As we swerve, rather scarily towards the UK Festival Awards, much like George Michael trying to avoid Snappy Snaps, it's time to produce a retrospective on a tremendous summer of festivals.
2010 is a year that will surely be anthologised as 12 months of British disappointment. From the nauseating lows of England’s World Cup campaign to an inconclusive general election, perhaps it’s not such a head-spinner that comedy duo Jedward bagged themselves a three-album record deal. UK festivals, however, have gone some way to providing the perfect antidote to the mire. Their continuing consistency in quality is as reassuring and as reaffirming as a rain cloud grumbling over the UK in mid-July.
But it hasn’t all been rosy for them this year though, and we’ll get to that as this series continues, but for now, let us wipe the sleepy dust from our eyes and stretch our deadened arms from hibernation to relive the world of festivals from March and April.
We began, as is polite these days, with our predictions for the upcoming summer. Well, not ours exactly, but the new bands tips of the top 20 festival promoters in the country – and they weren’t far wrong with their guesses. Mercury Music Prize winners The XX featured, but hats off to the Mystic Meg who said Mumford and Sons would make the biggest impact on the circuit. Hurts and The Big Pink are yet to follow suit with similar meteoric rises – maybe next year, eh lads?
The festival curtains finally lifted as BLOC Weekend 2010 saw chalky Minehead throbbing to the Balearic bass chants of Fly Lo, the leftfield gaudy of IDM forefathers Autechre and a legion of fresh talent in typically defiant, masterful fashion. Flying Lotus and a back-to-back set from Pinch and Distance were among the highlights for our reporter Matt Cook, but be careful of the review as our photographer even managed to get into the swimming pool with his camera…
From the picture below, it was probably for the best that ticket-holders remained fully dressed at Hammerfest 2010 but there was no need for swimming when ticket-holders literally everything a festival-goer could want under one roof: a full English breakfast, several bars serving cold pints, three stages within a stone’s throw of each other, a supermarket, fully functional toilets and chalets providing a bed for the night and a roof over their heads (if little more). Skindred and Napalm Death were given the plaudits by Gavin McInally and Graeme Johnston with even the security getting a warm reception.
A reception, it would seem, that is even warmer for hip hop acts at festivals these days and back in March, Jamie Barker explored the rise of the genre in his brilliantly-titled piece: Outcast To Outkast. To accompany the salute, we’ve included one of the biggest hip hop tracks from the last year in the top right hand corner of this article for you to enjoy!
Elsewhere, Bang Face The Weekender 2010 provided plenty of nostalgia with serial gunker Dave Benson Phillips among those onsite. Every year the festival's pool party never ceases to amaze, with any festival weariness quickly replaced by childhood regression, mused our writer Matt Cook at the time, even the artists were affected by the infectious mayhem, with a 2 Bad Mice DJ inadvertently diving into the shallow end of the pool and cracking his head open. Ouch.
But are the older headliners and performers like 2 Bad Mice limiting the musical progression of festivals? That’s the question Matt Miles posed at the time, but it didn’t seem to be the case at Snowbombing 2010, as I found out in person. Greg Wilson was the star of the slopes during the three days I was in Austria, dropping a Ting Tings remix that was funkier than James Brown’s sock drawer. For snow and music lovers, it is really a must for 2011.
It was either the stench of that drawer or the vertigo, but the other snow-covered soiree we visited – Altitude Festival 2010 – was as dizzyingly brilliant. Or, as writer Lorraine Bow would have it: ‘the friendliest, funniest frost-ival I’ve ever been to!’ Again, we decided to include some nudity in the review. It’s not Lorraine, rather some cheeky top (and bottom)-less skiers proving that there may have been a nip in the air at the time. Ooh-eee!
From that great joke to discussing the people who do it professionally: comedians. That’s right, leading up to the festival season Dan Frost chatted with Latitude arts programmer Tania Harrison, Apples and Snakes’ Sarah Ellis, who helps organise The Big Chill's spoken word content, and sketch troupe Pappy's to talk about the increasing status and inclusion of rib-ticklers and poets at festivals these days.
To round off some brilliant festivals action in April, Glasgow’s Hinterland 2010 returned – leaner, keener and tighter, according to Lisa-Marie Farla. Condensed into a Saturday night, and keeping its multiple stages all within easy walking distance, Hinterland’s simple one-wristband-all-gigs formula made for a hassle-free evening of cracking music, without the campsite toilets, sunburn and dodgy burgers. Jeffery Lewis and Kitty The Lion shone, but apparently the gin wasn’t up to much…