I believe it was Gandhi that said “there’s nothing better than waking up in a field and cracking your first beer at 7 in the morning” and while that might not even be half true, It’s still an accurate statement. There’s just something about a festival atmosphere that takes all your cares and worries and leaves them at the door. Whether it rains or shines, absolutely nothing can dampen your spirit and ruin the number one task on your agenda for the weekend:
Get as shitfaced as humanly possible.
Thankfully the British Isles are blessed with a wide variety of festivals to suit all needs. While it would take forever to cover every single one I’ve taken it upon myself to offer sage advice for anyone struggling to choose how to spend their hard earned (or parent’s) money this summer.
Glastonbury Festival, Pilton Farm, Somerset: June 21-25 2017
The big one. Glastonbury is much, much more than just a music festival. A festival that has a big place in my heart even before my maiden appearance in 2015, Glastonbury literally blows you away with it’s scope, layout, lineup and atmosphere. Where else can you see Lionel Richie, Kanye West, and Motorhead in the same weekend? In terms of the 2017 lineup, you can always get a solid slice of dad-rock with the Foo Fighters or maybe go watch Radiohead and have a nap. Ed Sheeran is also there for no fucking reason whatsoever. Make no mistake though, 2017’s overall bill so far is extremely solid and jam-packed with every artist you could ever dream of seeing. Just don’t plan on seeing them all as the walk between stages can sometimes take days.
Outside of the music there is plenty to see, whether or not you choose to look for it. The architecturally stunning Pyramid Stage is bigger than a small village, the giant, robotic Arcadia Spider pumps out electronic music while shooting fire and in the deepest, darkest depths of the festival grounds you’ll find Shangri-La which prides itself on its ‘otherworldly entertainment’. Read into that what you will.
Download Festival, Donington Park, Derby: June 9-11 2017
The reformed Monsters Of Rock Festival, Download captures the hearts of many rock music fans with each year it rumbles around. Download is set on the actual Donington Park race track so any fan of motor racing wanting to walk along the track will have their dream come true here.
There’s plenty on 2017’s bill to keep you entertained. Biffy Clyro are one of the UK’s best live acts around right now, System Of A Down will no doubt do their best to burst your eardrums and Aerosmith will provide novelty viewing in what seems to be the 85th consecutive year of their farewell tour. AFI, Sum-41, Slayer, and Rob Zombie provide adequate cover further down the bill.
One thing to mention is that Download is known for its notorious downpour of rain nearly every year it’s been active. If you don’t mind traipsing through mud and seeing your tent and belongings float down a river then this is definitely the festival for you.
Leeds & Reading, Richfield Avenue & Bramham Park: August 25-27 2017
Leeds and Reading festival is a joint lineup spread over the same weekend. Over the years you really have to take the overall lineup with a pinch of salt because it isn’t always the strongest. At times the headline acts have been peculiar choices and the lower ends of the bill have sometimes been remarkably barren. That said, if you look hard enough there’s bound to be something to pique your interest.
Eminem will be vital viewing for any hip hop fan while Kasabian and Muse have proven themselves to be capable live acts. Outside of the headliners I would highly recommend acts like HAIM and Jimmy Eat World or you could throw some shapes to the legendary Fatboy Slim. Finally if you’ve ran out of paint to watch dry then I’m sure Bastille’s set will be an absolute blast.
One final thing to note: make sure to pack a crash helmet. taking a can of beer or a Tuborg cup full of piss to the back of the head is never a pleasant experience.
Isle Of Wight Festival, Newport, Isle Of Wight: June 8-11 2017
Probably one of the most bizarre collection of artists you’ll ever see on the same bill. For starters, David Guetta and Run DMC are co headliners for the Friday, Alison Moyet is also there and if that isn’t enough for you then there’s also the small matter of Arcade Fire’s headline slot the next day. Scouting For Girls, Kaiser Chiefs, and Texas are there to remind you of songs that time forgot and Rod “FUCKING” Stewart will no doubt do his utmost best to get your clothes off by the end of his strut-heavy set of classic tunes.
You could say this festival caters more for anyone out of their teens, which for someone like me who thinks teenagers are the scourge of the earth is an exciting prospect.
Outside of the music there is plenty to see on the Isle Of Wight. A trip down to the coastline or a ride on one of the island’s many cycling tours will provide all the content your Instagram account could ever ask for.
Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset: September 7-10 2017
Award winning and rightly so, Bestival consistently offers one of the most star-studded bills around and this year is no exception. Justice, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Pet Shop Boys are massive box tickers for any music fan while The xx will no doubt draw a massive crowd. Annie Mac and Andy C will be dutifully obliged to get you moving during their sets at the Temple.
Bestival also has a dedicated reggae stage with Roots Manuva and Trojan Sound System heading an impressive roster.
Among its non-music attractions, Bestival boasts ‘the world’s biggest bouncy castle’ and ‘free haircuts’ as accolades. There’s also the Sugar Skulls cocktail bus for all your mixed drinks needs. Plus, lets be honest, is there a more exciting collection of words than ‘cocktail bus’? If you need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the festival then the Ambient Forest will be welcome therapy for your mind, body, and soul.
V Festival, Hylands Park & Weston Park, Essex & Staffordshire: August 19-20 2017
If you’re of the disposition to listen to absolutely nothing but Capital FM then a festival featuring all the shit you spend each waking moment listening to must be a dream come true. In the drop of a hat you could be spending your weekend watching sets from Pink, Jay Z, Ellie Goulding, and Craig David. Busted offer a guitar based and nostalgic alternative to the mainstream pop exploits.
The festival’s commercial side offers a friendly alternative to other festival’s rough edges, if you don’t fancy the idea of your camping chair being set on fire after a bout of LSD
No doubt about it, V Festival doesn’t attempt to be anything other than a modern pop festival and overall there is no shame in that. If you have no shame in your musical interests and you just want a weekend of recognizable music then you could very much find your home at V Festival. Just don’t forget to pack your tank tops and flower chain headgear.
Wireless Festival, Finsbury Park, London: July 7-9 2017
Wireless is another mainstream centred festival albeit with a more r ‘n’ b feel than V Festival. Compared to many others on this list though it’s a relatively new festival with its inception in 2005. Back then, acts like The Strokes, Massive Attack, Depeche Mode, and The Who have all been featured on its early bills. Nowadays though, Wireless panders more for purveyors of mainstream pop and r ‘n’ b with acts like Drake, Rita Ora, and Kanye West playing there in recent years.
Although I can applaud such a star studded lineup, a bunch of acts that you would mostly only have heard of if you’re in the 18-23 demographic does feel incredibly inclusive. Chances are if you’re idea of festival fun is stumbling around a field carrying a warm can of beer and wearing an oversized band tee that you slept in then something as squeaky clean as Wireless won’t be your jam.
While it definitely isn’t the edgiest choice, it certainly is a lot of star power for such a moderately priced day ticket.
Slam Dunk Festival, Birmingham, Leeds & Hatfield: May 27-29 2017
While not necessarily my cup of tea, Slam Dunk Festival would be a perfect choice for any fan of new age punk and 30-somethings that wear stretchers and desperately try to cling to their youth. Bands like Don Broco and Beartooth have been making waves in the rock scene recently and any reformed scene kid from the mid 2000’s will remember Enter Shikari.
If the idea of being surrounded by a sea of snapback hats isn’t your idea of fun you could go for a fun slice of ska punk with the impressive double act of Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish, bands that never fail to entertain during a live set. I’d also urge anyone to check out Crossfaith’s set for some balls out, nonsensical carnage.
Interestingly, with the festival staggered over three days, you could potentially get tickets for all three days and see your favourite acts three times in a row. But unless you like throwing your money away then chances are one day will be enough.
Boomtown Festival, Winchester: August 10-13 2017
If you’re looking for something a little left of centre then Boomtown would hands down be your best choice. It’s really tough to describe what this festival is all about in just a few lines.
Just like Glastonbury, Boomtown is about more than just the music. It fully embraces theatre and fantasy and is more of a vibrant boutique of escapism and camaraderie than a festival. it encourages its attendees to fully immerse themselves in its many districts and embrace the sense of wonder and mystery.
That said, the lineup isn’t bad either. The Specials and Cypress Hill are massive headline choices, but acts like Skindred and Sublime aren’t to be sniffed at either. One minute you could be chilling out to some slow reggae or folk, the next minute doing the human Tetris to breakneck drum n bass. It’s said that Boomtown leaves its mark on anyone that enters, an accolade that’s bound to get your curious juices flowing.
Dot To Dot, Manchester, Bristol & Nottingham: May 26-28 2017
Finally, it’s only fair that I rep my local area and promote a festival like Dot To Dot. In the past this festival has done a great job in featuring a bill of acts that, although mildly unknown at the time, go on to greater things a short time afterwards. For instance I’ve seen acts like Blood Red Shoes, Lights, and Ellie Goulding at past Nottingham Dot To Dots, so it really is a good way to check out the possible next big thing.
For this year, exciting acts like Sundara Karma and Amber Run head the bill, but there’s plenty of opportunity to find your new favourite bands further than the line up.
Dot To Dot tickets are incredibly cheap and offer entry to all applicable venues around the chosen city for that entire day. There really is a sense of musical freedom in walking around and being able to come and go at will. Day festivals like this are always better without a plan as you never really know what you’re gonna find.
Freelance writer still stuck in the 90’s.
Favourite albums; Young Americans, Hours, Out From The Vein, In Utero.