The world-renowned Sziget Festival returns to Óbuda Island again this summer as one of the most popular music festivals in Europe brings together an anticipated 400,000 music fans from around Hungary and across Europe. Named as the Top Festival in Europe in 2012 and regularly listed as one of Europe’s must-see music festivals, Sziget continues to attract some of the world’s most recognised performers.
Attracting some of the top names in music – and consequently the adoring hoards from Western Europe – turns the island into a mass of humanity where it is just as common to hear someone speaking English, French or Dutch, as it is Hungarian. What most first-timers do not fully realise, however, is that Sziget is more than just a large music festival – as organisers say “It’s many festivals in one”.
Beginning on Monday, August 10, the island turns into a veritable festival heaven with nearly 200 programs every day at one of the 50 program venues. But it’s not just about the music – there are plenty of cultural programs on display too.
Fans of the theatre, circus, cabaret, or even spoken word will all have their own separate areas to be entertained. For example, you can take in a performance of “grotesque gymnastics” over on the Cirque du Sziget venue before catching a “punk ballet” at the British Knights Europe Stage, and finishing with a discussion on “sexology and reality” over at the Magic Mirror area.
No matter where you decide to hang out though, there is nothing like a dip in the Danube to cool off – just head on over to the Beach Area to really enjoy the Central European summer.
That being said, music is at the forefront of most of the festival’s activities. Music lovers of all sorts are sure to find something that suits their musical tastes – no matter how obscure. While the festival is known best for its international pop/rock stars and electronic music giants, there is plenty to be found on some of Sziget’s side stages.
Whether you’re into folk or metal, blues or classical, reggae or alternative – you won’t have to go far to find the music you enjoy and the crowd that goes with it. There are even areas directly themed for traditional Roma music and for the LGBT communities.
In fact, there are too many stages to highlight in this piece, so besides the main stage we decided to highlight only our favourite. Even though you’ll want to check out many more, be sure to catch these ones.
British Knights Europe Stage – A tent for 5,000 of the craziest hard-rock fans you’ll meet, this stage attracts up-and-coming European bands such as Germany’s Kid Simius Live and Hungary’s own Gubás Gabi és az Éjszakai Nesz.
MasterCard World Music Stage – This outdoor venue fits 15,000 and features bands from around the world as varied as legendary Russian underground artists Leningrad to Italy’s illustrious Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino ensemble.
Petőfi Radio- Telekom VOLT Festival Stage – Featuring many of Hungary’s most popular and promising acts, for foreigners it is a must-see and for locals – well, you know where to find them. Some acts you might want to catch include: Magashegyi Underground, Middlemist Red and The Carbonfools.
Google Play presents: Budapest Park Tribute Stage – Just as the title says, this stage will feature tribute acts to some of the world’s most famous groups, such as Queen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, U2, The Rolling Stones or Green Day.
Telekom Arena – Also known as Party Arena, this is where you will find some of the top electronic acts in the world playing in the island’s largest tent. This year you can look forward to artists such as Dutch DJ Sander van Doorn, the Grammy-nominated Swede Alesso and the best female DJs in the world – Australia’s Nervo.
TDK LoR Sziget Beach Cökxpôn Chill Garden – Is there any better place for the chill music venue than on the beach of the Danube where partygoers are looking for a break from the heat? This relaxed party zone features music from some of Hungary’s and Europe’s finest ambient music DJs from noon until the early morning.
The Colosseum – Built on palettes, this electronic music area remains among the most popular venues at Sziget. Worth a look for its creativity alone, you should try to check out any or all of Brazil’s Gui Boratto, Canadian trio My Favorite Robot or France’s underground house legends Apollonia.
The A38 Tent – Known for its eclectic mixture of performers and styles, the A38 tent always hosts some of the world’s most contemporary popular artists. This year it will be full for performers such as the United States’ Dropkick Murphies (“Shipping Out to Boston”), United Kingdom’s Passenger (“Let Her Go”), and Germany’s Milky Chance (“Stolen Dance”).You can catch the former group on Friday, August 14 and the latter two on Sunday, August 16.
Of course, the stage that no one will want to miss is the Main Stage, featuring some of the world’s most famous pop-rock artists. It’s the main reason why hundreds of thousands of European music fans make the trek out East to catch Central Europe’s biggest music festival extravaganza.
With the likes of the UK’s Robbie Williams, Florence + The Machine and Ellie Goulding, the US’ Kings of Leon and Limp Bizkit, and Sweden’s Avicii, this year will be no different. Keep reading to find out who plays when, so that you don’t miss any of your favourite performers. And be sure to check out our next issue – the last before our summer break – when we give you the Ultimate Sziget Festival Guide. Happy festivalling!
The festival starts off with a bang this year as Robbie Williams – the UK’s best-selling solo artist – caps the first evening with a performance for his fans. Considered the most prominent of Britain’s modern singers, the former Take That man has sold over 70 million albums and has won more BRIT Awards than any other artist. Seven of his songs have reached #1 in the UK including such well-known tracks as: “Millennium” and “She’s the One / It’s Only Us” (1998), “Rock DJ” (2000), “Somethin’ Stupid” and “Eternity/Road to Mandalay” (2001), “Radio” (2004) and “Candy” (2012). Fans can perhaps expect to hear the British bad boy sing Queen’s iconic “We Are the Champions” – a song he sang with the group for 2001 film “A Knight’s Tale” – in honour of the group’s 1986 performance in Budapest. Three Hungarian groups will lead into the famous Brit, including the catchy reggae/dancehall-infused sound of Irie Maffia.
Tuesday, 11 August – Florence + The Machine
Another prominent British group will be featured on the festival’s second day, when the powerful and eccentric stylings of Florence Welsh of Florence + The Machine take centre stage. Since being nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011 (and losing to Esperanza Spalding), Florence + The Machine has carved out a diverse following through hits such as 2008’s “Dog Days Are Over”, 2011’s “Shake It Out” and 2012’s “No Light, No Light” and “Spectrum (Say My Name)”.
The group just released their third album – “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” – in June. It debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 and is the group’s third straight #1 album in the United Kingdom. Welsh is known for her unforgettable stage presence and live performances, including at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, so you won’t want to miss Tuesday night’s headline act. Hungary’s alternative rock group Quimby leads into the show.
Wednesday, 12 August – alt-J
The British indie rock group alt-J will headline Wednesday’s line-up, fresh off their best-selling album “This is All Yours”. The quirky group got its name from the computer command needed to type in the delta sign on Mac keyboards, which traditionally means “difference” or “change” in mathematical equations – a motto that the group takes to heart.
After winning the British Barclaycard Mercury Prize for their debut album, 2012’s “An Awesome Wave”, there were high expectations placed on their sophomore studio album. The group didn’t disappoint either, with their offering being nominated for a Best Alternative Music Album Grammy (but losing to St. Vincent). The party begins early on Wednesday as the always energetic and entertaining Gogol Bordello takes the stage at 4pm. The American/Ukrainian Gypsy punk band has tirelessly toured for years, which makes them one of the “can’t miss” acts on the Sziget schedule.
Sziget’s headliner at the halfway mark of the festival is none other than the talented and popular British pop singer Ellie Goulding. Last year’s winner of the Female Solo Artist of the Year BRIT Award, Goulding’s career launched in 2010 with her best-selling album “Lights”. Already the winner of the BBC’s Sound Of… poll, as well as the Critics’ Choice BRIT Award, Goulding followed up her double-platinum-selling debut album with 2012’s “Halcyon”, which again topped the British charts.
Best known for her tracks “Your Song” (2010), “Lights” (2011), “Burn” and “I Need Your Love” (2013), and 2015’s “Love Me Like You Do” from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Thursday is an all-UK night, as fellow British groups the Foals, The Ting Tings, and The Maccabees lead into her feature performance.
Friday, 14 August – Avicii
Friday night is not to be missed as a powerful line-up includes four of the festival’s most talented groups. The headline act is Sweden’s Avicii – one of the world’s best-known DJs. The Grammy-nominated artist has won many of the world’s best electronic music awards, including the American Music Awards (2013 – Favourite Electronic Dance Music Award), the Billboard Music Awards (2014 – Top Dance/Electronic Song for “Wake Me Up”), and the World Music Awards (2014 – World’s Best Electronic Dance Artist).
He is known best for his hits “Wake Me Up” (2013) and “Hey Brother” (2013). His newest album – “Stories” – is set to be released on September 25, and fans will be hoping to get a taste. Leading into the headliner is influential British rock band Kasabian, Welsh indie pop rockers Marina and the Diamonds, and American electronic rock group AWOLNATION. Fans can expect to hear such hits as Kasabian’s “Fire” (2009), Marina and the Diamonds’ “Primadonna” (2012), and AWOLNATION’s “Sail” (2011). All-in-all Friday is shaping up to be the strongest of the main stage’s line-ups.
Saturday, 15 August – Kings of Leon
Popular American rockers Kings of Leon are locked in as the headliners on Saturday night. One of the last decade’s most successful rock groups, the band has seen all six of their albums reach the Top 5 on the British charts, while their last three have managed the same feat in the United States.
The group has grown from a more southern blues and rock sound to a more alternative sound conducive to arena performances. They are best known for their hits “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire” (2008), “Notion” (2009) and “Radioactive” (2010).
It is America-night on Saturday, as fellow American groups Major Lazer and Hollywood Undead lead into the headline act. Major Lazer is best known for this year’s electronic “Lean On” with DJ Snake (feat. M0), while rap kings Hollywood Undead are noted for 2010’s “Hear Me Now” and 2011’s “Been to Hell”. Nominated several times for MTV Europe’s Award for Best Hungarian Act, Pécs’-own Punnany Massif will take the stage at 4:00pm.
Sunday, 16 August – Limp Bizkit / Martin Garrix
The festival closes with an eclectic list of performers, including the USA’s former rock/metal kings Limp Bizkit and The Netherlands’ top-ranked DJ Martin Garrix. Limp Bizkit, of course, is best known for their turn-of-the-century work on such, now-classic, tunes as “Faith” (1998), “Nookie” and “Re-Arranged” (1999) and “Rollin’” (2000).
They have recently reunited in order to record their seventh studio album – “Stampede of the Disco Elephants” – set to be released sometime this year. Their appearance in Budapest is in advance of a planned world tour for later this year.
Germany’s Kraftklub and the UK’s Rudimental will lead into their performance. The festival’s Main Stage will be closed with Martin Garrix – one of the best-rated DJs in the world. Expect massive pyrotechnics, fireworks and a laser show to close out what is sure to be one of the summer’s biggest parties.