Festival season is almost upon us. Yay! But which one is best for you?
We’ve sifted trough the hundreds of bashes taking place this summer to bring you a handy festival guide. Here, then, are 33 festivals that carry the NME stamp of approval.
Read on to watch live videos from headliners and find out why each one is worth digging out your wellies…
33 NME Weekender
Summer festivals are great, but a glut of sunny weekends of riffs and beats leads to a binge-starve-binge cycle. Come winter you’re left thinking that life is wack. But fear not! This year sees the advent of NME’s firework-lit Bonfire Night take on this festival malarkey. We’ve been to a few, we should know how to do it right. Leading our indie Armada to Pontins Camber Sands are Babyshambles and British Sea Power, with The Crookes, Citadels, Chew Lips, Goldhawks, and many more to come.
September is traditionally a crap month, what with everyone having to go back to school/uni/work after summer, so the fancy dress theme for this year’s Bestival (Fantasy) is designed to cheer everyone up. Past years have been beset by mud but everyone’s so perky that it only adds to the weirdness – plus, it’s medically impossible to be bummed out when Dizzee Rascal’s in town, or indeed when The Prodigy or LCD Soundsystem are onstage. There’s also one of Roxy Music’s only two British festival dates, and a UK-exclusive set from Fever Ray.
One of the most genuinely left-of-centre two-dayers to emerge recently, this new favourite might boast kraut pioneers Cluster and Brooklyn hype victims Telepathe but it’s the spread of music across the weekend that won Offset so many friends last year.
30 Jersey Live
There’s something refreshing about a festival that doesn’t try to hide behind a fancy name, and the line-up is suitably straightforward. Weller, Calvin Harris, Plan B and Darwin Deez all feature, with many more to be announced, and Jersey Live is fast getting a reputation as one of the friendlier festivals around. Perhaps because you don’t get many posers on Jersey, and it’s all so beautiful that no-one needs drugs.
Even more of a mash-up than SW4, Creamfields is one of the most famous dance events in the world. If you go to Creamfields and can remember anything, then, as the saying goes, you didn’t get mangled enough. There are big names, such as Tiësto, Paul Van Dyk, David Guetta and rodent-bonced banger-merchant Deadmau5 involved, but the most important thing to remember is where your tent and mind are.
28 South West Four
There’s no point in pretending this is going to attract anyone other than the most dedicated of wreckheads, what with Armin Van Buuren, Fat Boy Slim, John Digweed, Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold the biggest names. Skream & Benga, Caspa & Rod Azlan and Mary Anne Hobbs will be bringing the low end, which means it’s the perfect place to use this joke: What’s the weather like on dubstep island? Warm warm warm warm.
27 Reading & Leeds
We don’t need to tell you why to be excited about this, do we? Arcade Bloody Fire? Guns N’ Bloody Roses? The Libertines? The lineup is absolutely heaving this year, and it’s going to be more weekend than you can fit in your eyes and ears.
“Ohhh, it’s so corporate! Ohhh, Hollyoaks people! Ohhh, Big Brother!” Oh, do FUCK OFF. If anybody says this to you about V, please respond with the following: “That’s one of the most tedious, boring, lame things it’s possible for a human being to say. Presumably you also think ‘All politicians are liars’ and ‘the war was all about oil’ and think Rupert Murdoch is the only company CEO who may not be a very nice man.
25 Green Man
Having started out as a very folk-centric event, Green Man has since broadened its remit into all things pleasingly psychedelic, with sets from Spiritualized, Super Furry Animals and Animal Collective gracing recent years. Its atmosphere is the perfect balance between family friendly and freaky fun, free of the picnic-blanket brigade but also without lager yobbery.
24 Summer Sundae
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Leicester’s premier ice-cream themed musical event, chart-topping grime mite Tinchy Stryder will be coming to town! If you’ve yet to be convinced of the Tinch’s charms, though, Los Campesinos!, Mumford & Sons and Goldheart Assembly will be putting their indie cherries on top. Plus, there’s a wealth of bands whose names start with ‘F’: Sunderland’s lovable Futureheads, Selkirk’s lovelorn Frightened Rabbit and the mighty Fall. Is it a conspiracy? Better ask Matt Bellamy; all we know is, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of sweet-toothed fun.
23 Moor Music
North Yorkshire: it’s not all about Brontes, daffodils and misery, you know. This late-summer shindig provides a fine dubstep and d’n’b line-up alongside the Northern branch of the Green Gathering. It’s fairly safe to say there might be one or two dreadlocks on show, and maybe even a few dogs on strings, but don’t let that detract from what no-one can deny will be the best weekend event held at Heslaker Farm in Skipton between August 12-15. And you can quote us on that.
22 Standon Calling
With a line-up that practically defines the term ‘critically acclaimed’ – perhaps the only time you’ll see Buena Vista Social Club and Fucked Up on the same bill – it’s like the organisers know they can’t compete with the big boys in terms of headliners so they’ve booked ALL the ace medium-sized bands. Only problem with this many groups worth seeing is that there’s no time to get munted.
21 Big Chill
Chilling. The very word may send your flesh a-creeping with visions of Merlot-quaffing, yoga-bunny quasi-Buddhists, but let’s face it, festivals are one of the few times we get to cut loose. Big Chill weaves an ever-expanding web of calm, with venues in London and Bristol as well as their annual weekender. Helping you unclench those furrowed brow muscles will be Roots Manuva, Mr Scruff and Zero 7 while Tinie Tempah, dubstep hero The Bug and dance legend Andrew Weatherall be picking up the pace. But not too much.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be familiar with the Underage ‘phenomenon’ by now. The line-up for this year’s fizzy pop fest is possibly the strongest ever, with the icing on the cake being a headline slot from MIA. Shame you can’t go because you’re TOO FUCKING OLD!
19 Field Day
The hipsters’ choice, and not just because it’s in the east London green Mecca that is Victoria Park. Phoenix, Caribou and Atlas Sound will be making people who can’t dance try to, and the cute Village Green, with egg-and-spoon races and hay bales to sit on, is perfect for a nice sit down and a cup of tea. Avoid the backstage area, however – it’s populated almost exclusively by utter shits.
The fact Iron Maiden are playing puts this Knebworth bash a fair way above all the other festivals – Green Man’s not going to have a 30ft robot zombie with a laser gun, is it? – but if you’re not content getting ripped to the tits on cheap lager and shouting along to bands called things like Apocalyptica and Evile then you can always join the five per cent of punters who’ll pass out at 5pm after bottling Europe.
17 Kendal Calling
The Lake District is, obviously, a glorious setting, so it’s surely the natural step to book Calvin Harris, Erol Alkan and The Futureheads, all of whom have fine reputations for picking up after themselves and not letting their dogs off the leash. Local fellows Wild Beasts are also on the bill, and round those parts they’re basically The Rolling Stones, so lock up your daughters.
16 Camp Bestival
Dear lord: more fancy dress. But hey, there’s plenty worse things in the world than a Fairy Tales theme and a field full of happy people dancing to George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. Bestival’s little sis is growing up fast… this year, NME Radar Tour boys Hurts will be holding up the synth-pop end alongside the Human League, while for those of us who enjoy a bit more guitar, there’s Friendly Fires, The Fall and Billy Bragg. Let’s just hope there’s no rain – trying to skank to Madness while dressed as Snow White and knee-deep in sludge would be shit.
Shit the bed: a festival run by nice people who put on awesome bands. Future Of The Left, Los Campesinos!, Mew, Bats, Egyptian Hip Hop… this year’s shaping up to be a strong line-up, with the focus as ever on exciting new UK bands, but it’s the friendly, slightly ramshackle nature of Truck that keeps people coming back. Now in its 13th year, but still unlucky for none, Truck has managed to maintain a thoroughly homegrown feel, resisting the urge to professionalise. One of the stages is a cow shed. The other is literally a truck bed. The local Rotary Club put on the food.
14 The Secret Garden Party
Essentially a massive, brightly coloured playground for people who think fancy dress isn’t a punishment but an opportunity to express themselves, the Party prides itself on being different. Free of branding and full of quirky bastards, it’s easy to be cynical about SGP but it really is a wonderfully light-hearted way to spend a weekend. A warning, though: watching Mercury Rev surrounded by people dressed to theme (this year it’s ‘Fact Or Fiction’) might make you lose your mind.
A very canny little event that’s been growing and growing over the past few years, balancing the populist mash-fest that Dizzee Rascal’s set will surely be with the queen of mean Grace Jones and effete lords Roxy Music means there really will be something for everything. Want refined, glamourous pop? Hercules & Love Affair and Hurts will ensure a solid presence of shoulder pads. A bit of indie familiarity to get drunk to? Hello, The Maccabees and Mystery Jets. Need some grindcore? Paloma Faith’s playing a Napalm Death covers set [Note: one of these is a lie].
The most unashamedly sedate festival around, Latitude has made its name by a) being delightfully chilled and b) having painted sheep. Florence + The Machine step into a headlining slot for the first time ever, and with The National, The xx, Belle And Sebastian and Grizzly Bear appearing over the weekend there’s no shortage of indie royalty. Plus, this is perhaps the only festival where Literary, Comedy and Poetry Arenas are well-conceived wonders rather than poster-filling concessions.
An Irish conflagration of Reading/Leeds and T, and with Muse, Arcade Fire, Jay-Z, The Prodigy and Kasabian present and correct, it’s fair to say the organisers are happy to aim big. Granted, there’s no excuse for Paolo Nutini, Stereophonics and John Mayer, but the sheer volume of bands playing over the weekend means there’s always something good to watch. Keep an eye on the mid-afternoon slots for some indie big-hitters doing smaller-than-normal festival sets.
10 T In The Park
You know that 1am Saturday-night-at-a-festival feeling when everyone’s so boshed they just lurch around groaning? That’s what T In The Park is like all the time and it’s bloody brilliant. While Kasabian, Biffy Clyro and Madness will be ensuring the rowdier elements are catered for, the booking of Eminem AND Jay-Z confirms that hip-hop really is the new rock’n’roll. With a lineup like that, despite the constant smug-faced presence of Paolo Nutini, T’s unique atmosphere means there’s little doubt that this’ll be one of the highlights of the summer.
9 Hop Farm
Basically created to give dads something to do this summer other than fester in front of The World Cup, Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling will giving the young folks something to thrill to as well.
With the Gossip strutting on Friday, Jay-Z doing his thing on the Sunday, LCD Soundsystem will bring the party on Saturday, while 2manydjs remain the most reliable plot-loss merchants around.
7 Hard Rock Calling
Despite the fact this weekend will see isolated outbreaks of Wolfmother, you can’t argue with booking Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Expect The Gaslight Anthem to repeat their scene-stealing and completely upstage Pearl Jam.
The BFG of festivals, for everyone lucky enough to get a ticket this’ll definitely be the best weekend (although you need a day to get there and about a month after to get over it) of the year. And whatever you think of U2, we know that when they play ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’ your indier-than-thou hands will be in the air.
5 Parklife Festival
A brand new date in the dance festival diary, this one-dayer in Manchester – surely one of the most terrifying phrases known to man – will be helmed by Friendly Fires, who are sure to bring some globe-sized bangers.
Give Casablancas and co a bit of credit – they’ve certainly made sure they’re hitting the more picturesque festivals this year. The Strokes hit RockNess on the Sunday alongside Vampire Weekend and Doves, but even so, there’s a very real risk of scenery-based distraction.
3 Isle of Wight
The Strokes! Jay-Z! Some bloke out of The Beatles! The sunniest festival around is a bit of a family affair, hence a bill ranging from Biffy Clyro to Pink. If there’s not quite the boisterousness of the other big uns, though, the presence of the world’s finest bar band The Hold Steady ensures at least a touch of rock’n’roll mischief.
Four letters why Download is essential: AC/DC. Need more? Will capitalist crusaders Rage Against The Machine do you? The likes of Ratt (!) and Saxon (!!) will keep metal dads drinking while their tattooed offspring get battered by Deftones and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
1 Great Escape
Brighton is all about escape, whether cultural, with its long history of harbouring fertile subcultures, or physical, as a haven for harried Londoners getting the hell out of Dodge for a day. This year, its treasured weekender, Britain’s equivalent of CMJ or SXSW, teems with acts hurtling at escape velocity toward greatness.