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THE REAL EDM EXPERIENCE

The Best EDM Festivals

The Best EDM Festivals
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PHOTO: IMAGE VIA GETTY/JONAS ROOSENS/TOMORROWLAND

complex.com / by JAKE LAUER21.8.2017

Go out and witness the music live and in person if you want the real EDM experience.

EDM is short for Electronic Dance Music, but you could argue that the “E” also stands for “event,” as Deadmau5 once cracked. True, you can certainly enjoy EDM at home or through headphones on the train, but then you’d be missing a crucial part of the reason EDM has become such a phenomenon. You just have to go out and witness the music live and in person if you want the real EDM experience.

While raves are the classic, almost stereotypical conception of EDM events, the best way to really connect with EDM’s vast culture is to attend a music festival. EDM newbies and seasoned pros alike flock to festivals to see an array of DJs performing in one space. There are countless festivals to choose from, and given the price tag of tickets to many of them, you’re best served to do some research and pick the perfect festival for you.

It's always a good idea to be in-the-know about which festivals are worth checking out. Here’s a look at the best EDM festivals around. They’re top-of-the-line not only for the depth of their lineups, but also for the impact they have on EDM culture in general.

Here is the definitive list of the world’s best EDM festivals.

Movement

Formerly known as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Movement is held in Detroit, one of the undisputed birthplaces of electronic music (it’s the place where techno was born). Since its inception in 2000, Movement has brought electronic music fans from the world over to the city, giving props to the its history and bringing in millions to the Detroit economy. Local legends like DJ Godfather, Starski and Clutch, and others have performed, while Detroit techno legends like Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson have had a hand in producing the festival over the years. Movement also charges a reasonable price (under $100) for tickets, with bills of over 100 acts. In today's cash-grab dance music scene, that's a feat that many festivals fail to accomplish.

PHOTO: IMAGE VIA WIKICOMMONS

Electric Zoo

The Electric Zoo has become a Labor Day Weekend institution for the New York area. Taking place on Randall's Island, EZOO reliably features the biggest acts in EDM, but they also make an effort to highlight critically acclaimed performers who may not be quite as popular. This makes for some pretty diverse lineups.

So far, this year’s stacked lineup includes heavy-hitters like DJ Snake, Galantis, Zedd, and Armin Van Buuren, alongside cult-favorites like Drezo and Codeko. Check it out September 1st to 3rd in NYC.

PHOTO: IMAGE VIA GETTY/BRIAN KILLIAN

Sensation

Yes, you better have white on at Sensation’s White party.
Sensation kicked off in 2000 with two distinct editions of the popular event: Sensation Black (for hard dance music) and Sensation White (for house music). Nowadays, the two parties simply go by "Sensation" and "Black." For its first five years, the festival was held at the Amsterdam Arena, but since 2005, Sensation parties have traveled the globe, hitting Brazil, Russia, Chile, Latvia, the Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The Sensation tour hit the U.S. in 2013, perfectly coinciding with EDM’s rise in the States. Come to check out their extravagant stage designs and creative dress codes.

PHOTO: IMAGE VIA WIKICOMMONS

Creamfields

Creamfields, the UK’s massive six-stage festival, is one of the premiere EDM events in the UK. Expectations are high for 2017’s edition, and with confirmed artists like Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz, Creamfields will likely live up to the hype. See it August 24th to August 27th in Daresbury, Cheshire, UK.

PHOTO: IMAGE VIA GETTY/DAVID MUNN

Ozora Festival

There’s something special about the atmosphere at the Ozora Festival. Each year, upwards of 60,000 festival-goers pack into Ozora, the small Hungarian village where the festival takes place. Despite the quaint surroundings, the Ozora Festival is one of the world’s biggest psytrance music festivals. Check it out for a truly unrivaled EDM festival experience.

PHOTO: PSYCHEDELIC TRIBE

Shambhala

Shambhala has been growing steadily in strength since 1998 and has become one of the largest (and longest-running) electronic music festivals in Canada. It’s a frequent International Breakspoll Award winner, having been named "Best Large Event" multiple times. And with six stages filled with some of the best acts in the scene, it definitely earns that distinction. What's even more astonishing is that Shambhala does it all without any corporate sponsorships, making this a truly volunteer-run project. That's extremely difficult to do, but considering the quality festivals they've been putting on, Shambhala volunteers’ hard work has paid off.

Tomorrowland

TomorrowLand, based in the city of Boom, Belgium, is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the world. TomorrowLand is known for its extravagant stage design, fanciful decorations and attractions, and superior line-ups of the biggest DJs in the EDM scene. Attending the event is like stepping into a different world; speak with anyone who has been to TomorrowLand, and you’ll sense the magic of this singular experience.

PHOTO: TOMORROWLAND.COM

Ultra Music Festival

When you think of EDM festivals, Ultra immediately springs to mind. Since 1999, Ultra has been a Miami mainstay, with the festival growing quickly from a one-day affair to a three-day blowouts. Each year, Ultra truly kicks off EDM festival season in the States, showcasing the fiercest stage design and the most recognizable DJs of any EDM event in this country. Though it began in the U.S., it has been shared with the world, with UMFs taking place in Korea, Buenos Aires, Ibiza, Brazil, Chile, and plenty of other spots across the globe. Ultra is showing no signs of slowing down, and their global domination is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

PHOTO: ULTRAMUSICFESTIVAL.COM

Electric Daisy Carnival

We're not sure if Insomniac planned for the Southern California institution known as the Electric Daisy Carnival to grow into the worldwide behemoth that it's become, but their efforts landed them there either way. While EDC began in SoCal, it has spread to venues across the world, becoming the largest electronic music festival outside of Europe. The biggest names in EDM, such as Armin van Buuren, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Yellow Claw, and Tiësto regularly perform at global EDC venues. With weekend festivals attracting over 400,000 attendees, EDC is poised to continue its global reign as a premier EDM event. See 2017’s EDC in NYC, from September 1st to 3rd.

Sonar

Barcelona’s Sónar has been one of the most forward-thinking electronic music festivals over the last 20 years. While they might not put up the same attendance numbers as Ultra or Electronic Daisy Carnival, Sónar’s lineups showcase the cutting edge of the electronic scene. This isn't your garden variety dance music, but the upper echelon of high-quality DJs and producers, with everyone from Mary Anne Hobbs to Mixmaster Morris gracing the Sónar stage at some point in their careers. There’s more to Sónar than just the beats, however. Each year Sónar goes beyond the scope of a typical music festival, exhibiting art installations, presentations, and workshops to enlighten the crowd. If you want to avoid the mainstream EDM festival scene, Sónar should be your first festival destination. The 2017 edition, for example, featured a packed lineup that included Moderat, Nadia Rose, Nicolas Jaar, Nina Kraviz, Clams Casino, De La Soul, and The Black Madonna.

PHOTO: SONAR.ES

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