Treating Festival Fever
Austria’s festivals keep growing in size: Thousands can’t wait to get a taste of the mud and sweat, lose their belongings when their tents are washed away, and not shower for days...Bliss!
This year, Nova Rock hosted 150,000 people: In July and August other pop and rock festivals will take the Austrian summer stage | Photo: Thomas Reiter
The ever popular rock giants The Cure are at this year’s Frequency Festival | Photo: thecure.com
The Viennese are forever culture-bound, off discussing philosophy in coffee houses, attending art gallery openings or going to one of the city’s great theatres to watch Goethe or Grillparzer. But sometimes, they need to get down and dirty: And when grown men and women crawl along the ground, smearing themselves and each other with mud, chanting along to their favourite heavy metal anthem, you know it’s festival season again.
It wasn’t so many years ago that Austrians still had to peek jealously over the border to our big neighbour Germany, drooling while reading the line-ups at the legendary Rock im Park or Rock am Ring festivals. Today there’s no need to go anywhere: Austria has a broad offering of festivals of every size and almost every musical genre.
Strawberries and guitar chords
The town of Wiesen is known for two things: their excellent strawberries and their standing as Austria’s unofficial festival capital. For 30 years, the 2,800 inhabitants of this picturesque locale near the Hungarian border in Burgenland have been joined by hordes of music fans every summer, tripling the population. Up to 8,000 tickets are sold for each event.
Let’s look at three of the six festivals taking place there in 2012: The Lovely Days festival (7 July, €54) is headlined by the fantastic Lou Reed, who is touring through Europe this summer. Ian Anderson, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger from The Doors are some of the other artists who will be on stage.
Thirty-something readers, who have been in Vienna long enough, will have to be very strong now: Forestglade (14 July, €40), one of the well-loved classics of the Austrian festival scene, is beckoning festival-goers for the last time this year. And while the line-up has never been the draw of the far bigger festivals like Nova Rock and Frequency, the Forestglade’s more relaxed atmosphere made it special. But for this final year, funds seem limited: While Incubus, Billy Idol, Therapy?, and The Ting Tings are definitely nice acts, for the last Forestglade ever, one would have hoped for more – especially compared to this year’s line-up at Frequency. Old-school fans and traditionalists are being compensated in other ways: Bring an old Forestglade T-shirt and you get a free beer – even if the shirt doesn’t fit you after all those years.
Wiesen isn’t Woodstock, but one day a year it feels like it: The Sunsplash festival (25 August, €40) features World Music and a lot of people in colourful outfits smoking strange substances. For parents who want to accompany their kids during their first festival experience, Sunsplash is the perfect place, as the organisers offer special parent-kids tickets (two parents + one child under 13 years for €72.50). The headliners this year include Gentleman & The Evolution, Mono Nikitaman and Amadou & Mariam.
“Friday I’m in Love” at the Frequency
While all of the above festivals are one-day events and small enough that you can show up late and still get a good view of the bands, it’s time to move on to the real deal: As you read this, Nova Rock 2012 is already history. One hundred fifty thousand people came, despite horrible weather – the band members of Marilyn Manson weren’t as brave and cancelled their show due to the severe thunderstorm on the first day. Amateurs.
The Frequency Festival (16–18 August, €120 for a three-day pass) has developed into Austria’s most well-known festival and has everything you would expect from a rock ‘n’ roll happening. St. Pölten has hit the jackpot by drawing the festival away from Salzburg’s countryside to Lower Austria’s capital.
As a result, the city is now hit by a young crowd of music-hungry party animals who draw attention to this often underrated city. The Viennese are delighted, as the drive is now much shorter and there are excellent shuttle bus and/or train connections to the festival grounds. Due to the association with the radio station FM4 and their intense month-long, on-air promotion, the organisers can count on big revenue, at least some of which goes to an incredible line-up that hits today’s kids right in their indie-hearts: The Cure, The Killers, Placebo, Korn, Bloc Party, and Noel Gallagher’s new band High Flying Birds are only the tip of the iceberg. It’s a line-up that could cover two festivals.
However, there is a price for this all-star-team (and we are not talking about the €120 for a three day pass): Unless you get up early, you won’t see Robert Smith & Co. except on the giant screens – that can make you wonder why you’re spending three days without a shower and paying €4 for kebab when you could have stayed home watching MTV and ordering pizza.
The Austrian “festival summer” is long and there are lots of other local happenings besides those listed here. If you want to get out of the country for a weekend, the choice gets even bigger: whether it is the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary (6–13 August with The Killers, Mando Diao and Hurts), the Exit Festival in Serbia (12–15 July with Avicii, Richie Hawtin and Luciano), or the Benicassim in Spain (12–15 July with Bob Dylan, David Guetta and New Order) – all combining a city trip with some great bands, all in all a great summer weekend getaway.
So bring on the rubber boots, the beer cans, and the Inzersdorfer goulash: It’s festival season!
Lovely Days: 7 July, wiesen-festivals.at
Exit: 12–15 July, www.exitfest.org
Benicassim: 12–15 July, fiberfib.com
Forestglade: 14 July, wiesen-festivals.at
Sziget: 6–13 Aug., www.sziget.hu
Frequency : 16–18 Aug., www.frequency.at
Sunsplash: 25 Aug., wiesen-festivals.at