With no Glastonbury this year, Secret Garden Party having called it a day and Bestival moving to the weekend before Boomtown (when I’m sadly too busy to go and join in the fun), I figured this year might be a good time to reconnect with some of the many smaller festivals to be found here in the UK. There’s a few that I’ve never managed to get to previously and some that I have loved in the past and wanted to return. Rather than just list their names, which isn’t particularly useful or interesting, I figure it’s better to give you a little introduction to each as I announce, with a few of my choice picks from the line up.
It makes sense to start with the first of the festival season Big Love (May 4-6th – Bank Holiday), which for me is like a family gathering. Under 1000 people at the Baskerville Hall Mansion in Haye On Wye, organised by some really good friends of mine and populated largely by various generations of Welsh party folk I grew up with during my years as a DJ and promoter in my hometown of Cardiff. If you’ve not been before, it’s a super fun and friendly vibe and you can still pick up a camping ticket for under £90. I’m really happy to be playing the closing set there this year, and I might well pop up elsewhere on the Saturday.
Whilst not playing myself I’ll more than likely be dancing to some of these guys….
OH MY GOD IT’S THE CHURCH
I’ve seen these guys on countless occasions now and I still love their show every time. Think singalong soul classics in a twisted Deep South Pentecostal church service where absinthe baptisms and sexy Jesus rule. They’re super fun and I’m sure they’d go down well at every UK festival bar maybe Greenbelt (though possibly even there).
SIAN EVANS & FULL BAND
I first met Sian in Germany during the mid 90s with her old band Backbone, she’s an incredible singer and a beautiful soul, plus let’s not forget as the lead singer of Kosheen (not to mention guest vocalist with DJ Fresh) she’s been a bonafide Dance music super star to boot. I’ve seen her perform on everything from open mics to main stages and each time she manages a wonderful personal connection with the crowd, I’d definitely recommend catching her.
STAGGA & MAGUGU
As well as being the only act I saw from start to finish at Boomtown this year, these boys have a seriously good thing going on right now. Gilles Peterson is just one early supporter of their Bass Music, Dancehall and Nigerian Pidgin Rap blend, plus as well as being one of my Chrome Kids family back in the day, Stagga’s supporters alone have included the likes of Mary Anne Hobbs, Rusko, Brackles, N-Type, RSD and Daedelus.
Nearly 70 years old and one of the coolest motherf**kers I know. After a strong fine art career Mick turned to music once his eyesight started fading and became a champion of Electro-Blues, signing his productions to Freshly Squeezed and finally being talked into DJing. He has since played every festival under the sun with his collection of Swing, Blues and Hoedown remixes and remains both a musical mind that puts most to shame and a champion raconteur with a lifetime’s worth of great stories under his belt and he’s still creating more everywhere he goes.
Put together by the guys behind Junior Jungle and the Micro-Rave, this is far more than just a DJ set, spin the wheel and see where it lands! It could be Jungle, Disco or even TV Themes. I had the pleasure of taking part in one of their shows last year and I can vouch that it’s the most fun.
NEIL F**KING YOUNG
There are some brilliant House DJs at Big Love, from Joy Orbison to Bodhi, Clare James to Organ Grinder, but Neil is one of my all time favourites. He used to play after us at the Big Love Inflatable Church in Bestival every year (every night) and his sets were epic, sweaty affairs that packed out the venue and always broke the curfew. Neil is so passionate for music and DJing that his enthusiasm spreads to anyone lucky enough to witness his sets, I’ve been caught up many times over the years and will no doubt be down the front for this one too.
There are many more great DJs and bands so feel free to ask for more recommendations if you’re going and don’t forget to see me on Sunday! Tickets are available here.