The 2023 Festival Line Up Review

And all of a sudden it’s the start of May! Thoughts are inevitably turning to Summer plans and where music is concerned that of course means festival. For me, it means a return to an annual tradition, one that I haven’t actually done since 2019 for obvious reasons, my annual review of the festival lineups. The festival landscape has changed a bit since four years ago, a number of events didn’t make it through the pandemic, a number of others that would once have been long since sold out remain on sale, while there’s also been a general shift towards more city-based alldayers. So who’s offering plenty of bang for your buck, and who isn’t living up to the price tag, check out my opinions below:

Green Man (17th – 20th August, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, Wales)

Located in the recently rebranded Bannau Brycheiniog (formerly known as the Brecon Beacons), Green Man has long been the jewel in the Welsh-festival scene’s crown, and could probably make a good claim to be Britain’s best weekend for fans of all things alternative. I’ll start with the bad news about Green Man, it’s already completely sold out, so if your name’s not down, you’re not coming in. Pretty much everything else about this year’s festival though, falls squarely in the good news camp. The headliners, First Aid Kit, Devo and Spiritualized are a bit of a something for everyone pick-and-mix, but as usual, the real charm of the event is in the sheer depth of quality on show. They’ve picked up a real coup with the festival return of The Walkmen, plus there are high-profile sets from Young Fathers, Slow Dive and the recently reformed Scots, The Delgados. Further down the bill, the festival continues to promote new and exciting artists with Sheffield’s Welsh-language psychers, Sister Wives, the fresh folk of Clara Mann and the angular noise of Drahla. If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, you’re in for a fabulous weekend, and if you’re not you might want to get ready for their 2024 pre-sale, as like a postman, Greenman always delivers.

Deer Shed (28th – 31st July, Baldersby Park, North Yorks)

Established in 2010, Deer Shed has in the past sometimes felt like a festival with a slight identity crisis, not quite sure if it’s aiming itself at an older audience or trying to appeal to the younger alternative crowd. Thankfully in recent years, they seem to increasingly be just going for it, throwing caution to the wind and embracing new acts with open arms. The 2023 edition is no different, with an out-of-this-world selection of headliners, The Comet Is Coming, Public Service Broadcasting, and the not quite so spacy, The Delgados. Further down the bill, they’ve picked out a lot of bands I love, with the expansive folk of Elanor Moss, the proto-punk of Holiday Ghosts and the unclassifiable brilliance of Divorce. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, if you book it, they will come, and increasingly Deer Shed is a festival you can rely on for a really exciting weekend.

Brighten The Corners Festival (June 9th-10th, Various Venues, Ipswich)

An entirely new one to me, Brighten The Corners has emerged from the ashes of Sound City Ipswich and is a two-day event bringing artists to five venues across Suffolk’s biggest town. Delivered by the same team who runs some of Ipswich’s finest venues, the festival has lofty aims of revitalising the town’s arts scene, and thankfully are setting about doing that by bringing some of the best new talents they can find along for the ride. Headlining are Brighton party legends The Go! Team, along with 86TVs who I must admit I’d never even heard of, but is apparently the new project from The Maccabees’ Felix and Hugo White. Joining those two is a supporting cast of the new and exciting on the UK music scene, with the likes of SUEP, Rozi Plain and Honeyglaze, plus Fat Dog and Heartworms who seem to be on pretty much every festival lineup going. My personal pick of the bunch is Naima Bock, the Sub Pop-signed songwriter who is surely a star in the making.

Get Together (May 20th, Kelham Island, Sheffield)

One of a string of inner-city festivals dominating the summer weekends, Get Together started back in 2021, and for its third edition has relocated to Kelham Island, an area of Sheffield Time Out described as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world. Bands will be performing across six venues, with local breweries taking over the taps and the best of Sheffield street food. Headlining proceedings are Friendly Fires celebrating fifteen years of their self-titled debut album. Elsewhere there are plenty of 2023 festival regulars like Panic Shack and Coach Party, while Hamish Hawk and H. Hawkline will both perform on the same stage, presumably just to make things as confusing as possible. The line-up might have slightly fewer household names than previous incarnations, but if you’re looking for the next big thing then Get Together looks like it’s definitely got you covered.

Latitude (July 20th-23rd, Henham Park, Suffolk)

The days of Latitude being seen as a small alt-indie festival are well and truly over. These days the Suffolk festival is huge and as a result, has an almost inevitable requirement to try and keep everyone happy. The result is a somewhat muddled assortment with the headliners seeming to be torn between appealing to teenagers (George Ezra) and their parents (Pulp) and ending up doing an okay job of both. The advantage of being such a huge event is that even if there’s a lot of stuff I’d be trying to avoid, there’s still a good weekend to be had with the likes of New Zealand quartet The Beths, John Grant’s other band Creep Show and up-and-coming dream-poppers Bleach Lab. Perhaps Latitude is best summed up by a run of three bands that close their second stage on Sunday evening, Kiefer Sutherland, Black Midi and Siouxsie – they’ll all appeal to someone, it’s just quite hard to imagine who’s going to stick around for all three.

Wide Awake (May 27th, Brockwell Park, London)

A self-declared, “celebration of independent music and counterculture”, Wide Awake is a coming together of some of East London’s best promoters and venues to take over Brockwell Park for a day at the end of May. After an aborted first effort in 2020, for obvious reasons, the festival launched in 2021 with a lineup that went on to become most of the 6Music playlist for the subsequent two years. Returning to a single day after last year’s attempt at expansion, the festival has recruited possibly the coolest pop star on the planet right now to headline in the form of Caroline Polacheck, alongside other critically lauded names like Black Country, New Road and Jockstrap. It’s the sort of festival line-up that’s almost intimidatingly cool, yet courtesy of the likes of Alex G, The Bug Club and Naima Bock, does have plenty of bands worth seeing for more than just street cred.

Truck Festival (July 20th-23rd, Hill Farm, Oxfordshire)

Almost the polar opposite of Wide Awake, Truck Fest doesn’t seem to be too bothered about being cool in the slightest. Now in its 25th year, the Oxfordshire institution is all about having a good time, even if the line-up does sometimes feel like going back in time. The headliners this year are something of a who’s-who of indie bands who were nearly huge, with Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats, Alt-J and Royal Blood bringing some strong late noughties vibes, which continue down the lineup like a Spotify indie anthems playlist. Away from the main stage, there are thankfully a fair few newer bands if you need a break from nostalgic sing-alongs, with the fabulous Suds, Snake Eyes and Gaffa Tape Sandy showing there’s life in guitar music yet. They’ve also got Self Esteem and Kate Nash playing, and no I’m not quite sure how neither of them are headlining either?

Sheffield Pop Weekender (August 26th-27th, Various Venues, Sheffield)

If it’s a break from the corporate you’re after, then look no further than an Indiepop festival! After the success of the Leicester Indiepop Alldayer and the London Indiepop All-dayer, Sheffield promoters Macho Music is Stupid are going one better with an entire weekend of DIY delights. The Saturday night at Sidney & Matilda is headlined by Glasgow’s booziest anthemic popstars The Just Joans, alongside the fuzzy fun of Fightmilk and local favourites All Ashore. The Sunday bill at Shakespeare’s is topped by Panic Pocket, celebrating the release of their upcoming debut album, with support from Mayshe-Mayshe and “Leeds’ immigrant-led double-drumming harmony-laden anti-capitalist hook machine”, Living Body. Promising, “two days of sheer pop loveliness”, the Sheffield Pop Weekender is something entirely different, and all the better for it.

Manchester Psych Fest (September 2nd, Various Venues, Manchester)

Something of an institution in England’s second musical city, Manchester Psych Fest seems to get bigger, and less obviously psychedelic with each passing year. Going for over a decade now, the festival crams sixty-plus bands into a single day across most of the city’s biggest indie venues, and frankly attending sounds somewhere between wonderful and a logistical nightmare. Top of the bill is a pair of co-headlining American acts The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Ezra Furman. They’re joined by an array of the psychy, shoegazey and angular, courtesy of the likes of The Lovely Eggs, BDRMM and the new Electrelane/Wire spin-off, Memorials. Bound to spark a lot of conversations as to just what is psychedelia anyway, the good news is there’s more than enough sound to drown out the doubters, plus you’ll be running between venues too much to notice.

Dot To Dot (Bristol 27th May, Nottingham 28th May – Various Venue)

Coming to not one city but two, Dot To Do is a travelling city all-dayer that started life in Nottingham nearly twenty years ago. This year’s event comes from both Nottingham and the festival’s second home in Bristol, but you’ll probably have to go to both if you want to catch all the great bands on the lineup! The headliners are the local(ish) thrills of Leeds’ Yard Act and Dublin’s Murder Capital, as well probably their biggest coup, those fabulously melodic Canadians Alvvays. Further down the bill, there’s plenty of stuff you’ll see elsewhere (Fat Dog – check, Heartworms – check) as well as a few slightly lesser-spotted options like Glasgow’s Cloth and South-West London dream-pop newcomers, Slaney Bay. Another citywide enterprise that looks like it might need running shoes, Dot To Dot has the heritage and line-up to draw in the crowds from Bristol to Nottingham and a few people in between.

End Of The Road (31st August – 3rd September, Lamer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire)

End Of The Road has marked the end of the UK festival-scene since it launched back in 2006, and once again it appears they’ve saved the best to last. While some things remain the same, there is a distinctly progressive feel to this year’s End Of The Road line-up as the usual blend of folk and Americana is adorned with a smattering of afrobeat, electronica and retro-soul, it’s a reminder that End Of The Road is not one for resting on its laurels. The stand-out headliner for me is Chicago alt-country legends Wilco, who are joined by the somewhat more expected pair of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Future Islands, which seems a bit of a shame when Angel Olsen is on the bill and surely ready to become a headline act. Elsewhere there will be high-profile slots from End Of The Road regular Ezra Furman, the country-melancholy of Cass McCombs and the ever-welcome presence of Caitlin Rose. While not avoiding all the standard festival fare (Fat Dog – check, Heartworms, check) where End Of The Road stands out from the crowd is finding bands nobody else would have thought of, so you’re treated to the low-key majesty of Friendship, the orchestral folk of Macie Stewart and the unclassifiable pop of Katy Kirby. Always evolving, always wonderful and once again End Of The Road is going to end the summer in style.

Header photo is Greenman Festival by Nici Eberl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s