Summer festivals: why smaller is the way forward

Image credit: Joe Hilton

As the days get longer, the flowers begin to bloom and it becomes increasingly difficult to sport a coat during the daylight hours, it doesn’t seem presumptuous to say we have entered the pre-summer season. Choosing which festivals to attend is synonymous with this time of the year, and it seems fair to say the number and diversity of potential options has never been greater.

Of course there is always the classics: Reading, Glastonbury, Boomtown and countless others return with promise of a typically big-budget lineup and an unforgettable weekend. However, to end one’s search there would be neglecting the large number of smaller, more intimate festivals which are also returning for another year. These often intend to provide a wholly different experience to larger festivals: wide open fields are swapped for smaller, mysterious woodlands; chart-toppers and returning pop legends replaced with up-and-coming innovators and resident DJs with years of experience behind them. These festivals frequently carry a significantly lower price tag as well, making them an attractive alternative.

Taking place in an uninhabited forest in Hertfordshire and celebrating its ninth episode in as many years, Farr Festival is a serious consideration for any fans of electronic music. Previous performers include Giles Peterson, Floating Points and Bicep, whilst this year sports an eclectic and enticing mixture of dance music, including disco, techno, dub, reggae, dubstep and much more. Notable acts include multi-instrumentalist Tom Misch, the experimental post-dubstep duo Mount Kimbie, innovative and accomplished producer Moodymann and Dixon, Resident Advisor’s number one DJ since 2013. Whilst many festivals provide a refuge of alternative activities to provide some variety to what could become a musical onslaught, here music forms the foundation and indeed the overwhelming majority of the festival’s appeal. With tickets initially released at £110, value for money is undeniable with this weekender.

Those looking for a more rounded festival experience may look no further than Lost Village, a four-day festival entering its fourth year of existence. Still boasting a strong and varied lineup of cutting-edge artists, such as producers Mall Grab and Four Tet as well as art-pop quartet Everything Everything, this festival, which takes place in a similar setting to that of Farr, also provides a wealth of other ventures to provide some diversity in one’s festival experience. This includes a variety of talks, comedic acts, a spa and even the option to taste the food of the UK’s youngest Michelin star chef, Tommy Banks. Playing strongly to their mysterious and otherworldly theme, Lost Village promises to be a unique ordeal. For those seeking an even greater diversity of music from their weekend, Houghton Festival is back for its second year, and boasts a lineup which varies from legendary DJs Ricardo Villalobos and Andrew Weatherall to Lebanese rock band Mashrou Leila. The entire lineup is curated by Fabric club’s resident DJ and Director of Music Programming Craig Richards, meaning the onus is very much on the music, however the Houghton estate also hosts a special exhibition from Damien Hirst which, coupled with the festival’s soon to be revealed art and sculpture programme, provide some non-musical entertainment for those searching for it.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more metropolitan weekend, you may want to look at Sound City, taking place in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle for a short weekend in early May. Featuring a lineup of over 250 artists spanning a plethora of sounds, from melodic indie group Peace to punk rock band IDLES, and promising a further mix of grime, pop, electronica and more, this is set to be a lively and vibrant celebration of the arts: all of this in one of Liverpool’s creative hubs, for only £60.50. There’s a number of factors to think about when choosing which festivals will be this summer’s destinations. The lineup is obviously important, but location, price and the general reputation of the festival also play some part – hearing of other people’s experiences is a great way to gauge this. Whether it’s the mystery of Lost Village, the electronica of Farr, the urban culture of Sound City or any of the countless other festivals taking place be sure not to miss out on the fantastic selection of music and spectacle on offer this summer.

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