Your guide to biggest and best music festivals
As Bruce Springsteen heads for Worthy Farm, Blur reunite and Doves aim for great heights, this year’s festival season offers the perfect recession antidote. Ben Walsh is our guide
Friday 17 April 2009
End of the Road
"An artistic triumph and fully deserving of its place in the festival calendar" was how our reviewer Nick Hasted described last year's End of the Road.
Now in its fourth year, this quirky, independent event, which won the Best New Festival at the Festival Awards 2006, is set deep within the beautiful tranquillity of Larmer Tree Gardens. This year, the 5,000-capacity festival will feature the Broken Family Band, the Cambridge quartet with a haunting, rather unhinged slant on country rock, Alela Diane, the melancholy folk singer from Nevada City, California, the folk-inflected Dodos from San Francisco, the sumptuous, mesmerising harmonies of Fleet Foxes, the Danish post-pop crooner Peter Broderick, bluegrass exponents Mumford & Sons, cerebral folkies Okkervil River and the country-rock colossus Steve Earle. Longer than normal sets are positively encouraged at this corporate-free delight.
Act not to miss: Fleet Foxes
Act to look out for: Okkervil River
Where: Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset (020-8675 9616; endoftheroadfestival.com)
When: 11-13 September
This perennially intriguing festival, now in its fourth year, celebrates all aspects of art and culture, including poetry (Jeffrey Lewis and Andrew Motion will attend) and literature talks (Blake Morrison). Also, this year the English National Ballet will present a new musical from Che Walker. But indie rock is still the main draw and Latitude once again boasts one of the finest line-ups of the year, with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Pet Shop Boys, Doves and Grace Jones topping the bill. The Doves' exquisite new album, Kingdom of Rust, will have hopefully catapulted this Mancunian trio, who formed in 1998 and have released four albums, to Elbow-like success by July. They deserve their moment in the sun and they could be the surprise package at this pretty, family-friendly setting in gorgeous Southwold. Other highlights at this now major boutique festival include Spiritualized, Bat for Lashes, Editors and Gossip.
Act not to miss: Doves
Act to look out for: A Belle and Sebastian DJ set
Where: Henham Park, Southwold, Sunrise Coast, Suffolk (www.latitudefestival.co.uk)
When: 16-19 July
The Secret Garden
This radically expressive and radically inclusive festival boldly claims to provide "a nihilistic escape from the daily drudge of normality and invites you into the world of Eden and Babylon", two hedonistic areas created either side of a picaresque lake. Jarvis Cocker, the gangly, former misfit, who is now rather part of the establishment, tops the typically eclectic bill. Also confirmed are the quirky Liverpudlian turntablist Sonny J, the underrated anti-folk songstress Emmy the Great, electronic whiz and sonic-soundscape practitioner Caribou, reggae greats Toots and the Maytals and Golden Silvers, a New Romantic, electro-pop trio from London, whose debut, True Romance, is released later this month.
Act not to miss: Jarvis Cocker
Act to look out for: Emmy the Great
Where: Mill Hill Field, Grange Farm, Huntingdon (www.secretgardenparty.com/2009)
When: 23-26 July
"Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music. I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It's wrong," maintained Noel Gallagher last year. The granddaddy of music festivals controversially selected Jay-Z as a headliner last year, but there's no such hip-hop adventure this time, as Glastonbury plumps for rock mammoths Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, and Gallagher's old nemeses, the freshly reunited Blur. Ever since the Boss' 2006 album We Shall Overcome: the Seeger Sessions , which included 13 old folk songs made popular by the folkie Pete Seeger, Springsteen has been re-energised. He released, with his E-Street Band, the superb Magic in 2007 and has followed it up with the solid Working on a Dream this year. Expect the insatiable 59-year-old to slide on his knees, grinning like an extra in High School Musical at some stage of his three-hour-plus set. Other highlights include Fleet Foxes, Franz Ferdinand, the Ting Tings, White Lies, Emiliana Torrini, Doves, Lily Allen, Echo and the Bunnymen and the rugged, bluesy sensation Florence and the Machine.
Act not to miss: Bruce Springsteen (although Blur could run him close)
Act to look out for: Florence and the Machine
Where: Worthy Farm, Pilton (www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk)
When: 24-28 June
Wychwood, which is pitched up at Cheltenham racecourse and overlooks some green, lush rolling hills, is like a small-scale Glastonbury (7,500 people) and this relaxed festival has, rather impressively, won the best family festival award three years since its inception in 2005. Supergrass, Super Furry Animals, the Mummers, Oojami Sound System, who are a unique fusion of Turkish rhythms and European electro sounds, Red Light Company and the Wonder Stuff are this year's big acts, but its traditionally folk leanings see Bellowhead, the Irish folk singer Cara Dillon and Oysterband also playing. In addition to the four music stages there is a children's literature festival, comedy and hundreds of workshops.
Act not to miss: Super Furry Animals
Act to look out for: Bellowhead
Where: Cheltenham Racecourse, Prestbury Park (www.wychwoodfestival.com)
When: 29-31 May
The three-time Grammy winner Lucinda Williams plays her only UK festival date this year at this intimate and rather lovely 45-year-old festival, one of the most famous and biggest folk events in the world. A reliably dependable line-up includes the Zutons, LA band Los Lobos, who blend blues, rockabilly, jazz and Latin, the inimitable folk-rockers the Saw Doctors, Booker T Jones and his band, the seminal English folk group the Waterson Family, the Irish folk singer Cara Dillon, Mumford & Sons, Alela Diane, Peter Molinari, Eddi Reader, Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and the provocative folk singer Jim Moray.
Act not to miss: Lucinda Williams
Act to look out for: Mumford & Sons
Where: Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge (cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk)
When: 31 July-3 August
One of summer's most vivacious festivals, where most join in the annual fancy dress, DJ Rob Da Bank's event has grown so much in esteem that it's added two more – Camp Bestival and Bandstand. The Mercury Prize winners Elbow are booked to play, as are Polly Scattergood, the flamboyant punk outfit the Horrors, the Big Pink (the London duo have been compared to the excellent TV on the Radio), the Ghost, Casio Kids and a DJ set from Toddla T.
Act not to miss: Elbow
Act to look out for: The Big Pink
Where: Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight (www.bestival.net)
When: 11-13 September
Voted Best New Festival in the UK Festival Awards 2008, this giant playground of jollity, dance and psychedelia features a superbly eclectic line-up, including the 66-year-old soul diva Candi Staton, the delicate, haunting folk-pop singer Laura Marling, the wonderful PJ Harvey, the preposterous Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin' Chain, Florence and the Machine, the fired-up folkie Frank Turner, Will Young and the "doo-wop" singer-songwriter VV Brown. Plus, there will be DJ Yoda, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and the jazz-funk impresario Roy Ayers.
Act not to miss: PJ Harvey
Act to look out for: Frank Turner
Where: Lulworth Castle, East Lulworth
When: 24-26 July
The jazz great Ornette Coleman, responsible for the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 release Sound Grammar, has been charged with creating the 16th Meltdown, a festival previously curated by David Bowie, Morrissey, Patti Smith and Massive Attack. The revered saxophonist, violinist and trumpeter is responsible for some of the most dazzling, singular music ever heard, including the 1959 release The Shape of Jazz to Come and his landmark release This Is Our Music. Coleman's radical and uncompromising approach – he's collaborated with the likes of Frank Zappa and Sonic Youth – promises to attract an improvisational and fascinating (which is still to be announced) line up.
Where: Southbank Centre, London SE1 (southbankcentre.co.uk/all-events/meltdown)
When: 13-21 June
The Big Chill
An ideal festival for hip families, the Big Chill is located in the exquisite grounds of Eastnor Castle, which boasts a wood, an arboretum and four lakes. The typically diverse line-up includes the magnificent former Talking Head David Byrne (fresh from a productive collaboration with Brian Eno on Everything That Happens Will Happen Today), the ubiquitous Basement Jaxx, Orbital, Gong, Mr Scruff, Lamb, the deliciously funky Friendly Fires, Calexico, Apples and Snakes and Spiritualized, Jason Pierce's alternative rock/space-rock act, who are always a breathtaking live experience. Plus, a programme of activities are planned from Thursday night right through the weekend.
Act not to miss: David Byrne
Act to look out for: Friendly Fires
Where: Eastnor Castle Deer Park, Herefordshire (www.bigchill.net)
When: 7-9 August
Womad, set up by Peter Gabriel 27 years ago, has long been the home for world music. This joyous festival has a deliriously faithful following and offers everything from drum'n'bass to Guinean kora to Cuban divas. More than 3,000 people attend and its diverse line up will include the legendary R&B songwriter Solomon Burke, Fat Freddy's Drop, the seven-piece folk outfit from New Zealand, the trail-blazing Guinean kora VC master Ba Cissoko and Etran Finatawa, who combine the nomadic cultures of the Tuareg and Wodaadbe people of the West African people of Niger.
Act not to miss: Oumou Sangare
Act to look out for:Ba Cissoko
Where: Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (womad.org)
When: 24-26 July
Set in breathtaking countryside, with a mountain called Sugarloaf as a dramatic backdrop, this environmentally friendly, of course, and deliciously eccentric festival celebrates indie and folk music. This year's line-up includes Chicago's superb alternative rockers Wilco, the folkie du jour Bon Iver, Brighton's eccentric indie-rock quartet British Sea Power, Four Tet, the highly praised Brooklyn-based indie-rockers Grizzly Bear, Dirty Three, Vetiver, Peter Broderick, Andrew Bird and the Leisure Society.
Act not to miss: Wilco
Act to look out for: Grizzly Bear
Where: Glanusk Park, Crickhowell, Wales (www.thegreenmanfestival.co.uk)
When: 21-23 August
The apex for any self-respecting rock act, this double festival has performances from Kings of Leon, this year's Brit Award winners for Best International Group and Best International Album, for Only by the Night, Kaiser Chiefs, Placebo, the mouthy, experimental indie-rocker Jamie T, Funeral for a Friend, the Prodigy, Maximo Park, Glasvegas, Gallows and Bloc Party. Plus, the two biggies, the mighty Radiohead and the Arctic Monkeys, who are performing in the UK for the first time since they last toured in December 2007.
Act not to miss: Arctic Monkeys
Act to look out for: Jamie T
Where: Little John's Farm, Richfield Ave, Reading; Bramham Park, Leeds (www.readingfestival.com/home)
When: 28-30 August
Isle of Wight
Resurrected in 2002 from the original 1970 bash, which saw Jimi Hendrix's last live performance, this was voted Britain's best major festival in 2007. This year offers the Prodigy, Simple Minds, Neil Young, the Pigeon Detectives, the Script, Basement Jaxx, the Ting Tings, Charlatans, Stereophonics, White Lies, Noisettes, Maximo Park, Ultravox (yes, they're back and it "means nothing to me, oh Vienna..."), Razorlight and Pendulum.
Act not to miss: Neil Young
Act to look out for: Noisettes
Where: Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight (www.isleofwightfestival.com)
When: 12-14 June
Vince Power, the Mean Fiddler and Reading Festival founder who is also behind Spain's extremely successful Benicassim festival, holds this small festival, which is totally free of ticket registration and is devoid of branding or sponsorship. Expanded to a three-day event this year, the Hop Farm festival is once again held in the lovely Paddock Wood, and the line-up includes Paul Weller, the glorious Echo and the Bunnymen, Florence and the Machine, Noah and the Whale, Howling Bells, Ladyhawke, Mystery Jets, Editors, Super Furry Animals and Pigeon Detectives. More acts are promised.
Act not to miss: Echo and the Bunnymen
Act to look out for: Noah and the Whale
Where: Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent (www.efestivals.co.uk/ festivals/others2008/thehopfarm)
When: 3-5 July
Set in the Highlands, the fourth year of Rock-Ness, which blends dance and electronic music with rock, includes a typically heady line-up: the Prodigy, Placebo, Basement Jaxx, Orbital, the awe-inspiring London rapper Dizzee Rascal, the Wombats, Alabama Three and Frightened Rabbit, an idiosyncratic indie-punk outfit from Selkirk in Scotland.
Act not to miss: Dizzee Rascal
Act to look out for: Frightened Rabbit
Where: Loch Ness, Scotland (www.rockness.co.uk)
When: 12-14 June
T in the Park
T in the Park is the biggest Scottish festival and won the Best Line-Up award at the UK Festival Awards '08 and the Greener Festival Award last year. It once again comes up trumps with a line-up that includes the Kings of Leon, Blur, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the Killers as headliners. Also playing are Snow Patrol, the Specials (minus, of course, their inspirational Jerry Dammers), Razorlight, Manic Street Preachers, Bloc Party, Lady GaGa, Glasvegas, James, Lily Allen, TV on the Radio, the experimental and sensational five-piece from Brooklyn, New York, Ladyhawke, Keane, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mogwai, Foals and the blistering Nine Inch Nails.
Act not to miss: Blur
Act to look out for: TV on the Radio
When: 10-12 July
The V Festival perennially seems to have the cream of most festivals' top draws with Oasis, who made a bit of a comeback with Dig Out Your Soul, the excellent Elbow, Keane, the Enemy, the Killers, Razorlight, Snow Patrol, the Specials and Lily Allen. Plus, there's Taylor Swift, the teenage country sensation Stateside, Fatboy Slim, the Ting Tings, Happy Mondays, the excellent Brooklyn space-rock sonic conjurors MGMT, Biffy Clyro, the Streets, James Morrison, Peter Doherty, Katy Perry, Dizzee Rascal and Lady Gaga. It's impressive.
Act not to miss: Elbow
Act to look out for: MGMT
Where: Hylands Park, Chelmsford; Weston Park, Staffordshire (www.vfestival.com)
When: 22-23 August
Hard Rock Calling
Hard Rock Calling, back for the fourth year running and now extended to a three-day event, is blessed with the potent Bruce Springsteen as a headliner, along with Neil Young, the Killers, who returned to form with Day and Age, Fleet Foxes, the magnificent bluesman and boogie singer Seasick Steve and the Pretenders.
Act not to miss: Bruce Springsteen
Act to look out for: Seasick Steve
Where: Hyde Park, London W1
When: 28 & 29 June
The superstar rapper Kanye West, fresh from bagging himself a Brit award for Best International Artist and selling out the O2 Arena, headlines the Sunday event (5 July), while Basement Jaxx and the DJ Paul Oakenfold head up the Saturday night (6 July). This two-day-and-night festival is for non-campers and also features Dizzee Rascal, the Streets, the German duo Digitalism, Delphic, Q Tip, Filthy Dukes and the rapper Kid Cudi.
Act not to miss: Kanye West
Act to look out for: Digitalism
Where: Hyde Park, London W1
When: 4 & 5 July
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