We run through ten of our favourites from around the world in March.
Sónar Hong Kong
Hong Kong Science And Technology Park, Hong Kong, China
Sónar is an impressively global operation—they appear twice in this list, with events on opposite sides of the globe. And yet, even as it ventures farther and farther afield from its home in Barcelona, it maintains the extraordinary standard for programming and production that made it famous in the first place. Sónar Hong Kong is a case in point. Now in its second year, the one-day festival takes place at Hong Kong Science And Technology Park, a strikingly modern venue that will host six stages of music plus the signature Sónar+D programme, which showcases new innovations in creative technology. Squarepusher, The Black Madonna, Mala and Mount Kimbie are among the big names from abroad, while artists like Sunsiaré, Johnny Hiller and Eric Lui make up part of the bill's healthy local contingent.
RA Pick: Laurel Halo is a must-see electronic live act.
Big Ears Festival
March 22 - 25
Knoxville, Tennessee might not be the first city that comes to mind when considering sites of the world's top avant-garde music festivals. But Big Ears is just that, presenting a four-day programme with enough variety to bring fans of everything from techno to no wave, free improvisation and noise under one roof. While the likes of Four Tet, Kelly Lee Owens, GAS and Laurel Halo will be most recognisable to dance music heads, the meat of the programme centres on one-of-a-kind luminaries like Diamanda Galás, whose spine-chilling voice is not to be missed. For fans of extreme music, the lineup is an embarrassment of riches, beginning with Evan Parker, one of the most important free jazz sax players in the last half-century, and Ikue Mori, who evolved from a no wave pioneer into a leader of abstract electronics.
RA Pick: Áine O'Dwyer's combinations of church organ, vocals, field recordings and performance art are spellbinding.
Days Like This
Victoria Park, Australia
Judging by some of the responses to last year's debut edition, Days Like This was the festival Sydney's dance music scene had been crying out for. "It was miles ahead of anything to happen previously," Tad Tietze said in his RA review. The 2018 event is looking even sharper, with more than 20 international artists descending on a new, more central venue within sunny Victoria Park. Highlights include DJs like Sonja Moonear, Seth Troxler, Sven Väth and Marcel Dettmann, plus Bicep and Floating Points, who will deliver their world-conquering live shows.
RA Pick: Raving to DJ EZ in the blazing sunshine is an experience you'll never forget.
Harpa, Reykjavik, Iceland
March 16 - March 18
People know and love Iceland for a few things—its warm lagoons, its remote beauty, its overachieving football team. But the country also has a rich culture of underground music, which would explain why Sónar Reykjavík always presents a programme packed with local talent. In 2018, the local artists, from dub techno heads Cold and Yagya to badass hip-hop crew Reykjavíkurdætur, promise to be every bit as exciting as the out-of-town guests. The international bill is well-chosen, too—think JASSS, Lorenzo Senni and Jlin. The action unfolds as always inside the eye-catching Harpa Concert Hall on Reykjavík's waterfront.
RA Pick: Reykjavíkurdætur, a 15-strong, all-female collective whose name translates to "the daughters of Reykjavík."
Pitch Music & Arts
March 9 - March 12
Pitch is as about as close to a classy European festival as you'll get in the Southern Hemisphere, which is an enticing prospect for an audience that usually has to travel thousands of miles to attend a Dekmantel or an Unsound. But unlike its continental inspirations, Pitch takes place in a veritable bush doof paradise, peppering the sweeping plains around Victoria's Grampians National Park with colourful structures and hulking soundsystems. While the lineup boasts much-loved internationals like Ben UFO and Motor City Drum Ensemble, along with big name techno acts—Marcel Dettmann, Function, Giorgio Gigli—there's ample space for Australian artists to stretch their legs, too. Promising locals such as Kate Miller can easily hold their own, while DJs like CC:Disco! have an intimate relationship with their audience that few internationals can match.
RA Pick: Expect Sonja Moonear to play the slickest set of the weekend.
Dom im Berg, Austria
Feb 28 - March 4
Where festivals close to world-class ski slopes often prioritise rowdy mountain parties and heavy drinking, Elevate takes a more refined approach. Booking DJs from the classier end of house, techno and experimental, the Austrian event also offers contemporary music, arts and political discourse across a five-day programme that takes in club nights, workshops and talks in the picturesque city of Graz. Alongside a speaking schedule that includes Wikileaks founder Julian Assange via video link, there will be DJ sets from Roman Flügel, Objekt and DJ Taye, as well as live concernts from John Maus and Ben Frost.
RA Pick: John Maus's utterly bewildering live performance.
March 7 - March 11
Barcelona is a city famous for music festivals, and MUTEK.ES, held in March, holds the honour of being the first annual event in city's calendar. Each year it brings a selection of Québecois and Canadian artists—a nod to MUTEK's original home, Montreal—plus the kind of programming where every single act on the lineup is worth checking out. This time round, a batch artists behind some of last year's best experimental albums—Ziúr (U Feel Anything?), Colleen (A Flame My Love, A Frequency), M.E.S.H. (Hesaitix) and Porter Ricks (Anguilla Electrica)—will help get the European festival season off to a heady start.
RA Pick: It's a tie between Ziúr and M.E.S.H., two artists who share a penchant for wall-rattling sounds.
Dekmantel Festival São Paulo
Playcenter, São Paulo, Brazil
March 3 - March 4
Dekmantel's flagship festival in Amsterdam is proof that there's no shame in nailing a formula and rolling with it year-on-year. Props, then, to founders Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij for taking a more adventurous approach with their sister event in São Paulo, which is a collaboration with local promoters Gop Tun. Not only are they moving to a new venue, Playcenter, for 2018, but they'll be the first people to resurrect the former theme park since it shut in 2012. It's bold plays like these that put Dekmantel above their competitors—as well as the crew's killer taste in music. This year, international stars like Four Tet, Nina Kraviz and Antal join a generous spread of Brazilian acts, from '80s experimental rock duo Os Mulheres Negras to world-renowned instrumentalist Marcos Valle.
RA Pick: Something tells us Vladimir Ivkovic's slo-mo trance will go down a treat in among Playcenter's lush greenery.
NDSM Docklands, Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 31 - April 1
DGTL is the quintessential Dutch festival experience. Slick and well produced, it draws dozens of top-tier artists and thousands of ravers to the colourful NDSM Docklands with each edition, supplying world-class house and techno across eight impressive arenas decked out with finely tuned soundsystems. As usual, this year's edition presents a who's-who of modern dance music, with techno artists like DVS1, Dax J and Blawan lining up alongside party-rockers like Tale Of Us, Gerd Janson and Maya Jane Coles. If you're a dance music fan in 2018, there's something for you at DGTL.
RA Pick: Jacking house from Dutch underdog Samuel Deep.
Pontins, Southport, UK
March 15 - March 18
30 years since it burst forth in a geyser of smiley faces, pacifiers and parachute pants, rave culture is at risk of taking itself too seriously. Enter Bangface, a festival in the North of England where absurd costumes abound, drill & bass is an essential genre and the phrase "I'll suck for acid" has appeared on official merchandise. The party's growing tribe of diehard fans will tell you it's a rave experience like no other, and not just for the LOLs. Bangface's program presents a radically eclectic melting pot of sounds, this year stretching from modern techno heavyweights like Paula Temple and Helena Hauff to grind metal titans Napalm Death to a range of lesser-known but promisingly named acts. Where else could you expect to discover artists like Elusive Cervix, DJ Bi-Furious or the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Speed Donk Experience?
RA Pick: Mark Archer and Luke Vibert both cite Bangface as an essential influence—see what they give back to the festival.
See our full festival listings for March right here.