That’s it for another year, the festival season is now officially over. With this weekend’s (21st October) Simple Things Festival in Bristol bringing it all to a close, the weekends of all-out intoxication, waking up in a field, and releaving yourself into a hole in the ground, are no more. Us at The West Review have been lucky enough to be in attendance at an abundance of incredible music events up and down the country; It’s been a long ol’ summer, as has narrowing down this list, but here it is- the The West Review Music Festival Awards 2017.
Best Festival 2017 – Boomtown Fair
An event like no other, and absolutely in its own class, its own category, its own dimension; it’s almost disrespectful to limit Boomtown to the title of ‘festival’. But that’s what it is- hands down, the out-right Best Festival of the year. The sheer magnitude, scale, depth and gravitas of Boomtown is simple unfathomable, and impossible to encapsulate using words, and following my heart-stopping debut festival last year, somehow Boomtown have taken the event even further, in doing so scooping up what is deservedly the Best Festival Award for 2017. Full review here.
Best Experience – Camp Bestival
A family friendly fronted festival, and the best example of such. A meticulously planned and organised event, one with the festival attendee at the centre of attention- the complete focus of the organisers’ efforts. Camp Bestival is the only festival in the country I would encourage taking kids to, and it’s a heartwarming experience to see kids in such an environment, one as safe, secure and well-executed as Camp Bestival.
Not a sour grape in sight, and nothing but good honest vibes, from the attendees right through to the staff and security, Camp Bestival is without a doubt the winner of the Best Experience award. Full review here.
Best non-camping Event – Simple Things Festival
Simple Things is a massively slept-on, under-the-radar event that eloquently hits the sweet spot between established and up-and-coming musicians. Non-camping, day-long, and dotted across a handful of Bristol’s finest venues, Motion, Colston Hall and the O2 Academy among them, it’s an event that screams originality.
Refusing to budge on its alternative offerings, in which promoting local bands and championing new faces from the industry, Simple Things certainly isn’t an event for everyone. But for those of you with an open mind, a good group of friends, and a lot of stamina, this is the exploratory, rewarding music event for you. Full review here.
Honourable mention- Love Saves The Day
Best Performance – Radiohead at Glastonbury
Twenty years ago to the day since their famed headline set at Glastonbury 1997, Radiohead returned to Pilton once again, as one of the biggest and most important bands in the world. A polarising, typically-talked about two and a half hours of back-and-forth brilliance crossed with stubbornness, the band exerted themselves as masters of their craft, in a way only Radiohead are able to.
Delving deep into their back-catalogue of nine studio albums, we were made to wait for the hits, and to eventually hear a field of grubby Brits singing along to the chorus of Karma Police, belting out that for a minute, we really had lost ourselves, was a moment that will once again go down in Glastonbury history. Full review here.
Best Performance 2 – Leftfield at Simple Things Festival
While not the snappiest of award titles, I simply couldn’t bring myself to leave Leftfield out, crowning them worthy recipients of the second best performance of the year. Despite catching them back in July at Camp Bestival, it was inside in which the Leftfield experience sky-rocketed, inside a venue with a soundsystem to match what Leftism demands. Bristol’s Colston Hall was the deserved home for the headlining set, a venue that catalysed the groundbreaking Leftism sound, and shook Simple Things Festival to the core, unleashing round after round of undisputed electronic anthems.
The Leftism sound is still as influential, revered and admired as it was when it first hit the headlines back in 1995, and with an inch-perfect, hour and a half outing of sheer masterclass, Neil Barnes and his stream of support, proved they are undoubtedly one of the most important British acts to ever cross our paths. Full review of Simple Things here.
Best Moment – A Tribe Called Quest closing out their careers at Bestival
There are some moments that will simply go down in the history books, and A Tribe Called Quest at Bestival is undoubtedly one of those moments. Before a glittering 20-year career came to an abrupt halt with the passing of founding member Phife Dawg, A Tribe Called Quest as a group looked set to call it quits a long time ago, but with the acclaimed release of their fifth studio album We Got It From Here, Q Tip and co. set out on one last goodbye.
Bowing out in style, in doing so rounding up an unrivalled career, one that continues to influence the modern landscape of hip-hop, rap, and contemporary music as an entity, A Tribe Called Quest at Bestival was one of those moments that only a few thousand people can say ‘I was there’. Full review of Bestival here.
Best Event Series or Brand – Hospitality
An undisputed dnb heavyweight, essential to the genre, and instrumental in drum and bass’s continued rise with each year that comes and goes. And no other institution, label, club night or otherwise, really comes close to Hospitality. Continually raising the bar, a bar that’s remained high since April’s Hospitality in the Dock, an event followed up in spectacular fashion with Hospitality in The Park, not to mention other events such as The Hospitality BBQ.
Last week I was lucky enough to see near the whole Hospital Records roster take over Motion for one of the label’s most impressive offerings to date, in which celebrating the history of Med School, the diversity of the label and the genre, as well as a momental live outing from Fred V & Grafix. Hospital is one of the most important independent record labels around at the moment, and its Hospitality series continues to be just as impressive and influential.
Best Lineup – Field Day
Something of a shoe-in for the best lineup of the year, at a festival that continues to be slept on, despite a central London home, a more than reasonable price-point, as well as the best lineup of the season. From two of rap’s most important 21st Century ambassadors Run The Jewels, renowned A/V masters Moderat and Flying Lotus, and of course one of music’s most elusive and celebrated pioneers- Aphex Twin. Besides these four genre-crossing heavyweights, also offering their services at this year’s Field Day, were experimental rap outfit Death Grips, Nina Kraviz, Haelos, and Geoff Barrow of Portishead’s side-project Beak>.
Worst Performance – The xx at Bestival
Having not always been the unbudging devotee most people are when it comes to The xx, the group’s third studio album I See You changed everything, trading breathy bores and elongated strains into an actually listenable bunch of songs, songs that were really quite good. Jamie, Romy and Oliver then proved me wrong for the second time this year, with a monumental outing at Glastonbury, owning their hour set just before Radiohead.
A worldwide tour later they arrived at Bestival as headliners, and unfortunately justified my scepticism. With Jamie completely forgetting to introduce any instrumentation on Say Something Loving, as well as a cringeworthy voice-break from Romy midway through solo effort Performance, The xx put on a horror show. Completely lifeless, dull, lacklustre, blank, flaccid, every word under ‘boring’ in the thesaurus- pretty much the same as their first two albums. Full review of Bestival here.
Biggest Disappointment – Brian Wilson at Camp Bestival
Brian please hear my, and the rest of the world’s plea- just retire. Please Brian. You have more money that anyone could ever know what to do with, you’ve single-handedly rewritten the recipe for pop music on more than one occasion, you’re continually considered one of music’s most important and influential artists, Pet Sounds is still acclaimed as one of the best albums of all time, there’s no need for you to keep doing this.
At 75 years-old and lacking that ‘je ne sais quoi’ he once had back in the 60’s, ol’ Mr Wilson had to be walked out on stage by a chaperone, to be sat at a keyboard, barely opening his mouth or cracking a smile, leaving it all to his band. As I saw as something of a grim spectacle at Glastonbury 2014- Debbie Harry parading round in a leather corset at the ripe old age of 72, sometimes things should just be left to marinate.