10. Jetzt Musik Festival
March 21 - March 31
Jetzt Musik, the week-long warm-up festival to Time Warp, will again look to provide an array of challenging (and reasonably priced) creative performances in 2012. Held across a range of venues as diverse as the shows themselves, Jetzt Music explores the possibilities of electronic music outside of the nightclub. There's a radio play offered up by Move D and author Thomas Meinecke, while the National Theatre Mannheim will stage improvised ballet to the house sounds of the Highgrade Disharmonic Orchestra, with label members playing off five synchronized laptops. And if that isn't enough, Stefan Goldmann will provide real-time manipulation of classical masterpieces played by the casalQuartett live on-stage.
RA pick: CLR hit the Loft Club on the final night with Chris Liebing preparing you for the madness of Timewarp the following day.
09. The Black Weekend
March 8 - March 11
Chamonix Ski Resort
Mont Blanc, France
Given the success of Snowbombing down the years, it's surprising that more festivals like it haven't sprung up in its wake. A boutique French equivalent is The Black Weekend, based out of Chamonix, the popular French ski resort on Mont Blanc (Europe's highest peak), which will again be the host location for this fourth edition. If you're making the trip you'll have parties to contend with in both the day and night (including the curiously titled Hot Dog Day) in addition, of course, to the winter sports. In terms of talent there looks to be no fixed sound, rather a digestible selection of DJ and live acts from across scenes, including Carl Craig, DJ Hell, Nick Curly, Noze and I:Cube.
RA pick: Get drunk; dance to Noze; fall in the snow.
08. 5 Days Off
March 7 - March 11
5 Days Off has crafted a reputation that goes beyond the presentation of quality electronic music. Never one to focus entirely on club nights, its younger sibling, 5 Days On, runs simultaneously, showcasing photography and film exhibitions at De Balie Expositie. Over five days (obviously) a wild variety of music will take over two of Amsterdam's most reputable clubs, Paradiso and Melkweg. WhoMadeWho play the opening night at Paradiso, while the UK flow of SBTRKT will provide the kick-off at Melkweg. The intensity is bound to lift with Gaslamp Killer and Hudson Mohawke playing the same bill on Thursday, while day three sees the audio/visual Monolake show nestle in alongside a stable of Ostgut artists, including Steffi, Ben Klock, Tobias. and Ryan Elliott.
RA pick: Jeff Mills celebrates 20 years of his Axis label with an extended set at Melkweg on day two.
07. Awakenings Rotterdam
When it comes to stadium-sized techno, there aren't many brands more renowned than Awakenings. Held several times a year at various locations across The Netherlands, the festival series is well known for packing a punch with each edition, generally hosting acts that are placed at the tougher end of the techno spectrum. Things are a little more varied this time around, however, with a relatively varied lineup that features the synth-heavy and melodic sounds of Gui Boratto alongside no nonsense names like Speedy J and Gary Beck. Further down the bill you'll find Pan-Pot, Tiefschwarz and Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts, each of whom will be dishing out some house-oriented material at the hulking Maassilo complex.
RA pick: Local export Speedy J should bring the goods to his hometown crowd.
March 9 - March 18
A cramped pub. An alley way. In the bed of a truck. Outside a taco shack. Your friend's sisters' University of Texas dorm room. Every square inch is a "venue" during SXSW. Thousands of trend seekers, setters, makers and the guys with badges looking for the convention center (yes, this is a conference as well) all make the journey to the Texas capital to catch a glimpse of this year's potential breakthrough acts. With a reputation built over the last 20-plus years, the event is no longer just the epicenter of indie rock, and is quickly becoming a stop-off for the acoustic and electronically inclined. Chrissy Murderbot, Com Truise, Oneohtrix Point Never and SBTRKT are just a few of the electronic artists you might catch at this year's festival, among hundreds of other rock, folk, hip-hop and experimental artists. And don't worry if you can't afford the badges: beyond the limited capacity at some of the official events, other east Austin happenings are fair game for entry.
RA pick: Thundercat's debut album may have been slept on by some last year, but don't make the same mistake at SXSW.
05. Playground Weekender
March 2 - March 4
Del Rio Riverside Resort
Wisemans Ferry, Australia
Playground Weekender is one of Australia's favourite boutique festivals. Held in lush riverside surrounds situated a short drive from Sydney, the three-day event has been celebrated for its relaxed atmosphere and left-of-centre lineups, a combination that has seen the Playground Weekender garner a healthy reputation all around the country. This time around, you'll be able to catch Bonobo, Fat Freddys Drop and Roots Manuva among the house sounds of Damian Lazarus, Lee Burridge and Art Department. Elsewhere on the bill sits disco veteran Greg Wilson, proto-ravers The Orb and Applied Rhythm Technology boss Kirk Degiorgio.
RA pick: Greg Wilson doing his time-honoured thing at the Big Top stage.
04. Ultra Music Festival
March 23 - March 25
Day One | Day Two | Day Three
When it comes to taking the temperature of the mainstream US dance market, Ultra seems like as good a patient as any. So how much should be read into the event's more underground house and techno bookings this year? Hard to say. But perhaps 2012 will be the year that—dovetailing the recent EDM upsurge in the country—the likes of Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones (both booked for the Sunday) begin to enjoy a next level of Stateside success. What hasn't changed in 2012 is the basic premise: three days of music during WMC week, roughly 150,000 attendees, and numerous colossal stages, dealing in the biggest dance sounds on the planet, with headliners this year including Kraftwerk, Justice, Carl Cox and Sven Vath.
RA pick: Kraftwerk's Friday night performance (for obvious reasons).
03. Future Music Festival
March 3 - March 12
Various Cities, Australia
Brisbane | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne | Adelaide
While other Australian electronic and dance music festivals are tending towards more mainstream acts, Future Music Festival continues to evolve by looking to offer a broader range of music to its punters. This year's tour will be headlined by the newly reformed New Order (sans Peter Hook) which gives an indication as to the outside-the-box thinking that goes into the festival. DFA acts past and present will be generously represented, with James Murphy & Pat Mahoney, Hercules & Love Affair, The Rapture, Benoit & Sergio, Holy Ghost! and The Juan Maclean all tagging along. House and techno fans will have something to cheer about also, with DJ sets from Jamie Jones and Sven Vath, as well as a live performance from Aphex Twin. Throw in some Horse Meat Disco and you're looking at a pretty solid day out.
RA pick: Sing along to the Benoit & Sergio live show if you know the words.
For one weekend every March, things look a little bit light lineup-wise in nightclubs around the world. That's because all of techno's leading lights are making their way to Mannheim to kick off the European festival season at Time Warp. Critics sometimes argue that Time Warp hasn't changed their headliners much in the past few years. But look at it the other way around: Why do you think that people like Sven, Richie, Ricardo, Carola, Dice and Dubfire keep coming back for more? It's one of the best run large-scale festivals around, an event whose sprawl necessitates the Maimarkthalle complex, but somehow makes it feel relatively intimate. Joining the aforementioned biggies this year will be a focus on techno in all its forms: Adam Beyer, Chris Liebing, DJ Rush and Dettmann & Klock will all perform, along with another lengthy set coming from Laurent Garnier and his LBS project.
RA pick: For a spot of house, see hometown hero Nick Curly go back-to-back with Mathias Kaden.
01. Miami WMC
March 16 - March 25
Things got a little weird in Miami last year, what with the Winter Music Conference/Ultra split and the confusion that ensued, but in 2012 it all looks set to get back on track. The conference itself is twice as long, which naturally means more parties, and while Sunday School will be sorely missed, the rest of the usual suspects will no doubt deliver: Crosstown Rebels getting lost at Electric Pickle, Listed with their fleet of intimate boat parties, The Shelborne's non-stop poolside soirees, and so many more. It might take a certain kind of personality (or maybe sense of humor) to fully enjoy it, but you'd be hard-pressed to find something more colorful and expansive than Miami during WMC.
RA pick: Hard to say with so few lineups announced, but you really can't beat the no-frills hedonism of Electric Pickle.