The problem for me with Festivals is that I’m not normally too bothered who the headliners are, or for that matter who’s playing the main stage, yet I’m still expected to essentially subsidise others to see them play. With my slightly obscure music taste I usually more interested the acts that tend to be playing the smaller stages, usually with naff set times… Take Reading and Leeds this year: whilst the majority of people will be super excited for Metallica, Mumford and Sons and The Libertines, I’m looking mainly at Run the Jewels, Parquet Courts and American Football on the smaller stage. With V Festival, Calvin Harris and Kasabian are probably the reason most people are going, but its only Chvrches that i’d really care about, and they look to be on super early and set to play in front of a half interested crowd waiting for Olly Murs or Hozier. Kasabian will also be entertaining T in the Park, whilst the only artist to get me truly excited is St. Vincent, who only manages the third wave of font size on the festival poster.
What’s more, these household-name festivals have rocketed up in price in the last couple of years, and are super corporate, sponsorship heavy, and full of annoying 16 year olds getting pissed and high. Don’t get me wrong, these festivals are still likely to be excellent for the majority of people, and I’d still have a great time going, but if your tastes lie slightly left field of mainstream you might want to consider one of these relatively smaller events.
NOS Primavera Sound
Parque da Cidade, Porto
Yeah, obviously Primavera Sound Barcelona may have what for many is a dream line up, but its kinda expensive and only being over three days will have clashes galore (you’re only realistically going to catch about 5 acts a day). So why not try its smaller sister event in Porto. A refined version of the Barcelona festival, its also cheaper and perhaps gives you an excuse to visit Portugal’s second city. You can still catch Belle and Sebastian, Interpol, FKA Twigs, Mac DeMarco, Patti Smith, Jungle, Ariel Pink, Sun Kil Moon and Damien Rice, plus tons and tons of others. Heck, you’re probably going to still have clash problems.
There is no opportunity to camp, well not at the festival anyway, but Hostels are cheap and give you a chance to stay for an extended period. Include it as part of a post exams trip, Lisbon is meant to be beautiful and Madrid isn’t too far away. The dates are a bit odd, the festival runs from the Thursday (4th) to the Saturday (6th), but you’ll be off anyway – who cares?!
Tickets are 105 euros for the weekend, £75, a real steal!
Victoria Park, London
I like to try avoiding the term ‘alternative music’, because it makes me sound pretentious, and has strong hipster connotations, but if you like alternative music…this is the place for you! After exams, and featuring a line up that excels in both strength and depth, Field Day will take place in Victoria Park on 6th and 7th of June.
Caribou, FKA Twigs, Run the Jewels, Tune Yards, Mac DeMarco, Ride, Patti Smith (playing ‘Horses’ in full), Eagulls, Savages, Ex Hex and Viet Cong are all set to feature across the weekend, In addition, the festival will feature a fine collections of electronic music artists, including many that are usually hard to catch live: Clark, Floating Points, Hudson Mohawk, Madlib, Sophie and Todd Terje.
Tickets are £83 (at the point of writing) for a weekend ticket, or £54.50 for the Saturday and £38.50 for the Sunday. Food will be available from a convoy of local food fans, and drink will be sold from local breweries, meaning that you can actually eat well and won’t be ripped off for doing so. You can’t camp, but just find a cheap hostel (or stay with mummy and daddy in surrey).
Brecon Beacons, Wales
Green Man this year is focusing on improving intergenerational relations. Classic bands like Slow Dive and Television share the stage with upstarts Public Service Broadcasting and Temples. With the ubiquitous metropolis pop queen St Vincent making an appearance, along with oxymoronic cool-progsters Mew (they must make it work because they’re Danish) and the articulate and charming Courtney Barnett shows there is something for everyone here.
Looking further down the bill pleasant surprises keep jumping out at you at every corner-the combination of the likes of Waxhatchee, Trust Fund, Hookworms and Viet Cong start to echo that terrifying word ‘clashes’ around your mind, but with the quality on offer, that would be a nice headache to have.
The ticketing is kind of confusing (http://www.greenman.net/tickets/), but you can expect to pay around £170 for a normal ticket, which is good value for money for the entertainment on offer.
Rock en Seine
Domain national de Saint-Cloud, Paris
It’s perhaps strange that what I remember most from Rock en Seine in 2013 is smoke. The French love to do and festivals tend to attract tobacco lovers anyway, so mix those two factors together and you’ve got an asthmatic’s worst nightmare.
Well…unless that asthmatic’s a music fan, then I’m sure they’re probably quite happy to put up with some blackened lungs for a weekend of incredible sets. I also remember from 2013 both Tame Imapla and Franz Ferdinand blowing me away, and in fact those two artists are set to return this year*.
My Morning Jacket, Bluesy-Rock experts famed for their live performances, will also be there. As will Hot Chip, who are probably responsible for the most fun I’ve had at a gig all year. Indie superstars The Maccabees play the Saturday, whilst hard-to-catch-live Rodrigo Y Gabriela will play the Friday. The Chemical Brothers will end the party in style on the Sunday.
Domaine national de Saint-Cloud is just a metro journey away from the centre of Paris, by a river (the Seine) and features a great setup, with staggered set times so you don’t have to worry about clashes (thank heavens!). The place was buzzing and for France featured a surprisingly lively crowd…I remember one weird old Aussie guy, who was about 50, had a flag draped around him and was wearing a number plate that read “GIG PIG” as a necklace. He was crowd surfing like crazy during Tame Impala’s set, including jumping on unexpecting people who really couldn’t take his weight…well at least he was doing that until he was escorted somewhere else by security.
Tickets are 49 euros for a day or 119 euros for the weekend. At today’s exchange rate that’s £85 – astonishing value!
*Franz Ferdinand as FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks)
End of the Road
Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire
End of the Road Festival’s name, although sounding slightly sinister, is merely in reference to the fact that it is one of the last to come in the Summer Festival Season™. Held in the picturesque Larmer Tree Gardens on the 4/5/6th of September, this year’s 10th anniversary edition boasts a phenomenal line-up. Notoriously hard-to-catch twee-indie king Sufjan Stevens, aussie psych-freaks Tame Imapala and ‘beer commercial music’ (Kozelek, M. (2014)) The War on Drugs provide a great headlining trio, but the real strength of this festival is the depth of the line-up. To take a sporting analogy, this ‘team’ has a strong ‘squad’, with numerous back-ups in every ‘position’. Hmm. Or how about a food analogy- as well as the ‘main courses’ there are fantastic ‘starters’, ‘desserts’ and ‘sides’…. This just isn’t working. It would be far easier to just tell you some of the acts playing.
Sounds of the moment, Future Islands and Mac DeMarco stop by, former ‘New band of the year’ types Django Django do too. Or if you’re after grizzlier geezer angst, check out The Fat White Family and Sleaford Mods. Joanna Gruesome and Happyness each provide youthful outlooks on apathy and modern life and North America’s most recent prime exports in Ought, Ex Hex and Alvvays* slot in too.
There are obviously many more acts playing, but you’re just gonna have to look that up for yourself. End of the Road is a small festival, with only about 8000 attendees. This grants it a pleasant and intimate vibe with which to see out the summer. Remaining tickets are priced at £195, with a £45 deposit and this includes camping. Campervan/caravan passes are £70, and an advanced car parking spot is £6.
*I’d pay the full price of a gig ticket just to hear them play ‘Archie, Marry Me’