Not everyone wants to go to a large festival like Glastonbury or Reading. Presented in this article are five excellent niche U.K. music festivals, and a look at three exciting artists playing at each.
The festivals are sorted by date, and the first one features artists who you are unlikely to see at any other U.K. music festival.
Where: Sefton Park, Liverpool
When: 22nd – 23rd of June
Africa Oyé started in 1992 as a handful of small concerts in Liverpool in 1992, and since then it has grown tremendously, surpassing 50,000 attendees in 2011. The festival focuses on showcasing African and Caribbean artists, and as an added bonus, the festival is free to attend! If you’re looking for a unique experience, consider attending Africa Oyé this year.
Hailing from Soweto in South Africa, Bantu Continua Uhuru Conciousness, or BCUC for short, draw upon traditional South African music styles, but infuse them with both rap and rock’n’roll. Their music is heavily rhythmic, and they are sure to put on a performance which will make all of Sefton Park move.
OSHUN, named after the Yoruba god of fresh water and fertility, is the brainchild of two NYU graduates, Niambi and Thandi. Though billed as a hiphop / soul group, they draw heavily upon African music in their sound, and describe themselves as “the sonic manifestation of Afrofuturism”. Oshun has already received attention from Billboard, Rolling Stone and NPR, and their concert at Africa Oyé is sure to be one of the summer’s hottest shows.
Carlou D is one of the most exciting names in Senegalese music. Originally a member of hiphop collective Positive Black Soul, he has since gone on to make more acoustic, folk-influenced music. For an excellent sample of what to expect from Carlou D, listen to Soldier, his 2014 collaboration with Eagle-Eye Cherry.
Where: Upcote Farm, Cheltenham
When: 11th – 13th July
2000 Trees was started in 2007, and it is truly a labour of love. It was started by six friends who were tires of the high ticket prices and impersonal atmospheres of the mainstream music festivals, and decided to take matters into their own hands. Set in the scenic Cotswold Hills, it is undoubtedly one of the most scenic festivals in the U.K., and a haven for anyone looking for rock music outside of the mainstream.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Frank Turner played at the very first 2000 Trees, and this will be his fifth time performing at the festival. This time, the socially conscious troubadour is bringing along his backing band, The Sleeping Souls, to perform songs from his entire solo career, from iconic debut Sleep Is For The Week to last year’s Be More Kind.
Metal, hardcore, electronica, jazz – everything is up for grabs when Rolo Tomassi hit the stage. Led by siblings Eva and James Spence, who started the band when they were 15 and 17 respectively, the band has released five excellent albums of aggressive, genre-defying mayhem. 2018’s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It is a particular highlight, and they have a reputation for being a stellar live act.
Hailing from Aarhus, Denmark, blackgazers Møl have made a name for themselves in record time as one of the most ferocious live bands on the planet. This is in no small part thanks to frontman Kim Song Sternkopf, who performs like a man possessed. Their debut album, Jord, which came out on Holy Roar Records who also released Rolo Tomassi’s albums, was one of last years best albums.
Where: Gunnersbury Park, London
When: 12th – 13th of July
Lovebox Festival was started in 2002 by the iconic British DJ duo Groove Armada. Although it began as a predominantly electronic festival, it has since gone on to incorporate other genres. This year features some very exciting names from the world of hiphop, while stile showcasing some excellent artists from the world of electronic music.
Although she released her debut album in 2002, Solange Knowles did not achieve wider recognition for her music until the release of her third album, 2016’s A Seat At The Table. Having just released her critically acclaimed follow-up When I Get Home, Solange is set to make 2019 her year.
Chance The Rapper
Chance The Rapper released his debut album in 2011, and he has since gone on to become one of the biggest names in modern hiphop. One of his defining traits is his incorporation of gospel music in his songs, resulting in a sound which has won him three Grammy awards. He is known for being a particularly energetic live performer, so make sure you see him if you’re heading to Lovebox this summer.
Cupcakke may only be 21 years old, but she is a force to be reckoned with. She has self-released four studio albums already, and is known for her brazen and often raunchy lyrics. While her lyrics often deal with sexual subjects, they also tend to focus on LGBT rights and female empowerment. Very few people leave her concerts unconverted.
Where: Fernhill Farm, Compton Martin
When: 15th – 17th of August
ArcTanGent Festival is the little brother of 2000 Trees – It’s smaller and even less commercial, focusing on post-rock and metal, mathrock and hardcore. This hasn’t stopped it from becoming successful, however! ArcTanGent won “Best Small Festival” at the 2018 U.K. Festival Awards, and if you find Download a bit too pedestrian, this may just be the festival for you.
Battles have made a name for themselves by being one of the most inventive and unpredictable bands on the planet. While the pummeling My Machines may have you headbanging, the groovy Ice Cream will have you moving your feet, the intricate The Yabba will have you falling into a trance, and the kooky Atlas will have you jumping around deliriously.
Daughters started out playing very frantic grindcore – Their first album clocked in at 11 minutes, spread out over ten songs. Last years You Won’t Get What You Want may not have been as economical, but it more than made up for it by being one of the darkest and most engaging albums of the year. This gig is for anyone willing to stare directly into the abyss.
It’s not often you see a band where the drummer is also a lead vocalist, but Brutus make it work. Stefanie Mannaerts is not only an excellent drummer, she is also an incredible singer. At times tender, at other times ferocious, this voice is part of what makes their album Nest one of this year’s most exciting releases. Make sure you don’t miss Brutus’ performance.
Shrewsbury Folk Festival
Where: Gravel Hill, Shrewsbury
When: 23rd – 26th of August
The inaugural Shrewsbury Folk Festival was held in 2006, although it was a direct successor to Bridgnorth Folk Festival which started in 1997. The festival places a great emphasis on attendee comfort, and even offers a glamping option. Shrewsbury specializes in great folk music, and the 2019 line-up has no shortage of great acts.
Oysterband have quite the history. They formed as Oyster Ceilidh Band in the late 1970’s, and through multiple line-up changes and a few name changes have become one of the U.K.’s greatest folk-punk bands. Frontman John Jones is a patron of Shrewsbury Folk Festival, so this is a great chance to see the band playing on their home turf.
Eddie Reader first made a name for herself as the lead signer of Fairground Attraction, with which she had a number one hit with the song Perfect. Since the group disbanded in 1990 she has had a successful solo career, and even picked up a few BRIT awards along the way.
Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders
Andy Fairweather Low has had an impressive career, to say the least. His pop group Amen Corner had several hits in the 1960’s, and he has worked extensively as a session musician for other artists since. He is also a popular live guitarist, having toured with both Roger Waters and Eric Clapton. His performance at Shrewsbury will feature an extended line-up, including both brass and hammond organ.