On June 30th, The Darkness will make their first festival appearance of summer 2023, when they join headliners Guns N' Roses at London's BST Hyde Park festival. Ahead of their return to the stage, Louder asked Dan Hawkins to nominate the 10 Greatest Festival Bands Ever, and when the guitarist joins us on a Zoom call from his recently-completed home studio, he flashes a sheet of A4 paper bearing handwritten notes to prove that he's done his homework. What a pro.
"I've listed the 10 acts in order, as the running order for my one-day festival: Danington," he explains. "So to set the scene, imagine you've woken up in your tent, hungover like a bastard, you've just spent ten quid on a bacon sarnie, and the first band is on at, let's say. 8am. Ready?"
Born ready. Scream for me Danington...
The John Williams Orchestra
"You don't want to have your head blown off the minute you roll out of your tent, so we'll start the day off with the John Williams Orchestra. It's music that you can appreciate while lying down in the mud, and a nice chilled way to start the day.... with no headbanging.
Everyone is a fan of John Williams, aren't they? Individual bands can provide a soundtrack to your life, but John Williams has soundtracked everybody's life, because his work is inescapable. As a bonus, I might throw in a guest appearance from John Williams the classical guitarist too, so you'd have John Williams squared."
"In keeping with the laidback, melodic, slow start to the festivities, I'm going to have Teenage Fanclub as the second band on. I'm a massive fan, and as far as harmonies, and melodies, and feel-good music, a Teenage Fanclub 'best of' set would be a nice way to warm up everyone's vocal tubes with singalongs: they're the only band that can get me to sing harmonies with my arm around a stranger and they'd be a great choice to bring everyone together. They're the next best thing to having The Beatles on second I'd say."
"These guys are on here because I saw them the other night at The Emirates and thought they were really good. But don't worry, the music will get heavier as the day goes on!
I've not seen anyone wear shades better than Alex Turner, even at night time, and to be honest, they were just cool as fuck. I didn't think I was a fan at all, actually, I only went as my daughter is a huge fan, but I was definitely a fan by the end [of the show], fucking hell. What a show! Their production was amazing, and the way they were filmed meant that it was like watching a classic show from the '70s or '80s but in real time. Plus, I found that I recognised almost all their songs, even though I didn't consider myself a fan. So, yes, I think they could be a real 'sleeper' hit at Danington."
"I'm gonna put us on now. The reason why we're not headlining, is that headlining a festival is actually a pain in the arse: it's stressful, there's quite a lot of pressure on you, and you have to spend the whole day sober, which is never that fun when all your friends in bands who've already played are having a real party. There's also something about watching other bands killing it all through the day that really puts you on edge when you know you've still got your 'work' to do later.
I'm proud that we got to headline Reading festival - for us that felt like the first time that we weren't an underdog band and I wouldn't trade that experience - but for this imaginary scenario we'll happily take an early afternoon slot, and then hang out and watch the other bands and just enjoy the rest of the day."
The Lemon Twigs
"This is a band that I would love to see at a festival. I saw The Lemon Twigs recently in Brighton and it was just really entertaining, really fun to watch, and they keep you guessing at every turn. Since it's now afternoon at Danington and everyone has woken up a bit after we've played, it's nice to see a band who can take you in a different direction than you were expecting.
One of the joys of festivals is wandering around and catching a band that you kinda thought you knew, and then have them really surprise you: I remember once at Reading in the '90s I stumbled upon The Flaming Lips in one of their early incarnations and they sounded nothing like I imagined they would, and I was really impressed. So yeah, The Lemon Twigs are a great band, and a band that a lot more people should know about, so here's a platform for them to have a breakthrough moment. Plus, they're a real 'feel good' bad, and things are about to get really very un-feel good..."
"Okay, I realise this is very specific, but to make up for all the 'niceness' early, next up is Obituary playing Cause Of Death [the band's second album, released in 1990] in full, which means performing tracks such as Body Bag and Chopped In Half. That should wake people up.
When I was about 13 I was the drummer in a death/thrash metal band, and we were kinda doing stuff like Nuclear Assault or early Metallica, but our bass player kept bringing in records that just seemed to get heavier and heavier, Cause Of Death being one of them, and it was just beyond comprehension at the time, because of how dark and heavy it was. It was so ridiculously heavy, in fact, that I found it funny at the time, and I still do now. I'd probably be too scared to go see them play in a club now, I could imagine people sacrificing animals in the middle of the gig, but outdoors in the sunshine, with a prawn sandwich? Lovely."
"So after the death metal conjuring, I'm bringing a band back from the dead: Thin Lizzy doing Live and Dangerous. I know it's an obvious choice, but it would just be so greatn to hear those dual guitars doing that thing that no-one else can, and to see Phil Lynott doing his thing, which I missed, sadly. Imagine seeing the sunlight shining off the reflective pick guard of Phil's Precision bass... [sighs deeply] what a vision that would be. Obviously we'd have the classic line here, but we could have Eric Bell guesting on the early songs that he played on, because no-one else plays like he does, with that folky feel that I love."
"I was at Reading festival once when Metallica were playing The Black Album - I was one of the fans trying to fight my way to the front, fighting really hard, but not making it anywhere close - and it was one of the most intense experiences of my life. The sound was fucking phenomenal, the best sound I've ever heard at a festival, and when they played Sad But True it was one of the greatest moments of my life, the heaviest thing I've ever heard. So Metallica doing The Black Album in full as the sun goes down, then banging out all the classic thrashers? Perfection.
"Okay, I know this might be controversial, but I'm going with Kiss next. And the reason I'm going for Kiss is that I've kinda spurned Kiss for my entire career - everyone expected us to be influenced by Kiss, which we weren't - but we've played with them a number of times over the past 10 years, and finally getting to see them play made it all make sense to me.
Kiss are one of those bands that literally have to be seen to be believed, and no-one brings it production-wise like they do, and never will: the sheer firepower they have on stage is fucking ridiculous. For me, they're the musical equivalent of The Life Of Brian, because it's so over the top, and so much money has been spent on trying to entertain you, that you just have to grin all the way through. So let's have a full-on Kiss show, the greatest hits, no fucking about, with all the lasers and fire: I would not miss that show."
"A predictable choice I know, but come on, who's better than AC/DC? I'm a huge fan of Powerage, and we never get enough of it at AC/DC shows, for a very obvious reason, so I'd have Bon [Scott] back, and have them play the whole of Powerage, and then they can play whatever the fuck they want, because really, I won't give a shit after that, life will have peaked.
"Actually, that's maybe a bit unfair on Brian [Johnson], because I'm a big fan of Brian as well, and no-one else can do what he can do. So, tell you what, let's have Powerage in full, and then Brian putting the ball in the back of the net with Back In Black in full. With Gene Simmons and Rammstein handling the show production, with Gene insisting that all the money that would have gone towards booking bands for a second day is spent on Ac/DC's pyro. Then the next day can be Queen acoustic, with Freddie [Mercury] and Brian [May] just wandering through the crowd like wandering minstrels, serenading the survivors."
The Darkness play BST Hyde Park on June 30, supporting Guns N' Roses.