It's fair to say that Reading's Are You Listening? Festival is somewhat overshadowed by its geographically similar August-held music festival. But perhaps it shouldn't be. At just £15 for dozens of top notch bands across various venues, and none of the logistic issues of camping and what not, Are You Listening is certainly worth investigating.
We have ten fine acts to recommend but of course, there's plenty more, and we've even been insolent enough to have left out hype merchants Black Honey and headliners such as DJ Format and The Wave Pictures. Obviously, if you're chomping at the bit to catch any bands at the Fest, it's always best to head to a venue early. If you're up for some musical exploring then here's some starting points:
Jazz Morley (15.30, RYND)
Probably one of the better ways to ease yourself into AYL? 2016 would be to catch Jazz Morley, whose haunting tracks (such as 'Set Her Free') have marked her as one to watch. She's malleable too, appearing as a live vocalist for producer Draper later this month.
Allman Brown (17.45, Milk)
The London singer-songwriter has had a string of impressive collabs with the likes of Robyn Sherwell, Liz Lawrence, and Sophie Jamieson, but his solo emotive folk sounds provide a richness and warmth that should appeal in the relatively intimate surroundings of Milk.
Esther Joy Lane (18.00, Purple Turtle)
We think there's a touch of Zola Jesus about Oxford's Esther Joy Lane - sharing similarities in their powerful vocals as well as their willingness to embrace the experimental. Let a little darkness into your heart.
The Amazons (19.00, Bowery District)
I didn't quite get round to catching The Amazons last year at AYL but I did end up seeing them impress in front of a relatively small audience at Bushstock Festival. Since then, they've signed to Fiction (home of The Maccabees and Spector) so I expect to see a deservedly larger crowd at this fest.
Eddie Prové (19.00, Purple Turtle)
Starting to make waves in 2016 thanks to the strength of tracks like 'Never Cared' and 'Silent Love', Eddie Prové's Sam Smith-fronting-OneRepublic vibe has the quality to stand up to the might of The Amazons. Shame they clash really.
Everhazel (19.30, RYND)
A Reading stalwart as earnest singer-songwriter Haze, Everhazel is the latest iteration of Hazel Tratt's musical journey - bigger and bolder in some respects, but still sounding as intimate as ever. If you're seeking a calming influence at AYL? then look no further.
Bloodflower (19.30, St Laurence Church)
Bloodflower electronic-infused pop tracks have an air of The Killers and The Temper Trap about them, but perhaps the greatest compliment we can pay the duo is that each new track of theirs feels better than the last. It's a run that's destined to end sometime but only because there's surely a glass ceiling on quality. Surely?
Lovestarrs (20.00, Purple Turtle)
We may never hear an album from The Good Natured, whose demise essentially at the hands of the music industry was a tad distressing. However, Lovestarrs are the phoenix-from-the-ashes in this scenario, and with a fresh new electro-pop album on its way, we're expecting a suitably enthused live show.
Boxed In (22.00, St Laurence Church)
Once a joint winner of Road To V (Festival), alongside Bombay Bicycle Club, when he was a member of slightly off-kilter Mancunian indie outfit Keith, Oli Bayston has forged a strong new identity as an enigmatic solo artist and producer. One to get you moving.
Big Deal (23.15, Oakford Social Club)
The brilliantly nostalgic #indieamnesty recently reminded me of plenty of enjoyable music from my youth, such as rambunctious whippersnappers Pull In Emergency. Back then Big Deal's Alice Costelloe was a "Johnny Marr-worshipping guitarist", and while her work with Kacey Underwood doesn't quite elevate her to Marr levels, the band have quietly impressed over their first two albums. Expect them to loudly impress live.
Find more info and purchase tickets at areyoulistening.org.uk.