Dot To Dot 2017: The DiS Preview + 50 Song Playlist


This weekend (May 26-28) sees the return of Dot To Dot festival. Now in its 12th year occupying the traditional Spring Bank Holiday slot, the 2017 edition once again sees more than 200 artists perform across over 75 venues in Manchester (Friday 26th), Bristol (Saturday 27th) and Nottingham (Sunday 28th).

Once again, DiS will be in attendance and here’s the 10 acts we’re most looking forward to seeing.

Cherry Hex & The Dream Church

(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rough Trade @ 17:00)

This Nottingham-based duo have been making a name for themselves over the past year mainly due to their hauntingly intense live performances. Comparisons with The xx, Cocteau Twins, and Chvrches aren’t wide of the mark, and their late afternoon slot in Rough Trade promises to be one of the weekend’s finest.

Confidence Man

(Friday 26th. Manchester. Mint Lounge @ 20:15)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. The Louisiana @ 21:30)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Stealth @ 21:45)

Heavenly Recordings boast arguably the finest roster anywhere in the world at this moment in time and their most recent addition, Brisbane four-piece Confidence Man, are another gem in waiting. Think Dee Lite, the B52s, and LCD Soundsystem produced by Weatherall or Oakenfold and you won’t go far wrong. Get Down!

Eyre Llew

(Friday 26th. Manchester. Aatma @ 22:30)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. The Island @ 20:30)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Spanky Van Dykes @ 22:30)

Having already wowed festival goers at 2Q, Handmade, and Focus Wales in recent weeks, the Nottingham based trio get their first taste of bill topping status on home soil. Headlining the Spanky Van Dykes stage, expect to hear a selection of melodic and occasionally brutal cuts of ambient from their forthcoming debut album.


(Friday 26th. Manchester. Night And Day @ 23:00)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. Thekla @ 00:00)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Bodega @ 00:00)

Despite only forming three years, this Michigan-based quartet have already gained a glowing reputation both on record and as live performers. Last August saw the release of second long player Baptistina heralded their finest collection of songs to date and their incendiary take on psychedelic surf and garage rock is sure to be a winner this weekend.

Jimi Mack

(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rough Trade @ 13:30)

Originally from Belfast, this Nottingham-based singer/songwriter has been making waves in recent months both as a solo artist and founder member of psych rockers The Hijinks, also playing this weekend. With comparisons to the likes of John Martyn and Tim Buckley, his left field take on jazz-inspired folk is a joy to behold, as ‘Salao’, the lead track off forthcoming debut EP Familiar Horizons ably demonstrates. Come see what all the fuss is about. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation

(Friday 26th. Manchester. Band On The Wall @ 17:15)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. Thekla @ 23:00)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Rescue Rooms @ 23:15)

Anyone that’s already witnessed Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation in the flesh will know they’re a captivating, if not mindblowing experience. Taking their name from the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and with a musical palette that draws inspiration from Broadcast, Jefferson Airplane, Spacemen 3, and Serge Gainsbourg among a host of others, their darkly orchestrated, errant take on psychedelia is set to prove a surefire winner here.

No Nothings

(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. The Angel @ 20:00)

Hull is a melting pot for some incredible new acts making music right now and one of them are No Nothings, a four-piece originating from the city’s Kingston area. Their no-nonsense punk has already seen them gain a legion of followers both inside and beyond their native city and last year’s excellent self-titled EP on the I’m Not From London label captured the raw intensity of their live show to perfection.

Parekh & Singh

(Friday 26th. Manchester. Jimmy’s @ 21:45)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. Thekla Top Deck @ 16:30)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Bodega Bar @ 18:30)

Hailing from the Indian city of Kolkata, Parekh & Singh make exquisite dream pop that veers between minimal electronica and huge monastic soundscapes. Their debut long player Ocean came out to a wave of critical acclaim last year on Peacefrog Records, and their stylish live set is certain to gain them a host of new devotees over the course of this weekend.


(Friday 26th. Manchester. Old Granada Studios @ 20:15)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. SWX @ 19:45)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Nottingham Trent Uni @ 20:15)

This New Jersey-based outfit formed in 2010 and have been gradually attracting widespread attention ever since. Essentially the brainchild of singer, guitarist, and lyricist Evan Stephens Hall, second long player Cardinal featured heavily in many of 2016’s end of year lists and their live show is said to be elegant, soothing and tranquil, which suits us down to the ground.


(Friday 26th. Manchester. Aatma @ 17:30)
(Saturday 27th. Bristol. SWX Room 2 @ 20:30)
(Sunday 28th. Nottingham. Bodega @ 23:00)

Having already toured with Drenge and Frank Carter in recent months, this Brighton-based four-piece are about to embark on their biggest run of headline dates thus far. In the meantime, their three-stop offs here promise to be among the weekend’s most exhilarating shows, and with festival appearances also confirmed for Download, Reading and Leeds this summer, we advise you catch them early while they’re still a relatively unknown quantity.

Here’s a 50 song playlist featuring many of the artists scheduled to play over the course of this weekend.

For more information on this year’s Dot To Dot, including full stage times, please visit the official website.

Eyre Llew photo by Stephanie Webb.



Echobelly – Anarchy and Alchemy


Over ten years have lapsed since Echobelly‘s last release, so it would be far too easy for a lot of people to have forgotten or written the band off. But let it be known that the flame was always burning. Some indications as to the goings on during the hiatus can be located on two low key mini albums by spin-off band Calm of Zero that surfaced as a result. Illustrative of this is the seventh track ‘Faces In The Mirror’ tucked away on this latest crowdfunded album.

Having established their elemental essence during Calm of Zero, singer Sonya Aurora Madan and guitarist Glenn Johansson litmus tested an appetite for the Echobelly comeback. The results? A sold out gig at London’s Scala in 2015. In parallel to this a whiff of a Britpop reanimation has stirred and gained momentum around the country with festivals like the Shine weekender, Indie Daze and the Star Shaped festival ringing in Echobelly and previous contemporaries like Sleeper, Salad, My Life Story and The Bluetones.

Guarding the entrance to Echobelly’s new collection of tracks is a fearsome opener and stomping single ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’. This song clearly marks their return with Johansson’s hypnotic blues rock riffs and Madan’s distinctive sultry vocals (with an added primal edge). On this track, this band is at times reminiscent of early PJ Harvey whilst capturing the glimmering light display of Echobelly’s core. The new drummer for this album is Ash Hall accompanied by bassist Oliver Kiernan. Both of them appear to be ‘nice enough’ session musician types with the latter touting Paul McCartney, Mel B and someone from The Kooks called Pete Denton on his credits.

‘Firefly’ continues the album at a similar pace, with a crunchy chugging bass riff that gives way to a more contrasting ethereal section that nudges previous Echobelly song structures like ‘Kali Yuga’ and ‘A Map Is Not The Territory’ found on 2001’s People Are Expensive. What starts to become clear from the second track onwards is this album showcases Madan’s vocal skills, which have developed one stage further, displaying more variation and showing off finesse like on ‘Firefly’ with its Arabian flirtations and ‘If The Dogs Don’t Get You’ with its rocketing "oohs" and somersaulting vocal attacks. Johansson’s guitar repertoire on the other hand has crystallised and continues to diversify with new tunings found on ‘Dead Again’ and ‘Faces In the Mirror’.

A lot of effort and final thought has gone into this album. Production surprises continue throughout like the springy vocal effect on ‘Molotov’ and variation in structure with ‘Autumn Angel’ being purely instrumental for the first segment, with delicate guitar rising from a hypnotic drone that turns into a distantly dulcet song. This paves the way for the concluding reflective post death track ‘Dead Again’. This is an album from a band that have been there and done it a few times, got bored, changed it up, run away, come back, swapped it up then become sophisticated and accomplished on their own terms with flair.



Longform: City of Dreams: Music and Politics Meet in the Border Community of McAllen, Texas

Longform: City of Dreams: Music and Politics Meet in the Border Community of McAllen, Texas

Longform: City of Dreams: Music and Politics Meet in the Border Community of McAllen, Texas

Photo by: From left: Helado Negro, Xenia Rubinos, and Downtown Boys’ Victoria Cruz headlined the Dreams festival in McAllen, Texas, a border town that has found itself at the center of America’s immigration debate. Photo illustration by Tyler Comrie; photos by Chona Kasinger.

It’s an uncommonly brisk evening in McAllen, a small city in Texas that sits just north of the Rio Grande and, beyond that, Mexico. In the backyard of a bar called Yerberia Cultura, a piñata in the shape of an anthropomorphized border wall is being brutalized by a young woman with a mop handle. The McAllen pop-punk band Fantástico! eggs her on with a customized cover of Khia’s notoriously raunchy hit “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)”: “Do it now, hit it good, hit that piñata just like you should!”

The scene takes place in the middle of March’s Dreams festival, a laid-back event where independent-minded local and out-of-town acts share a sprawling patio with a woman selling T-shirts emblazoned with catchphrases like “Your History Books Are Puro Pedo”—that is, “Pure Farts”—and a food stand run by a mom who put her daughter through college with her flautas. The musical lineup at Dreams is inspired, and it likely wouldn’t happen anywhere else.

The three artists at the top of the bill have wildly different sounds and live shows, but there’s a common thread connecting them. As Helado Negro, Roberto Carlos Lange records deeply inward-gazing lullabies, protection spells, and guides to self-care dealing with the fear and anxiety of being brown; Xenia Rubinos balances sweet soul with smart bass riffs while exploring her own identity and the Latinx experience in white America; Downtown Boys pay spiritual homage to both Bruce Springsteen and Selena, making aggressively confrontational punk rock spiked with politically charged calls to action.

“Representation is super important on these lineups, especially for us down here,” says Dreams organizer and McAllen DIY mainstay Patrick Garcia. “To see these artists, to see their skin, and to see what they are.” Recently, many young bands in McAllen and the surrounding Rio Grande Valley have been emboldened by this kind of recognition, offering their own takes on the Latinx experience, from the prog-metal stylings of DeZorah, to the indie-pop snark of Pinky Swear, to the nimble-tongued raps of Caldo Frio. Despite a deck stacked against them by geography, postcolonialism, and modern politics, the music scene in the Valley is more than just healthy—it’s thriving.

Pinky Swear: "Change for Me"
(Buy on Bandcamp)

Garcia points to Downtown Boys’ first McAllen show a couple of years ago as a flashpoint representative of already shifting attitudes. “People freaked out seeing a brown woman shouting ‘girls to the front,’” he says. “It was like, ‘Whoa, you’re loving us and telling us to take care of ourselves.’ It invigorated the community.”

The feeling is mutual. “You’re instantly contextualized—you can’t play here without knowing that you’re in McAllen,” says Downtown Boys vocalist Victoria Ruiz. “You’re able to see people who look like you, and they could be your cousin. It’s so hard to feel that context in a lot of other cities that we play.”

So as bands like Downtown Boys tour the country, or the world, they spread the gospel of McAllen as diehards like Garcia see it: A community and culture with more to offer than the two-dimensional narratives of crime and poverty that have proliferated on conservative outlets like Breitbart News, all the way up to the White House.

Downtown Boys at Dreams festival in McAllen, Texas. Piñatas by Josué Ramírez.

In the Rio Grande Valley, notions of heritage and pride often involve an undercurrent of assimilation that permeates everyday life. For a lot of families, achieving the American Dream means shedding much of the culture they left behind and adopting their new home’s language and ethos of white supremacy.

The assimilation may be driven by the innocuous intentions of a parent wanting a better life for their child, but it can foster a subconscious self-loathing that bands like Downtown Boys aim to obliterate as they chant brown pride anthems in Spanish, or when guitarist Joey DeFrancesco goes on a political rant onstage as Ruiz translates it into Spanish in real-time. The band’s arrival in the Valley seemed to dovetail with a burgeoning movement of young people in the scene looking to reconnect with these lost parts of their identity.

The traditional regional sounds of the Rio Grande Valley are loosely referred to as Conjunto, ranch music based around a Mexican 12-string acoustic bass guitar. It’s an ever-present part of life in the area, heard at quinceñeras, family barbecues, or even just in the street. Tejano music sprouted up after European immigrants—specifically from Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia—began to settle in south Texas in the mid 19th century, bringing with them their waltzes, polkas, and most importantly, accordions, which would become the style’s defining instrument.

Ask a young person in the Valley today what they think of Conjunto or Tejano music, though, and they’re unlikely to identify with it. But filmmakers Charlie Vela and Ronnie Garza hope to recontextualize the Valley’s music history with their new documentary, As I Walk Through the Valley, which traces the area’s musical spirit across genres and generations.

Tejano was very punk in its attitude,” says Garza. He goes on to explain how the style was employed as Chicanos in the Valley fought against corruption and marched for human rights in the 1970s. That rebelliousness has fueled independent music in the Valley for decades, through the punk, metal, and hardcore scenes of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, but despondent and bored young people in the area are often caught in cultural limbo, unaware that previous generations of kids built their own DIY scenes, and they could, too.

“Part of why we’re doing this project, is that we’re cut off from our own local history and narratives,” Vela says of his film. “They’re not taught in school, certainly. Young people are trying to connect with these things, but there’s no unbroken tradition. We’re just trying to piecemeal it together and find some sense of roots, and where they’re cut off.”

The U.S. side of the Rio Grande—a border wall can be seen in the distance.

Through events like Dreams, Garcia and others are also doing their part to build bridges from the past to the present when it comes to both grassroots music and activism, often using one to propel the other. The McAllen music scene was recently forced to organize to protect its very existence after a white, developer-friendly politician sought to ban outdoor amplified music and all-ages shows in the city’s 17th Street Entertainment District—a ban that would have killed live music at the Yerberia Cultura and, by association, Dreams. A campaign spearheaded by Garcia and veteran local musician Andres Sanchez collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to oppose the ordinance in a single day, ultimately forcing the city commission to back down and rescind it.

But other fights rage on. The same forces that keep people from traveling out of the Valley to see or play shows—poverty, geographical isolation, and the border patrol checkpoints on every road leading north and south—make it difficult to access healthcare services such as abortions, or to visit family or seek economic opportunity elsewhere. Some of the same kids screaming “She’s brown! She’s smart!” along with Victoria Ruiz at Dreams can be found escorting women to the sole clinic in the Valley that provides abortion services; some of the same people proclaiming that they’re “young, Latin, and proud” along with Roberto Lange at the Yerberia Cultura were also at an event earlier that day in nearby San Juan, Texas, where community leaders assembled by newly elected Rep. Vicente Gonzalez hosted a roundtable for Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi, directly speaking truth to power regarding issues of immigration, religious tolerance, and environmentalism.

Also in attendance at Dreams was Eduardo Canales of the South Texas Human Right Center. He works with law enforcement and local landowners to provide fresh water stations for the undocumented migrants seeking points north along the massive ranches and scrubland that divides the Valley from San Antonio. The bodies of those he can’t save—people that die from exposure or dehydration—he helps recover from private land in hopes of reuniting them with their families.

Few issues in South Texas are as charged, however, as access to affordable abortion services. After Texas passed a measure designed to result in the closure of the majority of abortion clinics in the state in 2013, the Whole Woman’s Health clinic on South Main Street in McAllen became the only remaining clinic providing services in the entire Valley—an area that covers almost 5,000 square miles and is home to more than 1.3 million people. Whole Woman’s Health argued the bill was unconstitutional, took their case to the Supreme Court, and won. But the damage was done—many of the clinics that closed have yet to reopen, and Texas’ assault on these clinics continues.

At the forefront of that fight in the Valley is South Texans for Reproductive Justice, an organization founded by activists Denni and Melissa Arjona that is committed to evolving the conversation around abortion to include factors of marginalization like poverty and citizenship status that disproportionately affect women of color. For the last few years, the Arjonas have organized a concert called Skank for Choice—featuring Denni’s band Los Skagaleros—to benefit La Frontera Fund, which helps provide practical support to Valley residents who are seeking abortions. Additionally, local Cathryn Torres, a staunch supporter of reproductive justice, produced a show called Justicia, promoting women in hardcore and benefitting La Frontera Fund.

McAllen’s lone remaining abortion clinic is often quite literally a battleground, with anti-choice activists maintaining a constant presence in the public spaces surrounding the building and posting massive signs within every possible sightline for patients arriving for appointments. The facility was closed when I visited, but a handful of protesters were still posted up out front, praying their rosaries.

It’s gotten so intense that in addition to hiring a security guard, the clinic built a literal wall in front of its doors, limiting the points of access to the facility. When the anti-choicers—typically led by leaders in the Roman Catholic community—mobilize on the clinic, the South Texans for Reproductive Justice puts together counter-actions to protect patients and employees of the clinic, often forming a human barrier.

Protestors stand outside of the Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen, even when the clinic is closed.

If there’s one organization that represents the intersectionality of the Valley’s progressive front, it’s the LGBTQ advocacy group Aquí Estamos, which has strong ties to the music scene and various activist organizations—and few members of Aquí Estamos embody this spirit better than Alexis Bay.

Bay, who prefers gender-neutral pronouns, is one of the few people I meet in the valley who is not Chicano; their family immigrated from Cuba through South Florida, and moved to the Valley when they were just 3 years old. They spend their days working at a nature center in one of the few preserved plots of wildlife in the area, teaching people about its old growth forests that predate colonialism; the Valley’s positioning as a migration highway makes it one of the premier birding destinations in America. Bay is also involved in the fight for reproductive justice and volunteered to assist South and Central American refugees. “There’s no separating these things, they’re very interwoven,” Bay says of the various organizations and causes she is a part of. “The Valley is a very beautiful quilt in that sense.”

Part of that quilt can seem contradictory, and one unavoidable intersection is the role of Roman Catholicism in the culture of the Valley: Members of Aquí Estamos often find themselves volunteering with members of the church at the Humanitarian Respite Center, only to find themselves on opposite sides of the picket line in the fight for reproductive justice. And beyond the awkwardness of working with someone who might hate you for your orientation or thoughts on abortion, there’s also the struggle of Catholicism’s looming role in identity, even for those in the Valley who aren’t religious.

“Even if you’re not Catholic, on some level, you’re still probably culturally Catholic—there’s still some imagery that invokes emotion or comfort,” says Bay. “If you go to other parts of the country, they’re more than happy to be like, ‘Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,’ [but here] you still meet Latinx folks that may have a rosary. It still means something to them.”

And though progressive activists of all stripes are making advances in the Valley, that’s not to say that Brown Pride has completely taken over: There are still Mexican-American Trump supporters in the area, perpetuating false narratives about themselves.

“It’s so strange,” Patrick Garcia admits. “It’s not that I can’t blame them, but when I look at it, I understand they’re in a system of poverty, and to them, success is wealth, and wealth is being offered via this candidate via the rhetoric of false freedom, so they’re going to lean towards that.”

Trump piñatas at a shop in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, just across the border.

But even if the wall has some supporters in the Valley, of all the activist fronts in the region, the fight for the dignity and human rights of undocumented immigrants seems to have the most solidarity: You can find Catholics, atheists, musicians, grandmas, and grandchildren among the ranks of those advocating for the cause. And it’s likely because many people don’t have to look back too far to find their connection to Mexico or points south, or have a friend, relative, or neighbor without papers. The ham-fisted narratives about drug-smuggling violent criminal immigrants are hard to swallow when you know plenty of normal, hard-working people whose only difference from you is a piece of paper.

For an undocumented musician, it’s especially heartbreaking; even as the Valley’s profile grows and the opportunities for local musicians expand beyond South Texas, without papers, the risk of being detained at a checkpoint is often too great to be able to take part.

Jesus Reazola is 31 years old and stands some six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a hulking frame that belies a soft-spoken nature. His friends call him Chuy, a common Mexican nickname for Jesus. He plays drums in the band Monstruo Bohemio and raps in a group called Caldo Frio with drummer Carmen Castillo. Castillo’s family hails from Reynosa, Mexico, McAllen’s sister city on the other side of the border, and they crossed when she was barely a year old; she’s since acquired legal resident status. Reazola has not.

Carmen Castillo and Jesus “Chuy” Reazola of the McAllen rap duo Caldo Frio.

Over tacos at his favorite restaurant in McAllen, Reazola tells me how his family fled from intense cartel violence in Monterrey, Mexico in the summer of 1998 when he was 11, just old enough to remember the journey into the U.S. While Reazola was still living in Monterrey, his mother would make frequent trips into the U.S. to work. (Before drug cartels monopolized the smuggling routes across the border, freelance coyotes—human smugglers that knew the safest routes to cross undetected—could get you across for a reasonable fee.) She told him how, while crossing the Rio Grande, she was swept up in a current and just narrowly escaped drowning, exhausting herself fighting the river’s strong current. “Don’t fight the river, it’s too strong,” she said. “Just float.” When they crossed as a family in 1998, the advice became a mantra: “Flota con el Rio.”

Years later, when Reazola was 26 and living in the U.S., he found himself at a party when a fight broke out, drawing the attention of law enforcement. He says that he was trying to break it up, but it didn’t matter—he was rounded up and taken to jail, and when his undocumented status was discovered, he was deported to Mexico, where he hadn’t lived since he was a child. Like a lot of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S., staying in Mexico wasn’t really an option for him; his life, job, friends, and much of his family were in the States.

But as the U.S. ramped up its war on drugs, and the smuggling routes became too valuable for the cartels to ignore, the independent coyotes were given a choice: Start working for the cartels, or else. Many chose to flee. People looking to cross without papers faced a similar dilemma: If they were discovered crossing without paying the cartel, they too faced reprisals. Unable to afford the few hundred dollars to pay the cartel, Reazola chose to risk his life crossing with a former coyote, who had fled to the U.S. rather than work for a cartel, crawling for hours to avoid detection. “I was in Mexico for less than 24 hours,” Reazola says. “Me and my friend crossed back as soon as we touched down in Mexico. We didn’t even eat that day.”

When they arrived at the Rio Grande crossing, his mother’s words came rushing back to him the moment he stepped into the water—wisdom that likely saved his life. The throughline of those experiences—Reazola mother’s perilous crossing, the family’s flight from Monterrey, and his mad dash back into the U.S. as an adult—became the basis for “Flota con el Rio,” the sixth track on Caldo Frio’s latest album, Aca en el Sur (Here in the South). It’s a bouncy rap song colored with strings and a somber acoustic guitar riff, peppered by Reazola’s rapid-fire flow; he speaks English well, but he raps in Spanish, his first language.

Caldo Frio: “Flota con el Rio”
(Buy on Bandcamp)

When Reazola first told me his story, I struggled with the responsibility of putting him at risk by sharing it publicly. But like many other undocumented immigrants in the U.S., he understands that in order to change policy, you must first change hearts and minds. Undocumented immigrants often struggle for the most basic dignity, for the right to move freely, to be recognized as human. Near the border, this results in a peculiar kind of detention—not in a camp or locked-down facility, but within the hundred-mile floodplain that makes up the Rio Grande Valley. With checkpoints all around, the risk of being deported is too great to justify even small trips—for an artist like Reazola, the idea of even traveling to Austin remains in the realm of fantasy. There can be no tour, no SXSW showcase, no exploration of the country he risked his life to reach.

Most of the people I speak with in the Rio Grande Valley are exhausted by the rhetoric of border politics and by national media presuming to speak for them. Some are even taking the issue into their own hands with Neta, an independent news source for, by, and of Valley residents, a place for their voices and stories to be heard, on their own terms. For musical diehards like Garcia, Vela, and Garza, the dream is for the music of the Valley to be recognized for its rich past, present, and future; for the South Texans for Reproductive Justice, the dream is for all people to have equal access to healthcare; for Reazola, the dream is merely to take his art beyond the confines of the low-lying scrublands that he now calls home. All of these are American Dreams, each one worth fighting for.


Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young


One of the giants of the jazz vibraphone has just released a fabulous new album—92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House (Whaling Cit Sound). It’s a stone-cold swinging killer. Every single track on here is out-of-control great, proving that true beauty never ages.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 8.45.04 PM

Gibbs’s recording career goes back to 1946, when he waxed 78s with Aaron Sachs’ Manor Re-bops, featuring Tiny Kahn on drums. For the next 71 years, Gibbs has played and recorded with virtually everyone of note. What has always set Gibbs apart is his high-octane energy and gorgeous sense of time. Like the late bassist Chubby Jackson, Gibbs has always had a wonderful, hip sense of humor and a pure-gut sense of what sounds amazing. As soon as you hear Gibbs’s maillots come down on the vibes’ steel keys, you know your ears are in great hands. There’s never any fat or chopped lived with Gibbs.


Among Gibbs’s career highlights are his years in Woody Herman’s Third Herd; the new Benny Goodman Sextet in the early 1950s; the Terry Gibbs Quartet with pianist Terry Pollard in the mid-’50s; all of his big band albums, particularly his Dream Band of the late 1950s and his many albums with Buddy DeFranco. And when Gibbs called his orchestra the Dream Band, here’s what he meant:


Al Porcino, Ray Triscari, Conte Candoli and Stu Williamson (tp); Bob Enevoldsen, Vern Friley and Joe Cadena (tb); Joe Maini and Charlie Kennedy (as); Bill Holman (ts,arr); Med Flory (ts); Jack Schwartz (bar); Pete Jolly (p); Terry Gibbs (vib); Max Bennett (b); Mel Lewis (d) and arrangers Marty Paich, Manny Albam, Sy Johnson, Al Cohn and Bob Brookmeyer.

That was his live recording at Hollywood’s "Seville" in March 1959. There were around six albums in all.


Gibbs’s new quartet album features John Campbell on piano, Mike Gurrola on bass and son Gerry Gibbs on drums. It’s a perfect ensemble. Campbell’s swinging, elegant keyboard fires up Gibbs while Gerry keeps superb time and Gurolla plays a smart, solid upright. Age is meaningless when you listen to Gibbs. The guy sounds as if he’s 40 years old on here. Which isn’t bad considering he retired nearly two years ago.

Here’s how Gibbs ran the recording session, from his liner notes for the album:


"We played some, went out back by the pool, had some sandwiches, told stories and laughed, came back and recorded a few more songs. We did this for four days and recorded 32 songs. No playbacks. I would ask about a song and we would play. All in one take. It was really an old fashioned jam session. By the third day, we actually had a band that I wish I was young enough to travel and play with."

That’s Gibbs. Like pal Chubby Jackson, Gibbs was born ready.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Terry Gibbs’s 92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House (Whaling City Sound) here.

It’s also on Spotify.

JazzWax clips: Here’s Back Home Again in Indiana. Dig Gibbs’s touch!

Back Home in Indiana



Wrath of Belial – Bloodstained Rebellion Review

Wrath of Belial - Bloodstained RebellionOne of the coolest things about writing for Angry Metal Guy is the chance of discovering a great new band. Sure, getting new music from your favorite bands earlier than everyone else is an awesome thing in and of itself, but nothing beats getting blindsided by an up-and-coming group of youngin’s chomping at the bit to be seen and heard. Denmark’s Wrath of Belial are those chompin’ youngin’s. With little to go by, except a very sparse Facebook page and a short bio describing their sound as thrash and death metal “that move(s) from frantic riffs to grandiose melodic passages and neck-breaking grooves,” I approached their debut, Bloodstained Rebellion, with equal parts curiosity and trepidation. The last time I bought into a “melodic death metal” album from a band I knew little about, it left me more than a little cold.

Thankfully, my worries went unfounded, as it’s melodic, it’s death metal, and this fucker’s got teeth to bare. Opener “Traitors” blasts forth with all the fury of early The Black Dahlia Murder, especially in the drumming of Jacob “Tormentor” Jørgensen. Kasper Hornstrup’s acidic mid-range screams and deep growls add to this vibe, sounding like Trevor Strnad but with more restraint. But what elevates this song above that influence lies with the incredible fretwork of guitarists Jonas Thomsen and Henrik Isaksen, whose chorus riffs remind me of Soilwork‘s The Chainheart Machine. Tasteful melodies, soaring leads, and memorable hooks ensure that the song remains embedded into your skull long after it ends. In fact, it took a long time for me to listen to the rest of the album because “Traitors” straight-up owned my headphones for a solid week.

Once I managed to come to grips that Bloodstained Rebellion contains ten more songs, I was relieved to find that many of them matched the opener’s intensity and talent, and in some parts exceeded it. “Set Sails for the End of the World,” possesses one helluva sick, infectious groove. “Battleborn” soars with one of the most effective leads I’ve heard all year, all while retaining its savage riffing and groove. The off-kilter drumming in “Aftermath of a Tyrant” catches your ear and drags you around by it for the song’s duration. Even this early on, Wrath of Belial showcase a knack for memorable songs.

Wrath of Belial 2017
That’s not to say that they’re all flawless, however. “Mirror Fiend” and “Reborn Through Your Demise,” while both great songs suffer from outstaying their welcome. Likewise, closer “Next Chapter of Enslavement,” while a good song, doesn’t hit the same elevated (and brutal) heights that precede it. Also, due to the loudness of the recording, Anders Stegmann’s bass remains firmly in the back seat, not once poking its head out to make itself known. Finally, it sometimes feels like Wrath of Belial are a little too close to their inspirations. But if you’re going to emulate your heroes, I can think of far worse bands to pull from.

Once again, I go into an album with little-to-no expectations, and I walk away with something new to enjoy and throw down to. I felt a little let down by Mors Principium Est‘s newest, but Bloodstained Rebellion soothed that disappointment considerably. I can’t wait to hear more from Wrath of Belial, as their debut is absolutely vicious and worth your while.1

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2017

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Baba Stiltz Brings the Best of Swedish Disco on “Can’t Help It”

The 22-year old Swede Baba Stiltz has a peculiar background, befitting of the strange dance songs he composes. He studied for nearly six years at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, and he grew up in the same housing complex as the rapper Yung Lean’s go-to producer Yung Sherman, which put him in the orbit of the bizarre world of Swedish hip-hop. And he’s the rising star in Axel Boman’s Studio Barnhus label, which is known for its colorful roster of wonky and funky house producers. His off-kilter tracks float freely between eras and styles, swimming through hip-hop, R&B, techno, and disco all at once. His latest tune, “Can’t Help It,” is the proof in this unlikely pudding of a musical history.

The song is a study in contradicting textures and moods. From the onset, its primary parts of a shuffling drum machine rhythm and bright blips of synth melody, feel cool to the touch, metallic and mechanical. But the song never gets robotic, and Stiltz is able to make these frigid computerized touches feel soulful and groovy. The sound of an engine revving up at the track’s start or these little burps of MIDI horns and festive handclaps that populate the middle, all sound fun and cute. When Stiltz’s vocals enter, late into the song, he mimics Arthur Russell’s tinny, atonal singing—delivering sad, sweet lines about being selfish, but still feeling an aching love for someone. It they’re listening, this should be powerful enough to bring them back.


Concert Review: Happyness, May 23, The Garrison


It’s a bit of a shame that London band Happyness played to a somewhat sparse crowd at the Garrison on Tuesday night – perhaps it was the fact that it was a Tuesday, or that there were several other concert options to choose from throughout the city that night, or maybe it had something to do with the somewhat last minute venue change. Whatever the reason, they put on a solid show regardless, playing a mix of songs from their two full lengths as well as last year’s Tunnel Vision On Your Part EP.

The band is touring behind their new album Write In, which sees them expanding their sound while still retaining the basic core. The Pavement/Wilco/Teenage Fanclub influences heard on their debut Weird Little Birthday are still evident but the new album sees them expanding their sound with a bit more melodicism coming through and a broader range of sounds and influences coming into the mix.

Referring to themselves as three and a half English boys who were far from home, (the “half” being the auxiliary fourth member Paul Abderrahim, who’s French) Happyness focused mostly on the music, leaving the stage banter to a minimum other than a few slightly awkward (though still quite humorous) comments throughout the earlier half of their set. Towards the end though, they opened up a bit more, telling a funny story involving Win Butler and their show in Montreal the previous night before launching into their Butler-referencing set closer “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere.” Apparently they got a bit psyched up when they spotted the Arcade Fire frontman entering the venue and were convinced he was there to check them out. As singer/guitarist/bassist Jon EE Allan put it though, the story ended more like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm than anything else, with Butler apparently leaving five minutes before they took the stage. Oh well. At least they got a cool story out of it.

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Music Sounds Better in a Fast Car—Here’s Why

Music Sounds Better in a Fast Car—Here’s Why

We all have our favorite places for listening to music. For some, it might be between a pair of headphones, for casual distraction during the daily routine or to get lost in a quiet corner of the living room. For others, it might be an arena, a bar, or a dance club. In bedrooms, music can infiltrate our dreams as we drift asleep, while audiophiles might prefer sitting down in front of a painstakingly assembled hi-fi system.

Almost everyone, though, has probably had a meaningful experience listening to music in a car. There’s a romance to it, especially on sunny days or starry nights. Whether it’s absorbing a full concept album on a long road trip, or just zoning out to a particular pop hit on a quick jaunt, listening to music in cars has a way of focusing us. It leaves lasting memories. It takes us somewhere.

The transportative quality of blasting Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar” from the car stereo on the first summery day of the year may be easy to take for granted. But science tells us our brains have something to do with the extra enjoyment.

To be clear, scientists haven’t studied the aesthetics of hearing Drake’s “Passionfruit” over the car radio versus on the home stereo, at least not directly. “You can’t have a fast car and loud music at an MRI machine, which is extremely loud anyway,” explains Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and author of Idiot Brain: What Your Head Is Really Up To, not unreasonably. But over Skype from Cardiff, Wales, he cheerfully shares his theories behind the phenomenon.

First, it’s helpful to know the brain generally likes music that stimulates our auditory centers, activating memory and emotions. Beyond that, research has shown that it likes novelty—but also predictability. So there’s a clash: “Something’s got to be new, but not scary-new,” Burnett says.

Take syncopation. The brain doesn’t really respond to a very regular, consistent rhythm, like in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At the other end of the scale, however, the brain also has problems with completely random music, such as John Coltrane’s posthumous 1974 album Interstellar Space, which a recent study pointed out. But when the level of rhythmic complexity is between those two extremes, people react and want to dance; perfectly, the same study cited James Brown’s “Funky Drummer.”

In a fast car, there’s already a lot of predictable background noise caused by the hum of an engine, which shifts your brain’s baseline slightly, making you particularly apt to absorb the novelty of music. “It’s a providing a useful comparison to the actual music, to make you more reactive to it,” Burnett says of the steady vroom.

Another possibility involves what’s known as “excitation displacement,” which is what happens when we watch horror movies or ride roller coasters. Your brain thinks you’re going to die, and there’s a giddy rush of adrenaline: a fight-or-flight response. “When you’re in that state, your brain is really sensitized,” Burnett notes. “It’s much more responsive to stimuli.” So anything that can feed off of that danger, like loud music, will seem comparatively more exciting, because the brain is already in an excited state. “You’re not just sat at home, in a comfy arm chair,” he adds. “You’re traveling at 80 miles an hour, and the brain goes, ‘I’m really excited—and that’s also an exciting thing, let’s do that!’” Driving fast gets our brains all fired up, and music is the collateral damage.

Beyond those theories, when you’re listening to music in a car, the brain is trying to integrate a plethora of sensory information, including a lower-level vibration along with the signs and lights offering visual context on the other side of the windshield. So that ongoing attempt to put everything together could also be an excuse for wanting to sing along way too loudly to Justin Bieber’s hook on “I’m the One” while zipping on the expressway.

Finally, there’s an emotional component. On the road, there can be a sense of freedom, of control. That’s a positive thing, and the brain will associate that feeling of power with the music playing. “Then, if you’re out with friends, it goes, ‘Cool, that’s our music,’” Burnett says. “If you’re on the run from the police, maybe it will be a bit more of a negative association. You wouldn’t like that song so much, but hopefully that’s more of a rare occurrence for most people.” Listen in a fast car, maybe, but not too fast.


Avatarium – Hurricanes and Halos Review

I had no idea this album was even happening until late Friday evening. It arrived in the Promo Department and Madam X sent a minion scurrying to my stately offices inquiring if I was expecting something new from Avatarium. After said minion was soundly whipped for making eye contact and disturbing my righteous Steelsleep, I reflected on the question. Having heard nothing whatsoever of a new album I assumed it was just an EP, remix or some such nonsense. Not so, as it’s actually the third album of bluesy, 70s influenced quasi-doom rock from Candlemass founder Leif Edling and company. That’s a pretty big deal around the AMG offices, because to date Avatarium has done no wrong, starting life as a folksy doom band, then morphing into a 70s rock monster. Hurricanes and Halos continues the evolution, following Opeth down the rabbit hole into 70s psychedelic prog rock. The moments that qualify as doom are now few, but the material is still heavy in its own way and the band has a charm that’s tough to resist, even when they explore sounds far afield from their doom roots.

The album certainly opens with a bang, as “Into the Fire – Into the Storm” charges hard with a Deep Purple-esque guitar and Hammond organ assault. Songbird Jennie-Ann Smith’s sultry, jazz club vocals soar over the urgent rock to deliver a snappy and simple chorus, and the guitar solos conjure the glory days of Rainbow. This makes for an instantly likable dose of 70s doom rock, light on the doom. The truly interesting material begins with “Road to Jerusalem” – a folksy, jaunty, Middle Eastern flavored number with a bouncy swagger, beautiful vocals from Mrs. Smith and gorgeous guitar-work on tap throughout. The extended guitar jams are a joy and it’s a great little number full of atmosphere and mood.

The album centerpiece is the nine-minute epic “Medusa’s Child,” and it’s pretty unusual creature, leaping between quasi-doom and strange Jefferson Airplane-styled weirdness with Jennie joined by creepy children’s sing-alongs. It feels a bit long in the snake after a spell, but the inspired keyboard and guitar jams are worth the price of admission. The album’s best material arrives late with “The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea” which could have wandered off a Hellwell album. It’s a herky-jerky, schizophrenic mess with crazy organ runs and a generally mushroom addled vibe. Jennie completely owns the chorus and her powerful voice offers a firm guide rope through the tumultuous prog-rock extravaganza. Imagine Ann Wilson of Heart jamming with Yes and Genesis and you’re in the general ballpark.

The album standout for my money is “A Kiss (From the End of the World),” which is a mammoth, olde-timey doom nugget recalling the classic Dio-era Sabbath platters. The heavy riffs feel very welcome after an album nearly devoid of them, and Jennie gives her best performance on a simple but powerhouse chorus. It has a sad, forlorn feeling1 and to my ears it almost sounds like a response to Sabbath‘s “Lonely is the Word.”

At a trim 44 minutes, Hurricanes is an easy listen despite a few long cuts. However, I’m not overly enamored with how it closes out on the mostly-ambient instrumental title track. It comes across like a mix of the Clockwork Orange soundtrack and a graduation march, and ends an interesting, eclectic album on a bland note.

As with every Avatarium release, Jennie-Ann Smith’s vocals are the main attraction. She has a warm, lovely voice, capable of real power and a smokey, nightclub purr. No matter where the music goes she is able to fit in and own her surroundings. She reminds me a lot of Ann Wilson and she adds gravitas and charisma to whatever the band comes up with. Soen guitarist Marcus Jidell once again impresses with all sorts of 70s rock stylings, showing his affinity for psychedelic and prog rock while never dragging the music too far from a given song’s logical path. His solos on tracks like “Road to Jerusalem” and “Medusa’s Child” are wonderfully tripped out and he plays with a lot of emotion and feeling. The keyboard wizardry of Carl Westholm (ex-Candlemass) also deserve praise, as it bathes the material in a thick coat of 70s rock glory. There’s a lot of Jon Lord in his playing, and a fair amount of Ray Manzarek too.

Hurricanes and Halos finds Avatarium very comfortable in their own skin doing whatever they want creatively, and I admire that. It isn’t as powerful a collection of songs as their debut or The Girl With the Raven Mask, but it’s another impressive showcase for the talents of those involved. Highly recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 275 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast [NA][EU]
Websites: | f
Releases Worldwide: May 26th, 2017

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The Dance Music Trends to Keep You Moving This Summer

The Dance Music Trends to Keep You Moving This Summer

The song of the summer is an elusive beast under any circumstances, and in dance music, it is even slipperier. A true song of the summer is a pop phenomenon, for one thing. It requires consensus, the knowledge that on beaches and in cars from coast to coast, people are playing the same song and feeling the same thing—even if it’s just thinking, “Now this, this is the song of the summer.”

Dance music has no such monoculture. Not only is dance music split by the all-but-unbridgeable divide between commercial EDM and everything else, it’s split into a bazillion fractions and overlapping factions based on geography, demographics, history, stylistic quirks, tribal allegiance, petty grievances. To come up with one song that would satisfy all those constituencies, you’d have to be Prince, Donna Summer, or Michael Jackson in their primes. And that ain’t happening.

So instead of trying to place our chips on a single song or artist, let’s think instead in terms of community—because what is dance music if not an expression of a collective spirit? To that end, we’ve highlighted one label, one sound, and one festival trend, all of which sum up the best of dance music for summer ’17.

Hot Sound: Back to the Jungle

Nostalgia for the golden age of rave has been creeping back into dance music for years now, often bubbling to the surface in breakbeat form. Think of Special Request’s hardcore flashbacks, Zomby’s and Lone’s respective rave throwbacks, or Four Tet’s paean to pirate radio. Lately, references to classic jungle have been seeping even deeper into house and techno’s firmament. Burial’s mournful fixation upon the “distant light” of yesterday’s underground has mellowed, and today a wide swath of the dance music scene basks in vintage jungle’s rosy glow.

What’s interesting is the way that jungle, long walled off by tempo and rhythmic cadence from other corners of dance music, has broken back through into contexts where you never used to hear it. Why is this happening now? Waning tribalism probably has something to do with it; YouTube-savvy clubbers who are accustomed to having the whole history of dance music at their fingertips are less likely to be dogmatic about tropes and tempos than the genre purists of yore. And then, on a simpler level, breakbeats simply sound great, particularly when slowed down, and they provide a welcome respite from long stretches of four-to-the-floor. This is especially true come summertime, when jungle’s pulse-quickening rhythms only add to the general air of giddy euphoria.


You can hear it all over the place. DJ Sports’ “World” tips its hat to the liquid soul of LTJ Bukem, Peshay, and Alex Reece, but subs in the Danish producer’s own beats in place of classic breaks—a move similar to those heard on SW.’s untitled 2016 album, wherein the German artist drizzled new age keys over broken-beat grooves. Bristol native Shanti Celeste pays tribute to her hometown’s drum ‘n’ bass tradition with her upcoming single “Make Time.” Physical Therapy turns sharply away from the bare-knuckled techno of his recent releases, sinking into pneumatic breaks and dreamy keys on “More Sugar.” That house-tempo revamp of breakbeat hardcore is in keeping with Polish producer the Phantom’s gorgeous remix of Photonz’s “Parque de Liberdade” last year, which went all-in on easy-listening piano and ersatz sax melodies. If sunset beach parties came packaged in aerosol cans, they’d come out smelling exactly like that Photonz remix.

You hear the jungle revival in mixes, too. Last year, lo-fi househead Mall Grab dug into his collection and came up with an entrancing mix of classic jungle tunes pitched down to where they felt woozy and watery; in a brain-melting recent set, Avalon Emerson takes a pause from house and techno to indulge a hands-in-the-air passage of exuberant breaks. And Call Super’s Fabric 92 nodded obliquely toward the breakbeat tradition with cuts from Photek and Two Full Minds, too.


Expect to hear plenty more of the sound this summer, from the beaches of Croatia to the rocky crags of British Columbia. As summer sounds go, a well-placed breakbeat is as refreshing as it gets: It’s the lime in the coconut, the bubbles in the spritz, the sand between your toes.

Hot Label: Stockholm’s Studio Barnhus

Places that routinely endure brutal winters know how to make the most out of the summer. Take Stockholm, where every weekend from May to September, unpermitted outdoor parties spring up across the city’s outskirts like mushrooms after a heavy rain. “Basically, you get in a cab in the city center and go 15 minutes in any direction, and you’ll end up in the archipelago or an enchanted forest,” says Kornél Kovács, one of the co-founders of Stockholm’s Studio Barnhus.

It’s not hard to see how Stockholm’s unbridled summer spirit has influenced the Barnhus crew, which also includes co-founders Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist, aka Pedrodollar. A certain strain of insouciant quirk has been an essential part of the label’s identity ever since their first release, the 2010 mini-compilation Good Children Make Bad Grownups, and over the past seven years, they’ve grown up as childishly as possible, with a cheerfully DGAF attitude that has resulted in one of the most inspired catalogs in house and techno.

No two releases are alike, though all share a mixture of misty-eyed sentiment—squishy synth pads, melancholy samples, romantic declarations—and genially off-the-wall humor. The latter might manifest in a druggy Italo-disco reference, a low-riding Foreigner/Mariah Carey cover, or even a totally unabashed sample of one of the biggest reggae crossover hits ever, cut with a few lines of Eazy-E, because why not?

Listening to the entire Barnhus catalog on shuffle, which you can do via their Spotify playlist above, feels a little bit like flipping through snapshots from the best summer ever. Sometimes the vibes are decidedly vintage: Mount Liberation Unlimited’s “Double Dance Lover” cues up chipmunk soul over conga-line breaks; Pedrodollar’s “Theme Song” might be a scratchy jazz 78 you found in the attic of someone’s beach house. Elsewhere, they flash back on the glory days of dance music. Carli’s “Lights & Strobes” evokes Eurodance at its most ecstatic, while Your Planet Is Next gets straight to the point on the hip-house anthem, “Do You Wanna Freak”: “Do you wanna pop some pills/Do you want cheap thrills/Do you wanna go real hard/Or do you wanna chill?” The artist born Arvid Wretman might just be talking about a 7” Harald Björk put out on the label in 2015. On the A-side, he remakes Derrick May’s summer-rave staple “Strings of Life” as a blippy chiptune miniature, while the flipside features a beatless synth etude, clear as a mountain stream, suffused in birdsong. The title? “Summer Anthem,” of course.

Hot Event: Going Back to Nature

If the Fyre Festival fiasco taught us anything—well, besides the fact that American cheese and iceberg lettuce on Wonder Bread does not constitute a “meal”—it’s that many people have tired of the obvious entertainment options, and they’re willing to go to extreme lengths to find something new. Many are looking for a different kind of musical experience: smaller, less hectic, and, to be frank, more conducive to taking acid without risk of a bad trip. At the opposite end of the spectrum than the Fyre crowd—you know, those impressed by supermodels’ derrieres, exclusive-sounding VIP packages, and Major Lazer—you’ll find a growing set that prefers communal vibes in a bucolic setting, soundtracked by left-field electronic music.

The idea goes back to the underground raves and free parties of the late ’80s, and some of the most iconic destinations in the current crop of alternative festivals date back to the ’90s. Fusion Festival, an annual experiment in “holiday communism” since ’97, aims to create techno’s utopian “parallel society” on the grounds of a former Russian airbase in rural northern Germany. Nachtdigital, also founded 20 years ago, brings weirdo house, techno, and ambient—including Jeff Mills, Aurora Halal, Matias Aguayo, and Kara-Lis Coverdale this year—to a lakeside sleepaway camp outside Leipzig.

The upstate New York grounds of Sustain-Release, which asks not to be called a festival. (Photo by Kayla Waldorf)

Fortunately, you don’t need to go all the way to Europe for events like these. Sustain-Release, now in its fourth year, takes over a summer camp in the Catskills for three days, combining top-shelf house and techno—previous artists include DJ Sprinkles, Lena Willikens, Optimo, and Honey Dijon—with a “positive, communal attitude” free of “sexism, racism, homophobia, aggressive behavior, and bad vibes.” And for those who really want to get away from it all, this June sees the launch of Shaker Mountain, a mountaintop fest in upstate New York featuring underground New York DJs (Galcher Lustwerk, Yaeji, Working Women), camping, and complimentary meals prepared from produce grown on-site.

Many of these events go to great lengths to distance themselves from mainstream festival culture. Fusion refrains from publishing lineups beforehand, believing that the DJs’ identities are secondary to the communal experience. (“Holiday communists” they may be, but Fusion’s organizers remain pragmatists, however: “Sure, you will find show dates on the websites of some artists,” they helpfully acknowledge.) Terraforma, held in the woods of Villa Arconati outside Milan, aims to “reduce the distance between life and art” with a mixture of experimental music (GAS, Suzanne Ciani, Donato Dozzy), talks and workshops, sustainable architecture, and eco-friendly waste management. Waking Life, which debuts in Portugal’s Northern Alentejo this summer, also combines experimental techno with a minimized environmental footprint. Beloved Welsh festival Freerotation, which evolved out of a free-party collective in the early ’00s, is a non-profit, members-only affair, making its pastoral setting and top-notch lineup (including Objekt, Ben UFO, and RAMZi) all the more tantalizing.

Even more mainstream acts are blazing new trails in this arena, as artist-curated festivals continue to rise across the live music industry. In July, the xx will host the third installment of their Night + Day series, a traveling festival previously held in Lisbon, Berlin, and Brixton. They pair acts with broad pop appeal—Earl Sweatshirt, Sampha, the xx themselves—with leftfield dance types like Hunee, Call Super, Avalon Emerson, Axel Boman, and Robag Wruhme. The whole thing takes place at Skógafoss, a waterfall carved into the cliffs of Iceland’s former coastline. If you were looking for a fitting symbol of the spirit of rejuvenation running through the most adventurous festivals right now, you couldn’t do better than the site’s verdant expanse of spongy moss and boundless rainbows.