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10 North American Dance Music Festivals That Won 2014

From renegade desert campouts to the world's most grandiose spectacles, here are the festivals that dominated this year.

Music festivals are the lifeblood of electronic music. Over the past decade, these carnivals of hedonism have become increasingly central to what the culture is all about. There's no better way to prophesize what's going to pop off for the rest of the year than watching what plays out on festival stages. Accordingly, festival season, which used to be just a few short months in the summer, has extended to a year-round calvacade of revelry. In 2014, THUMP's ravers-at-large were there for it all—from renegade desert campouts to grandiose spectacles of lights and fireworks.


Here are the festivals that dominated 2014, written by those who were on the ground:

1. Mysteryland, Bethel Woods, New York (May) 

Photo by Andrew Rauner

Festival grounds don't get much sweeter than the verdant hills of Bethel Woods, New York, where the first Woodstock went down in 1969. When Netherlands promoter ID&T brought the longest-running festival in the world to American shores for the first time last year, there were still hippie-buses and flower children roaming those sleepy fields. But they were soon joined by helicopters showering rose petals, hot air balloon rides, hidden mermaid statues, and a stage made out of vinyl records where DJs strictly spun on wax. What a treat. With its eye for tasteful details, bucolic surroundings, and something-for-everyone lineup, Mysteryland is easily one of the best festivals of the year. - ML

In a nutshell: Teepees and acid (house) tucked in the serene hills of a sleepy town, with a crowd that's more into Go-Pros than flower crowns.

Read: "I Traded Kandi Bracelets For a House at Mysteryland" by Michelle Lhooq; "Mysteryland Recap: How PLUR Revived Woodstock" by Lauren Schwartzberg

2. Movement Electronic Music Festival, Detroit, Michigan (May) 

If you only read the news headlines, it'd be easy to think that Detroit has been overwhelmed by urban decay, crime, and bankrupcy. But if you listen to the sounds coming out of this city, you'll know that from the times of the Belleville Three till today, this city has always been a hub of creativity for electronic music. Movement Detroit celebrates every facet of techno in the city that gave birth to it; last year, the festival featured over 115 acts across five stages. Watching the sun go down behind Kevin Saunderson and Stacey Pullen with Detroit's skyline as the backdrop is an experience for the ages. Oh, let's not even get started on those afterparties. - CC


In a nutshell: Techno heads draped in all-black whose hearts beat to the TR-808.

Read: "Movement Detroit Recap: Highlights and Lows" by Connie Chan

3. Desert Hearts, San Diego, California (November) 

While the worldwide festival arms race results in events getting bigger and bigger, Desert Hearts skipped all that noise and just went for badder. Imagine a festival on an Indian reservation with just one stage that never, ever turns down for 72 hours straight. The Desert Hearts crew has figured out that a tightly curated, community gathering is way more rewarding than getting shuttled around from stage to stage like cattle at a state fair. We can only hope that other festivals follow suit. The fact that last year's tech-house-heavy lineup—which was headlined by Tiefschwarz and Crosstown Rebel affiliates Fur Coat and Avatism—was some of the most awesome tunage we've ever heard at a festival doesn't hurt either. - JK

In a nutshell: Dusty hippie-sters finding absolution over three days of house and techno.

Read: "Desert Hearts Two-Year Was the Shangri-Lawless of House and Techno"  by Jemayel Khawaja

4. HARD Day of the Dead, Pomona, California (November) 

It's a given that HARD lineups are gonna drop some fire, but HARD's Day of the Dead this year was a Hollywood-style explosion. From the headliners to the small print, acts like Deadmau5 b2b Eric Prydz, Gesaffelstein, Jamie Jones and Tchami made sure everyone in the crowd left with an empty tank. With a no-kandi, no-masks, no-trance policy, HARD's mission has always been to separate dance music from the rave. That might come across as alienating, but in fact has helped the festival develop its own unique cultural space. With an expansive new space in Pomona that gives each stage plenty of room to breathe, DOTD is going nowhere but up. - JK


In a nutshell: The gamut of LA's electronic music masses—including scene kids, ravers, frat boys, cosplay freaks, and the endearingly basic—coverging to damage their ears and seratonin receptors together.

Read: "We Survived the 2014 Los Angeles Halloween Weekender" by Jemayel Khawaja and David Garber

5. Electric Forest, Rothbury, Michigan (June) 

Electric Forest has become a beloved gem in the hippie-centric summer circuit. But the real magic of this festival is its unbeatable location deep in the Sherwood Forest. Wandering amongst the glowing trees, you might stumble upon Kevin and Dantiez Saunderson going b2b amongst glittering lasers, swaying lanterns, and the trippiest knick-knacks this side of Burning Man. The lineup revolves around crunchy bass icons like Excision, indie-tronica acts like St. Lucia and Passion Pit, and jam band kingpins like String Cheese Incident and STS9. If Robin Hood needed a party to bring a band of 30,000 Merry Men, this would be it. -DG

In a nutshell: Hippie jam bands in the middle of a psychedelic dream forest. (BYO totem.)

Read: "Electric Forest 2014 Recap: Anything is Possible" by David Garber

6. Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas (June)

EDC Las Vegas is one of the craziest parties to have ever existed on ths planet. It's really as simple as that. The Insomniac brand is one of the last bastions of the old-school rave ethos, so EDC is the best time of the year to get PLUR as fuck. It's also the only major North American festival where you get to spend three entire days surrounded by million-dollar stages and brain-splattering special effects. If you've got an appetite for the bombastic and aren't afraid of a pair of furry boots, EDC is the place to be.


In a nutshell:The sheer ridiculousness of Las Vegas taken to its logical extreme.

Read: "EDC 2014 Day One: Recap," "EDC 2014 Day 2: Recap" by Jemayel Khawaja

7. Holy Ship!!!, Miami, Florida and Open Waters (January) 

It's been almost a year to the day that Holy Ship!!! set sail, and the crew of the MSC Divina are still probably trying to mop up the puddles of bodily fluids, brain cells, and liquified dignity that shippers drenched upon that fateful deck. Holy Ship!!! has developed such a strong fanbase, it's even spawned a worldwide community of miscreants known as Shipfam. Listen closely, and you'll hear chants of "Holy Ship!" at any Justin Martin show you go to. From Skrillex to Maceo Plex to Shlohmo, the festival features the kind of lineup you'd expect from a HARD event. Except this time, everyone's trapped on a massive cruise ship that only stops to drop you off on a private island, twice, and everybody is on a mission to get as weird as humanly possible. (Spoiler alert: they always succeed.) - JK

In a nutshell: Hedonists in sailor hats and matching board shorts getting turned up to death on rum cocktails.

Read: "What I Learned About Humanity While Trapped on Holy Ship!!!" by Jemayel Khawaja

8. Time Warp, Brooklyn, New York (November) 

(Photo by Jeff Thibodeau Photography)

German festival Time Warp is one of the greatest gatherings of techno heads in the world. So when the organizers brought it to New York for the first time, they wanted to do it right. Specifically, by skipping stadiums and staging the show in a dark, cavernous Brooklyn warehouse where the industrial aesthetics of the genre would feel most at home. The DJs (Richie Hawtin, Sven Väth, Tennis) and the lighting designs were imported from Europe, but the spirit of both evenings felt totally at home. New York's growing underground finally has a techno festival of its own.


In a nutshell: European expats mingle with Drumcode diehards and Electric Zoo outcasts in a techno cave.

Read: "Richie Hawtin's #SpeakerGate Wasn't the Only Thing That Happened at Time Warp" by Michelle Lhooq; "Why the Arrival of German Techno Festival Time Warp is a Triumph for New York's Underground" by Bruce Tantum

9. Lightning in a Bottle,  Bradley, California (May)  Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.33.41 PM.jpg

The Do Lab's stage has always been one of the most unique aspects of Coachella. Now their own festival, Lightning in a Bottle, has grown from a hippie-fied gathering into a major player in the electronic festival circuit. This year's lineup featured everyone from Moby to Amon Tobin, Cashmere Cat to Chet Faker, Simian Mobile Disco, and half the Dirtybird crew in an expansive, other-worldly chaparral setting. But LiB is about way more than the line-up. It's all about the vibes, man. -JK

In a nutshell: Sunburned hippies using dancehall to explore alternative modes of thinking.

Read: "Lightning in a Bottle Recap: A Whole Different World" by Jemayel Khawaja

10. Digital Dreams, Toronto, Canada (June) 

If you give any Canadian the opportunity to party in the summer, they'll take it faster than you can say "toque." Canada's best electronic music festival, Digital Dreams, made its triumphant return to Toronto for its third consecutive year. Justice, Deep Dish, NERVO, dancers, streamers, confetti, pyro, you name it—all there. If you're looking to spend two bass-driven days boozing, watching girls fail at crowd-surfing, and working on your tank top tan lines, Digital Dreams is the place to be. - CC

In a nutshell: Locals getting their bodies bloodied, brains battered, and butts bruised at Canada's largest music festival.