If you're feeling tired of your local concert hall, or you fancy combining a trip with some world-class music, you may want to consider one of these truly memorable music holidays, from Rough Guides' Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth.
For a dose of raw-edged nightlife, head up to the rooftop terrace at the down-at-heel Hôtel de Crèche, near Rond-Pont Victoire: live bands play here most nights. Meanwhile in Gombe Commune, the more salubrious central district, well-heeled locals and expats pack out the dancefloor at Chez Ntemba, an after-midnight club. If you want to catch a big-name band, see the local press – near the Congo River, the swish Grand Hôtel Kinshasa and Halle de la Gombe sometimes host stars such as Werra Son, Youssou N’Dour and Papa Wemba, all of whom cite Franco as a formative influence.
Kinshasa’s live music venues include Hôtel de Crèche, Chez Ntemba, Grand Hôtel Kinshasa, and Halle de la Gombe (www.ccf-kinshasa.org).
The bars start emptying out after midnight, when queues start to form at clubs such as BO18 and Sky Bar. BO18 is in a converted bunker, and when the sun rises over the Mediterranean, the roof peels back and the party steps up a gear. The open-air Sky Bar, meanwhile, has a 360-degree view of the city lights, framed by the mountains and the never-ending shoreline and patronized by Armani-clad, Hummer-driving playboys. It may all feel a little too cool for school, but Beirut can rival London or New York on a good day.
Live music is guaranteed on weekends and could come from gnarled white country boys with one battered slide guitar, dungarees and a ZZ Top-esque beard, or from nattily attired black bluesmen armed with electric guitars, drums and bass. Red’s, on the outskirts of Clarksdale in a residential area straight out of The Wire, and Po’Monkey’s, located in a field a few miles from Merigold, are patronized by an eclectic mixture of predominantly local characters. Expect to embrace conversation with music lovers, beer swillers and tall-tale tellers.
Juke joints don’t tend to have websites, phones or set opening hours. For the most up-to-date information on what’s on in the various venues in the Delta, call the “Cat Head” music and crafts store in Clarksdale on +1 662-624-5992.
It’s best to arrive in Montego Bay a week or so before the event – held in late July or early August – and head for the beach to rid yourself of that fresh-off-the-plane pallor, and to attend pre-festival events: the Blast-Off beach party on the Sunday before the festival starts, and the Monday street Party with DJs and outdoor jams. Once the festival is under way, the island’s stage shows start late, carry on until dawn and involve some serious audience participation. And it’s doubtful you’ll find a better high than standing under the stars in a grassy bowl by the Caribbean with the music echoing out over the bay.
The official festival website (www.reggaesumfest.com) has full details.
In many ways, the Fuji Rock festival will be familiar to any seasoned Western festival-goer. Major international acts headline stadium-scale stages, and smaller local bands play anything from Japanese drumming to experimental electronica at fringe locations. There’s unexpected downpours, and impossibly early mornings as the sun turns your tent into an oven. But all of this comes wrapped with the charms of Japanese culture, both softening and enriching the experience.
This music holiday kicks off with a bon-odori folk dance. The happy crowd honours the ancestors by stomping in a circle around a drummer, raising and lowering their hands. When the festival proper gets underway, food and drink stalls line all the main routes between the stages, but there’s more sushi than burgers on the menus. There’s alchohol, of course, but as well as beer stands, there are sake stalls where you can sample a variety of rice wines you’d never see outside Japan. Despite all the drinking, there’s no aggression, and a warm welcome for the occasional foreigners.
Fuji Rock (www.smash-uk.com) is in mid-July each year. There are (expensive) ski-resort hotels for the less camping-inclined. If you’re camping, try to get there as early as possible to find a (rare) flat pitch.
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