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Summer isn’t just about the massive festivals – there’s a lot of value and fun to be had in the UK’s smaller offerings. These six excelled at bringing the good times and good music to their punters last year, be they genteel countryside events or travelling city festivals. Ladies and gentlemen, your nominees for Best Small Festival are…
End Of The Road
The slow decline out of summer and into autumn is always signalled by the coming around of End Of The Road festival. Held at Larmer Tree Gardens in Wiltshire, it’s less about getting completely off your face and more about discovering, exploring and enjoying some of the best and most interesting music around. In 2016, it played host to headliners Animal Collective, Bat For Lashes and Joanna Newsom, the latter of whom’s set was full of harp-fuelled beauty.
Festival No 6
Taking place in the unique and idyllic village of Portmeirion, north Wales, Festival No 6 is a fairly recent addition to the festival calendar, but an outstanding one. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds were among the headliners last year and who can forget the moment they were joined on stage by Paul Weller? Together, Noel and the Modfather ran through a series of The Jam’s classics, including ‘A Town Called Malice’. A special moment.
What is it with festivals in Wales? Green Man is another held in the country that’s always guaranteed to be great. This one takes place in the scenic Brecon Beacons and is dedicated to bringing together the best music from artists you might not necessarily find at the bigger events. Last year’s edition included the likes of Julia Holter, White Denim, Ezra Furman, Fat White Family, Kamasi Washington, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Cate Le Bon, Jagwar Ma and more. What capped that excellent bill of perfectly was a stunning headline turn from Laura Marling, whose 2015 album ‘Short Movie’ still sounded incredible in the valleys.
The eclectic festival held in the Lake District gave fans a few surprises via Tim Burgess’ Tim Peaks Diner hut last year. The best one? When Pete Doherty stopped by unannounced to play a little secret set for the handful of people who managed to squeeze inside. Sure, you could have caught him on a bigger stage later in the weekend, but everyone knows Pete’s at his best in intimate surroundings. And this was very intimate indeed.
Slam Dunk brings the finest pop-punk, emo, metal, hardcore and rock music to three cities – Leeds, Birmingham and Hatfield – every year. Last year, the travelling festival invited Panic! At The Disco, Of Mice And Men, Mallory Knox and more to join them on the road. If you didn’t crack even the slightest smile when headliners New Found Glory dropped oldies like ‘My Friend’s Over You’ and a cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’, you must have been dead inside.
As if a headlining trio of Editors, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Madness wasn’t enough, some of Y Not 2016’s undercard decided to use the weekend as their opportunity to make a bid for festival headliner status in the near future. Catfish And The Bottlemen were one such act, showing off how constant and relentless touring has made them of the slickest, tightest live bands around. The crowd were up for it as well, with legions of fans out in force, bringing flares and inflatable alligators with them to cheer on Van and the boys.