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The best festival performances of the summer: where to go, what to see.

3 years ago | 1257 views

by Oliver Guy Watkins

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Easter weekend is behind us we can begin to pack up winter in the attic and prepare for a summer drenched in sunshine. A little ambitious? Possibly. But something that isn’t fantasy is the picture thats being painted by the announcement of numerous festival line ups. Whether the sun decides to show up or not, the annual British season of unbridled enjoyment is about to begin, and this year seems just a little better than usual.

Let’s forget the controversy of Kanye West headlining Glastonbury. It will be a show to remember, we all know that, and we also all recognise that the event itself has very little to do with the headliners unless your watching on TV. With the rest of the bill still to properly emerge, it’s probably best to say that if you haven’t done it once, you should.

Outside of the largest temporary city in Europe the landscape looks pretty beautiful. This year, both Dot To Dot and Latitude celebrate their 10th anniversaries, and both have amazing qualities that can live long in your memory. With Portishead taking the stage on Saturday at Latitude, and the chance to swim in the lake this year, it’s sure to embrace your inner child.

Talking of youth, the theme of this years Secret Garden Party is childhood, expect the cookie monster to be dancing on the Pagoda as the Saturday night fireworks explode, and Mighty Mouse to be taking part in the Dance Off. All this merriment will be soundtracked by a headline set from Jungle and the amazing French/Cuban sisters Ibeyi who are hidden away on the bill. Just don’t hope to be there if you hadn’t had the foresight to buy a ticket already. It’s sold out. Although, you can still sign up for the ticket resale and hope for the best.

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If the northern reaches of England are more your home, then Manchester’s Warehouse Project return with the Parklife festival at Heaten Park on June 7th and 8th. Wu Tang Clan, Chet Faker and Nas performing his seminal album Illmatic are the stand out performances. Scotland’s T In The Park has moved yet again, and at a glance St Vincent are the act to make a play for, at the new home of Strathallan Castle.

As the summer draws to a close, two of the strongest events in the calendar emerge. The idyllic Wilderness Festival in Cornbury Park and Festival Number 6 in Portmerion, Wales, the location made famous by the 60’s show The Prisoner. With a flooded market, the origin of the festival is represented by these two perfectly. A sense of freedom, difference from routine, astounding performances in stunning environments, and the chance to dance your way through the night.


Having sucked in all the information the line up posters can give us, here are 10 things that we think have a strong possibility of making your summer one that you’ll regale your grandchildren with stories of (just leaving out some of the finer detail..)

1. Bjork @ Wilderness

By far the coup of the summer. The forums buzzed with the possibility the Queen Of Iceland would be headlining the 10th anniversary of Latitude, and then, out of nowhere Wilderness struck. When the news arrived, we put our hands to our faces in shock and elation. This is the PERFECT setting for one of the greatest artists of her generation. Somewhere she can connect with the nature that flows through the veins of her music and intertwine herself with an audience that will be in completely the right frame of mind for her. Ignore the ‘middle class’ jibes thrown at Wilderness last year, it is unparalleled with it’s set up, and refreshing in an environment of festivals that cater to those who want a quick fix. This collaboration is made to work.

2. Kevin Allen’s ‘Under Milk Wood’ @ Festival Number 6

Nowhere else in the world would a screening of a film steal the stage from Grace Jones, but this Dylan Thomas adaptation by the director of 90’s cult film Twin Town, and starring Rhys Ifans will suit the setting it will play in greater than any musician ever could. Kevin Allen is an auteur, he is one of a limited kind, who produce film through passion. His love of Dylan Thomas and his relationship with the Welsh landscape make him someone who can tell a tale in the purest of fashions, and if engrossing yourself in film wasn’t your idea of a festival freedom, then you too have fallen victim to the cult of mass culture. Take the time.

3. Blur @ Isle Of Wight Festival

Because the sound at Hyde Park is not worth the ticket price. Because we are victims of mass culture too sometimes. Because the secret show in West London to debut the new album proved they can still write songs better than 90% of their peers and not only that but they can hold a stage better than Beyonce could with 1000 backing dancers. Because Alex James is David Cameron’s mate and that’s just funny. Because they have to play There’s No Other Way. Because they are Blur.

4. Ibeyi @ Secret Garden Party

If you had the chance to see Daft Punk before they released Homework, Jessie Ware at Brixton Electric before your parents bought Devotion, or Massive Attack at one of the original Wild Bunch Parties in Bristol, how much of your soul would you sell? If it’s anything above 25% then make sure you see Ibeyi.

5. Kate Tempest @ The Great Escape / Festival Number 6

If you listen to 6 Music (which you should) then you’ll probably know that Kate has become the adorable rouge of the nation since her album was released last year. However Kate’s real connection with people is ‘deep down and dirty’, to quote the Stereo MC’s. It’s base level, dark rooms, smoky basements, late night tents. It’s real. Outside of The Great Escape and Festival Number 6, her performances will be placed in a world that is too disenfranchised for what she is talking about, enjoy her wonderful story telling in a place it truly connects.

6. Flume @ Lovebox

It was a year and a half ago that New Zealander Flume brought his stunning live show to the Coronet in Elephant and Castle. The room was transfixed by the visuals and his sublime musical journey. If he brings half of the feeling to Lovebox, Victoria Park will never be the same.

7. Chet Faker @ Parklife / Field Day

City Festivals are a unique entity, where people tend to go for an afternoon of frivolity rather than an experience that stays with them, however Chet Faker will surely leave you with an ingrained memory. Last year his embracing of the British weather at Wilderness left a little to be desired, but his phenomenal ability to hold a stage by himself whilst intwining the audience in his charm and creativity are not to be missed.

8. Portishead @ Latitude

It’s 10 years old, and whilst the majority of the line up has failed to excite, the addition of Portishead to the festivals history is incredibly important. The band that defined Trip-Hop in the 1990’s have grown into a behemoth who tackle every challenge in front of them with a stunning presence. Last year Damon Albarn stole the main stage spotlight as lightning struck metres away, this year the Bristol collective will surely cause the heavens to open and bring a deluge of biblical proportions. Hold onto your umbrellas, leave the kids in the tent and witness one of the greatest musical entities of the last fifty years embrace you.

9. Roisin Murphy @ Wilderness

Just as many of those who created a path that led us into the millennium, Roisin Murphy has continued to flirt with her creativity, mirroring the events of her life as they unfold with music that has been dictated as much as it dictates. However her recent single Hairless Toys, she has hit the nail on the head. Bring it back, sing it back. Roisin Murphy’s time is now.

10. Amadou And Mariam @ The Boomtown Fair

Once upon a time in the 90’s, a crater in the middle of a bunch of fields in Winchester hosted the first dance music all night parties that were legal. Rave had bowed it’s head as the criminal justice bill shut down unlicensed sound systems. In their place rose a phoenix from the flames. First Homelands, then Creamfields, and now The Boom Town Fair. A genuine town populated by every subgenre known to man, Boom Town has had it’s share of difficulties and bad publicity, but the booking of Amadou And Mariam is a stroke of genius. Sublime music, in a sublime and musically historical environment.

by Oliver Guy-Watkins, writer and filmaker.

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