Particularly over the last year or two, the festival season has evolved into more of a year-round affair. Simple Things, Horizon and a litter of European events across the winter, have played part in a rapid expansion, that sees events and festivals last all the way up into the new year.
With LSTD, All Points East, We Are FSTVL and more kicking off the summer in late May, here we revisit a season that’s seen highs like Stormzy headline Glastonbury, and lows like Houghton and Boardmasters’ cancellation.
Best festival – Glastonbury 2019
After taking a break with its infamous fallow year in 2018, Glastonbury returned with a bang this summer. The lineup was stacked and expansive, the weather was glorious the weekend over, brand new stages and areas were worthy additions, and Stormzy made history headlining.
Glastonbury is as good as everyone says it is. It’s an experience like no other, and a festival the world needs to experience. There’s music for every taste, a stage for every preference, and the vibe, crowd and aura is simply unrivalled.
Best day festival – Junction 2
A collaboratively-hosted fest from events specialists LWE, and Adam Beyer’s Drumcode, Junction 2 is a two-day metropolitan music event in London. And it could be the capital’s best.
Junction 2 is a festival for the culture, for the people and for the movement. It stands to exist purely for the betterment and celebration of electronic music, and it achieves most of this through championing such basic elements in production, logistics and location. And in nailing the foundations, the audience, vibe, and the musicians – supporting elements of a music festival, naturally follow in suite.
Lineup of the year – Love Saves The Day 2019
Bristol’s best-loved fest returned this year with another stellar lineup, one that encompassed pop, electronic, grime, R&B and more. And with its 2019 bill, it was well and truly ahead of the curve, and promised some of 2019’s biggest contributors.
Breakthrough acts slowthai, Ross From Friends, Peggy Gou, Little Simz and Jimothy Lacoste were among the highlights, with Chase & Status, Bonobo and Maribou State all offering stand-out sets from the weekend.
Headline performance of the year – The Streets, Glastonbury & Boomtown
Mike Skinner finally got the band back together for a long-awaited string of dates last year. That tour continued into 2019, topped off with two landmark shows at Boomtown and Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage.
Manic and rowdy with Fit But You Know It, dark and atmospheric with Blinded By The Lights, and soft and sentimental with Dry Your Eyes, The Streets’ entire catalogue of sounds was all there to see. Skinner’s trademark rambling sat somewhere between dazed delirium and uncompromising class, with the whole performance promising organic charm, heartfelt reflection and energetic anthems.
Non-headline performance of the year – Groove Armada and Little Dragon, Boomtown
In typical Boomtown fashion, its 2019 lineup was as challenging and all-encompassing as ever. First of two highlights within the expansive bill, were legendary electronic duo Groove Armada, who wrapped up their first live tour in over a decade at Boomtown. True pioneers of fusing instrumental live shows with electronic music, a wild Superstylin’ finale, a tender At The River pause for breath, and incredible vocalists made for one of the weekend’s undoubted highlights.
Elsewhere at Boomtown, Swedish experimental outfit, Little Dragon, took to the stage as Thursday night leads. With Yukimi Nagano at the helm, clad in a typically extravagant pink dress, the drowned crowd forgot about any of the weather in front of us, and became lost in the manic zany world of the dragons.
Best non-festival performance – Underworld, SSE Arena
It’s impossible to believe that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith are pushing on 62 and 60 years old, and can still put on a show of this standard. They are the live performers in electronic music, with Hyde’s showmanship and Smith’s skill a true match made in electronic heaven.
Journeying through their expansive catalogue of hits, from classic debut dubnobasswithmyheadman, through to new gems of the recent Drift series, Underworld continue to set benchmarks as live performers and as producers. And they show no signs of slowing down yet.
Worst performance of the year – The Chemical Brothers, Glastonbury
The Chemical Brothers are something of resident
superstar DJs at Glastonbury, having played over ten times across the festival – five times as The Other Stage’s headliners. And after Keith Flint’s tragic suicide, The Brothers were drafted in to replace The Prodigy.
But despite the usual visual spectacle promising an on-screen show like no other, and regardless of a career-spanning greatest hits setlist, the sound simply wasn’t up to scratch. Ever-so-slightly off throughout, underwhelming in the drama and the drops, often too quiet and lacking that punch and that bass, the set was best summarised by the opener – a way-below-par redub of Go. That, it certainly made us want to.
Biggest festival disappointment – Kylie, Glastonbury
Kylie’s long-awaited performance at Glastonbury was tipped as a biggie. 14 years after cancelling her headline show at Glasto 2005, naturally Minogue was drafted in for the coveted legends slot on Sunday. While her charm, class and talent remains as evident in 2019, the biggest disappointment comes down to her rendition of Can’t Get You Out of My Head, which can be described shortly and sweetly. Acoustic. Chris Martin.
Biggest non-festival disappointment – Massive Attack, The O2
The Mezzanine-celebrating show was far from a celebration, lacking direction and aim, while trying to achieve more than was capable. The sound was poor, the visuals were distracting for the wrong reasons, the covers (chosen from the samples of the original album) felt out of place, of which a MA rendition of Avicii will forever confuse me. A reminder of the band and the album’s excellence, in a not so excellent form or setting.