The Best Festivals In London 2015

By Londonist Last edited 30 months ago
The Best Festivals In London 2015

London: festival central. Here are the best music festivals in the capital this year. If you have a festival you'd like us to add, please get in touch via hello@londonist.com.

April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December

APRIL

La Linea '15

Jorge Drexler

Dates: 21-30 April
Venue: Barbican, Rich Mix, KOKO, Union Chapel, Village Underground
Headliners: Jorge Drexler, Plaza Francia, Buika
Tickets: From £15 plus fees (link)

This year is La Linea's 'quinceañera', its 15th outing, and it's likely to be as colourful as ever. Girls and guys alike with an interest in music of a Latin flavour will be all over this year's line-up, with 'neo-tango' in the form of supergroup Plaza Francia top of the bill. We will reserve judgement on Mexrrissey, however: a team of musical gunslingers from Mexico’s finest bands reinvent Morrissey’s songs south of the border. The mind boggles.

Fun fact: A 'quinceañera' is a coming of age celebration of a girl's 15th birthday in parts of Latin America — kind of like a Sweet 16 — it says here.

Royal Greenwich String Quartet Festival

The Wihan Quartet

Dates: 24-25 April
Venue: Various Greenwich venues
Headliners: The Wihan Quartet, The Carducci Quartet
Tickets: Various prices from free (link)

Not every festival has to involve head-banging of some sort, you know. The Royal Greenwich String Quartet Festival is back to remind us of the unamplified side of music, in the form of, you guessed it, string quartets. The Wihan Quartet, currently in residence at the Trinity College of Music, will be performing some Boccherini, Beethoven and Dvorak, while there will be more Boccherini from the Carducci Quartet with a spot of Shostakovich and Philip Glass to boot. The festival's day programmes include talks, films and masterclasses in the fine art of string quartettery.

Fun fact: Philip Glass, in centuries to come, will be known simply as 'Glass' in the manner of Mozart and Sibelius. Unfortunately for Philip, you have to die before you get the surname-only treatment in the composing game.

MAY

Odd Box Weekender 2015

Pinkshinyultrablast

Dates: 1-3 May
Venue: The Shacklewell Arms
Headliners: Pinkshinyultrablast and more TBC
Tickets: Weekend from £28 plus fees (link)

Another festival designed to show off the roster and collaborators of one particular record label, in this case Odd Box Records, a DIY record label based in London. The label started in May 2009, its motto is 'part punk, part pop, all heart', and it will celebrate its sixth birthday with a three-day bender in Dalston, as all good record labels must. The line-up will be confirmed along the way to May.

Fun fact: Try as we might, we've had no joy finding out where exactly in London Odd Box Records is based. Perhaps it's all around us, like a part punk, part pop god.

Land of Kings

land-of-kings

Dates: 3 May
Venue: Various Dalston venues
Headliners: The 2 Bears, Tom Vek, Don Letts, Portico, Wolf Music, Boxed In, Public Information DJs
Tickets: From £25 plus fees (link)

If a festival could lick itself, etc. Dalston's decision that it is the heart of all of London's creativity comes under stress and strain from various parts of the city, but even naysayers would be pushed to deny Land of Kings offers up the least-safe, most forward-looking line-up of London's festival offerings. From the ballsy electronica of Nathan Fake to the absolute and unquestionable Welshness of Meilyr Jones, the Kingdom of Dalston will be putting on its usual batch of acts to make the rest of us look like losers.

Fun fact: The festival will be accompanied by something called the 'Street Feast of Kings'. We suspect there may be pop-up activity.

Flufferfest

Flufferfest

Dates: 22-25 May
Venue: The Shacklewell Arms
Headliners: Telescopes, Loom, Demob Happy
Tickets: From £18-£28 plus fees (link)

A two-day jamboree celebrating the best up-and-coming bands from around the UK playing garage, grunge, punk and psych. You can pretty much picture the crowd with a description like that, and probably how drunk they'll be come Sunday night. The remainder of the line-up will be announced nearer the time but Whitechapel-based Fluffer Records have been known to collaborate with bands like Love Buzzard, Phobophobes and Slagcan, which is a frankly magnificent name for a band.

Fun fact: Try to say "Flufferfest" after a few pints of Old Rosie. Yeah, told you.

Camden Rocks

New Model Army

Dates: 30 May
Venue: Various Camden venues
Headliners: New Model Army, Funeral for a Friend, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Tickets: From £30 plus fees (link)

The demise of the Camden Crawl leaves Camden Rocks as the chieftan of all-day NW1 benders, though in truth it was already on its way to the summit. Marshalled by former 3 Colours Red guitarist Chris McCormack, the festival will once again be making an almighty rock racket at the end of May with secret headliners still to be announced, though most people will probably be sideways by that point. The appearance of New Model Army demonstrates the festival's lingering appeal to people who should have grown out of all this long ago.

Fun fact: Last year Londonist got so drunk at this festival we passed out, but stayed standing up, during a set by Dinosaur Pile-Up, which is up there with the best band names of all time.

We Are FSTVL

We-Are-FSTVL-2013

Dates: 30-31 May
Venue: Airfield Of Dreams, Upminster
Headliners: Carl Cox, Steve Angello, Knife Party
Tickets: Weekend from £110 plus fees (link)

'Combines some of the world’s biggest names in electronic dance music with some of the world’s leading club brands and labels.' Not just music, then. For the more brand aware dance music fan, We Are FSTVL was a breath of expensive fresh air last year, and has grown to feature even more acts, stages and places to BUY STUFF for 2015. The line-up is huge and it's in an airfield. So there you go.

Fun fact: We Are FSTVL continues a long tradition of vowels being eliminate from words for no reason whatsoever, such as Primal Scream's XTRMNTR, dubstep monster SBTRKT and an entire round of Only Connect. FCKNGBRLLNT.

JUNE

Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

La Nuova Musica

Dates: 2-16 June
Venue: Various east London venues
Headliners: La Nuova Musica, Emily Hall, Shabaka Hutchings
Tickets: All manner of prices (link)

The usual assortment of riches fills the bill at Spitalfields this summer. No summary could do the line-up justice, so we'll pick out a few potential highlights from the packed calendar instead. The all-female chorus known as Woman Sing East combine forces with the pop choir Lips in a doubtless rather lively show at St Leonard's Church on 8 June. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings makes music informed by the sounds of the environment at Village Underground on 10 June. Our old favourites City of London Sinfonia round things off at St Leonard's on 16 June. And that doesn't even scratch the surface.

Fun fact: The Nuova Musica chap on the right is very unhappy about having his picture taken.

Born & Bred

Digital Mystikz

Dates: 6 June
Venue: Haggerston Park
Headliners: Wiley, Goldie, Digital Mystikz
Tickets: From £30 plus fees (link)

'A one-day festival event championing true London sounds forged in the Big Smoke.' Don't mind if we do. The music of various underground scenes over the past two decades will be celebrated with a line-up of names old and new, from legendary drum and bass hero Goldie to dubstep pioneer Youngsta. If you have an interest in supporting London music and recognising its heroes, Born & Bred is for you. And if you don't, get out.

Fun fact: Wiley has invited all his fans to a pool party in the middle of...2037. If you think you'll still be alive by then, go to his website to RSVP.

Field Day

Django Django

Dates: 6-7 June
Venue: Victoria Park
Headliners: Ride, Caribou, Patti Smith, Django Django
Tickets: Weekend from £83 plus fees (link)

It doesn't really matter why Ride chose the Sunday of Field Day for their big comeback (alongside a show at the Roundhouse a couple of weeks earlier). What's certain now is that Victoria Park will be a scene of mirth and tragedy as shoegazers lose track of each other through specially-grown fringes and the bodies gradually pile up. The Saturday may be a safer day, with cracking London band Django Django a particular highlight, and hip-hop kings Run The Jewels causing unwise parents to cover kids' ears.

Fun fact: More people talk in the crowd at a Caribou concert than at any other act's gigs. It's true, we read it somewhere.

Barclaycard British Summer Time

You know who this is

Dates: 18-27 June
Venue: Hyde Park
Headliners: Blur, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift [sold out], The Strokes, The Who
Tickets: From £53 plus fees (link)

This selection of enormous gigs returns for a third year, following last year's triumphant sets from the likes of Black Sabbath, Tom Jones and, er, McBusted. It's fair to say the line-up this year is flat-out impressive; the headliners the organisers have claimed are quality enough but the bumper undercard seals the deal. Beck, Kaiser Chiefs, Ellie Goulding, Chic (featuring Nile Rodgers), MIKA, Paul Weller and Grace Jones have been announced already, with more on the way.

Fun fact: The Who are currently touring the world as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, which began last year. Their first single, all the way back in 1964, was called Zoot Suit, and it wasn't bad.

JULY

London FolkFest

FolkFest

Dates: 2-5 July
Venue: The Bedford, Balham
Headliners: TBC
Tickets: Three-day pass from £27.50 plus fees (link)

Plugging an unwelcome gap in the schedule since 2011, FolkFest has grown to become a four-day event across four stages, and this year it's adding outdoor day stages and fringe events. The 4th of July will be themed as an Americana day to tie in with the Independence Day celebrations, and the Saturday will also include a stage in the afternoon for families and kids called 'Little Folk with Albo'. Who or what Albo might be is for you to establish on the day. Line-up announcements as we get them.

Fun fact: How are we supposed to come up with a fun fact if they're stubbornly refusing to reveal their line-up? Should we make one up? Fine: an average of 21 guitar strings have been broken per year by over-wrought balladeers since FolkFest began.

Wireless

David Guetta

Dates: 3-5 July
Venue: Finsbury Park
Headliners: Drake, David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Avicii, Kendrick Lamar
Tickets: Weekend from £194.50 plus fees (link)

Hip hop, dance, and that oddly agressive form of pop that permeates the charts of 2015 will come together in Finsbury Park in July. With any luck it'll be headlined by Drake, following his last-minute cancellation at the 2014 event (though Kanye West proved an able — one might argue, a better — replacement). David Guetta and Nicki Minaj will co-headline on the Sunday, the day after Avicii attempts to get in the way of a few cameras pointed at man-of-the-moment Kendrick Lamar. Elsewhere the usual suspects include Outkast, Pharrell Williams and Basement Jaxx, and, oh yes, Salt-N-Pepa.

Fun fact: Not only are there people alive today who are so young they don't know that 'wireless' was once the word for a radio set, some of them wouldn't even know what to do with a radio set if someone dropped one on their foot in Currys.

Calling 2015

We'd put 'Damon Albarn' here but that joke hasn't been funny since 1995

Dates: 4 July
Venue: Clapham Common
Headliners: Noel Gallagher, Ryan Adams, Modest House, The Hives
Tickets: From £57.50 plus fees (link)

One of the more obviously MOR festivals of the summer's selection brings Calling back to Clapham. Noel Gallagher makes for a more interesting interviewee than an artist but he'll be plugging away gamely at the top of the bill of 'the UK's classic rock festival', with Ryan Adams as understudy. Each man feels the need to name their backing band, respectively High Flying Birds and The Shining. Both will do well to upstage the ever-entertaining The Hives. And of course there's Echo and the Bunnymen. Of course there's Echo and the Bunnymen.

Fun fact: Noel Gallagher hates almost all the videos that Oasis ever made. And if you don't believe us, take it from the man himself.

Summer Series at Somerset House

Kwabs

Dates: 9-19 July
Venue: Somerset House
Headliners: Chromeo, George Ezra, Belle and Sebastian, Jessie J
Tickets: From £29.50 plus fees (link)

Another huge series of gigs on the Strand. Canadian electro-funk pair Chromeo kick things off on 9 July and it's a gig a night for 11 nights in a row. Some were sold out as early as mid-March, so you'll want to get in quick to stand a chance of those still on sale, which at time of writing are soul singer Gary Clark Jr, reggae star Chronixx, singer songwriter Nick Mulvey and London's own Kwabs. And if you don't like Kwabs there's something wrong with you.

Fun fact: Work started on Somerset House in 1776. That was the year that painter John Constable was born, Captain James Cook set sail for what would be his final voyage, and economist Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, which caused Thatcher a couple of centuries later. Thanks Adam.

Lovebox

Lovebox

Dates: 17-18 July
Venue: Victoria Park
Headliners: Cypress Hill, Rudimental, Snoop Dogg
Tickets: Weekend from £85 plus fees (link)

Lovebox comes across as the sister event to every daytime Radio 1 show of the past few years. Running down the line-up you can tick off every act who were once cutting edge but who are now comfortably onto album number two, three or many more, wondering whether they're about to be shunted towards the cosy confines of Radio 2, where a voracious Jo Whiley awaits: Hot Chip, Groove Armada, Mark Ronson, Rudimental, etc etc. Even Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg can't claim the edge they once had. Nonetheless they will sell many, many tickets as everyone needs a festival, even parents.

Fun fact: Snoop Dogg was apparently going to change his name to Snoop Lion not long ago. Whatever happened to that? The public demand answers.

Citadel

Bombay Bicycle Club

Dates: 19 July
Venue: Victoria Park
Headliners: Ben Howard, Bombay Bicycle Club
Tickets: From £49.50 plus fees (link)

One of the new events on this year's schedule, we welcome Citadel without quite knowing where it fits in. It claims to be 'celebrating the summer Sunday pleasures of musicianship, feasts, markets and literary talks', which makes it sound like Latitude transplanted to the capital, minus the purple sheep. Certainly the line-up wouldn't be out of place in the fields of Suffolk, with Ben Howard and Bombay Bicycle Club atop a bill of intelligent if particularly middle-class acts who won't scare the horses. Or indeed the purple sheep, if there were any. Which there aren't.

Fun fact: Ben Howard's Wikipedia page tells us he was born in Middlesex in 1987, which is bloody impressive work given that someone put a stop to Middlesex in 1965.

AUGUST

South West 4

sw4

Dates: 29-30 August
Venue: Clapham Common
Headliners: Faithless, Skrillex, Basement Jaxx
Tickets: Weekend from £112.50 plus fees (link)

Two more days of thumping postcode-related tunes, this year featuring everyone's* favourite DJ producer Skrillex among the usual EDM suspects. Basement Jaxx make their annual appearance at one of these things, still punting their Junto album from a year ago. A bewildering array of DJs and live electronic acts fill out the huge line-up, including veterans John Digweed and Nic Fancuilli, 2014 breakthrough act Oliver Dollar and London star Maya Jane Coles.

Fun fact: One of Clapham's more famous daughters was Marie Kendal, a music hall singer with a marvellous line in Cockney songs who had her heyday in the 1920s. There's a blue plaque to her in SW4 and you can see her at her pomp here.

SEPTEMBER

On Blackheath

This is just Madness

Dates: 12-13 September
Venue: Blackheath
Headliners: Elbow, Madness, Manic Street Preachers, Kelis
Tickets: Weekend from £89 plus fees (link)

The most blatantly-named of all the festivals. There's a fairly safe line-up for this year's On Blackheath, with Elbow and Madness topping the bill on the Saturday and Sunday respectively. Most of the rest of the line-up is still TBC, but there were loads of quality acts and DJs last year and chances are this back-end-of-summer shindig won't disappoint. Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Stage in particular is likely to stretch the boundaries of creativity in nothing but good ways.

Fun fact: On Blackheath was supposed to have kicked off in 2011, but licensing issues in Lewisham meant it never happened. The Olympics got in the way the following year, then organisers postponed it again in 2013 because three postponements is a nice round number.

NOVEMBER

BluesFest 2015

Dave Matthews Band

Dates: 6-8 November
Venue: The O2
Headliners: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jo Harman, Dave Matthews Band
Tickets: From £15 plus fees (link)

BluesFest 2014 proved a winner and the event transfers to The O2 in November, with a line-up headed by the ever-dependable Dave Matthews Band. Promoters Live Nation have agreed a three-year deal to run the event in Greenwich, starting with shows in the arena, Indigo at The O2 and Brooklyn Bowl across three November evenings. Blues-rock group Tedeschi Trucks Band and Jo Harman, former Female Vocalist of the Year at the British Blues Awards, are also on the bill. November might be when the winter blues normally kick in, but if it's this type of blues we should be all right.

Fun fact: The Dave Matthews Band are mad about philanthropy, donating millions to causes around their native Virginia and as far afield as Haiti and Sri Lanka. Nice one Dave.

EFG London Jazz Festival

Kurt Elling

Dates: 13-22 November
Venue: London-wide
Headliners: Kurt Elling, Jarrod Lawson
Tickets: Various prices from £10 (link)

Jaaaaaaaazz. Jez Nelson loves it — he says it's "the best jazz festival on the planet". Jez Nelson is a Radio 3 DJ. We've never once listened to Radio 3; it scares us a little. Jez will almost certainly be tapping his DMs to Kurt Elling, Jarrod Lawson, Cassandra Wilson, Maria Schneider and a great many other jazz luminaries across the 10 full days of the event. Venues range from Cadogan Hall to the Shepherds Bush Empire. Jaaaaaaaazz.

Fun fact: Jaaaaaaaazz.

Last Updated 06 April 2015

Wilko

The Proms a deliberate omission? It is admittedly far more well known than any of these.

Alma

What about the City of London Festival? Hundreds of events, many free for all? Why is it not listed?