Lifestyle & Culture

Ypsigrock Festival: Sicily’s unique boutique music festival reveals first acts, more coming

Somehow we’ve overlooked Italy’s thriving festival scene. Then we got an email from Ypsigrock.

Usually, we’d just take the info and include it in an update of the appropriate “best music festivals” post. (You can see them all here.)

But Ypsigrock, coming up on 22 years, is cool enough and different enough to deserve its own post. Ypsigrock’s 2018 edition takes place from 9 to 12 August at Castelbuono, Sicily, Italy. Ypsigrock claims the title of Italy’s first boutique music festival, founded in Sicily in 1997. This is not the typical DJs-and-stages affair. This is a festival with live acts playing amid an Italian hill town.

From Marcella Campo, brand & communications manager at Ypsigrock:

Ypsigrock is the first Italian boutique festival and it was founded in 1997 in Sicily to connect and bring indie lovers from all over the country and abroad to the medieval hill town of Castelbuono to see amazing international bands for exclusive live shows. Ypsigrock is a sort of little miracle in Italy, a self-produced and self-financed festival, volunteering as a warm family.

 Ypsigrock has several things that set it apart including:

• That setting on scenic Sicily, with a beach just a few minutes away

• Going on 22 years, they’ve never booked the same act twice

• Though there are four venues, bands never overlap, forcing you to chose.

• Unlike the biggest festivals, this one is not owned by a big Amsterdam-based, London-based or New York-based group. It’s done as a labor of love under the auspices of the Glenn Gould Cultural Association.

• Ypsigrock mixes international stars with Italian acts.

• There’s camping in the pine forest of San Focà, inside the Madonie Natural Park.

This year, Ypsigrock Festival has announced its first acts, with more to follow:

The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Horrors, AURORA, The Radio Dept., … And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Her, Girls Names, YoungR, Blue Hawaii and Shame

A 3-day pass is very reasonable 72 euros plus fees, but prices rise as we get closer to the event dates.

You can buy your tickets here.

Okay, let’s say you’re like us, living in the middle of Europe, and Ypsigrock sounds like something you have to experience.

Here’s how to get there, courtesy of Christoph Storbeck, international relations at Ypsigrock:

There are plenty of direct flights from the UK, most frequently from London, of course, but from the continent, there’s also Airport Weeze/NRN (Niederrhein – Nijmegen), Eindhoven, or indeed from Schiphol. You change planes in Rome and go by KLM – Alitalia Skyteam network, which is pretty comfortable, even if not super cheap.

Once in Sicily, the next leg depends on the type of traveler.
• Car is most comfortable if one also wants to discover the surroundings and do day trips (which is absolutely possible because shows start around 5pm)
• You can take a bus from Palermo or Catania, either shuttles we provide depending on actual request, or public transport. Though there’s not one general system in public transport, but several different companies.

We have all these details here.

Seems more complicated than it actually is, though. People can always reach out and ask.Ypsigrock has received a lot of accolades over the years:

• Winner “Best Italian Festival 2015”

• Shortlisted “Best European Small Festival” at European Festival Awards 2016 (Eurosonic, Groningen)

• Nominated “Best European Small Festival” at European Festival Awards 2011-2017 (Eurosonic, Groningen)

Here’s what the critics say:

Ypsigrock might just be the most beautiful festival ever. It combines a quality selection of music in a beautiful mountain castle location with not too many people and a beach nearby to hang out during the day sampling the wonderful Sicilian food and hospitality. And only a cheap flight from UK. If you are looking for an antidote to expensive busy festivals in wet English fields, then look no further. Ypsirock is the answer. Ed Foster (Kobalt Music Publishing, UK)

As a music journalist I’ve watched and visited more than 200 festivals in 20 years, from Reading and Roskilde to tiny Open Airs in the green. I thought I’ve seen them all. And then I visited Ypsigrock – and found a new Universe of understanding, love for music and people that dance to any kind of beat and smile to any kind of joke. It’s a true gem of authenticity, intensity and artistic freedom, where every artist – no matter how ‘strange’ and unique their music is – is not only welcomed but loved in a deep manner. If there’s any chance I will visit Ypsigrock from now on every year. Because I’ve never experienced a whole town become part of a movement for interesting music and the joy of a shared moment. Sascha Krüger (Germany / Music Journalist, ao Chief Editor, Galore, Visions, Guitar)

If you missed out on Glasto, then you should try it.  Fancy a festival by a medieval castle? Then head for Ypsigrock, which is held in the main square of Castelbuono on Sicily’s north coast. It has a rich rock’n’roll, folk and dance music heritage, stretching back to 1997. The Times of London

Ah, Sicily. Who doesn’t want to go to Sicily? No one. This intimate festival set up in the hills under the shadow of the majestic Parco Delle Madonie, gets a 10 for scenery. And, at only 3,000 capacity, the line-up stands out as one of the best line-ups for a small festival on the planet. Gigwise

Ypsigrock, the best festival you’ll only find if you leave the beaten track of the European circuit behind. Is this the most beautiful festival on the planet? The 405

And that’s precisely why Ypsigrock succeeds. It’s not about any one element – the lineup, the crowd, the setting, or the weather, even – but the way each interacts with the other, becoming something unforgettable in the process. A quite unique festival, there’s a mysterious charm to this Sicilian event that is nigh on impossible to put into words. It’s a trite phrase, but true: Ypsigrock really is spell-binding. CLASH

There aren’t many festivals where you can marvel at 4th Century churches, donkeys pressed into service as rubbish collectors, and wander endless, charming, cobbled streets while nibbling on panettone, but then one soon learns how special, and how welcoming, this event really is. […] there are so many moments of joy, and of genuine warmth from the locals – and the artists present – one feels compelled to ask why such events like this shouldn’t be copied. Drowned in Sound

The best known unknown festival in Europe. The 405

Ypsigrock’s beautiful location, married to excellent production and hospitality resulted in the festival being one of the highlights of East India Youth’s live career, and one of the most memorable weekends of my life. Andy Inglis (5000 Mgmt, UK)

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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