Where once the festival season consisted of 2 or 3 huge, high profile events, it now seems there is an event worth going to every weekend from May to September. Whilst the larger festivals has stretched themselves to bursting point in order to squeeze a few more consumers through the turnstile, these smaller festivals have been left to fill the spaces in between, often catering to more niche tastes. But also, without the pressure of having to pay Guns & Roses to fuck about for 2 hours, they are able to offer a more unique experience, something different, something special. Here, we take a look at the festivals we’ve been lucky enough to experience this summer and mark them on SETTING, LINE-UP, VIBE, STAGES, ORGANISATION, FOOD & DRINK, CAMPING, FACILITIES, VALUE FOR MONEY + PERSONAL ENJOYMENT, giving a final total at the end. Bare in mind that 75% means the festival is ¾ absolutely brilliant. Anything above that is well worth a look we reckon.
LIVE @ LEEDS – One day, multi venue festival in the city of Leeds
As a setting for a festival, Leeds is a pretty good choice of city. It’s big, there’s lots going on and it’s a fun place to be. Though there’s no real sense of being at a festival, and with the general public walking with you between venues, it feels fun, exciting and familiar, despite the occasional long walks involved (7). The line-up this year, as ever, is fantastic, offering real diversity – quality as well as quantity – and it’s often difficult to decide between which bands to see (9). The vibes are pretty good in the venues, certainly a strong buzz, with excited crowds and busy venues. But some of that is lost outside the venues, especially as you wonder around the city centre, sometimes making it feel like just another night out in Leeds (7). The variety and quality of the stages for Live @ Leeds is pretty unbeatable. From large venues at Leeds Uni to the tiny upstairs of The Packhorse, its all good (10).
The event as a whole is very well organised and well staffed. Exchanging your ticket is easy and the programmes provided are very useful (9). You couldn’t really ask for much more choice in terms of food and drink – the choice is near endless and you can spend as much or as little as you like (9). Camping is not something you do at Live @ Leeds and as such it’s a little unfair to judge it as such. Perhaps they could organise something with local hotels, offer cheap rooms to people who do want to stay over in the city. After a long day out, it would certainly beat train / bus home (5). As with Food & Drink, facilities are wide spread, meaning you are never too far form a toilet (9). At £15 a ticket, Live @ Leeds is unbelievable value for money (10). Personally, I always really enjoy Live @ Leeds. This year was great, with a superb range of bands to enjoy. Some people moan about the walking involved, but personally I think that is all part of the fun, kind of like a pub crawl, with one of your favourite bands waiting for you in each bar. I guess the only reason I don’t rate it any higher is that it’s a festival in Leeds, a place I go to anyway, so it lacks that ‘special’ element of it feeling like an adventure / holiday. But otherwise, it’s fantastic (8)
Rough Beats – A weekend in the field of a farm in Beautiful North Yorkshire
Rough Beats is a family run festival on a farm close to Settle. The scenery is fantastic, the tents held in by dry stonewalls, the desolate hilly plains of North Yorkshire stretching out beyond. It’s isolated, meaning you really get into the festival and forget about the outside world (10). The Line-up of the festival is a little different each year, this year seeing what I would describe as a more ‘family friendly’ set of acts. Much of it was acoustic folk and similarly inoffensive stuff, nice to listen to on a sunny day, though naturally it mainly washes straight over you. Hot Club De Paris headlined one night, but the event lacked many, even slightly, big names across the weekend (6). The general vibes, however, more than make up for this. It’s very peaceful, but everyone there is chatty and interested and there are a much greater percentage of people dancing to bands, which is great. Despite the few hundred people walking around, it still retains a family run atmosphere. It’s just seriously chilled out (9). Rough Beats has a couple of stages that are actually really professional, with top quality sound and light setups, all under relatively huge canopies, ensuring you can at least enjoy then bands, whatever the weather (8). The event is pretty well organised, with parking provided and people checking wrist bands as expected. Its not overbearing, which is nice, but they were confident enough to boot someone out for playing a drum all chuffin night, so it’s always nice to know someone is paying attention (8).
Food & Drink is pretty decent; there was a fantastic vegetarian stall which served lovely egg and (vegi) sausage butties all day. Strangely the non meat sausage was a million times nicer than the ‘real’ meat provided at the other van. For the first time Rough Beats had got in a ‘proper’ burger type van and it produced overpriced unrelentingly crap food, as well as staff uncaringly scalding my girlfriends hand with chip grease (and not saying sorry). Rough Beats need to keep it local in future. On top of all that though, there is a great, covered bar and there was even a sweets stall. So all in all, pretty decent (7). Camping is fine, though it was close to bursting point this year and we were stuck on some pretty uneven ground. A little more thought into distributing the camping space or the opening of another field would help, as it ended up a little cramped. But, on the plus side, you are literally a 30 second walk from the stages (8). The facilities are ok, your standard porta-loos which do end up a little messy at the end of the weekend – but are cleaned every day. There’s a sink with running water and that’s about it. Serve their purpose (7). Rough Beats is good value for money at around £50 for the weekend (cheaper if you buy your tickets early), though again, I wouldn’t mind one ‘big’ band for that price (8). Rough Beats to me is all about the atmosphere – a relaxed friendly place to spend a weekend with friends. Making more friends there is easy enough; there is a nice bohemian element to the crowd, mixed in with a family friendly approach. Previous years have had better line-ups, but that is secondary to the on site vibes (8)
IndieTracks – A Weekend of Indiepop fun in Derbyshire
Indietracks takes place in the grounds of a Railway Museum, out in the countryside. There’s an old railway platform and station, a signal box, level crossing, old rail sheds and sidings, full of rusting trucks and carriages. It’s completely self-contained and you are free to wonder round as you wish. Its quirky and interesting, giving that slightly other world feel I like at a festival. It’s old, quaint but post industrial too – I really like it; a great, unique place to spend a weekend (10). The Line-up is pretty awesome too, with sets this year from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Slow Club, The Primitives etc plus loads of other lesser known bands. It’s the best festival I’ve ever been to in terms of thinking ‘oh, I’ll check out this band I’ve never heard of’ and them being excellent. It kept happening over and over again and it made it even more of a pleasure to explore the site. The only criticism would be a slight lack of variety – its all very Indiepop, which for me was fine. Others might be less pleased. But overall I think it treads the line between ‘niche’ and ‘variation’ with great success (8). There is a really positive vibe around site, its very relaxed and if you want you can grab a seat on one of the railway carriages and sit in peace with a couple of friends… or you can wonder the grounds and get talking to a variety of interesting people. The organisers manage to create a very inclusive environment; a free mixtape / cd exchange, loads of merch stalls, workshops and talks from record labels / bands, Indie quizzes all combine to make sure there is always something worth seeing and doing (10).
The variety of stages helps with this too. From the large main stage on a slight, open grass hill, and the large echo chamber-esqe train shed to the smaller and more intimate setting of an iron chapel and a carriage on a moving steam train, the festival offers excellent variety. The latter of those two stages were very crowded at times, meaning you often had to start queuing for a band in the chapel up to an hour beforehand. But, if you were patient, it was worth it. Bands also played impromptu sets in the march tent. All bar the main stage are under cover too, so if there weather turns nasty, you still have options. Excellent (9). Organisation was top draw, lots of friendly stewards around to show you where to go and help out (9) and the food and drink options were surprisingly varied and all excellent. The food vans were of a high quality, and not overly priced. There was also the on site museum café, which looked really old skool but actually knocked out some lovely ‘meat pie’ type meals which were a welcome change. The bars also served a wide range of local ales. (9). The camping was excellent. The festival site does not have its own camping – instead you need to camp at a private campsite, which is about 15 minutes walk down the road (or catch the bus that is put on). As a full time campsite, it contains decent toilets, a shower that’s probably better than yours at home, as well as a proper shop, that serves breakfasts and food. It’s all set in lovely woodland and overcrowding is not a problem. It was so far from the horror of some large scale campsites; it truly felt like a holiday (9).
Due to the camping situation, the facilities available are excellent, toilets within the site itself are also plentiful and pleasant (9). At around £50, Indietracks is fantastic value for money. Note, however, that the private camping does not come as part of the price and needs to be booked separate. Personally, I didn’t mind this, as it was worth it for the quality of the campsite (8). Indietracks this year was one of the most enjoyable festivals I've ever been to. It’s a perfect balance between the cosiness of a low key festival, with the communal excitement you find at larger events. I enjoyed the whole weekend and cant think of any negatives whatsoever! (9)