April 6, 2010
Aside from driving along with the windows down, perhaps the best way to experience music is right out in the open, with a cool drink and the sun (or stars) above you. Even rain and wind can be preferable to the sweaty claustrophobic environs of many indoor locations and often adds some welcome drama.
Your run-of-the-mill summer festivals are nice, but the ultimate, most memorable musical encounters are those in truly breathtaking surroundings. Places you have to travel to, places so awe inspiring, they make the music no matter how loud it already is, bigger. Here are just five of the open air venues on our hitlist:
With its vast and varied landscapes, the United States has more than its fair share of impressive outdoor settings. Immortalised in videos by a multitude of artists from U2 to Stevie Nicks, the king of open-air spots is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Set in one of the great Mountain Parks, this is somewhere anyone with a passion for the great outdoors should visit with or without the aural accompaniment.
Formed around 290 million years ago, it seems as if the forces of nature “built” the venue, with its incredible acoustics, for the very purpose it is used for today. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that its true potential was tapped and it has gone on to become arguably the world’s most beautiful place to rock. You’d be hard pressed to find a better way to top off a tour of this area of the great American wilderness. Be sure to take a cushion though!
If for some reason the arid, red and ancient feel of Red Rocks isn’t your thing, Washington state offers a greener, more pastoral idyll in The Gorge. The stunning views of the surrounding mountains and mighty Columbia River make for a dream setting for hearing your favourites. You might not even be bothered about seeing the band once you witness what’s all around you. The Gorge is virtually always blessed with good weather, so your place on the lovely lawn terrace is (almost) guaranteed to offer a comfortable, dry bum experience. What we imagine attending a concert in heaven might be like.
Not exactly a natural amphitheatre like those above, this dazzling site in central Sweden is situated within a former limestone quarry and even has a “moat” between the seats and stage. Surrounded by pine forest and not far from the magnificent Lake Siljan (which has its own annual festival), Dalhalla rests in the heart of the beautiful Dalarna region, which is popular with holidaying Swedes. Appropriately for the elegant, tranquil environment, the venue’s programme tends to concentrate on opera, choral and jazz, but there are frequent pop tribute events too.
If you like your pop really popular and are prepared for Ireland’s unpredictable weather, County Meath’s Slane Concert is a worthwhile once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. The grounds of Slane Castle form a natural amphitheatre that can seat 100,000, but this is a world away from the comparably sized organic arenas of the States. Yes, it’s essentially just a field, but it’s a field with a historic castle in a breathtaking valley, with green as far as the eye can see.
A Slane Concert for 2010 is looking unlikely, but the Boyne Valley is an epic experience with or without the likes of Oasis or U2. With easy access from Dublin, the region has way more than its fair share of ruins, battlegrounds and mysterious monuments, including the prehistoric World Heritage site of BrÃº na BÃ³inne.
Looking for something a little more adventurous? There are probably few things that could improve a Malaysian holiday that takes in some of the world’s best beaches, trekking the magnificent Mount Santubong and viewing Orang-utans in their home environment, but swaying to global rhythms practically in the jungle might just do it. The annual three-day Rainforest World Music Festival is staged at Borneo’s ‘living museum’ of Sarawak Cultural Village and brings together musicians and visitors from every continent for what must surely rank as one of the world’s most memorable parties.