As the world slowly opens up again like a fragile spring flower, hopes of unfettered and paranoia-free travel, just as tenuously, also begin to bloom. After two (three?) years in hibernation, our still bodies and stagnated lives are more than ready to return to normal just in time for the summer. Festival season-bound, we have witnessed throngs of people rush to attend the likes of Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas; or the influencer-equivalent of Dante’s Inferno, the mighty Coachella, in past weeks. However, there are many destinations this summer that are equally deserving – if not more so – of consideration. Below, we have compiled a list of the most travel-worthy musical venues around the world where nature, music, and culture meet.
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The Gorge may be one of the few venues in the world where the stage is eclipsed by its background, as revellers are able to take in a sweeping vista of mountains, river, and sky behind. The stage is positioned with its back to the edge of a cliff overlooking the largest river in the Pacific Northwest.
Purposely positioned to optimise the land’s natural acoustics, the stage was initially erected with the intention of drawing visitors to a winery that was also in the area. However, when the winery closed down, the stage remained. The Gorge is now fully operated by live entertainment giant Live Nation, meaning that crowds flock from all over for the iconic, large-scale shows and festivals that have become the main draw. Since the nearest town centre Quincy is only 14 kilometres away, festival-goers enjoy ease-of-access to the Gorge – if, that is, they don’t decide to camp or stay at the rental homes situated a scant few minutes away from the venue.
Though relatively young compared to other venues on this list, The Gorge has hosted a myriad of music festivals, such as Paradiso and The Vans Warped Tour, along with acts such as Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, and Bob Dylan. Festivals and acts scheduled this year include: Beyond Wonderland, The Lumineers, Above & Beyond, Watershed Festival, Deadmau5, and Rufus Du Sol. Full list here: www.georgeamphitheatre.com
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
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Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world, created by monolithic, sedimentary rock formations ranging in shades from light gray, to pink, to dark red. The venue is part of 738 acres of natural wonders and wildlife, and a hike to fully enjoy the surroundings before the festivities begin is highly recommended. Through the years since its opening in 1941, Red Rocks has hosted legendary talents such as The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan.
It’s worth a visit this year as Red Rocks is hosting a long string of top-tier acts, including: Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper, Glass Animals, Chromeo, Purple Disco Machine, Kraftwerk, Halsey, Father John Misty, Suki Waterhouse, Nine Inch Nails, Yves Tumor, Le Youth, Lane 8, The National, The War On Drugs, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and more. See the full event list here: www.redrocksonline.com
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
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The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, or “Herodeon” for short, has been hosting musical performances for over 1,800 years. It was built in 161 A.D. especially for this purpose, and has certainly seen countless legends step onto its stage, those from eons past and others immortalised within our musical canon. The space isn’t too large, seating only 4,680 people, but it is extremely accessible to those on holiday in Athens, as it is situated on the southwest slope of the Acropolis.
One could easily enjoy a performance after a day out in Athens without much effort. Yet the convenience yields immense rewards: an evening of world-class live music in an ancient Greek amphitheatre backed by trees and sky, flanked by historic ruins no less in stature than the Acropolis. For obvious reasons, almost any performance attended in this inimitable venue would automatically form a core memory, though the venue’s pedigree of past performers alone is also up to the task. Generational icons such as Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti, Elton John, Diana Ross, Liza Minelli, Patti Smith, Foo Fighters, and Maria Callas have graced the Herodeon’s stage.
This summer, the long-awaited dark opera Rigoletto finally begins playing in June after having to postpone its opening twice due to the pandemic. Rock and jazz icons Patti Smith and Diana Krall, along with legendary composer Max Richter are also slated for June. Come July, techno pioneer and luminary Jeff Mills will be performing Tomorrow Comes the Harvest, a boundary-breaking improv-based concept created with one of the original Afrobeat godfathers, the late Tony Allen, who was the drummer and musical director for Fela Kuti’s band Africa from 1968 to 1979. This performance will be a new take on the set, featuring Mills’ longtime partner, keyboardist Jean-Phi Dary, along with bass player Divinity Roxx and flutist Rasheeda Ali. Check out more events for 2022 here: www.sunnyathens.com
Les Arènes de Nîmes
Called simply Les Arènes, the venue was built with more nefarious intent than its current purpose, as it originally entertained its crowds of 20,000 strong with public executions and gladiator combat. Built in 70 A.D., it is one of the most well-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world, barring the Colosseum itself. Now, the Arena holds 13,800 guests and is the most iconic music venue in the country. Imagine having concerts in the Colosseum, or on a Game of Thrones set – though neither is currently physically possible, the oval venue is able to deliver on both counts.
During most of the year, Les Arènes typically features historical recreations on its events roster. Most of the musical acts are booked near the end of June each year for the annual Festival de Nîmes. Les Arènes has played host to the likes of Daft Punk, Toto, ZZ Top, Elton John, David Bowie, and Radiohead in past years. This year, visitors will be able to see artists such as Gorillaz, The Smile, Foo Fighters, Sting, KISS, Deep Purple, and more. See the full list here: www.festivaldenimes.com
Teatro Antico di Taormina
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So far, this list has given an ancient Greek amphitheatre at the foot of the Acropolis, and an ex-battle arena. The third and final ancient structure on the list demands equal attention. Located in a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily of southern Italy, the Teatro Antico di Taormina boasts one of the most stunning views in the world. The crumbling ruins have eroded so much that the back of the theatre gives way to a vista of trees and Mount Etna, overlooking the glowing blue-green of Giardini-Naxos Bay.
The Teatro was built in 3rd century B.C., making it one of the oldest musical venues still in operation today. It is able to hold 5,000 guests, and hosts events throughout the year in the form of musical performances, fashion shows, and the Toarmina Film Festival. The venue has hosted its fair share of world-class musicians such as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Elton John, and Bob Dylan.
This year, visitors would be very likely to catch a show from the Italian Opera Taormina, who holds court performing music from the great Italian operas most nights from June through the end of October. On the venue’s extensive events schedule, international heavyweights such as The Smile, Louis Tomlinson, Steve Hackett, and Jimmy Sax will also perform throughout the year. See the list here: www.traveltaormina.com
If one happens to visit Brussels, the historic Parc Royal – the equivalent of Central Park in New York City – would surely be one of the destinations on the list. And if one happens to visit Parc Royal, there’s a good chance they will bump into something happening at Kiosk Radio, a community radio station that has both local and international talent spinning new music daily, ranging from funk, Brazilian music, reggae, soul, breakbeat, and hip-hop, to classical, garage, and indie, to trance, techno, acid house, and ambient. If one craves more variety still, there is also spoken word, poetry, space rock, Italian disco, experimental, and, simply, “leftfield.”
Surrounded by trees and scattered with logs to sit on, the space is a perfect outdoor gathering venue to hang out, picnic, and enjoy a laidback scene with a skilled DJ manning the decks. Kiosk Radio attracts many international visitors on its own merit as its a bit of an institution for underground music – and it's definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. The thirsty will be happy to know that Kiosk Radio also has a bar. The station also invites international contributors to play remotely, as a lingering coping feature left over from the pandemic. For those currently not in Belgium, or with no forthcoming plans to visit, Kiosk Radio is also an online radio station where you can stream their regular digital programming and livestreams. Check the list here: www.kioskradio.com
Cover Credit: Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo
Writer | Vanessa Lee
Vanessa is an art, fashion and lifestyle writer and creative consultant from Vancouver, Canada. She is currently based in Hong Kong.