The Best Place for Music Festivals Is in the Woods

Posted by Olenka Burgess on

Summer is the season of music festivals, and there are so many amazing ones to choose from—not only in the States but all over the world. Of these fantastic events, the very best ones have a key offering: music in the forest. Listening to music among the trees is an unbeatable experience. They shade you from summer heat, create a warm acoustic effect, and foster an unforgettable vibe of enchantment. Several of the very best are coming up soon, so get your tickets while you still can!

Fuji Rock: music in the woods

Image courtesy of Kentaro Ohno (CC by 2.0)

Fuji Rock: July 22–24, 2016
Naeba Ski Resort, Yuzawa, Japan

The first of our recommendations is definitely the largest festival: Fuji Rock boasts around a hundred thousand attendees and over two hundred musicians from Japan and around the world. It wasn’t always so successful, though. The first year of the festival, 1997, was a notorious failure due to bad weather and health concerns—it rained so much that the second day of the festival was cancelled and many festival goers needed treatment for hypothermia after soaking in the rain all day. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who headlined that year, toughed it out and played through a storm. (As if that isn’t tough enough, Anthony Kiedis had a broken arm!)

This year, the Chili Peppers will return as headliners (along with Sigur Ros, Wilco, Beck, and many more), so it would be an excellent year to go. In keeping with their mountainous ski resort location, the festival features the Dragondola—a dragon-themed gondola—to transport guests between festival facilities. They also emphasize sustainability to keep those arboreal surroundings green.

Here’s a little preview video of the festival:

If you’ve never been to the festival before, check out this list of tips for first-timers. Many of them, like staying all weekend and paying for early Thursday entry, sound like best practices for our next festival...

Pickathon main stage

Image courtesy of Eli Duke (CC by 2.0) 

Pickathon: August 5–7, 2016
Happy Valley, Oregon, USA

Like Fuji Rock, Pickathon has an early Thursday entry option and a focus on sustainability, but on the latter front, Pickathon is the champion by far. In 2011, Pickathon made music festival history by eliminating single-use dishes and utensils, and in 2012 they added cups to that ban. So guests can either bring their own dishes for free or purchase a token, which gets exchanged for a reusable dish and utensil. At the end of the fest, guests can turn in their token for most of their money back or a clean dish/utensil to take home. Drinks go in a stainless steel Kleen Kanteen cup emblazoned with the festival’s logo for the year (this year it’s a somewhat gloomy-looking fox).

Notice any similarities between these two festivals?

Pickathon festival in the woods
Fuji Rock festival in the woods
(Left) Pickathon Image courtesy of Eli Duke
(Right) Fuji Rock Image courtesy of Kevin Utting  

Aside from the sustainability focus, Pickathon boasts the incredible Woods Stage, featuring hay-bale and hammock seating, a solar generator powering the stage’s sound and the giant sculptural lanterns lighting the path, and some of the best shows of the festival each year. Oregon Public Broadcasting features a video series of Woods Stage performances for your streaming pleasure.

And here’s a little tour from 2014 to get you excited:

They’ll give you a taste, but nothing beats being there in person! Pickathon definitely has the home-court advantage in this case, but we think it’s the most amazing festival of them all. If you can make it for the weekend, you’ll understand why.

Ardennes Woods, Belgium, site of La Truite Magique

A magical view of the Ardennes Woods courtesy of Luxembourg Belge / FTLB-P.Willems (CC BY-SA 2.0)

La Truite Magique: August 12–14, 2016
Ardennes Woods, Houffalize, Belgium

La Truite Magique is Belgium’s answer to the forested summer music fest, and they don’t disappoint. With its Magical Stage and Forest Stage (ahem, clearly modeled after Pickathon’s famous Woods Stage), the surroundings are like a fairy tale. The lineup is more modest than Fuji Rock and Pickathon, but it’s a great choice for getting exposed to Europe’s up-and-coming acts. In the festival’s own words, it’s “a weekend of intimate, bespoke performances from artists who are trying to get you out of your musical comfort zone.”

Here’s a video from last year’s event:

You can visit the festival website for a taste of this year’s lineup—it’s definitely an eclectic one!

Amsterdam Woods music festival images by 100 Nights of Summer

Image courtesy of Vito Valentinetti at 100 Nights of Summer 

Amsterdam Woods Festival: August 26–27, 2016
Amsterdam Forest, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Amsterdam Woods Festival is another new, smallish event, but it’s prime for relaxation and experiencing the hippest music from the Netherlands and afar—this year’s lineup features acts from the UK, South Africa, and Australia. Along with the forest festival standards of delicious food trucks and libations from local breweries, Amsterdam Woods partners with the International Documentary Film Festival and Melkweg, Amsterdam's milk-factory-turned-art-center, to present a selection of music documentaries.

Here’s a wrap-up video from Amsterdam Woods 2015:

With all that racket, you might worry for the well-being of the forest animals and plants. But rest assured that the vibe at these events is relaxed, respectful, and responsible. And it’s possible that the forest/music combination is mutually beneficial: research shows that sound waves can positiviely impact plant growth. In any case, summer forest music festivals are, as one of the Truite Magique artists says at the end of the clip, “a really, really fantastic way to cap off the end of the summer.” We couldn’t agree more.

If you are able to make it to Fuji Rock or Pickathon, make time in your schedule to see more music and art in nearby Tokyo or Portland, and grab a copy of The Tall Trees of Tokyo or The Tall Trees of Portland for an overview of these cities’ best artists.

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