The UK is known for some of the biggest and best rock bands of all time. No matter the decade, from the 60s onwards you will find more than a handful of incredible rock bands who were from these shores. However, just like the bands, there has also been an abundance of fantastic music festivals over the years. Famous for festivals such as Glastonbury and Monsters of Rock, there are more music festivals now than ever before, of every kind of genre under the sun. In this list I shall be outlining the best rock festivals this nation has to offer that are going to be taking place either this year or next year.
If you are someone who is undecided about where to go this summer or next and are big into your rock music, hopefully we can help you with this list! And, as always, if you don’t agree with us please feel free to let us know in the comments!
10 – Hammerfest
Beginning our list with a metal one is what I feel like I always need to be doing! Starting back in 2009 and having taken place in multiple different locations over the years, it has had a varied and interesting history of line-ups. Being ran by the Hard Rock Hell crew (more on those later), it always seems to draw some great bands and will no doubt pack out the O2 academy in Birmingham.
However, ever since it moved away from the Havens of Wales and into its new home it has never quite seemed to be able to pull quite the same impressive line-ups. Lordi and Unleashed this year are still great gets, but compared to the likes of Anthrax, Accept and 5 Finger Death Punch previously, it has lost a little bit of its star power. Still it is set to be one hell of a festival regardless!
9 – Reading/Leeds
A festival that has become less and less rock every year it has been held recently; it is still a massive show that gives rock bands some massive amounts of exposure to a generally more mainstream crowd. If it was 10/15 years ago, though, this would have been a lot higher up the list.
However, given that out of the 6 main stage headline slots for the weekend there is actually only one real rock band in Queens of the Stone Age, it has become a lot more of a pop festival now than anything else. It’s great for the festival, I imagine, but not for its placement on this list. Not that they’d care at all mind you, I’m sure! Still it is a decent festival with some rock sprinkled in every year amongst the pop and rap and grime that seems to have unfortunately taken over these days!
Check out our listings for it here.
8 – Heretic
The first festival that, due to the pandemic making things so hard the last couple of years or so, hasn’t actually taken place yet. However, Heretic fest looked to be an incredible line-up and an incredible weekend before it got postponed again for another year. Bragging impressive headliners of Inglorious, Phil Campbell and Stone Broken, hopefully they will be able to keep the line-up pretty similar for next year. The rest of the line-up is fantastic too; so many amazing smaller bands who are just starting to take the bull by the horns and take over the underground music scene in the UK.
And, located at the famous Corporation in Sheffield, it is pretty easy for anyone to get to who wants a great weekend of new rock music!
Check it out here.
7 – Ynot
Maybe the least conventional ‘rock’ festival on this list due to it being mainly centered around indie music, that is still, for all intents and purposes, an offshoot of the rock genre. Plus, last years line-up was set to include the likes of Royal Blood, Frank Turner, Terrorvision and Inme. So, while strictly not a rock festival it does usually have a handful or more of great heavier acts sprinkled in amongst the lighter stuff.
And, generally, it’s just a really fun, chilled out festival to go to. Admittedly the last time I went it was full of underaged kids running around like they were on spring break, but it didn’t cause me to enjoy it any less. If you’re one for the lighter side of rock, this is definitely one for you!
6 – Call of the Wild
The other festival on this list to have not actually taken place yet, therefore it has gotten on here by the strength of its line-up alone. Boasting an impressive set of bands across its four days of rock, with headliners Treatment, Ricky Warwick, Inglorious and Massive Wagons, the whole weekend looks like it should be amazing. The line-up has changed a fair amount through all the cancellations and reschedules, but it has always stayed pretty damn strong. Either way, it should be a fantastic weekend away for any rock fan!
Check it out here.
5 – Slam Dunk
And we’ve finally arrived at one of my favourites at least, the biggest punk rock festival in the UK, Slamdunk. Having two sites, one in the north and one in the south of England, both running on different days of the same weekend, it plays host to plenty of fans each year. Hosting a variety of different types of punk and metal across a number of stages, the festival always has a great line-up every year.
I mean heck, this year not only has skate-punk legends like Sum 41 and NOFX, but also features some of my personal favourite bands like Reel Big Fish, Ice Nine Kills and Pennywise. The only issue with this festival is the sheer amount of clashes between bands playing at the same time as each other but, really, that isn’t exactly an issue, that there are TOO MANY good bands playing in one place.
4 – Stonedead
One of the newer festivals on this list, Stonedead quickly developed one hell of a reputation for its fantastic hard rock line-ups. Being another one-day festival, over the three years it has ran its headliners have been Skid Row, Glenn Hughes and now Black Star Riders. That alone is one hell of an achievement. Add to that the fantastic blend of new and old music they have had each year, featuring bands like Terrorvision and Quireboys alongside Inglorious, Wayward Sons and Kris Barras. It still offers camping and, at just £60 each for both the camping and arena passes, it’s really too good to turn down, right?
Check it out here.
3 – Download
This is one that I really had to toy with in its position on this list. If I had written it a few years ago than it probably would have quite easily taken the top spot. However, after the last few years of similar line-ups and arguably ‘lazy’ booking, it has dropped it down in my estimations.
It is still the UK’s premier rock festival, and for very good reason. It boasts the very biggest names in rock and metal in its headline slots every year. However, therein lies the issue. There have been a good handful of bands now who many believe should have headlined already, though are still being booked lower down in favour of bands who have been going for 30+ years. Names such as Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Bring Me The Horizon and a few others have all been headlining arena tours across the UK for the last few years now and getting a lot of sales/streams on their albums, yet are still not called up to finally headline the hallowed Donington Park. Instead that honour goes to the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Guns’N’Roses, bands who were around and high up on the bill during the 80s when Monsters of Rock ran their festival there instead.
However, despite all of this, the festival still never fails to have an amazing line-up year in, year out. Even if you don’t like the bigger bands on the bill one year, chances are you will still find a good 15+ bands you would like to see. And it really has grown into a festival with something for everyone, various different subgenres and bands from all of the spectrum of sizes. It really is one of the best weekends of the year for rock fans.
Check it out here.
2 – Hard Rock Hell
Kind of a cop-out entry as I am amalgamating all of the festivals under the Hard Rock Hell banner into one entry. On a normal year, one not plighted with a pandemic, the company will easily run 10+ events of differing sub-genres of rock, from metal to sleaze to country to everything in between. No matter what festival it is you attend, though, the line-up is bound to be stellar.
Looking at the main one ran in November, usually a combination of all of the different genres and their longest running festival, over the years they have hosted the likes of Saxon, Airbourne, Ugly Kid Joe, Testament and W.A.S.P. Also, being held at a holiday park, it makes use of pre-existing indoor stages, and instead of camping attendees instead stay in the on-site campervans. Trust me when I say this, it is DEFINITELY a better way to experience a festival. Even those that aren’t at a Haven are usually held at indoor arenas, making it so much nicer if there is ever worse weather for the weekend.
Check it out here.
1 – Bloodstock
The top three spots were very close in contention, but for me Bloodstock just edges out the previous two for one main reason: it is almost insistent on pushing new bands. In recent years the festival has had at least one ‘up and coming’ metal band in one of their headline slots, be it Parkway Drive, Gojira, Amon Amarth or Mastadon. While the 2021 line-up doesn’t quite feature that, Devin Townsend is still fairly new, as are a lot of the undercard are getting pushed higher like Skindred, Jinjer and Bleed From Within.
Add that to the fact that, much like a lot of festivals on this list, they routinely knock it out of the park where their line-up is concerned. Having Devon joined by thrash metal titans Kreator and all-around metal legends Judas Priest in the three headline slots is good enough as it is. Not to mention the other incredible inclusions like Saxon, Diamond Head, Orange Goblin and Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons.
Plus, it is one of the most relaxed, friendliest atmospheres around, shocking for a metal festival I know. Massively kid friendly and welcoming to all, it is very hard to have a bad time at Bloodstock, unless you don’t like the type of music, that is. Hence why it has taken the top spot for me: Good music, plenty of new and older bands, and all-round good fun.
Check it out here.