London Music Festival Guide 2019

The War On Drugs at All Points East 2018. Photo: All Points East

Every summer London is awash with music festivals. There are so many that it can be hard to differentiate them and know which is right for you. That’s why we’ve decided to make things a bit easier on you, and sum up each event in a few pithy sentences. Enjoy:

RE-TEXTURED: Could anything be more London in 2019 than an electronic music festival centred around brutalist architecture. That’s not a knock — we couldn’t be more excited to see ear-shattering techno in London’s boldest buildings. There are plenty of memorable nights on offer, but our pick has to be Nina Kraviz playing for hours on end at the occasionally overlooked Walthamstow Assembly Hall. Various venues across London, prices vary, book ahead, 28-31 March

LONDON LATIN MUSIC FESTIVAL: A 10-day festival now in its 19th year, that showcases the best of the Latin music world. Whether you grew up with Latin music or have never knowingly listened to any — apart from the inescapable Despacito — you’re welcome to party at this series of gigs. Various locations and prices, book ahead, 25 April-5 May

BRIXTON DISCO FESTIVAL: A disco festival in Brixton. What else could you possibly need to know? Okay. There’s a roller disco. There’s south London legends Horse Meat Disco. There’s London’s coolest choir, Contemporary Voices, recreating classic New York venue Studio 54. There’s film screenings, talks… okay, it turns out there was a lot of other stuff you needed to know. Brixton (various venues), £22.50-£40, book ahead, 27 April

WE ARE FSTVL: London festivals are inherently different beasts to countryside festivals. They’re day events, not camping based, with limited space to operate in. Dance music extravaganza We Are FSTVL aims to prove all of that wrong. How so? By taking place in the part of London lots of people don’t consider to be London. Upminster. Three days of non-stop bangers and the punters won’t care where they are. Upminster, £42-£300, book ahead, 24-26 May

ALL POINTS EAST: Victoria Park is ground zero for London in terms of the city’s park-based day festivals. All Points East continues the area’s traditions with two weekends of supremely curated music. The first weekend operates more like a standard festival, whereas the second weekend is more ‘big gigs’ a la BST. There’s too much quality music here to highlight, but we’re gonna give it a go anyway: Hot Chip, Primal Scream, Courtney Barnett, Christine and the Queens, Little Simz, Kamasi Washington, Dizzee Rascal, Mac DeMarco… aaaand we’re out of breath. Victoria Park, £59+, book ahead, 24 May-2 June

STEEL YARD: Finsbury Park. Ibiza. Can you really tell the difference? Well if you currently can — let’s face it,  the New River isn’t quite the Mediterranean Sea — you soon won’t. That’s thanks to the one and only Carl Cox bringing his legendary Space Ibiza show in the park. A Balearic touch in north London. Finsbury Park, £45-£99, book ahead, 25-26 May

Photo: Gala

GALA: Good food, good music, good people. That’s the tagline for the fourth edition of this intimate south London day festival, and let’s see whether it can deliver on its promises. Good food looks to be covered: Made of Dough and The Cheese Truck have never let us down before. Good music: an already strong line-up has been boosted by the addition of a new stage curated by London’s jazz-inflected Worldwide FM. Good people: Well that’s up to you really. Peckham Rye Park, £50-£60, book ahead 26 May

JAM ON RYE: Sticking with Peckham for a minute, Jam on Rye puts a punny spin on the area’s famous park. But this isn’t punning for the sake of a cheap laugh. Food and music are paid equal attention on Bank Holiday Monday, as KERB provide a stage for some of the best street food vendors in the city. Even the music seems to have a culinary theme; Kelis headlines, and surely it’s not a coincidence that her last album was called Food? Coincidence or not, it’s one of the most underrated R&B albums of the past five years. Peckham Rye Park, £0-£45 (under 12s go free), book ahead, 27 May

THE ENDS: The Ends makes its debut in Croydon, and looks like it might try and position itself as a competitor to the juggernaut Wireless, by focusing on black music genres. Three days with a handful of acts currently announced for each, it’s a little disheartening to see no British headliners in a festival called The Ends. Still, Nas, Wizkid and Damian Marley are all excellent choices. And seeing Nadia Rose in her Croydon hometown should be epic. Sidenote: if no one plays Are You Really From The Ends, it’s a travesty. Lloyd Park, £50 per day, book ahead, 31 May-2 June

CAMDEN ROCKS: Trawl around the pubs of Camden to watch the most exciting rock bands the city has to offer. There are an ambitious 400 bands squeezed in around 20 venues in just two days, so the key is to see as much as possible. One pro tip though — don’t try rushing to wherever a headliner (Frank Turner and Deaf Havana) is playing minutes before their show. There’s a strong chance you won’t get in. Camden, £40-£70, book ahead1-2 June

One of the warehouses housing Field Day this year. Photo: Field Day

FIELD DAY: A juggernaut of London’s day festival scene, and one of the genre’s originators. The name isn’t quite so accurate anymore as this is the first year it’s ditching the field for four giant, connected warehouses in Enfield. It’s a seismic change, that looks to keep Field Day ahead of the competitors. That anticipation only builds once taking the ridiculous line-up into consideration. Skepta, Julia Holter, Earl Sweatshirt, Jorja Smith, Sinkane and Deerhunter to name but a few. Meridian Water, £40-£150, book ahead, 7-8 June

JUNCTION 2: One of many dance music festivals gracing London this summer, Junction 2 stands out thanks to the quality of its line-up. Ben UFO, Ricardo Villalobos, San Proper and others are all names to drive proper dance music heads wild. Each stage has its own curator — our pick of the bunch is Soho record store Phonica’s stage on Friday. It’s a mecca for electronic music in London, so there’s no surprise it’s done such a good job curating a stage: Hunee’s tunes should perfectly complement the leafy surroundings. Boston Manor Park, £35-£100, book ahead, 7-8 June

HAMPTON COURT PALACE FESTIVAL: An eclectic array of musicians takes over south west London’s favourite Tudor tourist attraction this July. Nile Rodgers & Chic, Tears for Fears, Kylie (although her shows have sold out) and others see if their spectacular shows can match the majesty of the venue’s brick beauty. The big question on everyone’s lips is… will Hampton Court Palace still be standing in the year 3000? That’s right, Busted are playing. Enough said. Hampton Court Palace, £49-£99, book ahead, June 7-21

MIGHTY HOOPLA: People don’t think of pop music as cool. But who gives a damn what people think when you’re having the time of your life? That’s the mood at Mighty Hoopla, a festival that just wants people to have a hell of a lot of fun. And look, Chaka Khan is headlining. Ain’t nobody that could have a bad time here. All Saints, Bananarama and Liberty X also fill out a nostalgic line-up in south London. Brockwell Park, £45-£75, book ahead, 8 June

Photo: Hampton Court Palace Festival

CROSS THE TRACKS: Chaka Khan stays in Brockwell Park the following day, but in somewhat different circumstances. At Cross The Tracks, she’s surrounded by funk, jazz and some classic Motown soul. Martha Reeves and The Vandellas also represent the old guard — if you love The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show (a favourite at Londonist Towers), this could be one for you. The festival also has plenty of acts crafting the future of jazz, funk and electronic music, through alchemic genre fusions. Brockwell Park, £35-£60, book ahead9 June

COMMUNITY: Another Finsbury Park festival — the park is clearly a big hit among music promoters — this one goes all in on indie. The Kooks top the bill, but that doesn’t mean the whole day can be written off as a mid-noughties nostalgia-fest. There are plenty of fresh and exciting acts on offer too, like The Hunna, Don Broco and Sea Girls. We’re not sure what the name Community has to do with it all though — blandest-named festival in London? Finsbury Park, £40, book ahead, 30 June

INNERVISIONS: A multi-venue soul, funk, jazz and blues multi-venue festival. Plenty of the big names are playing the Roundhouse in Camden: Van Morrison, Mavis Staples and Aloe Blacc. In all honesty, calling Innervisions a festival shows the diverse use of that term today — this is more a series of similarly-themed gigs across the city. Of those gigs, we reckon the Fela Kuti tribute night at EartH — an excellent new venue in Stoke Newington — might be the best under-the-radar bet. Various locations, various prices, book ahead, 3-7 July

WIRELESS: London’s annual urban music festival returns to Finsbury Park for the sixth year running. Actually we say that, but historically Wireless was an entirely different beast — David Gray once headlined the festival up in Leeds. Don’t worry hip hop heads, none of that this year. Instead this line-up has a real American rapper bent to it: Cardi B, Travis Scott and A$AP Rocky get top billing. For our money though, the highlight of the weekend will be west London’s AJ Tracey rounding off a mega-year that saw him release his criticallyacclaimed debut album. Finsbury Park, tickets are sold out but keep an eye out here to see if any more become available, 5-7 July

BRITISH SUMMER TIME: The big-hitter in the heart of London. Entertaining the masses in Hyde Park this year are Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Florence + The Machine, Robbie Williams and one more as-of-yet unannounced act. In between the two weekends of musical brilliance comes BST Open House, when you can wander into the site for free and enjoy cinema screenings, pop-up bars, circus, cabaret and much more. Hyde Park, various prices, book ahead. 5-14 July

LOVEBOX: Another one of the London mainstays, this is the ideal festival for people who like to dance, but often want the songs that make them dance to have lyrics. Ok, that’s reductive — there are quite a few straight up rappers and electronic music artists here. However, Lovebox always shows plenty of love to the R&B scene, and representatives from the genre this year include H.E.R. and Solange. Dress code is colourful but cool — see what vintage Fila or Adidas you can get your hands on at a trendy second hand shop. Gunnersbury Park, £58-£120, book ahead, 12-13 July

CITADEL: All the infrastructure from Lovebox remains in the park on Sunday, as the park goes indie for Citadel. Catfish and the Bottlemen and Bastille are the top acts, which might mean the punter age skews a little younger than some others on this list. Curiously the festival takes on an astronomy vibe for its non-music areas. There’s a space pub quiz, a Q&A with someone from the UK Space Agency, space yoga and more. We expect most people will interpret this space-theme through glitter but why don’t you one-up them with a full astronaut outfit? Gunnersbury Park, £28-£40, book ahead, 14 July

Photo: Lovebox

LONDON INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL: And now for something completely different. London International Music Festival brings together young musicians from around the globe to perform in some of London’s most prestigious venues — Central Hall Westminster, Southwark Cathedral, Conway Hall and more — in a supportive environment. Various locations, free entry, just turn up, 15-18 July

51ST STATE: There will be plenty of sniggering ravers at the start of August as they ride the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters for 51st State. Held in the leafy Green Belt, this year marks the fest’s fifth birthday, and it’s celebrating the only way it knows how. Masses of house music with a dash of garage, a hint of soul and a dollop of disco across seven stages. Trent Park, £40-£150, book ahead, 3 August

EASTERN ELECTRICS: From the end of the Piccadilly line, we move on to the end of the Northern line, Morden. This is another festival dedicated to making your body move but with acts like Goldie, Big Narstie and Hannah Wants, Eastern Electrics has a hard edge. Expect bass. The kind that may leave your ears ringing for a week. If that sounds a bit much, you can always just follow the roaming samba band around the site for two straight days. Morden Park, £39-£77, book ahead. 3-4 August

Photo: 51st State

MELTDOWN: Despite being named after a word best associated with nuclear disasters, Meltdownfestival is a far more civilised affair than the majority of events on this list. One legendary artist curates a week of gigs at the Southbank Centre. Recent curators include M.I.A. and Robert Smith, and this year the honour falls to Nile Rodgers. His lineup is yet to be announced, but here’s hoping it’s full of disco and soul. Southbank Centre, price TBC, book ahead, 3-11 August

ART’S HOUSE: Festivals tend to be extravaganzas, jam-packed with as many big acts as humanly possible. Not two DJs playing one guy’s house. Surely that’s not a festival. It is for Art’s House. So, it’s not really Artwork’s house, instead the stage is designed to make it look like a house. And the two DJs are big names: obviously Artwork himself, joined by DJ Harvey. On a patch of greenery enclosed by the Lea Valley River, this is a wonderfully eccentric addition to the London scene. Three Mills Island, £29-£50, book ahead, 10 August

ONE DAY AT THE DISCO: The trick is in the name of this festival, it’s all about disco. To emphasise this point, the bill has Chicago House legend Derrick Carter, but the poster very clearly states after his name ‘does disco’. That set should be special, but we’re most excited for Mister Saturday Night. They’re famous for their Saturday night parties in hipster-haven Brooklyn, but can they do it on a ‘hopefully sunny, but possibly rainy’, Saturday afternoon in east London? Time to find out. Three Mills Island, price TBC, book ahead, 24 August

SOUTH WEST FOUR: Mega. That’s the one word that sums up Clapham Common’s EDM/grime/garage/whatever-the-hell-people-want-to-dance-to end of summer weekender. The line-up is massive. Dance music is a broad church, so if you and your mates all have differing tastes this could be the festival for you — there’s at least one act on this behemoth of this line-up that everyone will go crazy for. What’s ours? Tough choice, but TQD have never let us down before. Clapham Common, £57-£99, book ahead, 24-25 August

Photo: Art’s House

MAIDEN VOYAGE: Three Mills Island is clearly the east London spot to be for one day festivals this summer. Maiden Voyage is a brand new festival from the team at Camden’s Jazz Cafe. Despite the name, the venue’s tastes are a bit broader than just jazz, and include hip hop, afrobeat and funk. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing. Especially when it means you can squeeze Awesome Tapes From Africa, Madlib and Roy Ayers onto the same lineup. Three Mills Island, £30, book ahead, 25 August

SOUTHPORT WEEKENDER: Despite having a Merseyside town in its name, Southport Weekender is in south London. Crystal Palace to be precise (it’s also worth pointing out that it’s just one day). The reason for the name lies in the festival’s origins, a R&B, garage, house and soul weekend in Southport Pontins. The team have brought the self-proclaimed ‘world’s friendliest party’ vibe down to the Big Smoke, for a few years now, although this is its first time in south London. No line-up announced at the time of writing. Crystal Palace Park, £45-£66, book ahead, 31 August

BBC PROMS IN THE PARK: The BBC Proms culminate in Britain’s biggest outdoor classical music event. It’s September, so by this point the British weather is even less reliable than for everything else on this list. Pack an anorak. Even if the forecast is clear. Trust us. Hyde Park, price TBC, book ahead, date TBA

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL: Do you ever get to November and have a real hankering for a music festival to lift those winter blues? EFG has you covered, with glorious jazz to make everything feel alright again. Set across plenty of venues across London, lots of the gigs have already been listed with tickets on sale, despite the fact we’re months out. Epic Russian film Battleship Potemkin with a new live soundtrack caught our eye. Various locations, various prices, book ahead, 15-24 November

Know any others we’ve missed out? Add it to the comments below. We will update this article as more events are announced.

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