March 10 - March 19
In an industry where staying out all night is part of the job, it's little surprise that dance music conferences sometimes dissolve into a mess of cancelled meetings and low turnouts. But London's Convergence, now in its third year, has already struck the magic balance between an engaging, professionally-run conference and exciting nighttime offerings. So once you've checked in on the daytime panels, talks, workshops and installations, you'll be able to hit several of the city's most interesting venues (The Roundhouse, Barbican, KOKO) to check out a musical programme that's diverse enough (Nurse With Wound, Omar Souleyman, Factory Floor) to ensure it stands out in a city where several festival's worth of DJs and live acts play every weekend.
RA Pick: A night of grubby electronics curated by Factory Floor looks the ticket.
09. CRSSD Festival
March 05 - March 06
San Diego, USA
Throwing a festival in Southern California with mostly European house and techno DJs is a bold proposition, but it's a goal to which CRSSD is firmly committed. Taking place at Waterfront Park, a stretch of grass and palm trees that looks onto North San Diego Bay, the event presents headsy favourites like Ben UFO alongside tech house heavyweights like Loco Dice and Tale Of Us. CRSSD is one of the newest festivals in this list—2015 was its first year—and its still finding its feet a bit. But between its spectacular location and its regionally singular booking policy, it has everything it takes to "grow into a Southern California staple," as Terri Harrel wrote in her review of last year's event.
RA Pick: San Francisco's J.Phlip was a highlight in 2105—expect her to bring the heat again.
08. Big Ears Festival
March 31 - April 2
Big Ears says it's named "for someone who is capable of discerning and perceptive listening, who has the ability to use the ears as a creative tool or who hears things many may miss." That would explain the tenor of lineup, which brings together a cast of artists exploring the outer limits of sound and music. Among this year's most accessible acts are Philip Glass, Andy Stott and Nicolas Jaar. Most of the programme is more esoteric, with Wolf Eyes, Sunn O))), Valgeir Sigurðsson and Ben Frost among the several dozen acts set to play across Knoxville's clubs, galleries, bars and theatres. Not for nothing did Rolling Stone call this one "the classiest, most diverse festival" in the United States.
RA Pick: Don't pass up a rare opportunity to catch one of kosmische's most influential bands, Faust.
07. Horizon Festival
March 12 - March 19
Bansko Ski Resort
Horizon is a snowy festival for the more adventurous clubber. Its location, the quaint Bulgarian town of Bansko, is as much an attraction as the slopes that loom above it, with endless quirky bars and unorthodox party spaces crammed into its labyrinthine streets. It's also relatively cheap, which makes Horizon that rare thing: a skiing holiday that doesn't break the bank. The festival's fourth edition will be its biggest yet, with the likes of Nina Kraviz, Levon Vincent, Âme, KiNK, Goldie, Mala and Gerd Janson all making the trip.
RA Pick: Nina Kraviz's ice-cold techno should be a perfect fit for Bansko's wintry climate.
06. Ultra Music Festival
March 18 - March 20
For many dance music fans, the word "Ultra" evokes a number of images, none of them particularly good. Whether its Madonna asking the crowd if they've "seen Molly," or seas of teenagers pogoing to an EDM remix of Pearl Jam's "Better Man," the mind's eye will likely conjure something other than a credible music event. But over the years, the Miami festival, once EDM's mightiest behemoth, has changed a bit. Sure, you've still got Hardwell, David Guetta and Afrojack at the top of the bill. But right up there with them are Seth Troxler, The Martinez Brothers, Maceo Plex and Mind Against. Even Caribou, a poster-boy of thoughtful indie-dance, finds himself on the same row as Avicii and Armin Van Burren on the festival's Tron-inspired flyer. By presenting artists like this to America's young punters on stages with fantastic lights and sound, Ultra makes itself an important force in electronic music.
RA Pick: Watch Jackmaster bring the party to the Resistance stage.
March 24 - March 27
Over the past 13 years, Electron has steadily become a staple European festival. One look at the lineup makes it easy to see what all the fuss is about. From the opening concert with Brian Eno to the final bash with Carl Craig, the programme delivers something close to the electronic zeitgeist in its entirety. But perhaps more importantly, it gives Geneva the most ample raving options it will have all year, with techno acts like Truss and Paula Temple alongside warmer selectors like The Black Madonna and Motor City Drum Ensemble. Throw in a 20th anniversary showcase from Berlin avant-garde powerhouse Raster-Noton and you've got a seriously world-class event.
RA Pick: Watch Kompakt boss Michael Mayer kick off the festival with an all-night set at Fonderie Kugler.
04. DGTL Festival
March 25 - March 27
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam's DGTL Festival has that special something. In past years, its organisers have gone to great lengths decking out the site with all kinds of wacky decorations (there were giant robots and aliens walking around in 2015), and you can likely count on more of the same this time around. The weekender returns to NDSM Docklands in March, setting up shop with six arenas stacked with big-name selectors like Maceo Plex, Rødhåd and Motor City Drum Ensemble.
RA Pick: Nothing promises more good vibes like a back-to-back from Prins Thomas and Gerd Janson.
March 10 - March 15
SXSW easily dwarfs every other festival that would appear on this list. Spread over dozens of venues in Austin, Texas, the number of artists booked is somewhere north of 2,000—and that's just for the music portion of the conference (the full programme also encompasses film and "interactive media"). Sure, it may not be the free-and-easy, indie-spirited event it once was—long queues and brand sponsorships are very much part of the scenery these days—but it's safe to say you won't find such a dense concentration of cutting edge artists anywhere else in the world. Each year, more and more of those are electronic artists: in 2016 you'll have everything from grime (Mumdance) to footwork (DJ Spinn) to Jersey club (UNiiQU3) and straight-up techno (Zenker Brothers) at your fingertips, to say nothing of the innumerable other genres and styles that fit under SXSW's vast umbrella.
RA Pick: Texan artist Bill Converse should have something special up his sleeve for this one.
March 2 - March 6
Barcelona has no shortage of classy festivals, but the Spanish arm of Montreal's Mutek offers a niche of electronic music that goes deeper than its competitors. At this year's four-day, multi-venue event, Kara-Lis Coverdale's rich drone work will be matched by similarly advanced bookings like Franck Vigroux, whose collaboration with audiovisual artist Kurt D'Haeseleer promises to be a "postdigital road trip to the Anthropocene." Heavy concepts aside, attendees can expect quality dance fare from the likes of Gerd Janson and Steffi, alongside the headier atmospheres of Rrose and Reagenz (AKA Move D and Jonah Sharpe).
RA Pick: Expect expert sample mangling and modular tweaking from the live debut of Vilod, AKA Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer.
March 11 - March 13
At least part of the fun of the rave experience is a return to a childlike state—when else since single-digit ages have you pursued personal amusement so fully? Few festivals deliver this better than than Bloc., the gloriously resurgent annual event at the Butlins Minehead resort. Sleeping in chalets, zipping down waterslides, haemorrhaging change in the arcade, you find yourself slipping back to a time before words like "overdraft fee" were even part of your vocabulary. Combine all that with a beautifully varied cast of DJs and live acts—Thom Yorke, Floating Points, Nina Kraviz, Surgeon & Blawan, Ben UFO, Jane Fitz, Intergalactic Gary and many more—and you get the feeling that everything you need is just moments away, whether that's a heaving rave with Jeff Mills at the helm or just a rousing game of House Of The Dead 2. At once a forward-thinking festival and an unhinged party, Bloc. captures the UK's scrappy rave spirit like few other events on Earth.
RA Pick: It's hard to pick on a lineup like this, but Andrew Weatherall back-to-back with Optimo definitely has legs.