From first pop and the takeover of the Southbank Center to Vicky Park and a fond farewell, London’s festivals are back in full swing
Live music fans in the capital are once again spoiled for choice this year as London’s festival season returns with a full range of events. Big or small, indoor or outdoor, established or new, there’s something for everyone. Many of them will offer your only chance to catch some of these performers in London.
We recently previewed festivals happening elsewhere in the UK this year and our roundup of European festivals will follow soon. After failing in our struggle to whittle our selection down to the pretty round number of 10, here are our 11 picks of this year’s top events taking place within the confines of the M25.
All points is
Since first appearing in 2018, All Points East has become London’s hottest and most anticipated summer music festival, and Bill says the ambition continues this year. It takes place over six days and also includes the return of Victoria Park indie pioneer Field Day in its offering, a sign of its growing stature. As expected, it arrives with several big names and UK festival exclusives.
It all starts on August 19 with a day headlined by Gorillaz, with appearances also from Idles, Turnstile, Yves Tumor and Self Esteem. Tame Impala, FKJ, Caroline Polacheck and more will feature on August 25th while those looking for alternative guitar-based sounds will find their way on August 26th with appearances from The National, Fleet Foxes, Low, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Kurt Vile & The Offenders. Disclosure and James Blake lead an electronics-centric lineup on August 27 while Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Michael Kiwanuka, Sleaford Mods, Aldous Harding and Anna Calvi help close out the series of shows on August 28.
field day takes place under the APE banner on August 20, and it feels like it’s fully reconnecting with its roots this year, both musically and geographically, after some recent experimentation on those fronts. There are big electronic headliners in The Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk, classic Field Day alumni in Squarepusher, Daniel Avery and Floating Points, not to mention special guest Peggy Gou and a host of typically costs below in the poster.
All Points East takes place at Victoria Park, London, from August 19-28. More information can be found here.
The collapse of Grace Jones
The Southbank Center is finally welcoming Grace Jones to hold its twice-delayed Meltdown Festival at its three riverside venues. Naturally, its opening and closing shows will rightly be considered standouts, but the ten days are positively packed with engaging musical offerings. Peaches, Angelique Kidjo, John Grant, Skunk Anansie and Omou Sangaré attract big names while other established artists like Meshell Ndegeocello, Sky Ferreira and Baba Maal return to add more musical delights. The one-time collaboration between Hot Chip and Kasai Allstars sounds absolutely intriguing and another special event sees The Invisible’s Dave Okumu and friends perform two classic albums. Elsewhere, bands such as Dry Cleaning, Skinny Pelembe and Big Joanie are bringing the novelty.
Grace Jones’ Meltdown takes place at London’s Southbank Center from June 10-19. More information can be found here.
Wide Awake returns to Brockwell Park for a second year, cementing its reputation as an event that successfully promotes new talent and upcoming artists. It expands to a two-day event this year, each having an overall gender theme. It opens on Friday May 27 with a day focused on electronics with Bicep and Caribou. There are also performances by Leon Vynehall, Working Men’s Club, Sofia Kourtesis, Lorraine James, Scalping and others. The following day, Primal Scream will play Screamadelica in full, ably backed by Floating Points, Fat White Family, Amyl & The Sniffers, Fatoumata Diawara, Yard Act and a host of up-and-coming names.
Wide Awake takes place in Brockwell Park from May 27-28. More information can be found here.
Visions returns once again with another exciting line-up of artists appearing in Hackney venues including Hackney Church, Round Chapel, Oslo, Chats Palace and Paper Dress Vintage. Standout artists include Keeley Forsyth playing from the latest album Limbs, Mdou Moctar presenting the stunning sounds of Afrique Victime and Black Country, New Road playing from the acclaimed second album Ants From Up There. Other attractions include For Those I Love, Bored At My Grandma’s House, Aya, Giant Swan and more. Many of these bands will be playing in bigger venues next time they’re in London, so why not see them in a more intimate setting while you can? It promises to be another lively day at E8.
Visions takes place at various venues in Hackney on July 23. More information can be found here.
If you like pure, rainbow-colored pop, you’ll want to pick something to see and head to Mighty Hoopla. Brockwell Park is once again the setting for London’s premier pop parade as headliners Steps and Sugababes are joined by a galaxy of stars, from the most estimable Jessie Ware, Katy B, Self Esteem and Macy Gray to Natalie Imbruglia , Anastacia, Basement Jaxx, Kim Wilde, Five Star, Samantha Fox, 2 Unlimited and the London Gay Men’s Chorus. There’s even a George Michael Disco. It all adds up to a who’s who serving up bright, shiny sounds. A weekend of fun (hopefully in the sun) is just waiting to be spent. Did we mention the word pop?
Mighty Hoopla takes place at Brockwell Park from June 3-4. More information can be found here.
Cross the tracks
Cross The Tracks may be a new entry to London’s crowded festival scene, but its early lineup suggests it has more than enough to compete with. Going for a largely R&B, jazz/funk/soul angle, they have psych-lounge Khruangbin headlining with a fresh and distinctive collection of others on the bill that sees established names rub shoulders with up-and-coming artists. Joy Crookes, Sampa The Great, Roy Ayers, Romare and Priya Ragu are some of the names that stand out, but this will undoubtedly be a journey of musical discovery for many.
Cross The Tracks takes place in Brockwell Park on June 5th. More information can be found here.
Since first appearing in 2014, Raw Power has consistently delivered one of the most distinctive and select line-ups of festival season and this year is no different. Describing itself as “a fair psychic celebration of sound and fury with a hand-picked selection of innovators, mavericks and maniacs from the wildest, heaviest and most intimidating frontiers in alternative music and experimental”, it unfolds through Tufnell Park Dome and Boston Music Room over three days in August. This year there’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs from Newcastle and GNOD from Salford headlining with Belgian punk band Cocaine Piss, Sheffield doom metal purveyors Kurokuma and Polish feminist guitar ensemble Siksa also on display.
Raw Power takes place at the Tufnell Park Dome & Boston Music Room from August 26-28. More information can be found here.
Somerset House Summer Series
Fancy going to an outdoor show but don’t want to face the prospect of muddy ground underfoot? Well, the answer might be to catch one of this year’s shows in the open-air courtyard of Somerset House. As usual, artists from a range of genres have been selected, meaning you can choose from Arlo Parks, Carly Rae Jepsen, Black Midi, John Legend, Bomba Estereo, Ghetts, Tems and Squid.
Somerset House Summer Series takes place at Somerset House from July 7-17. More information can be found here.
BST Hyde Park
BST Hyde Park once again manages to bring together a collection of big names and renowned heritage acts capable of attracting crowds to fill the park’s immense greenery for nine days. The Rolling Stones celebrate 60 years together, Elton John plays his farewell show in London, the Eagles reunite again to present classic cuts from their old catalog, Duran Duran brings 80s and 90s pop nostalgia, Adele performs last year’s acclaimed 30 and grunge icons Pearl Jam make a long-awaited return to the UK (the latter two artists headline two nights each). Other acts appearing include Nile Rodgers & Chic, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Pixies, Cat Power and La Luz.
BST Hyde Park takes place in Hyde Park from June 24 to July 10. More information can be found here.
South Facing returns to Crystal Palace for a series of intimate outdoor shows over two weeks that build on the strength of last year’s debut event. Headliners booked to appear include London Grammar, Kamasi Washington, Jungle, Bombay Bicycle Club, Richard Ashcroft and Becky Hill. There’s also a strong undercard, with guest appearances from the likes of Ride, Nilüfer Yanya, Ezra Collective, Jordan Rakei and Kelly Lee Owens.
South Facing takes place at the Crystal Palace Bowl from July 29 to August 14. More information can be found here.
A new entrant to London’s festival offering is Higher Ground, which takes place in a picturesque setting on the slopes of Alexandra Palace. They’ve also booked a tantalizing lineup of performers for their first event. The all-female roster sees formidable headlining Patti Smith with support from Nadine Shah. Spellling (aka Chrystia ‘Tia’ Cabral) also appears, playing last year’s excellent Turning Wheel and there’s also Connie Constance, Nabihah Iqbal and more on the bill, not to mention a whole host of additional attractions and family events. This should all add up to a great day out in North London.
Higher Ground takes place at Alexandra Palace on July 24. More information can be found here.