From premier pop to a Southbank Centre takeover, via Vicky Park and a fond farewell, London’s festivals are back with a big bang
Live music fans in the capital are once again spoilt for choice this year as London’s festival season returns with a full range of events. Big or small, indoor or outdoor, established or new, there’s pretty much something for everyone. A lot of these will offer your only chance to catch some of these artists in London.
We recently previewed festivals taking place elsewhere in the UK this year and our round-up of European festivals will follow soon. Having failed in our struggle to narrow our selection down to the nice round number of 10, below are our 11 picks of the best of this year’s events taking place within the confines of the M25.
All Points East
Since first appearing in 2018 All Points East has come to assume the position of London’s most high profile, eagerly anticipated summer music festival event, and the bill affirms that ambition carries forward into this year. It takes place over six days andalso includes returning Victoria Park independent pioneer Field Day within its offer, a sign of how it has grown in stature. As expected, it arrives boasting multiple big names and UK festival exclusives.
It all begins on 19 August with a day headlined by Gorillaz, with appearances also from the likes of Idles, Turnstile, Yves Tumor and Self Esteem. Tame Impala, FKJ, Caroline Polacheck and others feature on 25 August while those looking for alternative guitar based sounds will find much to enjoy on 26 August with the appearance of The National, Fleet Foxes, Low, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Kurt Vile & The Violators. Disclosure and James Blake head up an electronic-centred line up on 27 August while Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Michael Kiwanuka, Sleaford Mods, Aldous Harding and Anna Calvi help bring the run of shows to a close on 28 August.
Field Day takes place under the APE banner on 20 August, and there’s a feeling of it fully returning to its roots this year, both musically and geographically, after some recent experimentations on those fronts. There’s big hitting electronic marquee headliners in The Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk, some classic Field Day alumni in Squarepusher, Daniel Avery and Floating Points, not to mention special guest Peggy Gou and a slew of typically fresh names lower down the bill.
All Points East takes place at Victoria Park, London from 19-28 August. More information can be found here.
Grace Jones’ Meltdown
The Southbank Centre finally welcomes Grace Jones to curate her twice delayed Meltdown festival across its three riverside venues. Naturally, her opening and closing shows will be rightly viewed as the standout moments but the ten days are positively bursting with appealing musical propositions. Peaches, Angelique Kidjo, John Grant, Skunk Anansie and Omou Sangaré bring the big name attraction while other established artists like Meshell Ndegeocello, Sky Ferreira and Baba Maal return to add more in the way of musical delights. The one-off collaboration between Hot Chip and Kasai Allstars sounds absolutely intriguing and another special event sees The Invisible’s Dave Okumu and friends interpreting two classic albums. Elsewhere, acts such as Dry Cleaning, Skinny Pelembe and Big Joanie bring the new.
Grace Jones’ Meltdown takes place at the Southbank Centre, London from 10-19 June. More information can be found here.
Wide Awake returns to Brockwell Park for a second year, in the process consolidating its reputation as an event that succeeds in promoting new talent and upcoming artists. It expands to a two day event this year, with each broadly themed by genre. It opens on Friday 27 May with an electronic-focused day headlined by Bicep and Caribou. There are also performances by Leon Vynehall, Working Men’s Club, Sofia Kourtesis, Lorraine James, Scalping and others. The following day sees Primal Scream play Screamadelica in full, ably supported by the likes of Floating Points, Fat White Family, Amyl & The Sniffers, Fatoumata Diawara, Yard Act and a whole host of promising, upcoming names.
Wide Awake takes place at Brockwell Park from 27-28 May. More information can be found here.
Visions once again returns with another exciting line up of artists that will appear across Hackney venues including Hackney Church, Round Chapel, Oslo, Chats Palace and Paper Dress Vintage. Stand out acts include Keeley Forsyth playing from latest album Limbs, Mdou Moctar presenting the blistering sounds from Afrique Victime, and Black Country, New Road performing from acclaimed second album Ants From Up There. Other attractions include For Those I Love, Bored At My Grandma’s House, Aya, Giant Swan and more. A lot of these bands will be playing bigger venues next time they’re in London so why not catch them in more intimate surroundings while you can? It promises to be another buzzing day in E8.
Visions takes place at various venues in Hackney on 23 July. More information can be found here.
If unadulterated, rainbow-coloured, all-out pop is your thing you’ll be wanting to pick out something to be seen in and head on down to Mighty Hoopla. Brockwell Park is once again the setting for London’s premier parade of pop as headliners Steps and Sugababes are joined by a galaxy of stars, from the estimable likes of Jessie Ware, Katy B, Self Esteem and Macy Gray to Natalie Imbruglia, Anastacia, Basement Jaxx, Kim Wilde, Five Star, Samantha Fox, 2 Unlimited and the London Gay Men’s Chorus. There’s even a George Michael Disco. It all adds up to a who’s-who serving of bright, shiny sounds. A weekend of fun (hopefully in the sun) is just waiting to be had. Did we mention the word pop?
Mighty Hoopla takes place at Brockwell Park from 3-4 June. More information can be found here.
Cross The Tracks
Cross The Tracks may be a new entry to the crowded London festival scene but its debut line up suggests it has more than enough to compete. Going for a broadly R&B, jazz/funk/soul angle, they’ve got psych-lounge Khruangbin headlining with a fresh, distinctive collection of others on the bill that sees established names rub shoulders with emerging acts. Joy Crookes, Sampa The Great, Roy Ayers, Romare and Priya Ragu are some of the names that stand out but it’ll no doubt be a voyage of musical discovery for many.
Cross The Tracks takes place at Brockwell Park on 5 June. More information can be found here.
Since first appearing back in 2014 Raw Power has always offered one of the most distinctive, tightly curated line ups of the festival season and this year is no different. Describing itself as “a righteous psychic celebration of sound and fury with a handpicked selection of innovators, mavericks and maniacs from the wildest, heaviest and most intimidating frontiers of alternative and experimental music” it takes place across Tufnell Park Dome and Boston Music Room over three days in August. This year it has Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Salford’s GNOD headlining with the likes of Belgian punk outfit Cocaine Piss, Sheffield doom metal purveyors Kurokuma, and Polish feminist guitar ensemble Siksa also on the bill.
Raw Power takes place at Tufnell Park Dome & Boston Music Room from 26-28 August. More information can be found here.
Somerset House Summer Series
Fancy going to an outdoor show but don’t want to contend with the prospect of muddy ground under foot? Well, the answer may be attending one of this year’s shows at Somerset House’s open air courtyard. As usual, artists from a cross section of genres have been selected meaning you can choose from the likes of Arlo Parks, Carly Rae Jepsen, Black Midi, John Legend, Bomba Estereo, Ghetts, Tems and Squid.
Somerset House Summer Series takes place at Somerset House from 7-17 July. More information can be found here.
BST Hyde Park
BST Hyde Park once again manages to assemble a collection of big names and renowned heritage acts able to attract crowds to fill the park’s sizeable greenery over the course of nine days. The Rolling Stones celebrate being together for 60 years, Elton John plays his farewell London show, The Eagles reconvene to present classic cuts from their back catalogue, Duran Duran bring some 80s & 90s pop nostalgia, Adele performs from last year’s acclaimed 30 and grunge icons Pearl Jam make a long awaited return to the UK (these last two artists headline two nights each). Other acts appearing include Nile Rodgers & Chic, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Pixies, Cat Power and La Luz.
BST Hyde Park takes place at Hyde Park from 24 June – 10 July. More information can be found here.
South Facing returns to Crystal Palace for a series of intimate open air shows over two weeks that build on the strength of last year’s debut event. Headliners booked to appear include London Grammar, Kamasi Washington, Jungle, Bombay Bicycle Club, Richard Ashcroft and Becky Hill. There’s a strong undercard too, with appearances from the likes of Ride, Nilüfer Yanya, Ezra Collective, Jordan Rakei and Kelly Lee Owens.
South Facing takes place at Crystal Palace Bowl from 29 July – 14 August. More information can be found here.
A new entrant to London’s festival offer is Higher Ground, which takes place amid appropriately scenic surroundings on the slopes of Alexandra Palace. They’ve booked an enticing selection of artists for their first event, also. The all-female line up sees the formidable Patti Smith headline with support from Nadine Shah. Spellling (aka Chrystia ‘Tia’ Cabral) also appears, playing from last year’s excellent Turning Wheel and there’s also Connie Constance, Nabihah Iqbal and others on the bill, not to mention a whole host of additional attractions and family friendly events. It should all add up to a great day out in north London.
Higher Ground takes place at Alexandra Palace on 24 July. More information can be found here.