Fields of Dreams: Scottish Music Festivals in 2023
Haven't figured out what homegrown music festivals you want to go to this year? With this guide to the year ahead, we've got you covered!
With the spring season just getting started, and hay fever already wreaking havoc, it’s time for us to look ahead to the best season – festival season. Although it’s not really a ‘season’, is it? Music festivals run in many forms all through the year, from summer gatherings in fields to venue hopping around a city centre in the winter months, so we've pulled out some of our top picks covering everything from family-friendly, folk and trad, dance and electronic music and city festivals to help you plan your year ahead. And as we'll see, not all dreams may be found in fields...
Starting with the big three, Dundee is set to welcome the return of Radio 1’s Big Weekend (26-28 May) to Camperdown Park, and in terms of big names they seem to be pulling out all the stops with Lewis Capaldi, The 1975, Wet Leg, Self Esteem and Arlo Parks packing out the top of the bill. Glasgow’s TRNSMT (7-9 Jul) is back at Glasgow Green featuring a wild array of artists from Pulp and Royal Blood to Ashnikko and Warmduscher. In Edinburgh, Connect Festival returns to its surprisingly idyllic surrounds at the Royal Highland Showgrounds in Ingliston. Taking place from 25 to 27 August, Connect is set to bring a more alternative angle to Scotland's big field festival vibes with headliners including Primal Scream, Fred Again.., Loyle Carner and boygenius. Dig a little deeper and you'll find MUNA, Róisín Murphy, Young Fathers, Kelly Lee Owens, Arab Strap, Confidence Man and Jockstrap.
Outwith those three, city fests kick off this month with the return of Glasgow’s most experimental and avant-garde festival, Counterflows (6-9 Apr), which makes the local community as much a part of the festival as its performers. (Read more about Scotland’s more experimental music festivals on p20.) In Edinburgh, annual music conference and showcase festival Wide Days is back (13-15 Apr), with daytime panels holding up a magnifying glass on the music industry, while in the evenings you can catch free performances from up-and-comers like Russell Stewart, SILVI, Goodnight Louisa and Becky Sikasa. Across the last weekend of the month, multi-venue festival Stag & Dagger takes over Edinburgh (29 Apr) and Glasgow (30 Apr) with everyone from Alice Glass, Lady Leshurr and Scalping set to perform in both cities.
Tenement Trail. Credit: Cameron Brisbane
Moving into May, the Melting Pot x Heverlee Springtime Weekender (6-7 May) takes over Glasgow’s Queen’s Park with Optimo hosting on Sunday. Incredible Belgian dancefloor botherers Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul top the bill, with live sets also expected from James Holden and Glasgow’s own party starters Pleasure Pool. At the end of the month, Hidden Door Festival (31 May-4 Jun) kicks off its week-long transformation of the old hexagonal Scottish Widows building nestled in the crook of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh’s Southside. Porridge Radio, Rozi Plain and Max Cooper are all set to perform, with a vast programme of visual art, spoken word and a rather interesting-sounding collaborative strand focusing on environments. Alliyah Enyo’s Sea Bed exploration sounds enchanting and is not to be missed. Skip forward to August and in Glasgow, the first Core. festival will be taking place between Maryhill Community Central Halls and The Hug & Pint. A celebration of noise, acts set to perform include Deafheaven, Chat Pile, Rolo Tomassi as well as the excellently named Moni Jitchell and Pïss Bäth.
In terms of city festivals with their lineups still TBC, the summer months are big for jazz fans in the central belt, with Glasgow Jazz Festival (14-18 Jun) and the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival (14-23 Jul) both set to return. The following month, the Edinburgh International Festival is back too, running in tandem with the Edinburgh festivals from 4 to 27 August. Finally, a trio of multi-venue festivals worth sticking in your diary for later in the year include Dunfermline’s Outwith Festival (6-10 Sep), the always raucous Tenement Trail in Glasgow (7 Oct) and The Great Western in the west of Glasgow (11 Nov).
If, for you, a music festival is all about escaping the chokehold of the major cities, then there’s a whole host of beautiful family-friendly greenfield festivals taking place across Scotland's summer months. On the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend (25-28 May) Knockengorroch kicks things off with its 25th-anniversary bash. Also referred to as the World Ceilidh, Knock’s lineup this year includes The Ragga Twins Crew, Mungo’s Hi Fi Sound System and OH141’s Sarra Wild, plus there’s a The Skinny x FUSE takeover of the Taigh Tent on Sunday featuring sets from VAJ.Power and Maveen among others. On the same weekend, Lews Castle in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis is set to host the first-ever Midnight Sun Weekender featuring live sets from some of Scotland’s best: Primal Scream, Edwyn Collins and Honeyblood.
Bemz @ Kelburn Garden Party.
Stepping into June, Fyne Fest (1-4 Jun) in Glen Fyne – organised by the team behind the Fyne Ales Brewery – gets the month underway with sets from Pictish Trail, Maranta and Alex Cornish and plenty of activities for the little ones. The Eden Festival (8-11 Jun) is back in the beautiful surroundings of Moffat’s Raehill Meadows in the South West of Scotland; featuring We Are Family hit-makers Sister Sledge, Elvis and Nirvana crossover act Elvana and cosmic concept outfit HENGE – there’s a dedicated kids tent too. Solas Festival (16-18 Jun) in Perthshire’s Errol Park is similarly well suited to the tiny humans in your life with kids activities aplenty, and music from Shooglenifty, King Creosote and Rachel Sermanni. Celebrating its unlucky for some 13th outing, Kelburn Garden Party (30 Jun-3 Jul) returns to the grounds of Kelburn Castle near Largs this summer; we’re back curating The Pyramid Stage and have headliners AiiTee, comfort and Sacred Paws confirmed. At the end of July, take your pick between either Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (27-29 Jul) near Inverness featuring Bastille, Sigrid and KT Tunstall or ButeFest (28-30 Jul) at Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute with Big Country, Skerryvore and The LaFontaines.
Dance Music Festivals
If dance music is more your speed, there’s a whole gaggle of world-class dance festivals happening practically on your doorstep. Terminal V’s Easter Weekender (8-9 Apr) makes its grand return to Edinburgh’s Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston. Split between multiple airport hangars, the festival features a carefully curated lineup of techno and underground house DJs, with TAAHLIAH, Charlotte de Witte and Boys Noize all set to play. There's usually a Halloween special too, so keep your eyes peeled later in the year. FLY Open Air (20-21 May) returns to the stately grounds of Hopetoun House in South Queensferry, with Ben Hemsley, Chaos In the CBD and Denis Sulta all set to rip it up. Meanwhile, Riverside Festival (3-4 Jun) celebrates ten years of throwing parties in the shadow of Glasgow's iconic Riverside Museum on the banks of the Clyde, featuring Paula Temple, Patrick Topping and Eclair Fifi b2b Big Miz among others. And later in the summer, the team behind FLY bring the second instalment of Otherlands (11-13 Aug) brings to Scone Palace in Perth the king of glitch Hudson Mohawke, Floorplan, HAAi and Bemz.
Jamie XX @ Otherlands. Credit: Rory Barnes
Trad and Folk Festivals
Finally, rounding out the festivals, if it's music with its roots in folk and trad that you're after, there are loads to keep your cup full all through the spring and summer months. Edinburgh’s multi-venue Tradfest (28 Apr-8 May) gets the ball rolling early on with workshops, family ceilidhs, storytelling and live performances. Elsewhere on the mainland, The Reeling's inaugural event takes place in Glasgow’s Rouken Glen Park (10-11 Jun) with Breabach, Peatbog Faeries and Iona Fyfe. North of Aberdeen, Speyfest (21-23 Jul) returns for 2023 bringing a wide array of trad and contemporary Celtic sounds to the Moray area, with Talisk, Kinnaris Quintet and Bombskare all playing. Another new festival arrives in Ayrshire this year too. The Fresh Ayr Folk Festival (11-13 Aug) will occur in Rozelle Park with Nati Dredd, Blazin’ Fiddles and Siobhan Miller Band. As well as the music lineup, Fresh Ayr will also feature music workshops, ceilidhs and arts and crafts fun for kids.
Elephant Sessions @ Skye Live. Credit: Tim Craig
If you fancy getting off the mainland for a few days, consider heading to an island for your festival fix this year. Skye Live (11-13 May) returns to Portree on the gorgeous Isle of Skye. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Orkney Folk Festival (25-28 May) takes over all manner of spaces in Kirkwall and Stromness, from breweries to community centres via town halls and theatres, with Capercaillie, The Kris Drever Band and Elephant Sessions among its lineup. Another long-lasting festival, HebCelt (12-15 Jul) returns in 2023 too where trad/electro fusion outfit Niteworks, The Corrs' Sharon Corr(!) and Lewis McLaughlin all head to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis for the occasion.