Categorized | Festivals

Solfest 2011 Review – The Beginning

Posted on 22 October 2011 by Mizzle

Solfest, in its 8th year, is held in northern Cumbria on a fantastic site overlooking the Solway Firth. It is a small, family friendly festival and numbers are kept deliberately low for a great community feel.

The camp site opens to the public on Thursday and the extra £10 for a Thursday camping pass is well worth the money to get into the swing of it early, catch up with old friends, make new ones, and enjoy the views across the Solway Firth to Scotland.

There are now established Thursday traditions including the Pink Floyd Division Bell sound check – which we enjoyed lying next to the sound desk by the main arena, which was a rare treat, followed by sunset-watching from the hill overlooking the Firth.

The main site opens on Friday morning and music is then continuous on one stage or another right through till Monday morning – rare at any festival these days and making the £89 ticket exceptional value for money. The four main stages – Main, Bar, Drystone and Dance Tent – have staggered start times for each set, meaning you can see some of every band who play if you try hard enough. However, there are also other tents with music playing at all hours – Weirdigans, MostlyAcoustic, Dogs in Space, House of Joy, LoveShack and the Information tent, so there are always bands you miss, however good your intentions!

Starting by the main gate, it’s hard to miss the Dance Tent, especially if you camp on Shoreside (the noisy field). This year the Dance Tent had managed to pull in some big names such as Utah Saints and Subsource, as well as non-stop DJs till 4am, meaning that if you needed to burn off some energy there was always some dancing to be done, and the nearby stalls sell luminous everything, just in case you feel you might not be noticed! My visits to the Dance Tent were spontaneous rather than planned and the place was, as ever, kicking with plenty of drum and bass, techfunk, dubstep, rave pop, techno etc. I think my fave was Karma Kanic of local band Digital.is, who I saw last year and who have played as a band and individually at northern festivals such as Kendal Calling, Ravenstonedale, Beatherder etc, to growing acclaim.

Dancing can bring on a raging appetite and there were food stalls aplenty at Solfest, ranging from falafels to curries, wraps to wood fired pizzas, doughnuts to chips, local sausages to homemade pies, Jamaica to the Seychelles, so no excuse for not eating well right through the night! There are several late night bars as well as coffee stalls, and Solfest is getting a name for the most yummy hot chocolate around.

The furthest stage from the Dance Tent is Drystone, which holds a very special place for many, and its eclectic mix of music means that if you didn’t move all weekend, you would hear a little of every type of music. This year the Sunday evening was given over to local bands, and it would seem it is time for Cumbrian bands to be given far more national attention. It’s ordering on impossible to pick out the best acts, so check out the rest of my review for the highlights.

Lindsey Annison