LATE JUNE (WITH A BREAK EVERY FOUR YEARS) BETTER PACK OUR OBLIGATORY GUMBOOTS.
Each year, Glastonbury makes the headlines with images of British celebrities trudging through the mud in gumboots and hot pants. However, despite the cheap tabloid shots, this long-running festival maintains a focus on social activism and environmental issues, as well as a serious emphasis on music and the performing arts.
WE’VE HEARD THE HEADLINE ACTS DRAW A BIG CROWD.
It has a reputation as the biggest greenfield festival in the world – since the inaugural get-together in 1970, it now runs over five days and attracts more than 175,000 attendees.
THESE MUST BE SOME SERIOUSLY POPULAR POP STARS.
Glastonbury brings out the big guns – headline artists over the years have included such rock and pop behemoths as David Bowie, Van Morrison, The Smiths, Radiohead, The White Stripes, Neil Young and U2. In more recent years, the festival has widened its musical appreciation to include rap and R&B artists like Jay Z and Dizzie Rascal, and on some of the smaller stages you’ll be treated to up-and-coming acts before they hit the big time.
TWO WEEKENDS IN APRIL.
FINALLY, A FESTIVAL FOR ALL THE FORGOTTEN RICH AND FAMOUS KIDS OF CALIFORNIA.
I know, right! Poor dears. Anyone who isn’t a supermodel or international ‘it’ girl might feel like they’ve stumbled onto the set of an advertisement for Coca Cola. Don’t worry, though. The extras get to have just as much fun without the paparazzi tailing their every move.
SO THE CROWD IS YOUNG AND PAINFULLY COOL – WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?
If you’re over 40, you’ll struggle to recognise a majority of the names, unless of course you’re one of those middle-aged hipsters; then you’ll recognise names like Beachhouse, Flume, Gary Clarke Jnr, and Purity Ring. There are hundreds of established and up-and-coming acts that perform in a wonderfully eclectic variety of genres. Think hip-hop, rock, indie and electronic dance.
WE MIGHT BE TOO OLD FOR THIS.
Oh get out! In 2016, the organisers rolled out Guns N’ Roses as a headline act. Rock on, oldies!
LAST TUESDAY IN JANUARY.
IT’S WILD AND WOOLLY UP HERE ON THE SHETLAND ISLES.
Which might explain this festival’s obsession with fire. Sitting at the same latitude as the bottom half of Greenland, the locals know all about the cold, so don’t expect any sympathy if you’re a sensitive mainlander.
OK, WE WON’T LET THE WEATHER GET THE BETTER OF US. BUT WE STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON.
It’s easy to see why the whole thing comes across as just a wee bit crazy – rowdy local men dressed as Vikings, tramping shoulder-to-shoulder through the centre of Lerwick carrying flaming torches. It’s a fiery, boozy, boisterous celebration of the island’s Viking heritage and cultural ancestry, which culminates in the burning of a life-sized replica of a longship.
FORGET THE FIRE, IT ALL SOUNDS LIKE IT’S TESTOSTERONE-FUELLED TO US.
The parade is men-only (must be a Viking thing) but don’t think that women won’t get in on the partying that happens after the bonfire. The whole thing only lasts 24 hours, but it’s non-stop from start to finish.
LIKE THE IRISH NEED AN EXCUSE FOR A GUINNESS AND A GOOD TIME.
Friday is a good excuse for a Guinness. St Patrick’s Day is the best excuse for Ireland’s biggest knees-up of the year.
THROUGH A BOOZY HAZE WE CAN ALMOST MAKE OUT THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE.
The Feast of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s foremost patron saint, is held every year on the anniversary of his death, to commemorate his influence and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. Traditional Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking are relaxed for the day – hence the rush to the bar.
ASIDE FROM THE DRINKING, WHAT DOES OUR ST PATRICK’S DAY HAVE IN STORE?
Expect to see lively street parades with marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organisations and others, often swathed in green. There are well-attended church services and day-long festivities with traditional Irish music and dancing sessions. It is customary to end the day by putting a shamrock in the bottom of your glass of beer or whiskey and toasting to the Saint, Ireland and those around you. Swallow the shamrock or toss it over your shoulder for good luck.
Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E. Houston St) is one of the last big delis on the Lower East Side, packing in locals, tourists, and people heading to hear music in the area which is full of great little venues. Katz’s has what some say is the best pastrami sandwich in the city, with the meat sliced by hand, and served with giant homemade pickles. Place your order at the counter, then jostle for a seat at a table. You might end up occupying the very seat in which Meg Ryan played out her famous ‘climax’ scene in When Harry Met Sally. Cash only.
Nora Jones honed her craft a couple of blocks away at the mellow Living Room (154 Ludlow St, which features several good bands a night with no cover charge. Arlene’s Grocery (95 Stanton St) showcases new rock, metal, and indie bands for a cheap cover. Bluegrass, alt-country, and American roots are the focus at the intimate Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen St), or at the louder two-level Delancey (168 Delancey St). On Monday nights the Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston St) hosts great bluegrass jams. Good indie and alternative bands play The Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St) and even better bands from around the world play the historic Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancey St).
SOME TOWNS JUST KNOW HOW TO THROW A GOOD PARTY.
The city of New Orleans just can’t help itself, and during the annual Mardi Gras it’s a no holds barred, free-for-all, fun time. The motto of the festival is ‘les bons temp rouler’ which translates to ‘let the good times roll’.
WHY MARDI GRAS AND WHY HERE?
Mardi Gras is French for ‘fat Tuesday’, which, for those who observe the Christian calendar, is a sign it’s time to go all out before Lent begins, when it’s expected you’ll reign it in and behave yourself. The French are credited with bringing Mardi Gras to New Orleans, but it’s the mix with the mystic and pagan ‘krewes’ that gives Mardi Gras in New Orleans its edge.
CAN WE JOIN A KREWE?
The krewes are exemplified by different parades which actually represent different neighbourhoods or local communities. They’re themed and highly decorated with epic floats and awesome costumes. If you’re a visitor and not part of a krewe, you’ll have to settle for epic and awesome dancing, drinking, music and mounds of the famous colourful beads.
BEGINS 30 SEPTEMBER AND RUNS EACH WEEKEND THROUGH TO EARLY DECEMBER.
THIS IS LIKE A NEVER-ENDING STREET PARTY.
This party has the honour of calling itself the longest festival in Nicaragua. The celebrations kick off when townspeople carry an enormously heavy effigy of Saint Jerome from the church through the streets of the village.
NOT TO BE A DOWNER BUT, IS THAT IT?
It wouldn’t really be much of a party if that was the end of things. Following the street parade for Saint Jerome, the people of Masaya recreate the Torovenado parade that honours the Nicaraguan Saint Silvester – this other-worldly street march has participants dressed in all manner of weird and wonderful costumes – from unusual animals and folkloric demons to caricatures of famous Nicaraguans. There is music, dancing and food, and at night the whole thing turns into one huge party.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN IN MASAYA?
This village is known as the folklore capital of Nicaragua, which is why the party goes on and on for weeks and weeks after the initial parade. In fact, there’s a party every weekend for three months following the last day in September.
IF IT’S CHINESE NEW YEAR WE’RE CELEBRATING WHY AREN’T WE CELEBRATING IT IN CHINA?
It’s true that some of the biggest, loudest and longest Chinese New Year celebrations happen in China, but with these come the crowds. The family focus on Chinese New Year in China sees the world’s largest human migration surging towards Beijing, creating deadlocked human traffic jams, which kind of take the fun out of the festival.
SO SINGAPORE WILL GIVE US THE SPACE TO ENJOY OURSELVES?
Don’t expect empty streets – partygoers pile into Singapore to join in the extraordinary mix of old and new traditional celebrations. The Chingay Parade is the largest street and float parade in all of Asia, with dancing dragons, stilt walkers, acrobats and lion walkers. At the River Hongbao you’ll see traditional song and dance performances and a release of giant lanterns.
TELL US THERE ARE FIREWORKS? THERE’S GOT TO BE FIREWORKS.
No Chinese New Year celebration is complete without a totally over-the-top fireworks display and Singapore certainly turns on the pyrotechnics. Expect a blinding display that turns night into a colourful day.
JUST WAIT WHILE WE GRAB OUR BEDAZZLED FEATHER HEADDRESS.
That’s the spirit. There’s nothing for it but to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the hedonism that is the world’s biggest, brightest, loudest carnival street party.
THESE BRAZILIANS CERTAINLY KNOW HOW TO PARTY.
So much so that the prospect of 40 days of good behaviour over Lent sends locals into a last-ditch party planning frenzy. Before everyone is expected to better themselves, they let it all hang out with music, massive parades, lots of drinking and non-stop dancing.
CAN WE GET INVOLVED EVEN IF WE CAN’T CARRY OFF THE WHOLE FEATHERED-BIKINI LOOK?
So long as you’re prepared to move to a samba beat, no one is going to stop you. Most visitors join in on a bloco (street party) where a band of drummers leads people through the streets in a non-stop dance off. You may be asked to colourcoordinate your t-shirt but won’t be required to strip down to next to nothing. Be warned, however: the music may make you do things you never dreamed of. Anything goes.
LATE JANUARY TO EARLY FEBRUARY.
OLD-WORLD, MASKED ELEGANCE.
Aside from dapper gondoliers cruising the city’s canals, there are few images as iconic to Italy’s water-circled city as the masked partygoers at the world-famous Venice Carnevale. Officially recognised as a festival from the Renaissance period, Carnevale was a licence to indulge in heedless pleasure, with masks to protect participant’s identities. However, when all this licentiousness became too much, the King of Austria outlawed the festival and it was only in the 20th century that Venetians brought the party back..
SO DECADENCE IS BACK ON THE TABLE?
With bells on. More than three million visitors crowd Venice’s cobbled streets during Carnevale for the chance to be a part of the festivities.
MUST WE COME MASKED?
Not all participants are masked, but donning a disguise certainly amps up the fun. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out the costume parade on stage in St Mark’s Square – the winners each day go head to head for the title of festival finest on the last day of celebrations.