UK Festival Shortlist: 2018
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It's mid-February and that can only mean one thing - it's time to wrestle with your mind over which super expensive tickets to buy for a few days in summer. It might feel like it's never coming, but it will. Oh it will. The UK festival circuit is big and obscenely saturated, but given the fact we'll probably never be able to travel to Europe again following Brexit, we've no choice but to embrace it.
We feel pretty smug because we think we've woken up early enough to catch the worm this time - here are our tips. Go cop 'em, earlybird.
1. Best for... proving you know what's HOT
Great Escape Festival, Brighton (May 17-19)
Over a three-day weekend in May, Brighton is met by a well-dressed wave of industry types and cool kids eager to prove they know what the Next Big Thing is. This is Great Escape: a marathon of live music where around 300 artists and musicians turn up in various nooks and crannies and show what they're all about.
It's a dedicated focus on the new and rising - and once you get past the intermittent industry small-talk, what you're left with is a very decent event with music from every genre represented. You might not recognise many names on the line up but you will in a year or two. Probably.
Five line up picks: Poppy Ajudha • Yazmin Lacey • Skinny Pelembe • MIST • Steel Banglez
2. Best for... an intimate, magical Welsh vacation
Gottwood, Anglesey (June 7-10)
9 years in and remaining close to a lot of people's hearts, Gottwood is a magical trip down an arty, house-orientated Welsh rabbit hole. Despite its popularity, it's always kept to a 5000 capacity and it makes a big difference - this is the kind of festival where it's never too packed; where there's ample space to stretch out and wander. A bit like being at the country house of a really rich friend of yours.
Happening within the woodland grounds of one of the founders' parents houses in North Wales, it's a bit of a mission to get to, but those who make it are rewarded by an excellent bill, a super friendly crowd and a laissez-faire approach to extracurriculars.
Cost: £165-180 (and going fast)
Five line up picks: Palm Trax • Tenderlonious & The 22archestra • Ben UFO • Avalon Emerson • Andrew Weatherall
3. Best for... seeing the big acts
Parklife, Manchester (June 9-10)
If what you want from a festival is to see the kind of huge acts you could never hope to see on tour, Parklife is the one for you. Despite having the size, lineup and prestige of a major event, this is a strictly independent affair that comes without the pain/pleasure of camping. And given the fact it comes with Manchester's unpredictable microclimate, that's probably for the best.
Taking place in Heaton Park, there are main stages for the big guns and then more dance-orientated hangars where people really let loose. Prepare yourself for a very friendly crowd, too.
Five line up picks: N*E*R*D • IAMDDB • Skepta • Vince Staples • The Internet
Best for... a low-effort dose of woodland house
Farr Festival, Hertfordshire (July 5-8)
Just an hour or so outside London, Farr is a fairly cheap and straightforward two-day break from reality in which 6-8 thousand likeminded souls submerge themselves in some Hertfordshire woodland and shake it. This is strictly techno, house and disco which means it comes with those communal vibes that have become all the rage, and plenty of opportunities to get off your bonce. Expect glitter, extremely short shorts and Reebok Classics.
Five line up picks : Mount Kimbie • Daphni • Byron the Aquarius • Tom Misch • Dixon
Best for... something grassroots and DIY
Brainchild, East Sussex (July 13-15)
We can't help but feel that the organisers behind Brainchild kinda want it kept on the DL or else risk losing its charming DIY, intimate appeal. Unfortunately this is us, telling the WHOLE WORLD all about it. What began as a party in a field has slowly, but carefully, evolved into something super collaborative and organic; where 300 musicians, poets, artists and theatrical companies perform across a weekend in July.
There's no big acts, no corporate sponsorship, no VIP area - this is simply about a group of mates hanging out and doing something creative and wholesome. And that just warms the cockles right up. But yeah, maybe don't go, you might ruin it.
Five line up picks: TBC
Best for... shaking it all night long
Houghton, Norfolk (August 9-12)
With the team behind Gottwood at the wheel and Craig Richards curating the music, Houghton’s first year on the razz was, by all reasonable standards, an absolute belter. They’re back in Norfolk for round two with more of the same: keeping numbers small, vibes friendly and music playing all... night... long. The backdrop to all this house and disco comes in the form of a lake, pretty woodland and a sculpture walk. It's already become one of the hottest tickets about and will sell out.
Five line up picks: Prosumer • Ricardo Villalobos • Sonja Moonear • Objekt • Shanti Celeste
Best for... a utopian, hippy adventure
Shambala, Northamptonshire (Aug 23-26)
If you're happy with photographic evidence emerging of you in harem pants, hula hoops and body paint then head to Shambala. This is hippy-heartland where it's in the small print that you have to let all of those inhibitions/fashion standards go, as a beautiful country estate in Northamptonshire turns into a hedonistic affair all about inclusivity, sustainability and equality. Along with the Afrobeats and experimental jams you'll find arty workshops and loads of colourful theatrics everywhere you look.
Cost: £189 or Bitcoin equivalent
Five line up picks: It's not about the music, man.
Best for... a friendly, indie dream
End of the Road, Wiltshire (Aug 30-Sept 2)
If you want to say goodbye to summer by drifting into the welcoming embrace of a hallucinogenic dream, you've come to the right place. End of the Road is a special affair: its attention to detail in stage design, extra curricular and hidden treats is legendary and is probably the reason why it's perhaps the best loved of all the festivals. It takes place in a Victorian pleasure garden and comes with a very well curated bill of indie and electronica.
Five line up picks: St.Vincent • Ezra Furman • Fat White Family • Mulatu Astatke • Omar Souleyman