Music festivals are a rather new phenomenon in eastern Europe, where the industry only began to gather momentum around the mid 2000s. So why should you choose a festival in the new east instead of your standard Ibiza or Glasto? They're cheaper, less crowded and often take place in the most unexpected venues, like 16th century castles and disused Soviet airfields. Plus you get the best of both worlds: it's an opportunity to see all the main international acts and catch the best eastern European musicians that everyone will rave about six months later. Get ready to pack your sleeping bags for this summer's best events in the new east.
Where: Tver region, Russia
When: 19 – 21 June 2015
Taking place in the woods between Moscow and St Petersburg, Forest Quest mainly features artists from these two cities. The only European acts are the main-stage headliners Edit Select, Claudio PRC, Av Skardi and Fabian Castellano. There will be three stages: the main stage playing techno while the other two host trance and chillout. Overall the festival has a happy hippy vibe: there will be yoga classes and wellness seminars, and recycling is compulsory for all participants. Alcohol won't be sold on the premises but there will be plenty of tea, coffee and smoothie stands, as well as healthy organic foods. Besides, camping on festival grounds is free, and there is no designated camping site — you can literally put your tent up wherever you want. The exact location will be announced on the website closer to the event.
Where: Bánffy Castle, Bontida, Romania
When: 25 – 28 June 2015
One of the biggest electronic music festivals in Romania, stretching over four days, with six stages and over 150 musicians, Electric Castle is held in the 16th-century Bonțida Bánffy Castle, aiming to connect modern dancing crowds with Romanian counts. Among the headliners are Fatboy Slim, Rudimental, The Glitch Mob, and The Prodigy. If you're not that into mainstream and want to see the lesser-known acts, there are plenty of eastern European musicians hidden away in the programme: check out Subcarpați (Romania), Radikal Guru (Poland), Vakula (Ukraine), and Kosta (Romania). The organisation of the festival is quite similar to most European events — there is camping on the castle grounds, for which you have to get a camping pass, but you can't bring food or drinks onto the festival grounds.
Similar: Let It Roll Open Air festival in Czech Republic (30 July – 1 August 2015); LoveFest in Serbia (6 – 8 August, 2015).
Where: Dolcinium Kite Club, Ulcinj, Montenegro
When: 25 – 28 June 2015
In its third instalment, Southern Soul is a beach festival that shouldn't terrify you to the core — this isn't one of those cheap Ibiza alternatives that are so easy to come by during the festival season and there won't be any boat “booze cruises” here. The lineup is varied and attracts a large crowd from all over the region. This year's headliners include BadBadNotGood, Jarrod Lawson, Matthew Halsall, and Fatima and The Eglo Live Band. If you're up for seeing local artists, make sure not to miss the Montenegro natives Maraku and Deeport, Macedonian DJ Andrej Micajkov and the Belgrade-based Phillie P and Zeljko Kerleta. There is no onsite accommodation as gigs and parties go pretty much non-stop, but there are accommodation options close to the festival site, including vintage fishing houses for rent and campsites on the Adriatic coast.
Similar: Sea Dance festival in Montenegro (15 – 18 July 2015).
Flow Festival Ljubljana
Where: Ljubljana, Slovenia
When: 26 – 28 June 2015
This year Flow festival, held in Helsinki for the last 11 years, offers a second location in Ljubljana. It will take place in Tobačna Mesto, an historic building complex that use to be a tobacco factory. The lineup is similar to that in Helsinki, which is held in August. Headlined by Pet Shop Boys, Róisín Murphy, Metronomy and Caribou, the rest of the bill is just as impressive with Bonobo, Derrick May and a number of local Slovenian musicians. Even though the festival is held in the city, there is a campsite, as well as online package deals for hotels, hostels and tours of the city.
Where: St Petersburg, Russia
When: 4 – 5 July 2015
Taking place on Elagin Island, Stereoleto is one of the few long-livers in the St. Petersburg music scene, this year marking the festival's 13th anniversary. The festival isn't exclusively dedicated to electronic music but it consistently presents an impressive lineup of electronic acts. This year the bill is especially eclectic as the festival is headlined by The Irrepressibles, Jenny Abrahamson, and the legendary Akvarium, a St Petersburg-based rock band led by Boris Grebenschikov, a Bob Dylan-like figure in Russian music. Russian electronic music is represented by Tesla Boy, SBPCh, the anonymous Orthodox trap act Oligarkh, and the trendy Ivan Dorn, referred to as the “man who made Russians dance”. There is no camping or hotel packages available, so you'll have to organise your own accommodation.
Similar: Afisha Picnic day festival in Russia (25 July 2015); Colours of Ostrava festival in Czech Republic (16 – 19 July 2015).
Where: Moscow, Russia
When: 4- 5 July, 2015
Another city festival, this one in Moscow, is organised by the legendary Arma17 club team, a household name in the Moscow techno scene. This year's lineup has already been praised by both media and music fans, with Andy Stott, Ben UFO, The Egyptian Lover, Daniel Avery, dOP and Cobblestone Jazz among the headliners. There is also a strong bill of Russian and Eastern European musicians, with Petre Inspirescu, Philipp Gorbachev, and Pinkshinyultrablast among many others featured on all the stages. The venue will be announced later, and will most probably be in one of Moscow's many parks. As with Stereoleto, there won't be any camping or hotel deals with the tickets, so you'll have to organise your own accommodation.
Where: Zamárdi, Hungary
When: 8 – 12 July 2015
Officially called the Mastercard Balaton Sound, this is a sibling festival to Budapest's Sziget bash, held in the small town on the scenic coast of Lake Balaton. There will be several stages and arenas, some with artists playing until 5 am. Some of the main stage headliners include Tiësto, Faithless, Jason Derulo and Ludacris, and the late-night arenas are packed with big names like Boys Noize, Pusha T, Charlie XCX, Seth Troxler and The Bloody Beetroots. Some local acts to see include the Budapest-based Bernathy Zsiga, Gabor Kraft, and Nikola. There is a campsite for which you have to buy an additional pass, or you can stay in rented accommodation in town.
Similar: B.My.Lake festival, also in Zamárdi, Hungary (19 – 22 August 2015).
Where: Trenčín, Slovakia
When: 9 – 11 July, 2015
Taking place at a former military airfield surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, Pohoda festival is one of the oldest in the new east, established in 1997 as an event that brings together contemporary music, arts and theatre. The festival still stays true to the idea: in 2014 the Ukrainian Philharmonic Orchestra was followed onstage by Kraftwerk and their 3D show. This year the lineup is just as varied: headlined by Björk, Die Antwoord and Coco Rosie, the bill also features Einstürzende Neubauten, A-Trak, Kiasmos, Bo Ningen and Eagles of Death Metal, as well as a choir, an orchestra and a large list of local musicians. If you're looking for the future stars of the new east, check out Gonsofus, a Russian-Hungarian project often described as “multilingual dance mix of reggae, dub, hip hop, funk, folk, and Afrobeat”. There is a campsite, tents for rent and more accommodation available in the closest city of Trenčín.
Similar: Airfield festival in Romania (30 July – 2 August 2015).
Where: Płok, Poland
When: 24 – 26 July
This festival started out in 2006 as a free event and grew into a large international bash, frequently sold out and featuring in Resident Advisor’s top festival listings. This year it is headlined by Underworld, Róisín Murphy, Anja Schneider, and Adam Beyer, and even the musicians further down the bill are well-known, like John Talabot, Simian Mobile Disco, Joy Orbison and Marcel Dettmann. To check out local acts go see Nervy (Poland) and Solomun (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Most hotels and rented accommodation in town get all booked up in advance but there is a campsite on location and tents for rent will be available soon.
Similar: Weekend Super Digital Baltic Edition in Estonia (6 – 8 August 2015).
Where: Cluj-Napoca, Romania
When: 30 July – 2 August 2015
The fictional backstory of this festival features a three-headed dragon and a mysterious Citadel, and the festival crowd is referred to as princes and princesses, but don't let that scare you away — this is not a 10-year-old's birthday party. In fact, it's quite the opposite, with more than 10 stages and headliners like Armin Van Buuren, Avicii, David Guetta and Pendulum. Also featured are Tinie Tempah, Tom Odell, and, unexpectedly, Boney M. There is a campsite on location, rented accommodation in the city and also student dorms transformed into “Untold Campus” offering 5-bed rooms to ticket-holders.
Similar: Alfa Future People festival in Russia (17 – 19 July 2015).