Retrospectival: a look back at festivals in July 2011

Prince wipes his shoes on the mat; Jarvis is reluctant to leave

Photographer: Sara BowreyJack Gunner on 04 October 2011

With the colossus Glastonbury done, dusted and not returning until post-Olympic 2013, the July festivals, many of them smaller and newer, are left with a hard act to follow as they fill the space until late-autumn titans of V Festival, Reading, Leeds and Creamfields

Opening the month’s festivals in style, Hop Farm 2011 embraced an anti-consumerist attitude. “The future's bright,” glared Dane Cobain as Prince made his debut UK festival show, “as massive as humanly possible.”


From the sunny woods of Kent to the concrete jungle of central London, Wireless 2011  saw a seventh year and a decent, if mainstream, blend of acts, from The Chemical Brothers and Black Eyed Peas to The Horrors and Foals, rounded off by a superb set from Pulp. “Jarvis seems reluctant to leave the stage, and who can blame him after a festival as good as this?” enthused Rhian Daly.

Sonisphere 2011, returning for its third year at the metal mecca of Knebworth, made history with unification of the Big Four of Thrash. Introduced by Diamond Head, the 55,000 strong crowd were treated to wave upon wave of glorious metal as Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and the spellbinding Metallica unleashed only the best of their 30-plus year careers, concluding with the five bands uniting on stage for one final number, technicians at the ready in case the stage collapsed under the sheer weight of awesome.


Other highlights of Sonisphere included Bill Bailey’s musical comedy fine-tuned to suit the head-banging crowd, Biffy Clyro's sublimely theatrical set marking their first of many headlining performances, and a bittersweet but blistering set from Sunday's headliners Slipknot – celebrating the life of late bassist Paul Gray, proving why they are considered one of metals best live acts and surprisingly, not injuring anybody during the obligatory “Jump the fuck up!”

All this combined to make Sonisphere 2011 a highlight of the festival season, and totally worth the subsequent three-day loss of hearing, as it earned a 9/10 review from a head-banging Kai Jones: “There's little reason why even the most stubborn haven't loosened up their neck tendons for an almighty metal whiplash by the end of the weekend.”


Further north, T In The Park 2011 saw a staggering 85,000 punters un-phased by the gloomy weather (it is Scotland, after all), crowding in their masses to enjoy a star-studded line-up, with a little something for everyone, be they rockers (Slash, Foo Fighters, Weezer, Manic Street Preachers) ravers (Swedish House Mafia, Pendulum, Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris) or fans of bright orange OAP’s (Tom Jones, who else?). “An undisputed champion of an event,” said Gavin McInally.

The following weekend, on a slightly less intense note, saw the quirky, artsy Latitude 2011 celebrate its sixth year, with the picturesque Henham Park playing host to a weekend of music, theatre, poetry, film, cabaret and Late Night Gimp Fights.

The National, Foals, Echo And The Bunnymen were among Kai Jones’ highlights, although poor Paolo Nutini scored an unprecedented “despair out of 10”! Suede, though, provided “a wondrous end to a unique weekend.”


Secret Garden Party 2011 is proving itself to be without a doubt one of the fastest rising fests on the circuit, enjoying another sell-out weekend. With the atmosphere of Glastonbury and Bestival's trippier little brother and an eclectic mix of music and more – standouts being Motown legend Martha Reeves, techno powerhouses Leftfield and pop-punk progenitors Blondie among a sea of lesser known acts – Cambridgeshire's  “intimate hedonistic playground” is another to keep a watchful eye on.

Overseas, the July mid-section of the monster Mediterranean duo of Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks welcomed numerous bands to their ongoing party, with Biffy Clyro, Tinie Tempah, Professor Green and Dizzee Rascal all joining resident DJs Doorly and Nicola Bearfor a Balearic blow-out that Chris Swindells found “pretty close to perfection.”

Over on the mainland, Benicassim 2011’s saw an indie-heavy four-day fest, with over 40,000 flocking to Castellon for acts including Mumford and Sons, The Strokes, Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys. With the action going from 7pm until 7am, Sarah Kerr asked: “There is no sense of time or space but where else would you want to be stuck in Limbo?”

Amongst the many super-sized, household name festivals, it is often easy to overlook the smaller and quieter affairs, but it would be a shame to forget Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival – which celebrated its 14th birthday with a “village fete atmosphere” alongside sets from Roddy Woomble and Edwyn Collins - or the 46th Cambridge Folk Festival, which saw “nu” battle “old” at Cherry Hinton with the likes of Newton Falkner, Laura Marling and Richard Thompson performing.

A few ill-advised strollers and efforts from the likes of Larmer Tree and Guilfest, children are rarely considered exhaustively when it comes to festivals, but a major exception lies in Camp Bestival 2011, the younger and more child friendly of Rob da Bank's fairytale soirees. For the fourth year, Lulworth Castle welcomed young and old alike for a wonderland of Howard Marks-read stories, kiddie friendly entertainment and performances from Blondie, Ed Sheeran and Primal Scream “the ultimate in family festivals,” according to VF’s John Bownas.

Finally, Global Gathering 2011 saw off July in fast-paced, neon style, with a crowd of 50,000 descending on Stratford-upon-Avon for “one huge rave-a-thon”, with powerhouse sets from Beardyman, Sasha, Carl Cox, Tinie Tempah (the man likely played your living room at some point this summer), Underworld, Pendulum and Chase and Status.

July might not, T in the Park and Sonisphere aside, boast many of the big names of music festivals, but makes up for it with a great many smaller and rapidly growing names. Latitude, Hop Farm and Secret Garden Party, to name just a few, are exhibiting incredible staying power for festivals barely five years old.

Click for our May retrospective.
Click for our June retrospective.

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