Our picks for the best festivals in the final stretch of 2018.
Le Guess Who?
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands
November 8 - November 11
Is there a more eclectic and energizing festival in the world than Le Guess Who? Held annually in the culturally rich hub of Utrecht, the four-day event takes immense pride in showcasing as broad a range of music as possible, representing a wealth of nationalities and cultures in the process. More than 100 performances take place across dozens of venues, from churches and beautiful theatres to clubs and the trendy concert complex TivoliVredenburg. And then there's the thing that really sets the festival apart, where select artists are asked to co-curate part of the programme. Moor Mother, Devendra Banhart and British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings are this year's participants, and they've enlisted an inspired cast of artists, including RP Boo, LYZZA, Gigi Masin and Ghanaian star King Ayisoba.
RA Pick: Live performances from a troupe of RVNG Intl.-affiliated artists, including Lucrecia Dalt, Oliver Coates and Kate NV.
Les Esserts Golf Club, Verbier, Switzerland
November 29 - December 2
Dance music and skiing feels like a combination that shouldn't work, but festivals like Polaris prove it does. There could be something about hurtling down mountains that eases rave hangovers, or maybe it's the frosty alpine air. Whatever the reason, Polaris is one of winter's best options for combining action sports with all-night raving. Held in the Swiss Alps with room for 1,000 people, it's among Europe's more intimate skiing festivals. Even so, Polaris manages to host an all-star lineup that includes some of the scene's most exciting names. This year that means Kyle Hall, Massive Attack, Nina Kraviz and Carl Craig, making it one of the best editions yet.
RA Pick: When else will you see Jeff Mills this high above sea level?
Quartier Manufacture, Saint-Etienne, France
November 8 - November 11
In 2016, Benjamin Carde described Saint-Étienne as the "gritty, working-class counterpoint" to nearby Lyon. That underdog spirit is at the heart of Positive Education, a three-day techno and electro festival with a lineup as gnarly as any you'll find in France. This year, there's a handful of killer international draws—Marcel Dettmann, Gesloten Cirkel, Dopplereffekt, Volvox, Lena Willikens—but the core focus remains on domestic talent, whether that's beloved stars like Laurent Garnier and Manu Le Malin or rising names from local scenes, such as Les Fils de Jacob, Soft War (AKA DJ AZF & December) and the Brothers From Different Mothers crew. The real icing on the cake is that this all takes place at Quartier Manufacture, a spectacular former arms factory in the city centre.
RA Pick: Simo Cell, one of the sharpest talents in France right now.
Riverwood Downs Mountain Valley Resort, Monkerai, Australia
November 30 - December 2
Subsonic has grown from humble origins into one of Australia's leading dance music festivals. Looking at its 2018 programme, you wouldn't guess that it began life as a scrappy oasis for psytrance and burner tech house. Anyone who attended those intimate early editions knows just how much the festival has grown over the years, but its bigger size has been accompanied by an increasingly on-point booking policy, which isn't always the case for regional camping getaways. This year's surprise comes in the form of a top-end minimal house contingent, represented by Romanian royalty like Raresh and a rare Australian appearance from Perlon cofounder Zip. Add Klute, Jayda G and Batu to the mix, and you have a lineup as slick as the location is rugged.
RA Pick: Move D has a way of connecting with Australian crowds.
Club To Club
Lingotto Fiere, Torino, Italy
November 1 - November 4
Club To Club is a cornerstone of the Italian clubbing calendar, bringing a dynamic blend of parties and concerts to Turin every November. This year their programme is as cutting-edge as it's ever been, with the likes of Avalon Emerson and Jamie XX sharing the stage with Beach House and Danish punk outfit Iceage. The action ranges from concerts at Reggia di Venaria, a royal palace built in the 17th century, to raves at the sprawling Lingotto's pavilions, all set against the backdrop of Turin in the autumn. We can think of worse ways to welcome in the cold months.
RA Pick: Hard to beat a headlining set from Aphex Twin.
November 19 - November 26
There may be no electronic festival as truly global as MUTEK. Consider that MUTEK.MX is only one of their events happening in November—the other being MUTEK.JP in Tokyo. But MUTEK.MX is more than just one of the Québécois institution's many offshoots. Now in its 15th edition, it's been around nearly as long as the original event in Montreal, and is similarly essential to its local scene, making Mexico City home to one of the most artistically daring electronic festivals to happen anywhere in the world all year. As usual, the lineup speaks for itself, balancing experimental acts like Visible Cloaks and Wolfgang Voigt with thumping sounds from Aurora Halal and Errorsmith, all set to the dazzling visuals that are MUTEK's calling card.
RA Pick: Metal? Techno? Swedish trap? You never know what Varg will pull out of the bag.
Fabra I Coats, Barcelona, Spain
November 8 - November 11
Since the era of the European music and digital arts festival took off around a decade ago, Mira has emerged as a key representative for Spain and Catalonia. Eight years since it began, it continues to go from strength to strength with each edition, which is quite a feat considering how crowded the experimental festival market has become. Key to Mira's formula is a knack for getting artists to try something new, and a keen balance of cerebral and bodily pleasures. Artists like Borusiade, rRoxymore and Alessandro Adriani will step out of their comfort zones by presenting live sets in 3D sound, while heavy options like Christoph De Babalon are offset by DJ sets from Avalon Emerson and Josey Rebelle.
RA Pick: M.E.S.H's dance floor pyrotechnics.
The Wildlands, Tocumwal, Australia
November 16 - November 18
As dozens of big-name Australian festivals have come and gone, Strawberry Fields has gotten stronger over time, growing from a "traditional bush doof" to a well-curated, slickly executed event that lures in thousands of punters every year. Held in bushland roughly 260km from Melbourne, Strawberry Fields celebrates ten years in November, an impressive milestone for what began as a scrappy psytrance rave. The team has locked in a top-shelf lineup to match the occasion, with DJ Nobu, DJ Seinfeld and Honey Dijon among the many killer acts set to play across the festival's elaborately psychedelic stages.
RA Pick: Willow's beats should nicely suit the dreamy setting.
Atins, Barreirinhas, Brazil
December 26 - January 2
Each New Year's, Mareh Festival becomes the most Balearic place on earth, bringing laidback house and disco DJs to remote Brazilian beaches. Its organizers find some new stretch of undiscovered sand every couple of years, and for NYE 2019, they've outdone themselves: the likes of Joakim, CC:DISCO! and Mendel will play sets by sheltered lagoons in Atins, a tiny fishing village nestled amidst the dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. Over eight days, this unlikely location will showcase talent from near and far, from Istanbul's Baris K to Japanese hip-hop legend DJ Muro to encyclopedic Brazilian traditionalist DJ Nuts. This year's Mareh has something for anyone willing to make the journey to paradise.
RA Pick: Horse Meat Disco's Luke Howard, who's fond of calling himself a "Brazil nut."
Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan, India
December 14 - December 16
Alsisar Mahal, located in a remote corner of Rajasthan, is now home to an annual migration: every December, people travel from across India (or farther) to attend Magnetic Fields. There they find DJs and live acts playing all night in a 17th-century hotel, with Indian artists sharing the stage with acclaimed international acts. Magnetic Fields is all the things a great festival should be: an independent event that expands the culture of its own community, giving punters an experience they might not have had otherwise and local artists a great gig (you get a sense of this in RA's 2016 film on the event). But none of that would work if not for the experience itself, which, from the journey there across the desert to the sunrise sets outside the Alsisar Mahal, is truly extraordinary. Magnetic Fields has grown rapidly since it started five years ago, from crowds of a few hundred in the early editions to a few thousand today. With artists like Daphni, Bicep and DJ EZ flying in for the occasion, 2018 is sure to be another step up.
RA Pick: Delhi junglist outfit BFR Sound System.
See our full festival listings for November and December right here and here.