With the recent bought of sunshine and temperatures that, if not warm, are hovering some distance above freezing, we’ve started thinking about summer. Those glorious days that play out like cider commercials in our mind; full of sunshine, friends and days in the parks. The reality is of course just as likely to be washed out muddy fields and rained off games of cricket, but none the less a great deal of us will drag ourselves out of the cities and into some beautiful settings, with some very beautiful music.
With numerous festivals clambering for your hard earned wages, we’re setting aside some time to take a look at what they’ve got to offer, and try and point you in the direction of what we consider to be the pick of this summer’s best weekenders.
Green Man Festival
Now into its 14th years, Green Man is one of the most established and consistent festivals on the British circuit, as well as being Wales’ largest music and arts festival. Whilst early Green Man line-ups were characterised by a largely alt-folk feel, it is a festival that keeps up well with the shifting sands of alternative music, and is never afraid of booking acts that might not initially seem obvious fits with the festivals general feeling.
2016 is no difference, as headlining alongside indie-pop legends Belle & Sebastian, are electronic (or should that be post-dubstep) wizard James Blake and the delightfully unclassifiable Kendal four-piece Wild Beasts. Further down the line-up there’s a number of acts who are arguably bigger than some of the headliners, with the seemingly constantly reforming Grandaddy, Warpaint and current 6-Music faves White Denim; all big draws we’d imagine.
The rest of the bill is eclectic and intriguing, there’s jazz from Kendrick Lamar-collaborator Kamasi Washington, and whatever the heck you call the kind of music Kiran Leonard makes by Kiran Leonard. Keeping up the classic Greenman alt-folk feel are the ilk of Ryley Walker, Phil Cook and James Yorkston’s latest project Yorkston, Thorn & Khan. There are also plenty of our favourites including Ezra Furman, Cate Le Bon, Amber Arcades and Mothers. Diverse, deep and absolutely fabulous, we’ve not got a single bad word to say about this line up.
With its emphasis placed on hedonism, dancing and dressing-up, we must admit that Bestival and this site are probably coming at the whole concept of a good time from very different directions, none the less we’d be remiss to not mention one of the summer’s most popular weekenders. As ever, Rob Da Bank’s Isle Of Wight based jamboree is heavily themed with this year being The Future; which based on their website, Bestival seem to think is mainly about Spaceships and Astronauts, a bit like how people thought the future would be in the 1960’s.
The strange mix of not very futuristic ideas and a Future theme continues into the festivals biggest headliner, genuinely legendary goth-rockers The Cure, who are joined in the top spots by the admittedly more futuristic pairing of Hot Chip and Major Lazer. The rest of the line-up makes us feel very old, as we genuinely haven’t heard much of this young people music; The Human League, Animal Collective and Ride jump out, but there’s a lot of DJ’s and alike…basically if you like what Bestival do, they’re doing Bestival again and it looks very Bestivally. There’s also some Lucha Libre wrestling, and one of the wrestlers looks like he’s going to dress up as a Stegosaurus, which is fun.
It’s probably Oxfordshire’s most pleasant sounding weekend but we must admit previous Wilderness line-ups have left us incredibly cold. Last year took a giant step in the right direction courtesy of booking Bjork, but didn’t do much else, this year though things are looking a bit more promising.
To be fair to the Wilderness team the festival doesn’t even really claim to be a music festival, putting as much effort into it’s food, theatre and skinny-dipping, and we’re reliably informed that’s it’s a wonderful weekend. The music though just seems very safe and uninspiring. Headlining the show are the ever excellent The Flaming Lips, performing The Soft Bulletin in full, and Robert Plant’s latest incarnation, the Led-Zeppelin man performing with his new band The Sensational Space Shifters. Lower down the bill there really isn’t a lot to write home about though, consisting mainly of loose collectives in old-timey gear and singer-songwriters who look incredibly bland, but if you think bands called things like Hot Rock Pilgrims, Holy Moly & The Crackers and Cardboard Fox are your kind of thing you can go, you can even have some culturally insensitive middle-class good time at the Hip-Hop Karaoke, if you really must.
Cleverly arranged each year so that lots of bands over to play Primavera can hop over to British shores while they’re in Europe, Field Day is as ever an impressive mix of the very good and the very hip. As is now traditional the weekend is split into a more danceable day and a more band-based day, with James Blake topping the bill at the former, and the wonderful PJ Harvey taking on the latter.
James Blake is joined by fellow danceable sorts Gold Panda, Four Tet and Floating Points, as well as some more eclectic fair from Canadian noise-punks Metz, ambitious-guitar bands Deerhunter and Yeasayer and the not quite sure what he’s doing on this bill, but brilliant anyway, Meilyr Jones. Filling out Polly Jean’s day are some genuinely wonderful names, Bella Union‘s duo John Grant and Beach House, psych-rockers Moon Duo and Goat and alt-rock legends Thurston Moore and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Whilst the fact it’s in a park in London, and the sound has a pretty poor reputation might well put some people off, there’s little doubt that this is one of the most interesting line-ups of the summer, and Field Day has never looked more enticing.
Run by the largely disliked festival behemoth Festival Republic, there’s something a bit smug about Latitude, from its “more than just a music festival” tag-line, to the fact that one of the festivals originators described it as “the Tate-modern of music festivals”, it’s a festival that wants to tell you it’s really worthy, but is run by the same people who will barely book a woman to play at Reading & Leeds.
We hate to admit it, but this years line up is actually really rather good. The headliners are a well-balanced set of the stepping up (The Maccabees), the in their prime (The National), and the legendary (New Order). There are some serious names on the undercard as well, with the likes of Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett and John Grant gracing the main stage, and Perfume Genius, Kurt Vile and Money performing elsewhere. Probably the biggest names of any of the more alternative leaning festivals, it’s hard to argue that Latitude have done anything but put together a very impressive group of bands; the clever bastards.
Everything about Festival No.6 sounds great, it’s in Portmeirion, the site is beautiful and intriguing, and you can go paddle boarding on the estuary and take a dip in their swimming pool. It sounds delightful, and enchanting…so why on earth have you ruined it by booking Noel Gallagher and Bastille?! We know you’ve got tickets to sell and they’re big draws, but if there’s a match that sounds like it’s made a very long way from heaven, then this is it.
What makes it all the more infuriating is that elsewhere they’ve got it so very right; Super Furry Animals, Factory-records legends A Certain Ratio, Broken Social Scene, C Duncan, Gwenno – stick a couple of good headliners on to the top of the bill and this would be a wonderful weekend, as it is, it’s another year where they’ve got close to a great bill, but fallen at the final hurdle. Some day soon Festival No.6 is going to be amazing.
This year marks the 10th anniversary edition of the indie-pop festival of choice Indietracks. Firmly established at their home of the Midlands Railway Museum, the entirely unpretentious and very DIY spirit remains firmly intact, as does their ability to constantly surprise with their line up choices.
It’s still early days for the Indietracks 2016 schedule but it’s already an enticing mix of the old, the new and the entirely unheard of. Headlining proceedings are quite possibly the biggest band they’ve ever booked, the pop royalty that is St.Etienne. They’re joined on the bill by the reformed former John Peel favourites The Aislers Set (we can’t say we know anything about them) and Glaswegian quartet The Spook School. Elsewhere there’s plenty of gems from the UK DIY scene including Flowers, Chrissy Barnacle and Charla Fantasma. Early days, but already full of promise.
End Of The Road
Following up last years 10th anniversary festival, and the booking of Sufjan Stevens as a headliner was always going to be a tricky balancing act for End Of The Road, whilst none of this years headliners are Sufjan levels of jaw-dropping, it’s a typically excellent and large collection of interesting acts old and new.
Headlining proceedings is the ever wonderful Joanna Newsom, alongside Bat For Lashes and intriguingly inconsistent Animal Collective. As ever the rest of the line-up is eclectic and excellent, take your pick of the big names from Cat Power, Devendra Banhart, Savages, Field Music, Broken Social Scene and Teenage Fanclub, while there’s a wonderful array of new talent not to be missed including sets from Amber Arcades, Martha Ffion and Mothers. End Of The Road remains at the top of its game, and alongside Green Man the hottest ticket in the UK festival scene.