Fields of Dreams: A Free Festive Guide for Summer 2015

Fusion?  Sold out.  Burning Man?  Too far out.  Glastonbury & Melt?  Rip-offs.  Boom Festival?  R.I.P. Even though the European festival circuit keeps expanding year on year, the inspiring and revolutionary events that started the trend seem to be a perpetually endangered species.  In this post, I suggest a few authentic underground festivals in Germany and Europe that are still outstripping their overhyped, overpriced competitors for both style and substance.  Follow this guide, and you may still be able to have fun in a field this summer with nothing but a backpack, some hard work and an open mind...

Free teknival crackdown in Czech, 2006
Enter the search terms 'European underground music festival' into Google and you'll get nearly endless results.  So many festivals out there, all claiming to be authentic and eclectic; yet they all seem to blend into one, big generic blur.  They all last three to four days. They all feature a man-made, pop-up hipster enclave that's burst out of some rural backwater that the local authorities have allowed to dry up in the name of austerity.  They all have a main stage featuring the same 'up and coming' viral acts that you'll find on every other festival lineup.  They all have a cultural arena full of overinflated art installations; a marketable line of trademarked clothing/posters/prints no one can afford.  They all have 'wild' afterhours raves in EDM tents where DJs you've never heard of claim to be legends, and legends that you have heard of claim to be 'just like you and me' (even though they're staying in the Rolls Royce field where the trees themselves are draped in velvet ropes).  And they are all sponsored by a major drinks manufacturer... because obviously, two hundred Euros per ticket isn't enough to cover costs.     

It's funny to think that just a decade or two ago, free festivals in all of the European nations were  besieged by high-and-mighty authorities who claimed they'd never stand for this sort of drugged-out debauchery in their land.  But now that those same fields have had dreams of real freedom wrenched from them by the grassroots, they're being re-sown with a prefab freedom that makes money for those same authorities.  If this homogenous European Festivalfranchise is making anyone out there rich, though, it's not you or me, or any of the artists involved.  The solution?  Avoid corporate festivals like the plague and check out one of the following events instead!

Northern Spain
7-10 July 2015
Considered by some to be Europe's answer to Burning Man, Nowhere is  a cash-free 'arts experiment' that takes place each year in Northern Spain.  It shares the same principles as Black Rock City does (Self-expression, freedom to be yourself, Self-reliance, No commerce, Leave no trace, Participation, Inclusion, Gifting, Co-operation, Community and Immediacy). 
Nowhere is a must if you like the Burning Man ethos, but feel that flying halfway around the planet to take part in it will leave more than a 'trace' of damage on the earth. (Photo from nowhereinspain.wordpress.com) 

Gruenefeld, Germany
17-19 July 2015
It's small and organized by Berlin's own carnivalesque nightlife collective Pynonen.  Whatever mistakes Nation has made over the years, it still gets the loyalty vote from thousands of people in the capital's party scene... and watching the organizers running around like nutters trying to keep it all under control is just part of the fun!  Nation is easily reachable from Berlin, even if getting back is (to use the German term) kind of a 'shit-fight'.   Musically, you'll find the same soulful tech-house and minimal that's played in all Berlin clubs, plus a bit of banging techno and ironic retro tunes on the lakeside stage.  But there's plenty of nature and weird, wonderful decor to explore with your festive friends. NoG tickets start at 82,00 Euros. 

Nation of Gondwana is a must if the weather's great and lots of friends are going... or if you're a day-tripper of the dreamy, psychedelic kind.  Just don't expect any psytrance!
Chepstow, UK 
13 - 16 August, 2015
"Are you disenchanted with austerity and consumerism?" asks the website for Green Gathering. You should come to this festival if you believe that getting off the corporate grid is not an end, but a beginning.  Activism, self expression, living holistically and sustainability are the order of the day.  Hippies, anarchists, environmentalists, shamans and other mind expansionists meet up at this family-friendly gathering which features everything from story telling to radical political discussion.
Green Gathering is a must if you're looking for a pop-up slice of utopian, gritty, practical counterculture.  (Photo from GG website)

 East Sussex, UK
11-13 September, 2015, UK
Like Germany's Pyonen, Mischief was born from the underground party scene in its home country (England).  As a result, its organizers seem to have close ties to the crusty festival circuit and urban squat party scene, as well as bringing in a kaleidoscopic array of musicians and artists to showcase every year.  Not only is Mischief dedicated to creativity in all its non-musical forms but the organizers also have their finger firmly pressed to the underground pulse, with everything from Dancehall to drum n' bass to gabba to SP23 playing on their various stages.  "Mischief is a fully independent festival receiving no sponsorship or outside investment" says the website.  I'm just relieved their would-be sponsors aren't sending any riot cops around to shut it down! Tickets from 84 pounds and up... but worth it!
Mischief photo by JustAnotherMagazine

Teknivals and Street Parties
all around Europe
all summer long
For those that like to really rough it, there are less elaborate but well-organized smaller teknivals out there.  They can be found by word of mouth or occasionally by tracking Facebook pages like Teknival Europe.
Teknivals are a must if you're the type of person that plans a chilled drink with your mates, yet somehow wakes up next to a wall of speakers in a field.  (Photo by DuMonde)

Hanfparade is a must if you smoke so much that you can't remember what you're...hang on, what was I saying?
And for a totally free urban celebration, there are about a zillion street parties all around Europe each summer... and 99% of them seem to take place in Berlin.  The best of the bunch are the Hanfparade and Fuck Parade, which I've covered before on this blog.  A new entry this year is the Zug der Liebe which will take place in Berlin on July 25th.

As a street party, Zug der Liebe aims to 'Leave behind all things fatuous, Politically disinterested and focused on consumerism'.  (Sounds like just another day in the life of Unscene!).  Having chatted to one of the organizers at previous free events that he's done, I get the feeling that this gang are pretty emphatic about their beliefs: no to sexism, no to racism, yes to refugees, yes to all sexualities and genders. Yes to a Berlin where people, plants and animals can survive... not just investors.  And, of course, they do like to say 'yes' to free parties!  On July 25th, Zug der Liebe will be broadcasting all the above views with the aid of several mobile rigs and thousands of vocal supporters.  Yeah!

Weather permitting, it should be a pitch perfect blend of Berlin's restless drive towards a better future, and music that has mass appeal without sounding mass-produced.  And since it's coming straight from the underground, ZdL should be a magnet for all the colourful personalities, passions and eccentricities that embody Berlin's growing, post-commerical dance scene.  Hopefully, this includes you!

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...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.