AU57: Summer Festivals Guide piece

June 1, 2009

As I mentioned here, this was a guide to the festivals for AU. Electric Picnic got the full-page treatment – here are the rest.


According to its own slogan, Glasgowbury is “small but massive” and it’s getting bigger. 2009 marks the tenth year of the Sperrins-based festival, named after its head honcho Paddy Glasgow, who in 2000 decided to put on a gig to raise some money and awareness for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. Almost a decade on, it’s grown into a full day, multi-stage celebration of Northern Irish music, with several southern bands (Ham Sandwich, Hybrasil, The Dagger Lees) joining in the fun last year. This year’s bill has yet to be announced, but expect just about every NI indie and rock band worth their salt to be there, plus several from elsewhere, from little-heard up-and-comers to well-established stalwarts like last year’s headliners Ash. A scenic setting high in the mountains, a community vibe and loads of great bands make this an ideal low-cost (and family-friendly) alternative to the bigger festivals.

Glasgowbury Festival takes place at Eagles Rock, Draperstown, on Saturday July 25.
Tickets: £25 or £30 with camping


Like Glasgowbury, Truck is an independent festival that prides itself on its small-scale and friendly atmosphere. It’s been running every year since 1998 on Hill Farm in Steventon, rural Oxfordshire (except in 2007, when it was postponed and moved to Oxford Brookes University due to flooding). The name either comes from a compilation CD found by founder Robin Bennett called Keep On Trucking or (more likely) the fact that the main stage is constructed from three large flatbed trucks. Despite the cosy 5,000 capacity, there are six different stages, including one set up in a cowshed. Clearly, this is no ordinary festival. This year’s headliners are Ash and local heroes Supergrass, and other bands so far announced include ASIWYFA, Panama Kings, Errors, Red Light Company, Chew Lips and YACHT. Expect that list to be significantly bolstered in the next few weeks.

Truck Festival takes place at Hill Farm, Steventon, Oxfordshire on July 25 and 26.
Tickets: £70 for the weekend


Since Reading and Leeds embraced indie, there has been only one serious option for British and Irish metallers: Download. Held at Donington and basically a continuation of the old Monsters Of Rock festivals, this is no place for shrinking violets, which is why our eyebrows raised appreciably when we read that General Fiasco are on the bill. Apart from them, though, it’s business as usual – this year’s headliners are Faith No More, Slipknot and Def Leppard (spandex-tastic), whilst elsewhere you can get your fill of old-school rawk with Mötley Crüe, Whitesnake and ZZ Top, nu-metal with Korn and Limp Bizkit, proper modern metal with Meshuggah and Opeth and goth fun with Marilyn Manson. Further NI interest comes with the appearances of The Answer and Therapy?

Download takes place at Donington Park, Leicestershire on June 12-14.
Tickets: £135 for the weekend, arena only (camping tickets sold out)


Due to its size, facilities and (let’s be honest) a good proportion of its clientele, Oxegen has lost a bit of its lustre in recent years. The emergence of the bright and shiny Electric Picnic can’t have helped, either. So in an effort to regain some credibility, they’ve properly pulled out all the stops this year with a quite incredible line-up. And with good reason – Oxegen is very much the modern, corporate festival, so the music has to be good. The punters will be pulled in good and proper with headliners as big as Snow Patrol, The Killers, Kings Of Leon and Blur (an Irish exclusive), but just look at what else is on offer: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Of Montreal, The Horrors, Mogwai, M83, The Specials… AU is impressed. We’ll gloss over Lady Gaga, James Morrison and Razorlight, shall we?

Oxegen takes place at Punchestown Racecourse, Co. Kildare on July 10-12.
Tickets: €224.50 for the weekend


There are plenty of dance festivals around, but none that quite compares to Sónar. Like Primavera Sound and Summercase, the other big Barcelona-based festivals, there’s no camping, but this is urban festivalling on a huge scale. 80,000 people descend on the Catalan capital for three days and nights of utter madness. ‘Sónar by Day’ takes place in the city centre and is more like your average music festival – bands and DJs during the day. Simple. ‘Sónar by Night’, however, is a different proposition altogether. This takes place a bus ride away and is split into four separate – enormous – areas. We haven’t yet been, but we are told that the sight of tens of thousands of people raving their heads off all night, in a huge hangar with an incredible PA, is worth the trip. Not to mention the stellar line-up. This year’s highlights include SebastiAn, Orbital, Richie Hawtin, Animal Collective, Carl Craig, Fever Ray, Crystal Castles, Martyn, Grace Jones etc etc….

Sonar takes place in Barcelona on June 18-20.
Tickets: €140 for the weekend, Day and Night


Eastern Europe is an excellent choice for an alternative festival experience. We’ve heard good things about EXIT in Serbia, T-Mobile INmusic in Croatia and Open’er in Poland, but top of our list would have to be Sziget in Budapest, Hungary. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. For a start, it lasts for a full week, so camping is strictly for the well-prepared. However, because of its unique location on an island in the middle of the Danube, right in the heart of the Hungarian capital, you could dip in and out over the course of a week’s stay in Budapest. The line-up tends to be a bit patchy, and not exactly cutting edge (though Squarepusher, Klaxons and Calexico are confirmed for this year) but with nearly 400,000 punters expected and countless other activities on offer, it’d be a hell of an experience. And just think of all the cheap food and beer.

Sziget takes place in Budapest, Hungary on August 12-17.
Tickets: €150 for the week or €180 with camping


Just look at that name. Good, innit? This “progressive” Belgian festival deserves a mention just for that (though Holland’s Pinkpop runs it a close second). Boasting eight stages and a capacity of around 150,000 (nearly twice as many as Oxegen, to put that in context), this one is a huge deal. Maybe Belgium isn’t so boring, after all. As well as the sensory overload of being as such a huge festival, you also get a top-drawer line-up, this year headlined by Faith No More, Kraftwerk, Arctic Monkeys and dEUS (they’re Belgian, innit). Also appearing are the ASIWYFA boys, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Snow Patrol, Wilco, Deftones, Vitalic and many, many more. Top banana.

Pukkelpop takes place in Kiewit, nr Hasselt, Belgium on August 20-22.
Tickets: €135 for the weekend


Another good name, this one is a pun (and Lord knows we at AU like puns) on the words ‘rock’ and ‘européennes’ (European in French). It was conceived by the forward looking politicians of Belfort, eastern France, as a way of making their area that little bit cooler (or milking the youth vote, possibly). Job well done. Apart from having that je ne sais quoi that only the French possess, the organisers clearly know their onions on the line-up front. This year, the 100,000 capacity festival boasts The Bronx, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Kanye West, Torche, Mos Def, Friendly Fires and loads more. Plus, the festival takes place at a nature resort, so it really is impossibly beautiful.

Eurockéennes takes place at Malsaucy, nr Belfort, France on July 3-5.
Tickets: €85 for the weekend


If you’re an electronic music fan and your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Sónar in Barcelona, a long weekend in Derry could be in order. Each year, the Celtronic festival takes over the city for a weekend, offering up high-calibre acts from home and abroad to play in venues such as Mason’s, Sandino’s and the Nerve Centre. The cream of this year’s crop includes gauzy electronica maestro Ulrich Schnauss, German house DJ Dixon, French electro king Brodinski, Lurgan’s Boxcutter and his fellow Planet Mu star Milanese, folktronica artist James Yuill, ace remixer Duke Dumont, Belfast techno producer Phil Kieran playing a rare live set and London disco dons Horsemeat Disco. The lure of the north-west is strong.

Celtronic takes place throughout Derry on June 24-28.
Tickets: TBA


One comment

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