Free London Gigs: iTunes Festival

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iTunes Festival - The Foals

A month of free gigs can’t be bad, right? Especially when they’re held at a legendary venue, feature some very big names … oh, and did we mention you can get in for nowt?

These 30 days of gratis gigs are, of course, courtesy of the iTunes Festival, which has fast become one of London’s biggest free music events. Since starting out at the compact ICA in 2007, it’s grown in size and shifted north to Camden, the capital’s live music heart. It now occupies the beautiful Roundhouse for the whole of July, and has gained a reputation for putting on some seriously good bands.

Last year saw Oasis, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand take to the stage among others. And although less than a third of the acts for 2010 have been announced so far, it’s shaping up pretty nicely.

We particularly like the sound of The XX ,who are likely to be more minimalist than you can imagine, but still brilliant; The National, whose epic, smouldering, broad-shouldered rock should fit wonderfully in the vaulted venue; and Foals (pictured), because their second album is even better than the first, and the first was pretty sweet too.

That’s the good news. Now here’s the bad. As the festival has grown, so has the competition for tickets. Back in the midst of time (2008), we recall that merely entering the competition was often enough to guarantee tickets – and if not, you could just rock up on the night and join the standby queue.

But such is the publicity behind the event now that most evenings are over-subscribed. As a result, the crowd can sometimes feel disconnected from the act on stage. Last year we witnessed Graham Coxon playing his folky new album – full of subtlety and quiet beauty – to a crowd who mostly just wanted to hear Blur tunes.

We can live with that though. The prize draw system is democratic, fair and free – and when else do you get to see an act like Faithless in a 3,000 capacity venue that’s bursting with character and heritage? We’re sold. Roll on July.

The iTunes Festival runs from 1 – 31 July. There’s full information about the fairly involved ticketing process over on the festival site. Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the line-up – we’re predicting at least one or two monster names, and some good support too. Though there’ll be no Oasis this year, for obvious reasons.

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