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The best UK festivals for new music – and who to see when you get there

See some of Britain's best and brightest new talent before they go onto the bigger stages

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Friday 14 April 2017 11:45 BST
Citadel Festival takes place at Victoria Park, east London, in July
Citadel Festival takes place at Victoria Park, east London, in July

Festival season is almost upon us, and there aren't still plenty of reasons to check out the many festivals around the UK that champion new and upcoming talent.

Below are a few of my favourites along with some tips for a few of the acts you should check out while you're there.

Live At Leeds

Where: Leeds (Duh!)

When: 29 April

How much: £32.50

The Independent was invited to host a stage at this year's event and managed to nab headliner Rag’n’Bone Man, one of our favourites and arguably the biggest breakout star of 2017.

We also get another rising star: Tom Grennan (look out for him in a forthcoming Music Box session), plus Fickle Friends, Clean Cut Kid and The Hunna.

Away from the Indy stage you also have a hoard of other brilliant new talent. To name but a few: AJ Tracey, Black Honey, Be Charlotte, Chinah, Dream Wife, Flyte, Joe Fox (yes I am doing this in alphabetical order), Rationale, Sinead Harnett, Superfood, The Amazons, Xamvolo and Zach Said.

The Great Escape

Where: Brighton

When: 18-20 May

How much: £35 (day), £65 (weekend)

This is basically one giant party for the music industry. Hundreds of artists, unsigned and signed, turn up for the weekend where you'll find yourself queuing to cram into a tiny room above a pub to see someone perform. Weather provided it's also a fab opportunity for a seafront G+T or some fish and chips on the beach, (Watch out for seagulls though.)

Organisers are superb at picking an incredibly diverse range of new talent so you end up with “child in a sweetshop” syndrome, at a loss as to how to pick which artists to go and see.

Music Box Session #7: Little Cub

But the ones you should definitely try and check out are: 67, Afriquoi, Anteros, Alma, Avelino, Belly Squad, Betty Who, Brent Cobb, Cosima, Cosmo Pyke, Denai Moore, Elder Island, Flamingods, Goat Girl, Immigrant Swing, INHEAVEN, Jagara, Joe Hertz, Lakuta, Little Cub, Marika Hackman, Otzeki, Pauli., Shit Girlfriend, Skott, Songe, The Age of L.U.N.A, and The Fedz.

Sound City

The Flaming Lips perform at Sound City in 2015

Where: Liverpool

When: 25-28 May

How much: £28.50 (day), £71.50 (weekend)

Sound City is 10 years old this year so there's an extra reason to go and check out this brilliant event.

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It's a lot like TGE for the new bands you'll get to see before everyone else, only the music is brought to one location (the Docklands), and everything feels a lot less frantic.

Headlining this year you've got The Kooks, The Cribs and Metronomy, whilst The Human League, White Lies and Local Natives are also booked to perform.

New faces you may not recognise but should enjoy are: Touts, Pale Waves, The Golden Age of TV, Joel Sarakula and Rozelle.

Field Day

Where: Victoria Park, London

When: 3 June

How much: £64.50

One of the most vibrant city festivals around, this year Field Day is literally just that (it's usually over the weekend) which means you get Sunday to recover – and you'll need it.

This year organisers have managed to get Flying Lotus, Run the Jewels, Aphex Twin, Slowdive and Arab Strap in the mix, along with a brand new, state-of-the-art stage called The Barn.

While you're running round the field (or trudging, depending on what the weather's like), make sure you also go and see: Gaika, Julia Jacklin, Loyle Carner, Mura Masa, Sinkane and Thee Oh Sees.


The 1975 singer Matt Healy's appeal to his teenage fans has been unfairly dismissed by many critics (Rex Features)

Where: Manchester

When: 10-11 June

How much: £59.50 (day), £119 (weekend)

Just looking at the lineup for this Manchester-based festival is enough to make your mouth water. Headlining are The 1975, who put on an incredible show, and Frank Ocean, who might just play fans some new material.

Also on the bill are A Tribe Called Quest, Boy Better Know, Stormzy, Two Door Cinema Club, Anderson .Paak, Flying Lotus and Chaka Khan.

Lower down the bill is an impressive range of new faces, including: The Black Madonna, AJ Tracey, P Money, Nadia Rose, Horse Meat Disco, Fakear, and Rex Orange County.

Wireless Festival

Chance the Rapper performing at Brixton Academy, London (Rex)

Where: Finsbury Park, London

When: 7-9 July

How much: £55-£62

Summer madness really kicks off with Wireless Festival which has outdone itself with this year's line-up. Chance the Rapper (pictured, performing at Brixton Academy in London), Skepta and The Weeknd are all performing, plus Nas, Rae Sremmurd, Wiley, Lil Yachty and Wizkid.

If you have time in between that lot definitely also see Bryson Tiller (who supported The Weeknd for his O2 Arena show), Noname, Section Boyz, Bugzy Malone, Yuna, Stefflon Don and Topaz Jones.


Citadel Festival takes place at Victoria Park, east London, in July

Where: Victoria Park, London

When: 16 July

How much: £55.25

If you missed out on Field Day tickets there's another splendid day festival in London you can head over to. Citadel launched in 2015 and has a stellar line-up this year, with Foals headlining in a UK festival exclusive along with Bonobo, who puts on a fantastic live show, plus Wild Beasts, Laura Marling, Michael Kiwanuka and Oumou Sangaré.

Fresher faces come in the shape of: Ry X, Charlie Straw, Ardyn, Jake Isaac, Banfi and Picture This.

Green Man

Music lovers at Green Man in Wales

Where: Brecon Beacons

When: 17-20 August

How much: £180-£225

Green Man lineups never let you down and you have an added bonus of the festival being set in the stunning Brecon Beacons.

This year you've got PJ Harvey (who also seemed to be at every festival possible last year), Ryan Adams, Future Islands and The Shins.

Also make sure you see: BADBADNOTGOOD, Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Big Moon, Happyness, Nathan Ball, The Orielles, and Kikagaku Moyo.

Kendal Calling

Where: Lake District

When: 27-30 July

How much: Sold out. Kendal Calling has partnered with Twickets: click here for resale at the original price

The Independent has a stage here as well.

Organisers for this year's Kendal Calling (set in the beautiful Lowther Deer Park) have rounded up a few heritage rock and indie acts for their biggest names but also have their fingers on the pulse of some of the UK's best new music.

Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Franz Ferdinand, Frank Turner, Editors and Brian Wilson should keep you happy for those raucous, late-night singalongs.

Other names you may not have heard about include: Honeyblood, Fickle Friends, Bad Sounds, Ardyn, Little Comets, Field Music and The Hunna.

Standon Calling

Where: Hertfordshire

When: 27-30 July

How much: £137 (adult weekend)

On the same weekend as Kendal Calling there's also this festival, with an equally excellent line-up – where, yep, The Independent has its own stage.

Headlining are Orbital, Clean Bandit, and the phenomenal Grace Jones, followed by the likes of Kate Tempest, Laura Mvula, Editors, Gary Numan, and British Sea Power.

In smaller font but no less important are: Strong Asian Mothers, Plastic Mermaids, Akala, Outlya, Skinny Living, Lucy Spraggan and Andy Grant Trio.

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