Back to read

Guest Feature

The Rise Of The City Music Festival


Guest Feature from Ally Byers

The early noughties saw festivals transformed. Package holidays morphed into festivals. Ski holidays followed suit. Stadium concerts rebranded as festivals. The definition of festival moved from an event involving a field to a far more conceptual idea.

One area where that concept is still continuously experimented with is the city festival. Their crowd are often as not located off-site, visiting daily rather than camping or staying in apartments. Their length varies from half a week to half a day. Then there’s the logistical challenge of recreating an event originally designed for a field in an urban environment.

Far from being seen as a novel spin-off, city festivals have thrived. The various challenges presented into putting them on has resulted in new levels of ingenuity and originality. With the announcement of Junction 2, a London based one day festival this coming June 4th, we took a look at some of the most iconic city festivals around the world.


Kappa Future Festival

Set in an abandoned industrial estate in the Italian city of Torino, this two day city workout is all things Italian. It boasts a who’s-who in techno lineup, this year including Ricardo Villalobos, Chris Liebing, Ellen Allien, Nina Kraviz & Sven Vath. It’s got a committed fan base, many of whom have been coming year on year for over half a decade. Perhaps most striking is the event’s stark commitment to minimalist production: the primary focus is the main stage, set under the sole remaining roof of the former factory site.

Movement Detroit

Arguably the most famous city festival of them all, Movement Detroit is ten years old this year. Set squarely in downtown Detroit’s Hart Plaza, over 100,000 attend the three day festival. Echoing the city’s own history, earlier incarnations of the festival were mired by bureaucratic controversy and funding issues. Consequently Movement Detroit’s runaway success has made it as much a celebration of the defiant spirit of the city itself as a showcase of music. Not that the latter was ever in doubt: over 60 artists play, this year including Juan Atkins, Stacey Pullen, Tale of Us and John Digweed.

Into The Valley

Kappa Futur Festival may win on the industrial tip and Detroit has the city centre, however for sheer originality Sweden’s Into The Valley surely takes the title. Set in the former limestone quarry of Dalhalla Rattvik (near the town of the same name), the quarry has been converted into a purpose-built outdoor arena – taking advantage of its position at the bottom of an enormous basin to create game-changing acoustics. The three day event encompasses the spectrum of house and techno, with this year’s lineup including the likes of Fred P, Axel Boman, Ben UFO, Move D and KiNK. It’s one of the few places in the world where clubbers experience a festival penned in with sheer cliff walls on all sides .


The leader of the European pack as far as city festivals go, Barcelona’s Sonar is in addition the most immersive festival of the list. Now in it’s 22nd year Sonar is as much a cultural institution – with its own artist workshops and various associated events – as it is a powerhouse festival. Not that the festival itself is short on wow factor: set over 3 days the festival boasts over 80 artists as varied as James Blake, Santigold, A-Trak, Kaytranada, Rødhåd and DJ EZ.

A New Festival For London

London’s Junction 2 will launch June 4th. With a lineup including Adam Beyer, Carl Craig’s Modular Pursuits, Alan Fitzpatrick, Ida Engberg and more TBC, the event promises to be a UK warehouse-party take on the city festival format.

Guest Feature from Ally Byers