Of course, we're all partial to flailing our arms and screaming our lungs out to anthemic belters during a climactic festival headline slot. But sometimes, the paint-by-number music frequenting the mainstream charts just doesn't quite cut the mustard.
For those who possess a taste for the innovative, unconventional, and wholly original, there's a surging network of experimental music festivals emerging around the globe.
With an emphasis on the wider scope of music festivals rather than simply assembling a roster of familiar artists, experimental music festivals offer a platform for sounds to be heard, sights to be seen, and sensations to be felt that aren't commonplace. Just yet.
Here are our Top 10 experimental music festivals, in no particular order, that succeed in propelling the festival experience to new heights:
1. MUTEK Montréal
Festival lineup: Blawan, GAIKA, Huerco S, Beta Librae, Nkisi, Call Super
For 20 years now, MUTEK Montréal has championed the synergy of electronic music and digital arts, pushing the MUTEK brand to four continents. Still, the hub in Montréal is the most prestigious, with a consistently ambitious and provocative program of artists; held across various venues in the city, the industry event emphasises the development, ingenuity, and burgeoning co-dependancy of audio-visual art in live performance. A real treat for the senses.
When & where: 20-25 August 2019; Montréal, Canada
2. Club To Club Torino
Festival lineup (2018): Aphex Twin, Jamie xx, Beach House, Blood Orange, Peggy Gou, David August
Whilst flirting with more accessible genres of music, Club To Club is still firmly a boundary-pushing festival that draws together a roster of artists from all corners of the underground. Cultural landmarks are embraced and utilised as venues, from the halls of the modern Lingotto Fiere complex to the historic Reggia di Venaria, with the city's DNA for exploration and innovation at the heart of the festival.
When & where: Dates for 2019 TBA; Turin, Italy
3. Le Guess Who?
Headliners (2018): Devendra Banhart, The Breeders, Mudhoney, Colin Stetson, JPEGMAFIA, The Comet Is Coming
Nestled in amongst one of Europe's most charming cities is Le Guess Who?, an extravaganza for the weird, wonderful, and avant-garde end of contemporary and classical music. Proceedings are spread between music and arts complex Tivoli Vredenberg, as well as numerous quaint venues across the city; Utrecht's winding canals and traditional architecture entertain a vibrant, diverse roster of artists and an equally experimental spectrum of sounds.
When & where: 7-10 November 2019; Utrecht, Netherlands.
4. Elevate Festival
Festival lineup (2019): Sunn O))), Jayda G, Dorian Concept, Kode9, D.A.F.
Based inside the winding tunnel systems of Graz's Schloßberg hill, creativity and experimentalism run rife for Elevate Festival's 5-day duration. Part conference, part eye-opening experience, the festival's ethos is to deconstruct your perspective of music and politics, enabling new expressive processes. Artists are actively encouraged to forgo the norm and experiment with live performance there-and-then, ensuring you'll encounter true originality.
When & where: Dates for 2020 TBA; Graz, Austria
5. MOGA Festival
Festival lineup (2018): Guy Gerber, Jan Blomqvist, Audiofly, Agoria, Acid Pauli
Balancing traditions of the region with a forward-thinking approach, MOGA Festival merges contemporary electronic artists with Moroccan cultural heritage like Gnawa music, dance, art and a series of exhibitions, discussions, and screenings. The port city of Essaouira, a wonderfully vibrant and mysterious locale with hidden alleyways and architectural relics (making it a plausible backdrop for Game of Thrones recently) offers a relaxed environment with an explorative edge.
When & where: 11-13 October 2019; Essaouira, Morocco
6. Ceremonia GNP
Festival lineup: Massive Attack, Aphex Twin, Rosalía, Jon Hopkins, Kaytranada, DJ Koze
With a roster featuring an amalgam of virtually any music genre you can think of, Ceremonia GNP embraces a diverse range of cultural and creative forces. All of whom are continually pushing boundaries in their respective areas, which is key to the festival's ethos. For one day, Toluca becomes a hotbed of pioneering talent.
When & where: 6 April 2019; Toluca, Mexico
7. Berlin Jazz Experiment
Festival lineup: Sun Ra Arkestra, Moses Boyd Exodus, Meshell Ndegeocello, Melanie De Biasio
Experiment by name, experiment by nature; jazz is the origin of true organic experimentalism in contemporary music. Berlin, a fertile city for creativity, provides an inclusive platform for some of the jazz world's innovative and free-flowing minds to do what they do best. Experiment.
When & where: 31 May - 2 June 2019; Berlin, Germany
8. Semibreve Festival
Festival lineup: Avalon Emerson, Nik Void, Rian Treanor, Ipek Gorgun
Immersive and inventive, Semibreve Festival invites musicians, producers, and artists alike to collaborate on a series of audio-visual events incorporating an expanse of soundscapes. In three grandiose venues throughout Braga, Portugal - revivalist theatre Theatro Circo, cultural centre GNRation, and 17th-century townhouse Casa Rolão - avant-garde, minimalist, ambient, drone, and industrial sonic experiences are shaped by the most respected artisans in the scene.
When & where: 25-27 October 2019; Braga, Portugal
Festival lineup (2019): Little Dragon, IAMDDB, Arca, Madlib, Kamaal Williams, Hunee
Transforming the traditional auditorium of Estoril Congress Center into conference-come-dance halls for two days, ID_NOLIMITS forms an environment for potent creativity, assembling a roster from a broad range of genres. Both budding talent and established performers from the worlds of electronic music, hip hop, jazz, and alternative R&B meet at the apex of exploration and experimentation.
When & where: Dates for 2020 TBA; Estoril, Portugal
10. Berlin Atonal
Festival lineup (2018): Objekt Blue, Actress, Lucrecia Dalt, Giant Swan, Beatrice Dillon, Leslie Winer
Occupying the disused halls of former industrial works Kraftwerk, a diversified blend of audio-visual installations, DJ's/producers, and performance art reverberate and engulf the power plant of the past. When Berlin Atonal began in 1982, experimental music was kept chaos at the forefront of creativity. 37 years on, the festival remains as challenging as ever.
When & where: 28 August - 1 September 2019; Berlin, Germany