I saw a couple hundred artists this summer and while 15 festivals in 15 weekends may have resulted in a blurred whirlwind of music and dancing, that just meant my favorite acts stood out all that much brighter. Some of the bands were old favorites in new settings (Fucked Up, Gogol Bordello), some I guessed would ring my bell (Viet Cong, Run the Jewels, St. Vincent), and some were straight up surprises (LaBrassBanda, Verdena, First Aid Kit). What they had in common is what all great festival sets have in common — an energy and an experience that transports you to your musical nirvana. Here’s my completely self-indulgent soundtrack to last summer along with some shots I managed to capture:
Kasabian (Spirit of Burgas/Positivus)
My first encounter with Kasabian found me being dragged by a few Latvians into the middle of their set at Postivius. I caught up with them again dancing in the sand at Spirit of Burgas. These guys know how to headline a festival.
Verdena (Vasto Siren Festival)
Never heard of them. I showed up to the first song to take a few photos and ended up staying mesmerized throughout their entire set. Solid indie rock — all in Italian.
LaBrassBanda (Sziget Festival)
Loud, funny, and energetic. This German band took the crowd and transformed them into a churning, sweaty mess of smiling faces. I never thought in my life I would dance that long or that hard to a band with a tuba.
Fucked Up (Primavera Sound)
Fucked Up won me over the first time I saw them at Heavy Montreal last year, but this summer in Spain they won my heart with their typical bombastic punk rock lovefest. I couldn’t have been happier to get punched in the eye while up front for this show.
Viet Cong (Primavera Sound/Electric Picnic)
I listened to their album a dozen times before in the week before I left the States and was lucky enough to see them both in a club in Barcelona and on a bigger stage in Ireland. Did not disappoint live on both counts.
St. Vincent (Positivus Festival)
I love Robert Plant, but the opening act of St. Vincent really stole the show. I never cared much for St. Vincent until I saw this live show and then everything just clicked.
Gogol Bordello (OpenAir Gampel)
I absolutely adore Gogol Bordello. That’s all I have to say.
Run the Jewels (Flow Festival/Primavera Sound)
One of the most high-energy crowd-pumping sets I’ve ever seen at a festival. This is one of those acts that even if you don’t like hip-hop, it’s hard not to start jumping around like a maniac during a Run the Jewels show.
First Aid Kid (Bergenfest)
I had heard the name and heard some songs, but was unprepared for how much I would dig the music from these two Swedish sisters. I’m expecting this folk duo to become a fixture on the American festival scene in the future.
Jurassic 5 (Electric Picnic)
So amazing to see Jurassic 5 performing live again. They’ve only gotten better since I last saw them. This is one of the last shows I caught this summer and hands down had to be the most inventive and fun.
Capital Cities (EXIT Festival)
The crowd surrounding me of Bulgarians and Serbians hadn’t heard of Capital Cities, but by the middle of the set I’m sure they wouldn’t forget them. This set had the band’s hits, Michael Jackson covers, remixes, and a firework exploding marriage proposal all capped off by Capital Cities being pulled off stage by security as they wouldn’t stop playing. One of those sets that you just couldn’t walk away from.
Kovacs (Amsterdam Woods)
This was such a cool experience in the woods outside of Amsterdam. First we watched a documentary about the band followed by a Q&A and then finally the live show. For someone like myself unfamiliar with the band, this introductory crash course remains a standout of the summer.
Photo Credits: Vito Valentinetti. See even more of my pictures right here.