Wide Awake Festival 2023: Five acts to catch

Ahead of its return to London's Brockwell Park this bank holiday weekend, we pick out the acts not to be missed at Wide Awake festival

Preview by Adam Turner-Heffer | 24 May 2023
  • Gilla Band

Now entering its third year, Wide Awake festival has quickly proven to be a big hit within London's indie, alternative and dance scenes, with a specific gaze aimed at its surroundings south of the capital's river. While not exclusively so, Wide Awake has tended to feature South London's booming music scene in its short lifespan – with acts such as Shame, Black Midi or Black Country, New Road – and spread them amongst more internationally recognised talent.

The festival perhaps stretched itself a tiny bit thin last year, attempting to go for two days rather than a more concentrated single-day festival, but 2023 sees it return to Brockwell Park in its more condensed form, promising to be a wonderful celebration of music in an oft-overlooked corner of the capital. Here are five acts we're looking forward to catching this late May Bank Holiday Saturday.


Formed from the breakup of the much-loved but sadly somewhat-underrated Canadian post-punk band Ought, Cola's debut album Deep In View, ironically also seemingly went slightly under the radar on its release last year. Whether you know Tim Darcy and Ben Stidworthy's previous output or not, they have kept their brilliantly inventive writing and playing styles and added a more directly abrasive edge with occasional U.S. Girls drummer Evan Cartwright behind the skins, sure to kick off your day with the jolt of energy required. Moth Club, 2pm


A fine example of what Wide Awake is all about, Tirzah's dream-pop is about as rooted in South London as it gets, primarily as she often collaborates with scene veteran Mica Levi of Michacu and the Shapes. Her mid-afternoon slot promises to be a wonderful accompaniment to or perhaps break from (fingers crossed) the gorgeous weather forecast for this year's festival. Moth Club, 4.15pm

Gilla Band

In an increasingly homogenised 'post-punk revival' in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the genre has become such a safe banker for some that it's lost all meaning. Not for Gilla Bandhowever, who stand out as the noisiest and most adventurous of the pack, always bringing a delightfully manic noise to proceedings. Plus, that potential singalong to Eight FiversMoth Club, 6.40pm

John Dwyer of Oh Sees, playing a translucent electric guitar.
Image: Osees by Aidan Wyldbore

Black Country, New Road

The first band, to my knowledge, to play Wide Awake twice, and yet BC, NR return as a very different outfit to the one who featured in the festival's inaugural year. At least in the sense that this is one of their biggest shows since the departure of former frontman Isaac Wood, so most will only know the band's current iteration from their Live at Bush Hall album, which documented the tracks put together post-2022's incredible Ants From Up There. However, they have never been an easy act to pin down, so whether we get a set similar to their recent live record or something else entirely makes them a must-watch. Bad Vibrations / Desert Daze, 7.20pm


Whatever you decide to do for the headline slot this year, you're truly spoiled for choice. The latest conquering indie-pop star Caroline Polachek is on the main stage (Wide Awake, 9.15pm). On the more electronic-centric stage, Daniel Avery will surely give a euphoric conclusion to the evening (Snap, Crackle & Pop / Village Underground, 9.20pm). However, our nod has to go to Osees, quite simply one of the best live bands in the world right now. While last year's A Foul Form saw the San Franciscan psyche quartet go down a more hard-edged, crust-punk route, nothing is guaranteed beyond ringleader John Dwyer's fanciful mood and his band's airtight playing. Bad Vibrations / Desert Daze, 9pm

Wide Awake festival takes place in Brockwell Park, London, 27 May, doors at midday