Camping for drunks: The Tab guide to UK festival season 2013

All you need to know about where to go this festival season

The stench of unwashed bodies mingling with eau-de-portaloo, cider for breakfast, that moment when your favourite band launches into your favourite song and all seems at peace with the world… who doesn’t love a good festival? It might seem the ubiquitous summer cliché, but at their best music festivals combine a long weekend of some of the best music around with the chance to over-indulge and forget about it all by Monday. All of these beauties have been road-tested over the years by The Tab’s resident guinea pig and massive music  fan (me!) so they’re a guaranteed good thing to waste the rest of your overdraft on. So, whether festival veteran or virgin, whether your idea of a guitar hero is Johnny Marr or Liam Gallagher (and who are we to judge?), you’ll probably find something to brag about in the pub here.

ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL, 13th – 16th June

One of the original festivals from the 60s, and the setting for one of Hendrix’s final gigs, the modern incarnation of the Isle of Wight Festival has one of the best atmospheres around. A great option for groups with a variety of music tastes owing to its diverse line-up, it’s by far the friendliest major festival on the UK circuit. Shout out to the lovely French boys who put up our tent in 2011 when we went to the silent disco! With an infectious carnival atmosphere (and some hilarious costumes: I don’t think I’ll ever forget the pair of  ‘Jarvis Cockeroaches’ standing in the bar queue) the Isle of Wight matches big name acts with picnic rugs to create something rather special. This year, Madchester titans The Stone Roses are headlining the Friday night, which is the perfect excuse to whack out your best Reni bucket-hat and bewail the fact that you weren’t born in time for Spike Island. Other singalong opportunities are provided by Everything Everything, The Killers, The Maccabees and Blondie; admit it, you want to holler the chorus to ‘Atomic’ with a load of people in novelty hats. There are three stages and a disco tent, so it’s big enough to attract popular bands but small enough not to cry when you’ve lost your mates. When the sun sets over the river, and your temporary best friends come back with a cold lager from the bar, you know you’re somewhere special. Plus, the bouncers here are some of the friendliest in the business!

Headlining: The Stone Roses, The Killers, Bon Jovi


OPTIMUS ALIVE, 12th-14th July

Yes, you have to pay for your flight to Lisbon, and yes, you probably don’t speak Portugese, but Optimus Alive is (probably) the only festival to feature an on-site swimming pool and forty-degree sunshine, with not a square inch of mud in sight. The bands start late, which means lazy days topping up the tan on the real campsite (no muddy fields!) and warm, mellow nights. The tickets are insanely cheap when compared to a British festival, as is the beer, and you could easily combine the festival with a few days in quaint, charming Lisbon. This year, Optimus Alive features an eclectic line-up with acts such as Two Door Cinema Club, Biffy Clyro, Crystal Castles and Tribes. The variety of acts is immense, and festivities continue to the small hours of the morning with a free shuttle bus to ferry your drunken arse back to your tent. You might, however, end up dancing on Portuguese telly (The Cure, 2012!). Just don’t forget the suncream.

Headlining: Green Day, Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon


LATITUDE, 18th-21st July

One word: Kraftwerk. If you’re not up for these Krautrock legends then god help you, stay at home with your onesie or something. Other highlights at this year’s Latitude include Hot Chip and Mercury prize winners Alt J (and having met them in the Lock Tavern, I can testify that they’re nice boys who deserve all the accolades). Home of the infamous pink sheep,  Latitude is close to London and set in a beautiful forest, so you can live out your Hobbit fantasies whilst enjoying some of the biggest indie bands around. What’s special about this festival is its poetry and comedy tents, which allow for a bit of high-brow posturing in between falling over in mud and illicit kissing. They’ve got Carol Ann Duffy this year! I know plenty of folk who’ve met famous people at Latitude: if it’s good enough for them, then its definitely good enough for skint students.

Headlining:Bloc Party, Kraftwerk, Foals


KENDAL CALLING, 26th–28th July

The best costume party that you’ve never been invited to, Kendal Calling is nothing short of magical. Set in the stunning Lake District and with a main stage decorated with fairy lights, this gem combines amazing bands with a friendly, electric atmosphere. Everyone dresses up in quirky, often ridiculous costumes, so if you end up kissing in one of the hammocks with an Irish boy dressed as a washing machine don’t blame me. The line-up for 2013 shows a small festival punching above its weight , with the mighty Public Enemy, Mystery Jets and Kodaline putting in appearances. Possibly the best thing about Kendal Calling is the fact that the revelries continue until the small hours of the morning, in the (slightly bonkers) House Party area and the Glow stage, with its floor-shaking sound system and happy ravers. Of course, the main draw for Kendal this year is the all-conquering, genre-hopping group that is Primal Scream. Bobby Gillespie’s band are riding high on the release of their excellent new album, ‘More Light’, and are a phenomenal live act. Plus, the man has the best dress sense in music.

Headlining: Primal Scream, Basement Jaxx, The Charlatans


BEAUTIFUL DAYS, 16th-18th August

The line-up might be a little retrograde in places, and the location in deepest darkest Devon might mean that you’re as likely to end up chatting to a pipe-toting farmer as to a hip young thing, but at the end of the day festivals don’t come more friendly or eccentric than this. With very little in the way of commercial branding (and some lethal local lagers on tap!) Beautiful Days has a lovely, infectious warmth which shouldn’t fail to put a grin on your face. Just don’t forget the wellies – you’ll need them. The mud in this neck of the woods laughs in the face of naïve festival goers in pristine pink Hunters, so you might lose your dignity but gain some lovely memories of falling flat on your arse.

Headlining: Primal Scream, Ocean Colour Scene, Levellers