Feb 7th, 2019, 02:35 PM

Summer 2019 Music Festivals: Escaping the Mainstream

By Ramsey Daunch
Main Stage at Splendour in the Grass. Image credit: Flickr/kimbleton
Take a unique departure from the usual summer festival scene.

Looking to go off the beaten path this summer? In a saturated environment dominated by mega-brands, it's refreshing to find that there are plenty of music festivals that cater to those in search of a more unique experience. Whether you're in search of an original lineup, location, or theme, there's a festival for practically every interest. With lineups being released and tickets going on sale soon, the time is now to start getting inspired. Here are five of the more underrated and off-the-radar festivals of Summer 2019:


Montreal, Quebec (August 4-6)

3-Day Pass: $320 (CAD)



A post shared by osheaga (@osheaga) on


Despite its relative anonymity outside of Canada, Osheaga has evolved from humble beginnings in 2006 into a premier music festival boasting lineups which rival any other in terms of big-name artists. Setting up camp in Parc Jean-Drapeau next to the famous Biosphere on the St Lawrence River, Osheaga boasts three days of varied performances within an incredible thematic set of stages.

While the headliners include artists including The Weeknd, Post Malone, and Travis Scott, supporting artists include names like Quinn XCII, BROCKHAMPTON, Kali Uchis, Toro Y Moi and more. Flitting between stages is easy within the island venue, and festival-goers needing a break from the packed crowds of the main performances can find respite within the Coors Light sponsored glass greenhouse DJ set, or explore the disorienting floating stage which is quite literally built on water.

Outside of the festival, Montreal in August is absolutely vibrant. Perfect temperatures bring out the best of this Euro-Canadian metropolis, and activities exist for those of any inclination. Try a daytime bike ride to the top of scenic Mount Royal, or explore the old city with its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. For the party-seekers, you can always follow the crowds after Osheaga's headliners have performed straight to St-Laurent Street and head into the bars and clubs that seem to emerge en masse after dark.

Iceland Secret Solstice

Reykjavik, Iceland (June 21-23)

3-Day Pass: €117.27 


A post shared by Secret Solstice (@secretsolstice) on


During the summer solstice on June 21, the North Pole will be tilted towards the sun to its furthest extent. During this natural phenomenon, Reykjavik (Iceland's capital) will experience an astonishing 96 straight hours of continuous effective sunlight. This beautiful natural occurrence sets the stage for the iconic "Secret Solstice" music festival, where crowds party non-stop for three days.

With a heavily UK/European-influenced lineup, Secret Solstice is a stark departure from the traditional acts found at most marquee festivals around the world. This June, artists will include those such as Martin Garrix, Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters, Rita Ora, Foreign Beggars, Pussy Riot, MK, Boy Pablo, Svala, and a broad range of electronic and indie performers.

But forget the festival for a moment, this is Iceland, home of the Vikings, land of the geothermal springs, and government of the subsidized tourist industry. Reykjavik is a certified bucket-list destination, and nowhere else in the world will you find such a unique blend of music-related debauchery and stunning scenes.


Arcosanti, Arizona (May 10-12)

3-Day Pass: $379


A post shared by FORM (@form) on


Be warned: FORM isn't your traditional mosh-pitting, binge-drinking, radio-headliner featuring music festival. In the words of the creators, FORM is a "creative retreat at the Arcosanti urban laboratory - 3 days of music, art, ideas, architecture, wellness, nature & community." It's hard to put a finger on what exactly FORM is because it's just that abstract. While pulling in artists such as Anderson Paak, Florence + The Machine, Kaytranada, and Skrillex, the festival manages to break down the barriers between audience and performer. This event has an intimate environment where artistry and creativity are celebrated rather than consumerism and mainstream musical performance.

It used to be an even stranger experience - the festival has evolved greatly since its inception in 2014. For one, FORM used to be significantly more exclusive, forcing potential audience members to fill out an application describing their social networks and significant creative and collaborative exploits. They've expanded the festival's maximum attendance from a paltry 800 to over 2000 and started tapping more well-known artists searching for earnest creative exposure in between their cookie-cutter major festival sets. Of all the festivals on this list, FORM very well might boast the "purest" musical experience. It subscribes to the notion that live music is more than simply showing up and listening by creating an environment conducive to artistic expression. 

Beyond the music itself, festival-goers can camp at night within the nearby canyons of Arcosanti, enjoy moderately priced and delicious festival food, partake in sunrise yoga classes, and much more. Look around closely enough while you're watching an artist perform, and you might just find the artist from a previous act watching with you!

Great Wall Festival

Beijing, China (May 18-19)

2-Day Pass: ¥700


A post shared by Great Wall Festival (@greatwallfestival) on


With the most exotic location of this list, the Great Wall Festival occurs every summer on the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China, around one hour north of the capital of Beijing. The festival features a wide-ranging electronic music lineup against the beautiful backdrop of the incredibly scenic Great Wall. Only two artists for 2019 have been announced at this point (Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann), however, in 2018 the festival included artists such as Nina Kraviz, Chris Liebing, Carl Craig, and Recondite. 

When it comes to pushing the boundaries of musical performance creativity, the Great Wall Festival is a leading innovator. Past editions of the festival have included abstract acts such as a 5 a.m. sunrise DJ set on an elevated Great Wall beacon tower, accompanied by live visuals against the sides of the wall. For those who are enamored by live electronic music and have an endurance for running, there's even a five-kilometer race which occurs the first morning of the festival across the top of the Great Wall itself. Be warned, that length includes LOTS of stairs.

Splendour in the Grass

Byron Bay, Australia (July 19-21)

3-Day Pass: $399 (AUD)


A post shared by Splendour in the Grass (@splendourinthegrass) on


Hate summer? Love Australia? If either of your answers to those questions were "yes," then this is the festival for you. Byron Bay is located around two hours south of Brisbane on the Eastern coast of Australia and boasts the only major music festival to occur during the country's winter. For young northern hemispheric music lovers, it's the only major Australian festival to occur during college summer break. Despite it being winter in Australia, average temperatures in July still hover between a temperate 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 18 Celsius).  

Although the lineup for 2019 has yet to be announced, past artists have included the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Vampire Weekend, Khalid, CHVRCHES, Miguel, MGMT, and much much more. Splendour in the Grass offers a diverse lineup which attracts crowds of over thirty thousand festival goers. Many artists make the festival the only Australian stop in their entire world tour before heading north to continue their traditional Summer festival appearances. 

Splendour in the Grass is more than just music, as many festivals are these days. When you're not listening at one of the stages, stop by the "Science Tent" for some brain prodding experimental presentations, or the "Minjungbal Gunyah" to get a chance to converse with Aboriginals from the Minjungbal region of Australia. Or, just head down to Sydney and catch a wave!