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Why You Should Go to Granada Sound Festival

Heads up! Granada will be staging its biggest party of the summer this September in the form of Granada Sound 2015.

Formerly known as Alhambra Sound, the festival will feature performances from both local and international artists, with plenty of emerging talents being given the chance to win over a few fans too.

granada sound, alhambra sound, granada festival

Headlining the main stage will be UK indie-pop-rock outfit The Kooks, whose incredible debut album Inside In/Inside Out, released in 2004, is still guaranteed to provoke mass sing-alongs when any of its 14 supremely catchy refrains are belted out live on stage – even in Spain. Everyone remembers ‘Naive’, and who could forget the gentle hangover healing powers of ‘Seaside’? Last year the band released their 4th studio album, simply entitled ‘Listen’, and will be no doubt be entertaining the masses with plenty of fresh material.

Also featuring are Supersubmarina – the same act who memorably headlined the very first Alhambra/Granada Sound back in 2012 – Izal, Sidoine, Dorian and La Habitación Roja, among many others who collectively make up the largest line-up to date.

The festival, which only costs €32.50/ticket + admin fee (at the time of publication) will take place on the 18th and 19th of September.

This then, is the perfect opportunity for one last blowout before the summer bids adios. Certainly for English Teachers living in Granada who will be momentarily due to restart the academic year, and also for anyone else who happens to be around and loves cheap and cheerful festivals.

granada sound, alhambra sound, granada festival
Alhambra Sound 2014

Just in case you need a little more convincing though, here are five quick reasons why you should go to Granada Sound Festival…

1) It’s in GRANADA!

Need I say more? No, but I will.

Well, let’s roughly translate (to the best of my ability) what the organisers have said on the festival’s webpage on the topic of Granada as I couldn’t really put it better myself:

“Granada es la Alhambra. Es música y poesía, es cañas y tapas. Es la playa y la montaña. Es ciudad de estudiantes y turistas. De verano azul y de invierno intimista. Ciudad con encanto y encantada, es Andalucía pura, es arte y alegría.”

“Granada is the Alhambra. It’s music and poetry, it’s beer and tapas. It’s the beach and the mountain. It’s a city of students and tourists; of blue summers and intimate winters; of charm and love. It’s pure Andalucía, it’s art and happiness”

hippie hippy granada andalucia san miguel alto tropical perdiz
Chilling on a hill in Granada’s San Miguel Alto Bario with some nice people

2) Music runs through Granada’s veins!!

There always seems to be somebody banging or strumming away on something in the city centre (in a musically gratifying way) and – while on the subject of ‘strumming’ – the man, the legend himself, Joe Strummer of The Clash used to spend weeks at a time in Granada writing songs, the most famous of which is ‘Spanish Bombs’. Read more about that here.

(Source: FlickrCC Eleazar)
(Source: FlickrCC Eleazar)
joe strummer square granada, spain,
Placeta ‘Joe Strummer’, Granada

3) It’s still summer!

It’s the perfect temperature in September, having cooled considerably from the sticky ordeal of August and July but not enough to roll out the wheelie-radiators. As mentioned above you can hit the beach either the day before or the day after the festival, since the closest are only a 45-minute drive away!

salobreña, cliff jumping, spain
Cliff jumping in Salobreña, Granada Province (Source)

4) Tapas is free and Alhambra beer is the best!

Yes, FREE with any drink you order… (think I might have mentioned that before). Although Alhambra brewery seem to have lost out as sponsors this year, they will no doubt be providing the beer and let me assure you this is the best you’ll taste in Spain 😉

5) It’s easy to get to reach!

Just hop on the bus or train from either Madrid or Seville. There is also a regular bus service from Malaga, costing about €11.

Believe me, this is a decision you will not regret!

Buy your ticket now!

Tickets have sold out every year so they are likely to get snapped up once again this time around. At €32.50 it’s a bargain not be missed!

The festival will be held in Huerta del Rasillo, next to the city’s goliath of a department store Hipercor, which is just a 10-minute stroll from the city centre.

Hope to see you there amigos! 😀

Granada’s Music Scene

Musicians from all over the world are drawn to Granada because of its unique and bubbling music scene. Spanish, African, Northern European, Asian, American, Latin American – all these backgrounds combine to create an eclectic musical culture in Granada.

Why this city and not the next? Well, the general message of this blog should answer that, but Granada’s status as a musical kingpin in Spain can more or less be attributed to two reasons.

Firstly, there is generally a simple and positive approach to life here that complements the uncluttered and laid-back environment a musician needs to be creative. People want to be happy and make other people happy; making music and performing it for all to hear is the perfect way of doing this.

Secondly, Granada has a long history of musical accomplishment, and has attracted huge talents over the years. The most notable of these would be the late and now legendary Joe Strummer, of The Clash. During the 70s Strummer would often just turn up in Granada, usually alone, and write music. There was a growing punk scene in Granada at the time and Strummer soon became something of a local hero. The hit ‘Spanish Bombs’, which referred to Granada as his corazon, basically immortalised him, and three years ago a square in el Realejo bario was re-named after him, to honour his influence on Granadino culture.

joe strummer square granada, spain,
Placeta ‘Joe Strummer’, Granada

Out on the streets; up in the hills; in musty, timeworn Flamenco bars; even in the darkest and dingiest of grunge bars – musical creativity thrives everywhere here, and is an asset to the city that ought to be celebrated.

Out on the Street

Granada’s city centre is awash with buskers and street performers, from acoustic guitarists and full-on brass bands to Flamenco dancers and spaced-out nomads lightly tapping on an instrument that resembles the lid of a large wok.

granada music, street music, spanish band
Musicians in Plaza Nueva (Source: FlickrCC Eleazar)

Anyone who wants to perform any kind of act publicly must get proper permission down at the Ayuntamiento building first (free, and just a stamped piece of paper, apparently), or else they risk facing a hefty fine if approached by police. Even if you play the guitar like Hendrix there’s no excuse for not having the proper permission unfortunately.

Carrera del Darro, the long, cobbled street that runs parallel to the river beyond Plaza Nueva, is the most popular (and scenic) place to go and busk to your heart’s content. Many musicians set up by the Cathedral too, where crowds of tourists are likely to build up.

Public Parties

As spring turns from wet to warm, the outdoor party season is set in motion. Word-of-mouth raves often take place up in the hills beyond San Miguel Alto, attracting a few hundred revellers throughout the day. The sound system that is dragged all the way up there is solar-powered and thus energy efficient (true Granadino hippy style). The police don’t get involved, since the location is out of the way and the music inaudible to the nearest residents in the higher part of the Albaícin.

hippie hippy granada andalucia san miguel alto tropical perdiz
Perdiz Tropical, San Miguel Alto

At the start of spring, Dragon Festival is held close to the nearby town of Santa Fe, but this is much bigger and lasts for a week. Although the land is privately owned there have been a few run-ins with the police recently (and more than a few when it was in its original home of Órgiva).

dragon festival granada, spain
24 hour rave at Dragon, Santa Fe

Gigs and Concerts

Although there aren’t too many big-name bands and musicians that come to showcase their talents in Granada (Bob Dylan, playing at Palacio de los Deportes in July is a notable exception), the city does have a good stock of its own, homegrown talents and venues that frequently host lesser-known, but highly talented Spanish bands and artists.

Plantabaja, one of my favourite clubs in town, has gigs going on every weekend. A regular act is Nirvana tribute band The Buzz Lovers, who have nailed it so perfectly that it’s basically impossible to tell the difference. Other great venues are Booga Club, where the regular Jam Sessions on Thursdays and Sundays (live reggae, dancehall and funk) never fail to please, and Sala El Tren, where bigger reggae, hip-hop and indie bands from Spain and international DJs come and rock the place through its impressive sound system.

booga club granada spain
Live Music at BoogaClub, Granada


There are various venues in and around the city that host traditional Flamenco nights. Some are very well-known and get a lot of mentions in popular guidebooks like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides; others receive less attention but invariably offer the same high standards.

Personally, I am not a Flamenco aficionado but occasionally like to be reminded of its deep-seated role in cultura Granadina. The best and most authentic Flamenco bars can be found in the old and white-washed Sacromonte barrio. Here, generations of gitanos (gypsies) have kept up the tradition in its original and purest form. There are no gimmicks, no tourist traps, no obnoxious halfwits to spoil the show. There is a fee to pay on the door, but that goes directly back into the community, which pulls together to make such shows possible.

sacromonte, granada, gitanos
A Splash of Colour in Granada’s Sacromonte bario


We’ve already heard about the springtime Dragon Festival, but that arguably falls into the ‘free rave’ category of live events. Considering there is no commerical aspect or sponsorship involved (which is a good thing), there is definitely an anarchic element in there which some people may not enjoy.

Alternatively, there is Granada Sound festival, formerly known as ‘Alhambra Sound’, which is held every September in Granada city centre. This is a small festival by comparison to other similar events but nonetheless features relatively big acts on the roster. This year’s event will see The KooksSupersubmarina and Dorian headline the main stage (there is only one other).


Music doesn’t have to be played in the street, in a bar, or at a festival for it to be considered representative of a place. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. Music played from peoples’ homes – audible from the street or sometimes your bedroom as you’re waking up in the morning – is arguably the most definitive example of musical culture. At least here it is anyway.

In Granada, alternative rock, reggae, jungle and Latin alternative (think Manu Chao) get the most airtime, but anything goes really, so long as it’s got soul…

An Insider’s Guide to Granada Nightlife

If you’re new in town, planning a visit or just passing through, you’ll probably want to make the most of your time in Granada, Spain’s Moorish jewel of the south. This will of course include seeing the sights, eating the eats and – one would assume – sampling a taste of the city’s buoyant night life, with a little of what the locals like to call ‘Grana’ino tyle’.

Like it or not, Granada is very much a student city; there are approximately 85,000 of them currently attending the University (Source: Wikipedia) and around 2-3,000 of these are enrolled in the Erasmus ‘study abroad’ programme (‘study’ used in its loosest sense here), so finding somewhere to party isn’t exactly difficult.

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However, if – like me – your University years are behind you, then shuffling your way in and out of student-saturated bars all evening might not be your idea of fun. But there’s no need for concern; in Granada, there’s something for everyone, though finding exactly what and where that something is can be rather galling at times – both for tourists and locals.

After two years as a proud ‘guiri’ in Granada, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I’ve just about seen it all, even though I will, inevitably, at some point stumble upon somewhere brilliant that neither I nor my fellow guiri countrymen have ever heard of.

mapa de granada distritos

Before we begin, a disclaimer: as can be seen from the very elaborate map above, Granada is divided up into eight barrios: La Chana; Norte; Beiro; Albaicín; Centro; Genil; Zaidín and Ronda, but in the interest of keeping this article brief, we’ll focus on where the bulk of Granada’s best pubs and clubs can be found: El Centro, El Albaicín and El Realejo (a smaller barrio east of the centre), with a few honourable mentions at the end. Also, as is the case throughout the rest of Spain, Granada’s nightlife doesn’t really get going until about midnight, and tends not to wind down until about 6am, so it would be wise to pace yourself no matter where you’re going. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since coming here, it’s that the Spanish are kings when it comes to partying.

El Centro

Calle Elvira (Source)
Calle Elvira (Source)

The beaten track, as it were, more or less makes up the centre of Granada. The long, cobbled and Moorish themed Calle Elvira, for instance, is continuously swamped with punters lurching from one buzzing tapa bar to the next, and when the kitchens call it quits for the night, there is a profusion of late night bars lying in wait for the half drunken overspill. One such enterprise is El Son (C/ Juaquin Costa 13). This joint, functioning as a bar upstairs and disco on its ground floor, fills up around 3am and stays open until the early hours. It is a fantastic example of how people in Granada will dance to just about anything; frankly, music has never been so random. Being blind drunk before entering isn’t an essential requirement, but it helps.

Things tend to be a little quieter down the other end of Elvira, but tucked down an otherwise derelict side road you’ll find Miniclub and Pata Palo catering to regularly teeming crowds, the latter especially. On a Friday night, you will doubtless spend a good twenty minutes shoving your way through the scrum before you are served, but the vibe inside both bars is as about as Spanish as it gets: we’re talking mass, screaming sing-alongs to wild, never-heard-of-before Spanish songs, some rather risky-looking table dancing and an unfathomable amount of chupitos.

el son granada spain nightlife
El Son, Granada

Over the other side of Gran Vía de Colón – Granada’s main intersection – there’s plenty more fun to be had. Entresuelo (Plaza San Augustin 2) blares out hours of reggae and dancehall at the weekend and boasts one of the best atmospheres in town. Then there’s Plantabaja (C/ Horno de Abad 11), a very cool bar whose basement – la planta baja – regularly plays host to some of Spain’s best, underground musical talents and tribute acts who are often almost as good as the real thing.

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Further westward are Booga Club (C/ Santa Barbara 8), a blues, dub and reggae stronghold also renowned for its excellent provision of live music, and Afrodisia (C/ de Almona del Boquerón 10), a swinging sixties sort of place and Booga’s unofficial warm-up bar. At €3 a cerveza, Booga is pricey compared with its rivals, but that’s ok because there’s a Chino across the road so people just get hammered on the steps outside instead.

plantabaja granada spain
Live Music at Plantabaja, Granada (Source)
booga club granada spain
Live Music at BoogaClub, Granada (Source)

For the busiest, cheapest and wildest time in town, head to the ever-frenetic Pedro Antonio de Alarcon, a long, straight, one-way street, which at its far end becomes inundated with busy bars, crowded kebab houses and chockfull chupiterías. Ergo, this is definitely the place to come if you do like student-saturated bars. Take La Marisma for example. Here, large beers, or jarras are sold for €1.60, hence the unyielding glut of bodies in the room. Each beer – conveniently – is served with a small plastic cup of salty pipas, the shells of which are promptly bitten off and tossed to the ground, creating a swathe of crunchy carpet that has to be seen to be believed. But that isn’t actually possible until closing time when everybody leaves.

Double back and you’ll encounter a much louder side of Granada nightlife: the grunge bars. Soma, El Transistor and El Peaton blast out the rock, indie and heavy metal – some of it refreshingly nostalgic, some of it deafeningly uncompromising – all night, every night after 10pm.

soma bar granada spain nightlife
Soma, Pedro Antonio de Alarcon

Pedro’s adjoining side streets have also become smeared with the same tawdry brush – Calle Socrates, home of student-favourite shot bar Chupitería 69, being a fine example. Here, a menu focused solely on inebriating its indulgers draws sizeable hordes most nights. All shots, whether ‘suave’, ‘medio’ or ‘fuerte’ (el agua bendita is particularly objectionable) cost €1, and are accompanied by vouchers that can be accumulated in order to win one of the bar’s esteemed rewards for loyalty. Lighter anyone? Maybe a T-shirt that proclaims you as Chupitería 69’s number one fan? Or just go the distance and trade all those hard earned vouchers in for the legendary thong? Even with the rewards, there are no winners here, just a lot of very, very wobbly people with incredibly sticky fingers.

chupitería 69 granada spain shot bar
El Ménu, Chupitería 69, Cale Socrates


El Albaícin

El Albaicín seen from The Alhambra
El Albaicín seen from The Alhambra

El Albaicín, Granada’s oldest, largest and most iconic barrio, rises high above the rest of the city to face the grand Alhambra Palace. Properties battle for every last inch of room here, and anybody who has successfully completed the grueling climb up to El Mirador de San Nicolas – the city’s most famous viewpoint – deserves a pat on the back. By day, the narrow alleyways are swarming with tourists, but at night most descend into the city in favour of some less physically exerting tapa hopping.

However, there are several bars well worth visiting. Café Bar Higuera (C/ Horno de Hoyo 17), for instance, is full of beans on a Friday night, especially when things warm up in late spring. The intimate and festooned beer garden out back makes for an excellent spot to chow down a tapa and clap along to bands of hippies strumming/blowing wood-fashioned instruments with no clear purpose. Other draws include Rincon de Pepe (Puerta Nueva), where delicious wine and home-cooked tapas can be enjoyed for a fair price and Casa Torquato (C/ Pagés 31) for something quintessentially Andaluz.

cafe bar higuera granada albaicin albaycin
Cafe Bar Higuera, El Albaicín, Granada

Ten minutes’ walking distance from El Albaicín – or Paseo de los Tristes if arriving from Plaza Nueva – is perhaps Granada’s most popular club of all: El Camborio. The venue has established itself as a firm student favourite, and often reaches maximum capacity on any given night of the week. If pop and Spanish chart music is your thing, you can’t go wrong here.

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El Realejo

campo del principe granada
Campo del Principe, Granada (Source)

Dubbed ‘la zona de los guiris’ by some of the locals, the nightlife in El Realejo – the old Jewish quarter of Granada – is geared slightly more toward an international crowd. There are enough Spanish owned tapas bars around to ensure a traditional quality is preserved – Campo Principe, for example, is loaded with classic Spanish style bars – but an assortment of English and Irish run pubs and eateries give the barrio a distinctly foreign or – as is the case for us guiris – pleasantly familiar feel. The cozy Casa Lopez Correa (C/ Molinos 5) does excellent food, wine and beer and often hosts intercambios in the evenings, and down the road, Paddy’s Pub (C/ Santa Escolastica 15) is the perfect place to reconvene after the night before for a proper pint, some friendly banter and a dose of live sport with English commentary! Everyone needs their home comforts from time to time, and Paddy goes that extra mile to make sure all of his customers are being looked after. The TV sets have even been positioned so that one can view four games at once, and if the game you want to watch isn’t showing, no problem; Paddy will stream it illegally from one of the laptops propped on the bar. Now that’s service.

casa lopez correa granada el realejo
Casa Lopez Correa, Granada

After hours, El Realejo doesn’t have much to offer, but for those hellbent on going all night long, gratification in the form of pounding, pounding gabba or techno can be sought out from Quilombo (Carril de San Cecilo 21) – if you’re willing to stumble uphill to get there.

Honourable Mentions

sala el tren granada musica
Live Music at La Sala El Tren (Source)

I couldn’t pen a guide on Granada’s nightlife without mentioning my favourite Granadino club of all now could I? La Sala El Tren (Carretera de Málaga 136) boasts an imposing sound system, unmatched elsewhere in Granada. Getting there is a bit problematic – either €8 by taxi from the centre or a very long walk) – but the quality of its live gigs and international DJ sets makes the journey well worth the effort. The entrance fee typically sets you back around €10 with either a copa (spirit and mixer) or a couple of beers thrown in, but the general custom is to drink copiously in the street beforehand. Events label Substation regularly feature major UK reggae, jungle and DnB names on their rosta – The Skatalites, Congo Natty, Serial Killaz, and Shy FX the latest among them.

aphrodite granada sala el tren spain
Aphrodite @ La Sala El Tren (poor phone pic quality :S)

The only other Granadino club to attract the big names in the field of electronica is Industrial Copera (C/ Paz 7), a huge, double-floored discotheque with some seriously impressive pyrotechnics. For me, it’s not quite up to Tren’s standards in terms of character and atmosphere, but it’s still considerably better than the likes of Granada 10 and Mae West – two glorified and unbelievably pretentious student haunts, far more concerned with glitz and glamour than actually playing some decent music. That’s just me though – if anybody begs to differ then please do say so in the comments section below!

industrial copera granada
Live Music at Industrial Copera

Have you experienced Granada’s nightlife? Where did you go and where would you recommend?

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SOS 4.8 Festival, Murcia

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, josh taylor

If there’s one thing that Spain knows how to run well, it’s a festival.

Last weekend, I went to SOS 4.8 festival in Murcia. It was my first trip to Murcia, and my fourth – and largest – festival so far here in Spain. Headlining the event were The xx, Bloc Party, M83 and Justice – four class acts that by chance I’d seen play live the year before at Open’er Festival in Poland. Normally, a lineup identical to one at a festival I’d recently attended wouldn’t seduce me so easily, but as I said, these are class acts, and I really, really love festivals.

At €35 for ‘el abono’, SOS is/was an absolute bargain. As it transpired, I ended up paying €55 as I had foolishly waited for a press accreditation destined for rejection until the week before the event. I didn’t care though; I was going, my mates from the UK were going and a sh*t load of booze was going too.

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, josh taylor, camping
Unofficial camping – only €50!

I also made huge savings on transport and accommodation: My ride to Murcia came thanks to carshare website amovens.com – I paid just €15 to get there and was regaled with army stories from my militant driver the whole way (actually enjoyable, honest), and I stayed in an unofficial but nearby campsite where a tent had already been provided for me, at the cost of €50…

With a capacity of around 20,000 and still plenty of elbow space, SOS is/was also the perfect size. I rarely had to queue for more than five minutes either for the toilet or bar, though this may have had more to do with the fact that drink prices had been hiked to the unashamedly ludicrous for the weekend– €7.50 for a large beer anyone? Thought not. But at festivals it’s effectively inescapable, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who manage to smuggle a premixed 2-litre bottle of God knows what in owing to the slipshod security – I even saw one lad pull a mini keg of Heineken from his backpack once inside…

I suppose I better say something about the music then.

We arrived on Friday to the poprock sound of the peculiarly named Kakkmaddafakka. Until I actually saw the band’s name written down I’d genuinely thought that it had been a proper English word terribly mispronounced by Spanish speakers. Though all their songs were lost on me, they still provoked us into jumping around like morons.

The xx’s headlining set was up next. Lots of people go on about how the band’s melancholic sound doesn’t really work for festivals; that if you close your eyes you may as well be listening to your iPod on maximum volume etc.

Bollocks to that.

They are masters at what they do, and frankly if they attempted to jazz things up a bit with a quicker tempo I’m not sure anyone would like the outcome very much. Thankfully, they didn’t, and instead treated us to a wave of hits from both albums, all as moody and docile as we had readily anticipated. ‘Intro’ and ‘Crystalised’ stood out for me.

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, m83, anthony gonzalez, josh taylor

Shortly afterwards we were watching festival heavyweights Bloc Party waltz onto stage. With four albums to their name, there would certainly be no shortage of material, but disappointingly they did lean heavily on much of the newer stuff throughout the first half the set, which is always annoying at festivals. Eventually our patience was rewarded though, with a stream of classics headed with a rolling rendition of ‘Song For Clay’ and ‘Banquet’. Much better!

At various intervals lead singer Kele Okreke attempted to interact with his audience but his sentiments often fell on deaf ears:

“How’s everybody doing at the front!?”

A wee cheer is barely audible.

“And what about you lot in the VIP section?”

The crickets seemed to chirp in agreement at least.

After sidestepping our way through and partially joining in with the mother of all botellones outside the festival grounds on Saturday afternoon, we arrived in time for the latter half of Granada’s very own Lori Meyers. Spanish people were absolutely loving it; I wasn’t so convinced. Possibly because I didn’t know the words, or maybe it was due to my being dragged to the front where about 90% of the crowd looked about the same age as my teenage students. At 25 years old and 6ft 3”, I stood out like a sore thumb.

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, lori meyers, josh taylor
Lori Meyers

The first indulgence of the night came in the form of French ‘shoegazers’ M83, who, for all their years of grafting in the music-making business, have only become acquainted with large-scale festivals in recent times. Their breakthrough – and my favourite – album ‘Saturdays = youth’ won them deserved critical acclaim and the follow up ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’ was one of the bestselling albums of 2012. Suddenly, the front wasn’t such a bad place to be after all, as massive tracks ‘Reunion’, ‘We Are The Sky’ and the defining ‘Midnight City’ were belted out for all to sing and spring along to. It was the  performance of the weekend.

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, m83, josh taylor

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, m83, anthony gonzalez, josh taylor

Later, the French takeover continued as Justice settled in to their pounding electro set packed with epic synths and explosive drops. The festival had officially turned hardcore. Following that, Vitalic, also from France, took to the stage to ensure that the mayhem continued and threw down yet another barrage of jarring electronica seemingly loud enough to break the sound barrier.

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, m83, crowd, josh taylor

At 6am, we conceded that it was time to be getting back – my friends to their four star hotel rooms; I to my diminutive, freezing cold tent, which quite frankly may as well have been a bed of nails. Can’t complain really though. SOS was just about the cheapest, proper music festival I’ve ever been to, yet easily one of the best and undoubtedly my best ever in Spain. Now let’s see if Territorios Sevilla has what it takes to change that next week…

sos 4.8, murcia, festival, josh taylor
Translation: ‘BIG TUNE!’

Spain’s summer festival roundup!

festival, spain, españa, summer, blog

At last! Festival season is here! And Spain is once again flexing its distended muscles in the upper bracket of Europe’s heavyweight division. It’s got all bases covered; from rock, pop, hip-hop and folk right through to reggae, dub, electro and other innumerable forms of dance music that have recently sprung from the blogosphere.

Moreover, all of these genres will be represented by an enviable portion of the biggest and best talents the music industry has to offer at festivals across the whole of Spain, almost all of which cost less than €100 to go to – an entrance fee now virtually unheard of in Britain. And, needless to say, there is sunshine in Spain, and lots of it in the summer.

But where the bejesus do we start?

Well let’s just focus on ten, disregard chronological order and break it down into three scale-based categories: enormous, large and small.

Enormous (50,000+)

I’d only ever heard of one festival before I came to Spain in 2010: Valencia’s FIB, a.k.a. Benicassim. Though not actually the largest festival in Spain, it is doubtless the most famous. Since its onset in 1995, the event has been an unwavering force on the Spanish festival scene, hosting acts such as Radiohead, Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Chemical Brothers and The Strokes. FIB is particularly popular among sun-starved Brits who account for a sizeable chunk of the crowd, and almost always sells out.

Dates: 18th – 21st of July

Pick of the 2013 line-up: Arctic Monkeys; The Killers; Queens of The Stone Age; Kaiser Chiefs; Primal Scream; Dizzee Rascal; Skream; The Courteeners

Price of ticket with camping: €163

Official website

Fotos de Benicasim - Imágenes destacadas

(Esta foto de Benicasim es cortesía de TripAdvisor)

But Valencia isn’t done there; two weeks later, and a mere 35 minutes down the road, the similarly indie-pop based Arenal Sound takes place on a giant quay jutting out from the shore of Castellón. In just three years Arenal has risen to become the largest of Spain’s festivals and last year attracted between eighty and ninety thousand punters. The festival’s line-up isn’t quite as A-list as Benicassim’s but at half the price for as many days, it is well worth the money.

Dates: 1st – 4th of August

Pick of the 2013 line-up: The Kooks; Editors; Klaxons; The Fratellis; The Macabees; Chase & Status; Ra Ra Riot; The Whip

Price of ticket with camping: €80 (+ ‘boat’)

Official website

Arenal Sound (Source)
Arenal Sound (Source)

Sonar takes place in Barcelona in mid June, and has earned itself a reputation for offering something many of the other Spanish festivals discernibly lack; modern art. This festival is as visually pleasing as it is audibly, with a marked emphasis on creativity and originality. Artists range from the world-renowned to the unfamiliar, and the music offered spans across all electronic genres. It’s expensive, though tickets can be bought for either the daytime or nighttime or both. However, there is no camping at Sonar – that’s way too predictable.

Dates: 13th – 15th of June

Pick of the 2013 line-up: Justice; Two Door Cinema Club; Pet Shop Boys; Skrillex; Kraftwerk; Jurassic 5; Soulwax; Modeselektor

Price of two-night ticket: €115 (no camping)

Official Website


Large (25,000 – 50,000)

Despite its name – ‘Spring’ in English – I’m still including Primavera Sound in this post; it’d be a glaring oversight if I didn’t. It is smaller than Sonar – the other Barcelona based festival – yet seems to be more popular in any case. According to the website, weekend tickets are already sold out for this year, but then if you consider its eclectic, stellar lineup for 2013 then its no wonder really.

Dates: 22nd – 26th of May

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Crystal Castles; Animal Collective; Blur; The Postal Service; Knife Party; Phoenix; Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds; Wu-Tang Clan

Price of day ticket: €80

Official website

Primavera Sound (Source)
Primavera Sound (Source)

If there’s one festival that couldn’t be surer of itself then Sonisphere is it. There’s no room for novel, pompous genres here; it’s metal, metal and more metal. And if you don’t like it, well then you can swivel and then DIIIEEE!!! WAAAHHH!!! No. I’m sure they’re all lovely people. The festival will take place in both Madrid and Barcelona, on two separate nights.

Dates: 31st May (Madrid), 1st June (Barcelona)

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Iron Maiden; Megadeath; Anthrax

Price of ticket: €59

Official Website


For the absolute deal of the summer, head to Bilbao BBK Live. The festival is now in its seventh year, and 2013 is shaping up to be the best yet. The event takes place in a huge 110,000 m² park and is growing in size every year. It’s also in Bilbao, which is hands down one of the coolest cities I’ve ever visited. Watch out FIB and Sonar is all I can say – BBK is rapidly cementing itself as a contender for Spain’s champion festival.

Dates: 11th – 14th of July

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Green Day; Kings Of Leon; Depeche Mode; Billy Talent; Editors; The Hives; Klaxons; Fat Boy Slim

Price of weekend ticket: €90 with camping!!!

Official website

Bilbao BBK Live (Source)
Bilbao BBK Live (Source)

In the middle of the desert somewhere between Zaragoza and Tarragona, you’ll find Monegros Festival, come one Saturday in late July. Here, for one night only, an army of around 40,000 people rave nonstop to the sound of thumping electro beats and rhythms for 20 hours. Once you’re in, there’s no getting back out. Take plenty of water and suncream.

Date: 20th of July

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Underworld; Bloody Beetroots; Vitalic; Public Enemy; Richie Hawtin; Luciano; Marco Corola; Loco Dice

Price of ticket: €65

Official website

Monegros (Source)
Monegros (Source)

Ever fancied going to Benidorm? Though not. But don’t write it off just yet – it seems the definitive Brits abroad package holiday destination has been going through some rigorous image counselling, and with the comically yet appealingly named Low Cost Festival now set to rock its sandal and sock strewn shores for a fifth consecutive year, it looks as though it is working. The festival is building itself quite a chic image and this year’s show of talent is looking very exciting indeed.

Dates: 26th – 29 July

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Portishead; Belle & Sebastian; Two Door Cinema Club; Crystal Castles; Glasvegas; Simian Mobile Disco

Price of ticket: €60 (camping: €10 per night)

Official website

Low Cost Festival (Source)
Low Cost Festival (Source)

Small(er) (8,000 – 25,000)

Smaller, yes; small, No. I get lost in crowds of less than fifty so anything above 8,000 still amounts to a sh*t load of people in my mind. These smaller festivals tend to start the ball rolling in late springtime; and the first is now just days away.

SOS 4.8 will be held in Murcia this weekend, and looks to have generated quite a bit of interest here in Granada, especially among Erasmus students. I’m going too of course! And I couldn’t be more excited, despite still not really knowing where I’m going to sleep. It’s a proper bargain, and the musical talent in the offing is of a pretty darn exceptional standard.

Dates: 3rd – 5th May

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Bloc Party; The xx; Justice; M83; Modeselektor; Vitalic; Crystal Fighters; Los Punsetes

Price of 2-night ticket: €55 (though early bird tickets are something like €35)

Official website

SOS 4.8 (Source)
SOS 4.8 (Source)

Fast-forward two weeks and it’s the turn of Seville’s Territorios Sevilla, which, despite its comparatively smaller capacity at 15,000, probably offers the most diverse and multinational lineup. It’s a two-night bash taking place in the centre of the city, and is a refreshing variation from the usual feria-fixated feel during the spring/summer time. However, it does tend to blow a considerable chunk of its budget on the headliners, evidenced by the fact that nobody ever has a clue who any of the other artists are. As I say though – diverse and multinational. I’ve been before and it was smashingly good fun.

Dates: 17th – 18th May

Pick of the 2013 lineup: Fat Boy Slim; 2Many DJs; Emir Kusturika & The No Smoking Orchestra; Fangoria; Standstill

Price of ticket: €30

Official website

Territorios Sevilla (Source)
Territorios Sevilla (Source)

Festivals are awesome. Go to one.

6 Reasons to go to Dragon Festival in Santa Fe, Spain

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia

It might be raining outside, but that won’t be stopping festival-starved merrymakers the nation over from flocking to what has arguably become Spain’s most legendary free rave, Dragon Fest, this weekend. The shindig will be held in Santa Fe, Andalucía for the third year running, after floods in its original homeland of Orgíva – a quiet, hippie town which can be read all about at all about at con jamón spain – caused irreparable damage in 2010.

The principle of Dragon is simple. Turn up, armed with booze, food, some sturdy footwear, a pair of trunks and a full-blown appetite for pounding pounding techno music, and run wild and free for however long you may wish to do so. It’s all in the spirit of spontaneity and good fun – free, good fun, might I add – something that is hard to come by these days.

I attended 2012’s event, and had an absolute blast. Here’s why:

  • Just in case you missed it, I’ll say it again: It’s free! No entry fee, no pitching charges and no moneygrubbing commercial stalls. It’s completely non-profit, and you can stay for as long as you want (that’s not to say that everything is free, however, so bring plenty of cash, food and water if you do go).
  • The music is surprisingly good, given that none of the participating DJs are paid for their efforts. It does tend to tilt primarily toward psychedelic trance, or ‘gabber’ as it is affectionately known, though if this gets a bit much (it can easily happen) then other dance genres and random/improvised/often quite drunk bands can be found just about anywhere.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Santa Fe
  • Its location is miles away from anywhere – perfect for a festival of Dragon’s nature. In order to reach it, if a car isn’t to hand, a bus must first be taken to local town Santa Fe, from where festivalgoers hoof it the rest of the way. While a two hour or so walk along a wide-open, dusty road in the middle of the day may not be the most appealing of thoughts, the prospect of reaching your ever-nearing, hippie-humming oasis drives you on with the utmost determination. Once you finally reach the finish line, it soon becomes clear just why it was such a good idea to come. My arrival beer last year – a no frills Día special – was possibly my best ever. Gone in seconds, but never forgotten.
  • There’s a hot springs. Yes, you read it right! Last year I spent an entire afternoon steadily recovering from a grueling hangover by this gently bubbling tarn. I was joined by many others, some clothed and some not so clothed. It was great fun, not too crowded and with the weather on our side made for an unforgettable day. Though I wouldn’t recommend coming if the sight of dense foliage and swinging manbits easily upsets you. This is a proper hippie festival.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe
  • The food is amazing, and extraordinarily cheap. Last year, there seemed to be endless supplies of fresh paellas, curries and other, miscellaneous home-baked (or campervan-baked, rather) food being flogged like it was going out of fashion. All of them delicious. Fortunately, ‘fashion’ is a senseless and decidedly ridiculous concept at Dragon so we had no problem devouring as much of it as humanly possible.
  • Go for the people. There is no trouble, heavy-handed security or any (well, hardly any) of the usual loutish idiots you find at most British festivals; just a bunch of peaceful, chatty and very friendly people looking to enjoy themselves under a (fingers crossed) bright, blue Andalucían sky.
Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe

Dragon has by no means lived a trouble-free life since its conception in 1997, and was looking slightly done for following a Guardia Civil led offensive on the alleged ‘organisers’ of the event back in 2009. More on that next week though – wouldn’t want this post to, ha, ‘drag on’ now would I eh?

Ahem. Hopefully see one or two of you there. Thanks for reading. J

* Click here to read my article on Dragon Fest published with Clash Magazine :)

Dragon Festival, Spain, Andalucia, Santa Fe