Retrospectival: a look back at festivals in May 2011

Odd Future with Will n Kate, Camden Crawl, drunkenness and more!

Chris Eustace - 20 September 2011

With Britain still in the grip of Wills 'n' Kate fever, we stumbled home to find U.S. forces had killed Osama Bin Laden at his Pakistan compound. Another Icelandic volcanic ash cloud threatened to ground flights again, former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was imprisoned at Rikers Island, heavy fighting continued in Libya and there were mass protests in Greece against the governments’ austerity measures.

Manchester United sealed their 19th League title before being outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League final, Pete Doherty got jailed again and the mega-selling Adele was named the most powerful person in UK music.

And how did we deal with all this? Well, we did what we do best and got the festival season underway after April’s awesome Volvo Snowboming 2011 (see video at the top of the article).

Things in the UK started off with the Gaymers Camden Crawl 2011. New bands jostled for attention with returning superstars amid the chaos, VF’s Daniel Lomas noting: “you may miss something you wanted to see, you could end up finding something even better.”


The undisputed stars of the event were Odd Future, who performed to a crammed, hyperactive crowd at the Red Bull stage and gave them a performance to match, with Tyler, The Creator baiting security and Hodgy Beats performing a death (or at least injury)-defying leap from the speaker stacks. Their glitch-rap briefly threatened to take over the world, but the backlash wasn’t long in coming. Talking of which, Razorlight also made their comeback at the festival.

A trip to the seaside was next up, as we decamped to Brighton for The Great Escape 2011 and a similar new bands/established stars bunfight. As those who could get in had their minds blown by Sufjan Stevens and Friendly Fires, those left on the outside could at least console themselves with great sets from Grouplove, Dry the River and Yuck “keep your mind and ears open and you might discover a real gem - just at the end of that queue” said Chris Swindells at the time.

ATP announced that their Animal Collective-curated event in the middle of the month would be their last in May, “for the foreseeable future”, as Beach House, Lee Scratch Perry and Gang Gang Dance topped the bill. Chin-stroking of a different kind abounded down in Derbyshire hosted the first outdoor event of the season in Bearded Theory 2011, as an impressed John Bownas took in eclectic treats such as Alabama 3, Athlete and The X Factor’s Wagner, making for a, “beautiful little festival.”

The big guns then turned up to entertain 20,000 in Carlisle for Radio 1’s Big Weekend. Foo Fighters and Lady GaGa headlined, and Arctic Monkeys were the surprise openers, debuting a few songs from the then-unreleased ‘Suck It And See’. Anne-Marie Douglas enjoyed an “outstanding weekend” as Tinie Tempah, Bruno Mars, Katy B and My Chemical Romance all made their first UK festival appearances of the year. They wouldn’t be their last.


Back at the “urban festivals”, Liverpool Sound City 2011 saw local boy Miles Kane, The View and Funeral for a Friend head the line-up, and The Kooks made their return. Naturally, VF’s own “dizzyingly hectic” show at the O2 Academy with film buffs Funeral Party, Lower Than Atlantis and The Ladykillers was the one to be at.

The biggest return of the year could be found at Primavera Sound 2011 in Barcelona, where Pulp played their first gig in nine years. Jarvis was back in preening frontman mode, and a marker was laid down as the band would go on to dominate the festival summer. Other highlights included The National, The Flaming Lips and a 10/10 review by VF’s Francis Whittaker for a “jaw-dropping” Sufjan Stevens, as an “essential pilgrimage for indie fans” drew to a close.

Back in the UK, Evolution Festival 2011 gave Newcastle Tinie Tempah, Plan B, a pre-“Viva” Brother, a post-car insurance ad Iggy & The Stooges, and apparently, heroic levels of drinking.

Rounding the month off, Dot To Dot 2011 opened up a three-pronged attack, gracing Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol. While Hurts, We Are Scientists, Darwin Deez and The Naked And Famous were among the more high-profile acts on the bill, there was also VF love for Ed Sheeran, Cults, Stagecoach and Braids.

So that left us to contemplate the ferry over to Isle Of Wight, when to throw the horns at Download, have a monster of a time at Rock Ness and study the latest ridiculous Glastonbury rumours (clearly Radiohead were NEVER going to play). All was good though – June was going to be dry, right? Hmm....


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