Festival Season 2013: Carry Me Home

Whether the party's in or outdoors, north or south of the border, The Skinny does not discriminate in this whistle-stop tour of the UK's varied festival circuit

Feature by Ray Philp | 18 Apr 2013

OUTSKIRTS (20 Apr, Platform, The Bridge, Westerhouse Road, Glasgow)
Glasgow-based Outskirts' comparative modesty of size seems inversely proportionate to its artistic ambition. Entering its second year, Outskirts' outre exploration of music, literature, visual art and performance offers a unique proposition among Scotland's festival circuit, more concerned perhaps with beginning a dialogue than a sing-a-long.

DON'T MISS: A Hawk and a Hacksaw are probably Outskirts' most accessible proposition, but anyone familiar with their effervescent, Balkan folk-splicing handiwork know that the Albuquerque duo are hardly the craven types. Frisk Frugt evokes a dollhouse-bound Steve Reich in his pared down, rough-hewn electronic and organic textures, and amongst visual art installations from Florence To and Jasp Blonk is Dr Voxoid, who provides a soundtrack to an event that is about as playful as you could imagine. 

TICKETS: £15 (includes food), under 12s free, concessions apply


ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES (10-11 May and 21-23 Jun, Camber Sands, East Sussex)
All Tomorrow's Parties' will host two festivals in May and June, curated by TV On The Radio and Deerhunter respectively. Situated at Butlins in Minehead until last year, ATP has gone turncoat to a rival seaside holiday camp in Camber Sands, Pontins. Though ATP might look like a relatively civilised affair at first, it'd be hard not to feel like a cumbersome child as you drunkenly clamber into a go-kart, or pour shrapnel into the arcade. Besides the private chalets, the festival is geared to fostering a relaxed, inclusive atmosphere – there are no VIP sections onsite, and artists will happily mingle with revellers/riff-raff/anyone with drugs. 

DON'T MISS: De La Soul and DOOM lead the pack for TV On The Radio's esoteric line-up, but venturing further into the rabbit hole of the Brooklyn quintet's furtive interest in hip-hop, you'll find El-P and Death Grips staring back from the vortex. Having shaken off that particularly brutal, brilliant encounter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra's loose-limbed set of lysergic grooves are worth seeking out for some respite. Deerhunter put themselves into the heart of proceedings as they perform three of their most beloved albums – Cryptograms, Microcastle and Halcyon DigestSteve Reich, accompanied by chamber orchestra London Sinfonietta, has also been added to the bill.

TICKETS: £720 for four-person chalet (£180pp), larger chalets available


KNOCKENGORROCH (23-26 May, Galloway)
Of Scotland's alternative festivals, Knockengorroch has reasonable claim to boast the broadest array of music, in geographical terms at least. Traditional Scottish staples jostle for space alongside Balkan funk, afrobeat, hip-hop, jazz of both the swinging and corrosive nature, and countless shades of dub on the Galloway hills; a world music gathering in an otherwise rather secluded part of the country. Its roots inspiration, ahem, runs deep, as the absence of corporate regalia and Buckied teenagers "gettin' mad wae it" will testify. 

DON'T MISS: Any act that manages to encapsulate Knockengorroch's pan-global ethos as completely as Asian Dub Foundation's Molotov cocktail of RATM-style hip-hop, anchor-weighted dub and serrated ragga is worth a look. And in fact, there is: Luke Vibert, a man who has turned his seasoned hand to acid house, jungle, hip-hop, lounge and so much more for some of the finest electronic music labels around; Warp, Rephlex, Ninja Tune and Planet Mu, to name a few. Otherwise, just pick something with a funny name: Grandma Staflasch and the Furious Grandads seem like a laugh. 

TICKETS: £77-92 (£92 for four-day adult camping), under 11s free, concessions apply


FIELD DAY (25 May, Victoria Park Road, Hackney, London)
A modestly-sized field in Hackney – lined by 30ft trees and more bunting than a seaside village fete in WWII - is the setting for one of the strongest festival line-ups in the UK – that it's only on for the one day says enough about the numerous and profound first world problems you're going to encounter ("Django Django or Egyptian Hip-Hop?"; "James Yorkston or Bat For Lashes?"). Just please, for the love of Christ, don't ruin it by Instagramming this eminently Instagrammable festival, which will basically look like an art school riot sponsored by the Sunglass Hut.

DON'T MISS: From Bat For Lashes' spectral, fairytale song-writing to the unhinged, tar-stained prism of Fucked Up's exceptional hardcore, there's an abundance of quality here curated with more craft than most festivals. Fence favourite James Yorkston's tremulous folk compositions seldom fail to please, and the misleadingly-monikered Egyptian Hip Hop's soft, prickling keyboards and Yes-echoing harmonies show impressive progress from their Hudson Mohawke-produced 2009 debut. Meanwhile, a kaleidoscope of electronic music is represented at Field Day, with Daniel Avery's hedonistic machine funk, Daphni's modular synth freak-outs, Shed's cavernous '90s warehouse techno and the flesh-stripping, Roland-powered brutality of Karenn. But, for all that, do make special effort to see Charanjit Singh. His acid house-via-Bombay jams, from his seldom-heard 1982 album, Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat, will reward an audience curious for something completely removed from the ordinary. 

TICKETS: £54.50


ROCKNESS (7-9 Jun, Clune Farm, Dores, nr Loch Ness)
RockNess touts itself as Scotland's most picturesque festival, and, before the inevitable onslaught of johnnies, neon debris and throttled Strongbow-branded plastic, it certainly lives up to the billing. Lying on the banks of Loch Ness, the festival's main stage is a sight to behold at sundown, whether you opt to join in with the rammy at the front or nestle yourself on the grassy slopes to observe the mayhem from afar. As the festival enters its eighth year its gradual move towards a Balado-shaped middle-ground hasn't gone unnoticed, but it remains a strong proposition as a major festival with an emphasis on electronic music, and it does so on a scale unrivalled in Scotland. 

DON'T MISS: Madness are hard to beat for sheer energy and entertainment value, and much the same could be said of Basement Jaxx, whose live shows are always carnivalesque affairs. Despite some more ostensibly illustrious names, Sub Club residents Harri & Domenic are among the best very DJs on the bill; those that prefer something a little more accessible could do worse than Jessie Ware, whose excellent UK-garage/pop hybrid album of last year puts her quite a bit ahead of her contemporaries. 

TICKETS: £59-£229 (£139 for three-day adult camping)


T IN THE PARK (12-14 Jul, Balado, Kinross-shire, Scotland)
For a festival that draws over 85,000, effectively making the site, for one July weekend, Scotland's fifth most populated area, T In The Park is as polemic as they come. Earnest muso types give their canes a good shake at the festival's brazenly populist programming, but such harrumphing is often about as audible as a debate on real ale at the front of the Slam Tent. In past years, TITP's golden nuggets have been found skulking around the festival's peripheries (alongside actual nuggets, of course), but some of this year's biggest, shiniest jewels are given pride of place at Balado. And, as the festival celebrates its 20th anniversary, it comes with a sense of occasion few others can match.

DON'T MISS: Kraftwerk's return to Scotland is arguably worth the cost of admission alone. Otherwise, cut-glass New York trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the emotionally volatile Modest Mouse and UK indie's answer to Bill Oddie, British Sea Power, form part of a pretty strong spine to TITP's 20th birthday celebrations. A surprisingly considered Slam Tent line-up pulls off possibly the Scottish festival coup of the summer where electronic music is concerned: a back-to-back set from Berghain princelings Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann. An improvement on Crookers, anyway.

TICKETS: £75-£194 (£194 for three day adult camping)


WICKERMAN (26-27 Jul, East Kirkcarswell, nr Dundrennan)
The Wickerman Festival – not to be confused with the 1973 Christopher Lee-starring horror film, after which the festival is named – has been a long-standing alternative to the omni-mayhem of Scotland's larger jamborees, inviting around 15,000 revellers to a relatively compact, undulating piece of countryside in East Kirkcarswell, Dumfries and Galloway. The end of the festival is marked by the burning of a large straw man, around which everyone stands and imagines their worst enemy writhing in the flames, ya wee dick. 

DON'T MISS: Primal Scream, obviously. The Kevin Rowland-fronted Dexys add another splash of sepia to proceedings, as do Public Service Broadcasting, although the latter go about it with a rather more radical set-up, weaving together a patchwork of archive footage, propaganda clips and other parts of salvaged nostalgia around an expansive ensemble of analogue and electronic instruments. Of the "rousing Scottish folk-pop" category, which The Wickerman Festival never seems to think it has enough of, Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire and KT Tunstall are your go-to guys (and gal). Of the Solus Tent, Fat Goth's bar-brawl shred of guitars and the expansive, horn-assisted ensemble of Woodenbox are particularly eye- and ear-catching additions.  

TICKETS: £65-£100 (£100 for two-day adult camping), under 12s free, concessions apply


Like RockNess, Doune The Rabbit Hole takes advantage of a scenic lochside landscape, but otherwise the two couldn't be more opposed. Carron Valley is a popular fishing spot, and perhaps it's no coincidence that the festival has adopted an approach that requires some patience. Last year's set-times were, to say the least, a little haphazard, and you may find the experience more like a dawdle through a really, really big park than a 100mph vom-a-thon. Just as well, since, being a family festival and all, there will be a lot of wee nippers about. 

DON'T MISS: Meursault and Rachel Sermanni lead a tight, coherent programme of sinewy folk and soft, bruised balladry, but Galoshins, returning after last year's memorable thrash of primary-coloured guitar funk sketches, will set out to prove that DTRH can step it up a gear when the mood (or axe) strikes.

TICKETS: £78-£88 (£88 for four-day adult camping), under 12s free



Brew at the Bog's second festival at Bogbain Farm (4 May) is lead by Miaoux Miaoux, whose rhythmic, Casio-programmed fissures are sure to open up a little more in the Inverness-shire air, and a keenly priced £30 camping ticket for a line-up that also includes Olympic Swimmers, FOUND and Kitty The Lion makes the one-day festival an ever-more tempting proposition.

Eden Festival (7-9 Jun) in Moffat, Dumfries & Galloway is stuffed with a relentlessly optimistic rabble, from UK jungle veteran Shy FX to Sam and the Womp, a troupe of bubble-gum-coated gypsy dub ditties. Mr Motivator also features, no doubt filling out his lycra onesie with all the grace of a sack of potatoes packed by Optimus Prime. The fuck?

Sadly set to be stripped of its psychedelic mural, Kelburn Castle nevertheless remains one of Scotland's foremost party destinations as it hosts two in consecutive months: the Psychedelic Forest Disco on 11 May, headlined by JD Twitch, John Morales, Den Haan, Mia Dora and Kris Wasabi, and the larger Kelburn Garden Party (6-7 Jul), featuring UK hip-hop stalwart Mr Scruff, as well as Hidden Orchestra and Conquering Animal Sound.

Though Belladrum (2-3 Aug) have yet to announce their line-up at the time of going to print, Frightened Rabbit, Beverley Knight and Stanley Odd were among last year's headliners, which should give you some idea of what's on offer.

Primal Scream, Mystery Jets and Roni Size are among the headliners plunging into Kendal Calling's (26-28 Jul) Lake District setting, but the following month's Green Man Festival (15-18 Aug), situated in South Wales' Brecon Beacons, offers a more distinctive landscape in more ways than one: an ensemble of acts as diverse as Erol Alkan & Daniel Avery, Band Of Horses, Edwyn Collins, Lau and Fuck Buttons rather mirror the jagged, rough-hewn plains and slopes of the Black Mountains.

BoomTown (8-11 Aug), a Hampshire festival with 'districts' that mimic a city layout (stages are called 'Town Centre,' 'Chinatown Theatre,' 'Bad Apple Bar' and so on), curates something oriented more to soundsystem music, soul, ska and reggae: dub innovator Lee Scratch Perry, funk ensemble Parov Stelar & Band and drum and bass legend LTJ Bukem are notable headliners here.

If you can wait until September - and once you manage to divert your eyes from the Manic Street Preachers' headline appearance – then No. 6 (13-15 Sep) in Portmeirion, North Wales is a connoisseur's spread of well-heeled oddities, as evidenced by appearances from coruscating synth and guitar pop quintet Dutch Uncles, the reverb-on-diazepam diet of Hookworms and The Staves' neat and nimble folk harmonies. Seminal Chicago house DJ and producer Frankie Knuckles leads a stellar bill of DJs, among which disco edit master Greg Wilson and Belgian house tyro San Soda also feature.