Love the harder styles? Here are the top five hardstyle and hardcore festivals in the world that any fan should put on their bucket list.
Many people are surprised to find out the large size of the hard dance community around the world and the dedication of the fanbase to the scene. But once exposed to the scene, many find themselves sucked in, and there’s no turning back!
And that’s exactly what happened to me. I first started by attending hardstyle parties at TomorrowWorld, Q-Dance Chile, Black Party Taiwan, and Fabrik Madrid. Then I attended Dominator Festival and moved to the Netherlands, and I’ve been on a wild hardstyle and hardcore festival ride ever since.
Without a doubt, the hardstyle and hardcore festival scene is the ripest in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is the birthplace of the hard dance scene, and Dutchies are spoilt for choice here. Over the summer, there is always at least one hard dance festival every weekend and a loyal crowd that follows them around the country.
Are you ready to make the leap into the world of hardstyle and hardcore festivals?
Here are the top summer festivals of the harder styles!
Let’s get this one out of the way. Defqon.1 is the largest and most well-known hard dance festival in the world, run by the powerhouse Q-Dance. For many international dance music fans, it’s THE festival that has put hard dance on the radar. Known for its wild endshows and electrifying Power Hour, Defqon.1 is to hard dance as Tomorrowland is to EDM. Many (including me) would even argue that Defqon.1 has a more spectacular endshow than Tomorrowland!
Defqon.1’s stages are color-coded, with RED being the main outdoor stage usually with euphoric hardstyle. BLUE and BLACK are the biggest indoor, day-to-night stages, for hardstyle and hardcore respectively. There are many more smaller stages featuring anything from early hardcore to terror.
Due to Defqon.1’s cultural significance, you’ll be partying with weekend warriors from all over the world. If you’re lucky you might even witness special moments in the scene. For example, in 2016, Defqon.1 marked Headhunterz’s return to the hardstyle world for the first time since changing his musical style! It was an emotional occasion for everyone present.
Defqon.1 is also the only hard dance festival to have gone international. They have done editions in Australia and Chile. However, Defqon.1’s offsprings are obviously no match to the original. The holy mecca of hard dance is definitely worth a visit!
Dates: June 23-26, 2017.
Travel: 1 hour by train to Dronten then a short shuttle ride to the festival.
Go to Defqon.1 if you: have never been to Defqon.1, love the hardstyles, and want to see the most epic endshow, ever.
Don’t go to Defqon.1 if you: prefer a less “touristy” atmosphere.
For more: Read my in-depth Defqon.1 review.
Although Decibel is often overshadowed internationally by its sibling Defqon.1, for many Dutchies it is the best hardstyle and hardcore mega festival. Something of a “hidden gem” if I might. Decibel is produced by Q-Dance’s largest rival, b2s.
Decibel boasts more diversity in the subgenres of the harder styles than Defqon.1. From a Pussy Lounge (freestyle) stage to a hardcore drum & bass stage, there is something for every flavor.
The stages are arranged in a strip with the two main stages on each side of the festival. So you can party your way through the festival as you make your way from one stage to another!
Only Saturday is a full day of festivities. Friday and Sunday are days with less stages and less hours of music. But the party at the campsite never stops the whole weekend!
Dates: August 18-20, 2017
Travel: Decibel is a short shuttle ride away from Tilburg, in the south of the Netherlands. Tilburg is about 1 hour away from Amsterdam by train.
Go to Decibel if you: want to party at a hardstyle & hardcore mega-festival with Dutchies and diehards only
Don’t go to Decibel if you: want a full weekend festival, expect to sleep
Intents is another amazing hard dance festival that is not as well-known to the international crowd. However, it was actually voted the best Dutch festival of 2015! That’s quite an honor given that there are at least a hundred festivals in the Netherlands each year.
Intents features 2 full days of daytime parties and 1 pre-party for the campers. It’s smaller compared to Decibel and Defqon.1, at only 40,000 festival-goers. Because of its relatively smaller size, the atmosphere is more intimate and in many ways better.
Like Decibel, the large majority of the festival-goers are Dutchies. Even much of the MC-ing and signage in the festival are in Dutch. If you want to experience a true local hard dance festival, this is the place to be.
Of course, as expected of a high-quality hard dance festival, Intents features an adventurous lineup of hardstyle, hardcore, and freestyle artists. Furthermore, despite having a smaller size (and thus smaller budget), they spare no expense in stage art, festival decorations, light shows, and pyrotechnics. Intents is famous for its amazing end shows as well as carnivalesque vibes.
Dates: June 1-3, 2017
Travel: Oisterwijk is about 1.5 hours away from Amsterdam (closest major city is Tilburg) by train. Then it’s a short shuttle bus ride away.
Go to Intents if you: want to experience a big festival but with more intimate vibes and amazing atmosphere, party with locals, see great stage production
Don’t go to Intents if you: prefer huge festivals, besides that honestly can’t think of any reason to not go
I’ve talked the ears off of many of my hard dance friends about how Dominator blew my mind. It was in no small part because it was my first experience with hardcore music and my first hard dance festival in the Netherlands. It was also true that after Dominator there was no turning back from me.
First of all, Dominator is purely hardcore festival. That means no hardstyle – you won’t see the likes of Coone and Zatox in the lineup. Second of all, it’s hands down the best hardcore music festival in the world. The setting is part of what makes it amazing. It’s on the beach of a lake in the middle of the summer. Its outdoor rawstyle stage is built ontop of water, and party people can even dance in the lake!
You might say, “wait, rawstyle is not hardcore…” While that is true, rawstyle is trendy and does move the tickets, so we have to live with the stage. Barring that, the festival is 100% hardcore! Frenchcore, speedcore, and 160+ BPM madness.
Q-Dance and Art of Dance are the producers behind Dominator. And they spare no expense. In 2015, they had motorcyclists perform stunts … by JUMPING OVER THE DJ!!!
Dates: July 15th, 2017
Travel: Dominator is a short shuttle bus ride away from the Eindhoven train station in South Holland. Eindhoven is about 1.5 hours away from Amsterdam by train.
Go to Dominator if you: love hardcore or open to exploring it, and want to experience the best hardcore festival in the world
Don’t go to Dominator if you: hate hardcore, expect hardstyle
For more, read my in-depth Dominator review (aka the time the Dutch festival scene blew my mind).
Q-Base is another festival by… you guessed it, Q-Dance. I swear, Q-Dance did not pay me to write this! But in all seriousness, they do put on the biggest and best shows, and have a loyal following. And at least I’m diversifying this post with a German festival (although it is just 30 minutes from the border of the Netherlands).
Q-Base is typically the festival that marks the end of the festival season, before the frigid cold befalls Northern Europe and festival lovers have to satiate their desire to party at indoor festivals and clubs. Q-Base is at a very cool location, at a defunct airfield in Weeze, Germany. Many of the stages are in hangars and it is cool to explore the nooks and crannies of the venue.
I’m not sure if it’s because it’s in a different country with different laws, or if Germans just prefer to party in the nighttime. Different from the Dutch festivals, Q-Base is an evening to sunrise type of party. The festival is 14 hours, starting from 6pm to 8am. Nighttime parties lend themselves to a more intense atmosphere… not to mention the festival is so long, so you got to be quite intense!
The stages are not as embellished as other Q-Dance festivals, but what it lacks in production it makes up in music selection. The festival has a diverse selection of hardstyle & hardcore artists. They even have a stage for Belgian hardstyle and hardcore drum & bass. What a way to close the festival season!
For further reading, check out my Q-Base review.
Date: Sep 9, 2017
Travel: From Weeze, there is a shuttle bus to the festival site. Weeze has a(nother) airport, so if you’re lucky you could fly in directly. Otherwise, the closest international airport is in Dusseldorf, which is about an hour by train to Weeze.
Go to Q-Base if you: like dusk-to-dawn type parties, want to go all-out one last time before the festival season draws to a close
Don’t go to Q-Base if you: don’t like partying at night, don’t want to bring a sweater, refuse to say goodbye to the festival season