Updated: Sep 26
What makes someone travel some 17,140 odd kilometres from the temperate ocean shores of the Gold Coast in Queensland to the arid desert of Fraga in Spain? A bloody good music festival, of course!
Monegros Desert Festival is regarded as one of the most extreme festivals you can do. It’s 22+ hours of music in the incredibly arid Desierto de los Monegros. You can experience a vast array of mother nature's elements, ranging from extreme heat, right down to freezing cold. Albert, the taxi driver who collected me from Barcelona airport a couple of days before the festival had made the pilgrimage to the desert party five times. He shared his experiences including rain, wind, and tornados (we call them “doofnados” in Australia) but assured me I would have a "beautiful time".
Ah, those European festival line-ups! It was an impressive list of names including Basement Jaxx, Maceo Plex, Chase & Status, Adam Beyer, Amelie Lens, Joseph Capriati, Camo & Krooked, Laurent Garnier, The Martinez Brothers and Richie Hawtin to name a few. There was a great representation of local artists too, which was fantastic to see.
My “must see” list was modest, being Paul Kalkbrenner, Michael Bibi, and Sama' Abdulhadi, who devastatingly cancelled at the last minute. Other notable cancellations included Charlotte de Witte and Wu-Tang Clan.
I made the rounds throughout the day, alternating between the great vibes, shade, and grass in the 'Greenlight Corner', a stage dedicated to Dub / Roots Reggae and bursts of energized dancing in the sun to the likes of Basement Jaxx and the amazing array of DnB at the 'Moon Stage'. As the sun went down the energy hit new peaks. Paul Kalkbrenner was utterly perfect as always, delivering his set with as much verve and passion as if it were his first.
I had purchased bus tickets which ran from Barcelona (and numerous other locations) to the festival and back, but a random change of plans meant I ended up in a hire car with a random Aussie (you can always find a random Aussie wherever you are in the world!) driving just over two hours from Barcelona to the festival. Overall, it was a very easy drive with a bit of traffic leading into the festival. If you decide to take a bus, make sure you book your ticket well in advance as these sold out fast. If you drive, take good note of where you park the car as the space is vast, there’s very few geographical landmarks and after driving through the dust, all the cars look the same colour of “Dusty Desert Brown”.
Getting into the festival was quite painless, with lines moving quickly forward and very little hassle at the gates. Bags were checked before entry.
I’m generally not a fan of cashless systems but the wristband by Howler at Monegros seemed to work fairly well. There was a slight hitch with my wristband as the staff member at the gate didn’t load it with the €100 I had prepaid for when I purchased my ticket. Although frustrating, I was able to charge the wristband in the VIP section with cash. Howler promised refunds of any unused amounts on the wristband, so I was pleased to receive a refund of the €100 (less an administration fee) in my bank account a couple of weeks after the festival.
Stages and Sound Systems
The barren desert was converted into paradise, a thing of real beauty, working with the environment in the colours and design of the 11 stages, which included a converted airbus A330! It was easy to forget the prickles, rocks, and dust just outside the barriers of the festival.
For those of you into tech specs and sound systems, the Sound System Temple (main stage) was armed with more than 1,400,000 Watts of power with Clair Brothers systems C15, C12 with subs iS218 and CS218. In punter speak, the music was loud and clear, which is exactly what you want. The organisers put a lot into planning the stages and sound systems and there was hardly any clashing sound that can happen at multi-stage festivals, something that personally does my head in and detracts a lot from the experience. You can check out the specs of all the sound systems on the Monegros website.
The overall layout of the festival was excellent. I often find myself disoriented at large festivals especially after dark but was able to navigate around easily on my own.
We were absolutely blessed with perfect weather, with a top of 33°C and low of 20°C. Future editions of the festival may not be so lucky, extremes can occur so plan and pack accordingly. The festival provides a cloak room so you can bring a change of clothes with minimal dramas. There are no passouts so don’t rely on leaving items in your car.
The dust was minimal on the festival site, again kudos to the organisers, it really seemed like great care was taken during the build to minimise dust. Having experienced the eyeball pain of the Victorian outback at home doofs, I had packed goggles to protect against what I thought would be eye searing dust particles but didn’t end up using them.
Monegros faced the challenges that many rural/outdoor festivals have, that is how to provide water and toilet facilities in a remote area to huge numbers of people. With only three free water points that I observed, the lines for water were always long and I'm very impatient, so I just paid for water. The porta-loo situation was grim even at around 2 pm on Saturday, so by 4 am on Sunday morning - the horror! Trying to keep porta-loos clean and functional for a 22 + hour music festival for 55,000 people can’t be easy. But, I believe all festivals need to conquer the challenge to meet the two essential needs of attendees; Ample access to free drinking water, and clean and functional toilet facilities.
The bars served drinks in a souvenir, refillable cup. I really loved this idea from an environmental and tourist perspective. I wasn't successful in having the cups refilled by bar staff however, and was charged €1 extra for a cup with every drink purchase. There didn't appear to be any free cups at the bars I went to. I was disappointed to see the souvenir cups littering the ground as the festival went on, seemingly not solving the environmental waste challenge I thought that it might. Mine made the long journey home, "straight to the pool room".
Food options were plentiful, with all the usual festival fare including pizza, burgers, papas fritas calientes and more. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free were all catered for. There were also fruit stations which were a great idea, a slice of cool watermelon going down a treat during the hot afternoon.
I wasn't expecting any phone service at all, but there was patchy service. There was a significant delay in messages being sent and recieved, so if you go, be sure to organise a good meeting point with your friends. That said, you might be able to do a cheeky Insta post if you’re lucky and so inclined.
I’m generally one to say if you can access the VIP option then do it, and this case is no exception. The VIP areas afforded more chill out spaces than the rest of the festival, and taking some moments to recharge between dancing sessions is a good idea if you're going to stick out the full festival.
There were quite a few festival goers looking worse for wear after the 10-hour mark, so I hate to think how they were by the end of the event. It probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway - as with any festival experience, stay hydrated, look after your mates and of course pace yourself with drinks and whatever else you partake in. As you don't have a camp site to go back to and regroup at Monegros, this is especially important. Look afer yourself and go the distance.
Overall, if you love travel, techno, adventure, and festivals, Monegros is one of those “of a lifetime” experiences you should do. I also loved exploring Barcelona on either side of the festival - what an incredible city. If you’re considering hitting up Monegros in 2023, it's their 30 year anniversary edition, and I would absolutely recommend it. You can register for pre-sale here. And hey, I might even be there again too!
Ky Mi x
Chalart58 - Woman Soldier
Dub Elements - Like That
Dub Elements - Devices
Camo & Krooked, Mefjus - Sientelo (Original Mix)
Camo & Krooked, Sophie Lindinger, Mefjus - No Tomorrow feat. Sophie Lindinger (Original Mix)
Loop Stepwalker, Shadow Sect, Jordi Calviño - RVLTN feat. Jordi Calviño (Original Mix)
I Hate Models - Sad Groove
Chris Liberator, Sam DFL - Mainstream (Original Mix)
I Hate Models - Daydream
Amelie Lens - Follow (Original Mix)
Joseph Capriati - Solar System (Original Mix)
Laurent Garnier - Flashback (2022 Remaster)
Sam Paganini - Rave (Original Mix)
Seth Troxler & Jaden Thompson - Talking Walls
Michael Bibi - Whispers in the Wind
Kölsch & Tiga - HAL
Paul Kalkbrenner - No Goodbye