With Simple Things Festival in Bristol providing something of an unofficial curtain call on the festival season, it’s time to reflect and recall the summer we’ve all had. With the likes of Love Saves The Day, We Are FSTVL, All Points East, and many many more kicking off proceedings back in May, a heavy few months or so has taken the festival community on a journey of experiences. Here we cast our eye over the summer, and pick out the highlights from the 2018 festival season.
Festival of the year: Boomtown
Once again, Boomtown is the deserved winner of Festival of the Year. An age away from its competitors on every conceivable vertical, the production values, experience, return of investment, crowd, vibe and of course, the lineup, are merely a slither of what makes Boomtown the best festival in the country.
An indescribable experience near-impossible to confine to the regions of a review, Boomtown is an event only believable in the flesh. And with a historic headline performance from Gorillaz shedding light on the power; magnitude and future of the event, it’s going to be a big ask to knock Boomtown off the top spot.
Day festival of the year: Love Saves The Day
One of the most well-run and organised events in the festival calendar, the tightly-knit medium-sized Bristol event was also home to one of the best lineups of 2018. Live outings from Four Tet and Bicep, a daring headline show from Sampha (which was more than pulled off), as well as sets from the usual suspects (Shy FX, Ben UFO, Andy C) all added to what is already an incredible two-day event.
With an atmosphere genuinely championed by love, each year LSTD is racing for the accolade of best day festival, and this year – it’s comfortably the deserved recipient.
Lineup of the year: Arcadia
Hosting its 10th anniversary party at Olympic Park, London, one of the world’s most forward-thinking events specialists put on one hell of an event back in May. Headlined by Leftfield, Sven Vath, Noisia and Rudimental, the balance of house, techno and drum and bass, across legendary to present day artists was expertly curated.
The likes of Groove Armada, TQD and Dusky, as well as a top-draw RAM Records showcase in support, was merely the icing on the cake.
Honourable mentions – Lovebox, Parklife, Love Saves The Day
Headliner of the year: Gorillaz, Boomtown
Boomtown took huge huge steps this year in announcing Damon Albarn and co. as 2018 Saturday night headliners. Notoriously loyal and unbudging on its culture, roots and heritage, Gorillaz’s main stage performance will forever go down in the history of Boomtown, as a moment that changed its direction and defined its future.
The magnitude and context of the event aside, Gorillaz were worthy headliners, and between both Boomtown and the band’s deranged, far-out, off-kilter legacies, the pairing was a legitimate match made in heaven.
Honourable mentions – Leftfield at Arcadia, Sampha at Love Saves The Day
Headliner of the year runner up: The Chemical Brothers, Bluedot
The Chemical Brothers’ acclaimed live show is a renowned feat of production, and an event worthy of its own categorisation. But for their 2018 shows, Tom and Ed handpicked a number of headline appearances, including their own at Alexandra Palace, and perhaps most notably, at Bluedot Festival.
Slotting in with an ‘it was written’-level relevancy, Bluedot 2018 and its astronomically themed event is the perfect place for the Brothers’ genre-defining electronic. And their Sunday night headline performance was out of this world.
Honourable mentions – Leftfield at Arcadia, Sampha at Love Saves The Day
Non-headliner performance of the year: Mura Masa, Bestival
Previously boasting the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, DJ Shadow and Leftfield, the most established contributor to electronic music at Bestival this year was believe it or not – Mura Masa (obviously Mark Ronson + Diplo doesn’t count). Smashing through his catalogue of tracks as sole instrumentalist, Mura Masa’s expertly-orchestrated set shone through as a highlight, with some outstanding support from guest vocalists.
Honourable mentions – Jenna & The Gs, Boomtown, Bicep (LIVE) at Love Saves The Day, Stimming at Bankside Vaults
DJ set of the year: Honey Dijon
With jaw-dropping outings at both Bestival and Boomtown, Honey Dijon and her genre-crossing, technically-paramount sets are among the best in the business. From hot-off-the-web gems like DJ Koze’s Pick Up, through to Donna Summer’s iconic I Feel Love, Honey Dijon’s all-encompassing hours of energy are easily among the standout sets of summer 2018.
Honourable mentions – Shy FX at Boomtown, Hybrid Minds at Pickle Factory, Break at XOYO, Kings of the Rollers ft Inja at Motion
Non-festival event of the year: Orbital x The LAB LDN
The world-famous LAB series hosted by Mixmag has been around since 2012, and was officially announced back then with a rare live set from Orbital. Returning to The LAB this year, the electronic pioneers went all-out for their hour plus set, ignoring the fact we were all in an office, and acting more as if they were headlining Glastonbury.
The duo churned through timeless Orbital classics, and celebrated new tracks from their ninth studio album Monsters Exist. With their trademark headlights shining amongst the free beers and Mixmag’s glittery high-spec office, the duo proved once again why they’re one of the greatest electronic acts out there.
Honourable mentions – Four Tet (LIVE) at Brixton Academy
Non-festival performance of the year: Olafur Arnalds, Royal Albert Hall
Icelandic BAFTA-award winning composer Olafur Arnalds, often known as one half of ambient techno duo Kiasmos, was absolutely breathtaking. Removed to tears and/or overwhelmed by the beauty and depth of his performance, all in attendance were utterly hypnotised and enthralled by the delicacy, the power and the magic of his show.
Front and centre on grand piano, with support from percussionists and a string section, there’s justification in Arnalds being recognised as one of the most important contemporary-classical musicians in the world.
Honourable mentions – KLLO at Birthdays
Performance of the year by a band: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, SWX Bristol
Dropping by Bristol for a surprise performance in the South West, Ruban Nielson, the brains behind New Zealand psych-rock group Unknown Mortal Orchestra, can comfortably claim frontman of the year among other accolades.
A sonically-perfect performance of stunning instrumentation, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s decorated, and ever-growing set of psych-rock makes for an easy choice for band performance of the year. A must-see show by an extremely talented group of musicians, and if their hour set is anything to go by, with Nielson at the helm, this band is going places.
Moment of the year: Grace Jones Saturday night finale and fireworks, Bestival
With Bestival’s future something of an uncertainty, leave it to Grace Jones to put that all to one side and captivate a crowd with a mind-blowing Saturday night show. A super-extended version of Move Up To The Bumper, hula hoop swinging and twirling throughout, Grace Jones is a performer like no other.
A moving, tear-jerking onslaught of fireworks, projections, singalongs and more followed, and left an entire crowd mesmerised by what they’d all seen. If Bestival isn’t to be next year, this will surely be a moment that will go down within its decorated and much-loved history.
And that’s your lot, that’s it for another year. It’s now 7 months until May rears its sun-kissed head for the commencement of the 2019 season, let’s hope it doesn’t take too long to get there.