11 European Festivals That Will Satisfy Your Inner Nerd

Article by: David Hillier|@Gobshout

Mon February 13, 2017 | 10:40 AM

There’s an old saying that goes, “...and the geeks will inherit the Earth...” (or something like that), and in our time of hyper-connectivity and everyday virtual reality that prediction seems more prophetic than ever.

It’s not a surprise, then, that there’s a new culture of festivals cropping up, aimed at the geeks and nerds out there in the festival world. They’re events that are about more than just the parties – not that there’s anything wrong with partying, of course – but about prodding the depths of our cerebral cortex, showcasing inventions that appear to have been made in the year 3017, and maybe doing some first class networking along the way.

Convergence, London, England (March 21-25, 2017)

Convergence is dedicated to the idea of electronic music as an incubator for cultural and social development, and has a series of drool-worthy one-off shows from the likes of Kode9, Coldcut and house music collaborative pioneer Jacques Greene. There’s a visual arts program and a range of deep thinkers talking at its Convergence Sessions, as they seek to investigate how using cutting-edge creativity can carve positive paths in our new era of uncertainty. The multi-venue festival, spread across several key east London locations, is one of the best in Europe and the caliber of artists it attracts every year is a testament to that.

Sónar, Barcelona, Spain (June 15-17, 2017)

Now entering its 24th year, this celebration of music, creativity and technology is probably the original future festival. Alongside performance from the likes of Anderson.Paak, DJ Shadow and Vitalic you’ll find installations, collaborations, workshops and speakers that will help to massage your synapses back from their hangover. The Sónar +D area is full of brand new tech gear to really geek out on, from manufacturers like Roland, Native Instruments, Ableton and many more – even if you've never set foot in a music studio before, it's worth a look just to play around with some of the weird and wonderful products.

Amsterdam Dance Event, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, (October 18-22, 2017)

Bearing in mind Amsterdam is a city with a population of 779,000, the annual influx of 375,000 ADE festival-goers is tantamount to an occupation. As well as shows in over 100 venues, there’s The Playground, which offers music hardware presentations, exhibitions, and interactive talk shows at 25 creative hotspots around the city. If you like panels the conference will be your jam, with the industry’s most connected names discussing everything from how to be a manager and the perils of touring, to the future of festivals.

Midem, Cannes, France, (June 6-9, 2017)

Midem bills itself as the "leading music industry event for the music ecosystem" and is part trade show, conference, showcase and networking bonanza. Whether you want to learn about the minutiae of music streaming in China, or listen to legendary EPIC Records chief LA Reid spin a few yarns, this is the place to grow your brain and your network. Remember, Cannes is a pretty expensive place to visit so you'll have to save up a few cents before you go, but the reward is access to some of the music industry's elite, all gathered in the same place. It's a great place to go to if you want to try and break into the industry and some of the technology on display is often exclusive to the event ahead of others on the global map.

Berlin Atonal, Berlin, Germany, (August 16-20, 2017)

Berlin has long been Europe’s creative centre, especially for electronic music – and Atonal , which started in 1982, has long been one of its beacon events. Now housed in a cavernous power plant in Berlin-Mitte, it is a industrial kaleidoscope of unique collaborations, installations, workshops, screenings and all-round maverick creativity. Be prepared for incredible artwork, mesmerizing visual presentations and the latest and greatest pieces of music technology. If you're in the mood for some dancing, the parties are pretty rad too.

Tech Open Air Festival, Berlin, Germany, (July 12-14, 2017)

Tech Open Air (TOA) was the first tech festival ever started by a crowdfunding campaign. Five years since it first launched it now sees 20,000 delegates arrive for a conference that acts as a greenhouse for the very best names in art, science, technology and music. Previous speakers include the founders of Flickr, Kickstarter, Soundcloud and Shazam, and there are also high-speed pitching sessions and innumerable schmoozing opportunities. Perfect if you've got an idea and have no clue how to get it to the people who can help, or at least give advice on how to make it happen.

Brighton Music Conference, Brighton, England, (April 27-28, 2017)

Taking place in Brighton’s iconic Dome, this is the event par excellence for the British electronic music industry. The focus, as ever, will be making it in 2017 and beyond, with events featuring speakers from names as diverse as Korg, Spotify, Roland and Help Musicians UK. As well as a smorgasboard of insightful panels and Q&A sessions, BMC also dedicated a large part of the Dome to technology, with all the main players setting up demonstration areas where you an go and warp your voice or bang out a beat on a drum machine, plus lots more. In the evening, predictably, there’s a bevy of parties and kooky one-off shows to keep everyone making friends until dawn.

AVA Festival, Belfast, Northern Ireland (June 2-3, 2017)

Starting life as a one-day event in 2015, AVA expands to two full days this summer. It just announced some mouthwatering performances, not least a collaboration between American techno lord Jeff Mills and Guillaume Marmin described as a five-hour “full sensory experience.” Elsewhere there are talks, performances, debates and an Emerging Producer and Emerging DJ competition, as the event seeks to hail and amplify the rich creative streak that runs through Northern and Southern Ireland.

Nuits Sonores, Lyon, France (May 24-28, 2017)

2017 will be Nuits Sonores ’ 15th anniversary and during its lifespan Lyon has developed into a dynamic cultural hub. This year it will see headline performances from The Black Madonna, Nina Kraviz and Jon Hopkins, plus a host of visual art, new design and interactive experiments at over 40 venues across the city. The exhaustive list of companies involved in showcasing their wares makes the ultra cheap tickets an even better value for money – you can try and figure out how your favourite tune was made or simply tap away on a keyboard searching for that perfect melody.

Music Tech Fest, Berlin, Germany (TBA 2017)

Music Tech Fest is the wettest of wet dreams for the music tech aficionado. MTF started in London in 2012 at Ravensbourne, a UK University. It had over 50 speakers, 70 creatives in a Peter Kirn synaesthesia workshop, over 100 hackers and 700 attendees registered. Over the last five years it has grown to an international discussion and experimentation-driven investigation into technology’s role in driving music forward, and the wider effects that can have on society, culture and the world as we know it. As a result some of the independently created inventions are out of this world and offer some insight into where some of us imagine the world of music technology going. It's mind-boggling and one for the heads.

by:Larm Festival, Oslo, Norway (March 2-4, 2017)

by:Larm acts as a conduit between Norway and the rest of the music industry, and is packed with conferences, talks, panels and music from the up-and-coming cream of the European music scene (with a focus, unsurprisingly, on local acts). Talks this year look fascinating: "4AD A n’R Jane Abernathy" will reveal the secrets of her success, whilst experts will be chewing over how to break into Berlin’s lucrative electronic music market. This is one for the industry nerds who want to know everything there is to know about the past, present and future of electronic music.

Tallinn Music Week, Tallinn, Estonia, (March 27-April 2, 2017)

Since its debut event in 2009, TMW has evolved from music showcase and conference into a full-blown, city-wide, multi-art cultural exposition. Music fans will be able to scratch whatever itch they desire from Estonian folk to indie, metal and classical, while those who prefer spoken word can revel in the free talks picking at the seams of the music industry. Elsewhere there are documentaries, a sprawling program of horizon-expanding contemporary art, a bespoke food program in the city’s best restaurants and a market selling the hippest Nordic brands. Boredom is not an option.