After two difficult years, music festivals are officially back: Coachella in California, Primavera in Barcelona and Rock am Ring in Nürburg, Germany, took place successfully, while Britain's Glastonbury and Mad Cool in Madrid are imminent.
While the scale of events in Bulgaria is considerably smaller, the country is re-entering the map of summer music getaways stronger than ever - the season kicked off with the now established Meadows in the Mountains fest in the Rhodope Mountains and the Sofia Live Festival in the capital last weekend. So, what's next?
Several of the main events for the summer will take place on almost identical days in early July.
Between June 30 and July 3, the Ritual Gatherings festival will take place on the Kamchia beach, just south of Varna. This is an event that will combine electronic music, contemporary art, environmental initiatives and zero-waste cuisine. DJs and electronic artists at the festival include Swedish producer Axel Boman, British disco classics Crazy P Soundsystem, Detroit's DJ Holographic, Ivan Shopov (also associated with Cooh, Balkansky, Avigeia) and many more. The artistic program, which will range from installations to video art and performances, has been selected by Martina Yordanova, curator at the National Art Gallery.
At the same time, Sofia will host the eleventh edition of A To Jazz, which will take over the capital's South Park between 1 and 3 July. The first day's headliner is American jazz legend, Grammy winner and onetime Miles Davis collaborator John McLaughlin. He arrives with his band The 4th Dimension. Other established performers in this year's edition include Russian trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and Ilhan Ersahin's Istanbul Sessions quartet. Access to the festival is free and there will be a children's jazz stage.
After a few editions in Plovdiv and a pause during the Covid pandemic, the Hills of Rock festival will have two editions this year, with the first taking place at Sofia airport park between July 2-3. Among the guest bands are Placebo, who have their first new album in nine years, The Sisters of Mercy, Five Fingers Death Punch, Hollywood Undead. The Plovdiv edition is scheduled for 22-23 July and will be considerably heavier in terms of music: headliners are Slipknot, Behemoth and Sabaton.
The Wrong Fest (1-3 July) in Plovdiv is perhaps the event that will bring the most popular musical names to Bulgaria this year: the rowing canal just outside of the city's center will have two stages that will host Syrian artist Omar Suleiman, who gained considerable popularity in Europe after leaving his native country at the height of the civil war, up-and-coming bands such as Viagra Boys, Black Midi and Goat Girl, as well as established punk rockers from Gogol Bordello and the Russian protest electronic duo IC3PEAK.
In between these two festivals in Plovdiv there will be a more significant solo concert - by British hip-hop star Skepta, part of the London grime wave. He is visiting on July 15, and will also perform on the stage of the rowing canal.
For classic rock fans
There will be two must-see events for fans of old school rock and roll in July. First, it's the Iron Maiden concert, part of their Legacy of the Beast 2022 tour, taking place in the Armeets Arena in Sofia on 13 July.
Second, it's the Midalidare - Rock In The Wine Valley festival, in the vinery of the same name near the village of Mogilovo, Chirpan municipality between 14 and 17 July. The festival has been held since 2017 and headliners this year are White Snake, Running Wild, Within Temptation and Judas Priest.
Later, at the very end of summer, another wave of classic heavy bands will pay a visit - the Finnish metal ensemble Apocalyptica will shake up the Summer theater of Plovdiv on 3 September, while their German trash metal colleagues from Sodom will perform on 15 September at the Yunak Stadium in Sofia.
To the sea
Making a time jump back to July - and a space shift straight to the Black Sea, we see that Burgas will join the musical competition with the Stereo Festival, which will have its very first edition there (30 June - 2 July). It will feature DJs Deeklinee and Ed Solo, Goran Bregovic, as well as Bulgaian stars Upsurt, Stefan Valdobrev and the Usual Suspects, and the up-and-coming Kerana and the Cosmonauts.
Just south from there, the Wake Up Stran-Jah fest will be celebrating a full decade of existence. It will traditionally be held at the North Beach of Varvara between August 12-15. For the fifth consecutive year, the program of local and international electronic artists will be curated by Berlin-based DJ Laylla Dane (Martha Daneva).
Last, but not least, comes the most current name in popular music to visit Bulgaria this summer - British indie captains Arctic Monkeys, who will take over the harbor of Burgas on the night of 12 August. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly) tickets for the show sold out just hours after they were put on sale, but if you are a late and determined fan, this can only serve as an incentive to look harder.
So, what are you waiting for? Go buy tickets and plan ahead for a very musical summer!