Around the world, throughout every calendar month, the festivals just don’t stop. And for the music festival season, May is where things really start to pick up. Weather in most areas of the world is getting warmer and warmer, and spring should be in full bloom by now, which also means more huge sporting events will be taking place in May. Where will you be? Have a look at the rad festivals in May below to see what kind of fun you can get into.
The Brighton Festival is a huge celebration of music, art, theatre, dance, film, circus, debate, literature, and more. It’s the largest annual multi-arts festival in England. The long-running festival, since 1967, has now become a beloved and artistic symbol of the city. For three weeks, venues throughout Brighton and Hove get taken over by creativity and visual art, bringing in influential and exciting performers from around the world. This year’s guest director is David Shrigley.
In the 1968 festival programme, the artistic director, Ian Hunter, talked about the festival’s intentions: “The aim of the Brighton Festival is to stimulate townsfolk and visitors into taking a new look at the arts and to give them the opportunity to assess developments in the field of culture where the serious and the apparently flippant ride side by side.”
Where: Brighton, England
When: May 5th to May 27th
The Vienna Festival is one of the largest events in Austria, stretching out for 5-6 weeks during every May and June, attracting up to 180,000 people. The Wiener Festwochen, as it’s locally known, kicks off with a free open-air concert in front of Vienna’s city hall. The cultural event will showcase international stage art, featuring 30 productions of engaging and dramatic music, performance, theatre, and dance.
There’s also a club culture aspect to the festival, featuring lots of experimental dance music. Established in 1951, the festival has strong city roots and will soon be heading into its 70th year. This is the place to be if you’re into all things art, and want to jump into the alternate realities of performance.
Where: Vienna, Austria
When: May 11th to June 17th
The name is fitting. Sasquatch! is huge, and it ends the May music festival season with a big bang. The festival takes place on Memorial Day weekend over three music-filled days, none any less amazing than the other. Sasquatch started in 2002 to critical acclaim, and has grown to great Yeti-ness since. This year’s lineup features an amazing mix of musical diversity and talent.
On Friday, Bon Iver, David Bryne, and Tyler, the Creator hit the stage. On Saturday, there’s Modest Mouse, Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, and Grizzly Bear. And on Sunday, get ready for The National, Anderson Paak, Neko Case, and Ray Lamontagne, with loads of more talent every night. Boston Calling and BottleRock festivals are also on May 25th to 27th and feature huge lineups. How will you choose!?
Where: George, Washington, USA
When: May 25th to May 27th
On the other side of the world, Primavera Sound is finishing May in a big way. With killer music every day from May 30th to June 2nd, it’s going to be an adrenaline-feuded wild ride under the Barcelona heat. Belle and Sebastian kick things off on the first night, while the next three nights feature the biggest acts.
Headliners on night two feature Björk, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and The War on Drugs. On night three, headliners include The National, Migos, HAIM, and Father John Misty. On night four, prepare to do a little dance with Arctic Monkeys, Lorde, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, and Jon Hopkins. So damn good and going 16 years strong. Definitely one of Europe’s best music festivals in May, and there’s a hell of a lot of them.
Where: Barcelona, Spain
When: May 30th to June 2rd
Shaky Knees is the perfect music festival start to May. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the major music festivals in May, especially this one. Over the weekend of May 4th to 6th, some of the biggest names in modern music take to the stage in Atlanta, Georgia. Popularity turned the once two-day festival into three full days of goodness. Not only does the festival feature huge global acts, but it also gives the spotlight to up-and-coming regional performers.
It started as a rather small festival in 2013 and has since grown into another major festival contender. This year’s HUGE lineup features Jack White, Fleet Foxes, Queens of the Stone Age, Cake, The War on Drugs, The National (who seem to be playing every festival), and dozens more. Snaky Knees has two sister festivals: Skaky Boots, and Shaky Beats. Also check out Hangout and In Bloom music festivals in mid to late May.
Where: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
When: May 4th to May 6th
All Points East is the new kid on the block. A big kid, though. Literally, it’s brand spakin’ new, and 2018 will be the inaugural year. However, it’s shaping up to be pretty rad. The ten-day event will take place in Victoria Park in East London.
The ten days are divided into three sections: The Festival, free events in the neighbourhood, and then an exclusive concert series including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The National, and others. The three-day music festival features Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The XX, Lorde, Beck, Björk, LCD Soundsystem, and a lot more. Ten days of music – can’t go wrong there.
Where: London, England
When: May 25th to June 3rd
Happening from May 10th to 21st, Oi Rio Pro is one of the biggest surfing competitions in the world. Grumari Beach in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, is the home of Oi Rio Pro, where the Brazilian phase will bring the best surfers in the world, for the sixth year in a row. Beaches will be crowded with fans and surfing enthusiasts to watch many of the sport’s best ride waves to glory.
The competition is the fourth stop on the 2018 Men’s Surfing Championship Tour. The contest mirrors that of old beach parties from the ’80’s. You may think of football when thinking of Brazil, but now more than ever, the county is crazy about surfing, especially due to Gabriel Medina and Adriano De Souza. Get ready for a beach packed to the brim with surf lovers.
Where: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
When: May 10th to May 21st
You’ve probably heard of Cinco de Mayo. Not exactly a festival, but still an event and celebration, Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday commemorating Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. The day of the 5th, and the days before and after, are filled with a contagious energy and happiness, as everyone colourfully celebrates with parades, food, music, and folkloric dancing.
In the US, Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican-American culture. Unlike popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s day of independence. Wherever you are, get ready to dance, eat, love, and be merry.
Where: Mexico, USA (elsewhere in the world)
When: May 5th
Memphis in May is basically a month-long party in Memphis – a celebration of history, culture, food, music, and international relations. The international aspect of the festival is that of honouring a specific country each year, and Czech Republic gets the nod this year. From 1977, the festival has paid homage to 38 countries. Why can’t every month be like that everywhere in the world?
The month-long party kicks off with the Beale Street Music Festival on May 4th to 6th. The lineup features Jack White, Queens of the Stone Age, Incubus, Alanis Morissette, Cake, The Flaming Lips, Erykah Badu, and the list goes on. May 7th to 10th is the International Salute to Czech Republic, followed by the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest on May 16th to 19th, then the Great American River Run on May 26th, finishing with 901fest also on May 26th, with a variety of unique events in throughout.
Where: May 4th to May 26h
When: Memphis, Tennessee. USA
Feature image credit: Sasquatch! Music FestivalLast updated on Jun 22, 2019