Sonar was born in Barcelona, in March the more intimate spin-off event Sonar Reykjavik (16-17 March) has a lineup including Danny Brown, Bjarki and Nadia Rose. There’s more dance music fun in Brazil with another spin-off festival, Dekmantel Sao Paulo (3-4 March), back for a second year with a programme of underground DJs from Lena Willikens to Jayda G. The month ends with one of South Africa’s longest-running music festivals, Splashy Fen (29 March-1 Apr).

April

People party in the streets of Amsterdam.
People party in the streets of Amsterdam. Photograph: Mark Richter

Elsewhere in South Africa in April, the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (6-8 April) showcases the country’s booming dance music scene. One of Australia’s biggest festivals is also taking place this month: the Byron Bay Bluesfest (22 March-2 April) has a big-name lineup featuring Lionel Richie, Robert Plant and Chic. The festival also encompasses Boomerang , celebration of indigenous arts and culture. For a lively city break, however, this is the month to head to Amsterdam, which celebrates King’s Day (27 April) with street parties and festivities including parades of canal boats, sound systems and live music.

May

Detroit’s Movement festival.
Detroit’s Movement festival. Photograph: Bryan Mitchell

What better way to enjoy spring than with a rave in the shadow of a giant, fire breathing, robot arachnid? Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Arcadia – huge at Glastonbury – pitches up in London for a party hosted by RAM Records and Leftfield (5-6 May). In Lyon, France, also sees the return of Nuits Sonores (6-13 May), a forward-thinking festival that takes over 40 venues – from landmarks to industrial heritage sites – and a programme of predominantly electronic music coupled with art, design and architectural projects. For a city takeover focused on bands, head to Live at Leeds (5 May) and spend the day and night crawling through venues and spaces across town dipping into gigs from the likes of Circa Waves, The Horrors and Blaenavon. May is also the best time to plan a pilgrimage to the birthplace of techno, for the three-day Movement Detroit festival (26-28 May). Conclude the month with a real blowout: Distortion (30 May-3 June), the festival that turns the otherwise rather chilled city of Copenhagen into a non-stop party, with stages and sound systems in streets, parks and clubs, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Another festival that has grown massively over the past five years is Primavera Sound (30 May-3 June), now a huge event in Barcelona attracting almost 200,000 people with its sun-kissed star lineup from rock to techno.

June

Crowd of festivalgoers at Sonar Barcelona.
Crowd of festivalgoers at Sonar Barcelona. Photograph: Alamy

Sonar Barcelona (14-16 June) guarantees an unforgettable weekend of dancing around the city, with the official program – this year headlined by Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem and Richie Hawtin - matched by the countless fringe events as part of Off Sonar. In central Turkey, Cappadox (14-17 June) is a festival of arts, music and food among the unique moonlike rock formations of Cappadocia. For a week-long holiday in the south of France, with discerning live music and DJs, head to Sète for Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival (30 June-7 July), and for an even more easygoing vibe, Obonjan (24 June-2 September), whichlaunched two years ago with a false start, has become a popular fixture on Croatia’s festival scene, complementing the more rowdy weekenders with a summer-long programme of music and wellness.

July

Visitors to Melt!’ festival in Ferropolis, Germany. Photo: Jens Wolf
Visitors to Melt!’ festival in Ferropolis, Germany. Photograph: Jens Wolf/Alamy

No surprise that the peak of the summer sees a host of Europe’s major music festivals, including Exit in Serbia (12-15 July), Benicássim in Spain (19-22 July) and Melt in Germany (13-15 July). In Croatia, Soundwave Festival (26-30 July) celebrates its 10th and final edition with its trademark soul infused lineup, this year including Romare, Sons of Kemet and Submotion Orchestra. Closer to home, Tramlines (21-23 July) takes place across a range of parks and venues in Sheffield and is headlined by Primal Scream, Toots and the Maytals and Omar Souleyman. A world away in Borneo is the Rainforest World Music Festival (13-15 July), a unique event that does exactly what you’d expect, bringing some of the finest world and indigenous musicians to the jungle, with Mount Santubong providing the backdrop. Meanwhile, in Japan, July sees the return of another mountainside festival, Fuji Rock (27-28 July), the biggest music event in the country, which takes place not on the iconic mountain but at a ski resort 200km north of Tokyo, and sees up to 150,000 attending.

August

In fine feather at the Brighton Pride Parade.
In fine feather at the Brighton Pride Parade. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

The peak of the summer means festivals in abundance. In the UK, the Scottish capital is taken over by the month-long Edinburgh festival fringe (3-27 August), with thousands of shows from comedy to cabaret, music to theatre in every corner (and street) of the city. Right at the other end of the UK, Brighton gears up for one of the world’s best pride events. Brighton Pride (3-5 August) is another city-wide event with a festival, parade and more - tr than it already is. Not to be outdone, London concludes the summer with the inimitable Notting Hill Carnival (25-27 August), in which west London becomes a huge street party celebrating Caribbean culture, with a parade and countless sound systems pumping out music from dub to disco. For one of Scandinavia’s best music festivals, head to Gothenburg, Sweden, for Way Out West (9-11 August), a weekender headlined by Arcade Fire, Lykke Li and Jorja Smith. For dance music, Atlas Electronic (31 August-3 Sept) is an intimate 2,000-person event in an eco-lodge in Morocco, hosting international DJs and local talent. In Montreal, Canada, Mutek festival (22-26 August) brings together a programme of avant garde creativity, from electronic music to digital art – expect challenging interventions and experimental performance. The month concludes with one of the world’s most unique parties: Burning Man (26 August-3 Sept), a radical “participatory metropolis” created in the middle of Nevada’s Black Rock desert, where attendees wander between themed camps, via sound systems, art installations and areas catering to every style, subculture and kink.

September

The Makambele Brothers jamming by the shore during the Lake of Stars music festival.
The Makambele Brothers jamming by the shore during the Lake of Stars music festival in Malawi. Photograph: Christopher Pillitz/Corbis via Getty Images

As the autumn comes and the air cools it’s the perfect time to visit some of Europe’s party cities. Lisbon, Barcelona and Belgrade all have enviable nightlife scenes, with outdoor drinking all night and clubs to dive into when you need to dance (the rooftop terrace on Lux, in Lisbon, is a good spot to aim for). Africa is cooling down and hotting up too: festivals worth checking out include Oasis (14-16 Sep), a bougie house and techno party in a boutique hotel just outside of Marrakech. Sub-sahara are two more great parties: Nyege Nyege (1-3 Sept) in Uganda, brings together underground artists from across the continent (and beyond) for a festival at the source of the river Nile; and Lake Of Stars (28-30 Sept) in Malawi, which will be celebrating its 15th anniversary with a bumper year of music and arts on the beaches of Lake Malawi.

October

Florence and the Machine perform at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2015.
Florence and the Machine perform at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2015. Photograph: Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

Oktoberfest is an obvious one, but for a different kind of party there’s plenty to plan a trip around. October sees two city clubbing events, in NYC and Amsterdam. Time a trip to the Big Apple for the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival (dates TBC) and you’ll be spoilt for choice thanks to nightlife programming across some of the city’s best clubs from Output to House of Yes. Amsterdam Dance Event (17-21 Oct) draws people from the global dance music industry along with fans and revellers for five days of talks, workshops, and yes, plenty of club nights, featuring over 2,000 artists. For live bands, Austin City Limits (5-7 and 12-14 Oct) is a huge event in a city famed for its music and has eight stages and over 140 acts. In Krakow, Poland, October sees the annual Unsound festival (dates TBC), with discerning programming and an eye for the avant garde.

November

Club to Club festival in 2017, Turin.

November sees Turin taken over by the annual Club to Club festival (dates TBC), a week-long event with a progressive booking policy that brings avant garde and pop to venues across the post-industrial Italian city - past headliners include artists from Thom Yorke to FKA Twigs and Kode9. For winter sun, November sees Strawberry Fields (16-18 November) whirr into action in Victoria, Australia. In 2018 the 6,500-person party will be celebrating its 10th year and is a much loved “r” that brings a lineup of house and techno to a blissed-out spot on the Murray River. Another winter party break to consider is Budapest, for a warm-up in the city’s thermal baths a night in its Ruin Pubs (some are definitely more “stag do” than others).

December

Festivalgoers dance as Indian act Delhi Sultanate perform at the Magnetic Fields festival in Rajasthan.
Festivalgoers dance as Indian act Delhi Sultanate perform at the Magnetic Fields festival in Rajasthan. Photograph: Rebecca Conway/AFP/Getty Images

The end of the year does not mean the end of the party, with events around the world from the slopes to the coast. For winter fun, Polaris (dates TBC) in Switzerland is a dance music festival to shake the ski resort of Verbier, while Rise Festival (dates TBC) is a similar offering in Les Deux Alpes, France. Elsewhere in France, Rencontres Trans Musicales de Rennes (dates TBC), is a long-running festival in the Breton capital: it’s known for its forward-thinking bookings and a history of leading musical trends rather than following them. To escape the European chill, Festival Novas Frequências and Mareh are two festivals in Brazil. The first explores experimental electronic music and the second offers an easygoing dance music lineup with beach fun and boat parties. Underground music can be found in a 17th-century palace in the Rajasthan desert too: India’s Magnetic Fields has grown in reputation over the past five years and programmes a lineup of international and local acts. The last event was headlined by Four Tet and Ben UFO. In sunny Australia, an hour’s drive north of Sydney, Lost Paradise has a wide-ranging lineup and plenty of distractions beyond music: yoga, art, performance and secret corners to explore. And if you’re lucky enough to be lapping up the rays in Thailand ahead of the festive season, Wonderfruit (13-16 Dec) is an eco-minded festival in Pattaya that books leading bands and DJs as well as a vibrant programme of arts and performance, from talks on the environment to shows from Thailand’s leading drag queens.

This article titled "Where to party in 2018: a clubbing, nightlife and festival guide" was written by Will Coldwell, for theguardian.com on Monday 15 January 2018 06.00am

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