Categorized | Festivals

Solfest 2011 Review – The Extra’s

Posted on 25 October 2011 by Mizzle

Dogs In Space aka the Chill Out Tent has become my second home over the years, and this year I seemed to master the zen of getting a sofa space regularly, which means that the dawn is often clearly on the horizon, or past, before you feel like moving from this ambient, psychedelic and comfy heaven. The highlights this year were Celtarabia, who I first saw in Hebden Bridge about 15 years ago, and the fusion of high energy world music with that most awesome instrument – the hurdy gurdy – never fails to lighten the soul. An early morning stumble upon in Dogs was Kava Kava at 3am Sunday morning. Three saxophones, guitars and drums were squeezed onto the tiny stage in front of the Dogs hypnotic video screen and we were treated to Pat Fulgoni and some serious 21st century James Brown-esque funkjoy for an hour or more.

Dogs is open from Friday morning to Monday and once ensconced in that huge carpeted tent, hung with fabrics and lit with psychedelic mood lights with huge AV screens, snuggled deep into a sofa, with fantastic food and music, you will find it extremely difficult to leave. Saturday morning found a huge group of us outside around a roaring fire, playing giant Connect 4 and watching the sunrise as DJ Michael Dog and the Solfest Djs kept us entertained. Bliss!

Solfest has many perambulatory artists, from jugglers, fire poi and fire eaters, to processions, storytellers, and fairies on stilts. The absolute highlight of this year was the 20+ strong sideways drumming group Boom Dang /Ting Tang. Energetic, enthusiastic and with melodic rhythms, this was a must see/hear covering merengue, drum and bass, bhangra, drumline etc. Check them
out, or go try a drumming workshop with them, you won’t regret it.

The Kids Area is lively, and tinies through to teens will find plenty to keep them occupied here. As will adults wanting to play. Pushchairs abound at Solfest, showing just how family friendly this festi is, and I hear the Baby Chill Out Tent was popular with those who just wanted a chillax with their little uns. Personally, I love the tribes of kids who are gainfully employed recycling all the beer glasses from the drinkers for 10p each – saves giving them pocket money and these sprogs fulfill a useful in keeping Solfest green. It’s a frequent sight at Solfest – a pair of little legs sticking out of one of the massive wooden recycling boxes trying to grasp that elusive plastic cup someone has thoughtlessly thrown away, rather than leaving it out for them to cash in.

Saturday is Fancy Dress evening and so a massive thank you to all those who get in to this part of Solfest with such enthusiasm and provide enormous entertainment over and above the organised offerings. The most notable this year were the 15-20 toy soldiers from Toy Story, who must have spent all evening re-arranging their poses for photos, but there were literally hundreds of other amazing outfits. Some of the performers even got into the spirit of things – it must be strange performing to smurfs, gnomes, Lego men, Wallace and Gromit, Tetris pieces and crayons!! Hat tip as well to the Peggers – a group of kids who had literally hundreds of handwritten clothes pegs, and went round sneakily pegging unsuspecting festival goers.

The Damned began their 35th Anniversary Tour here at Solfest – it will end in Tokyo next year – and they headlined on Saturday. However, for me, nothing can surpass their set last year
when thousands of people attempted to cram into the Bar tent and I managed to see them whilst standing on a chair not 6ft from Captain Sensible, who I got a chat with afterwards backstage. The Stranglers played a rousing set on Sunday evening, but they were the first headline act I ever saw at a festival, so, for me, top of the headliners this year have to be the SawDoctors, who I had never seen live before and who deserve far more acclaim for their charisma on stage – they had the whole hill rocking!

All in all, the meagre ticket price is worth every single penny and it is hard to remember how many bands we saw over the three packed days, but we still missed a few notables who we will be
looking out for elsewhere having heard rave reviews from other Solfesties. The weather even stayed fine, apart from Saturday afternoon, and a lie in on Saturday morning was out because the sun was cracking the tent pegs! Solfest really is one of the best of the smaller festivals, and obviously I am not alone in thinking this as ticket sales were up again this year.

The friendly atmosphere, great site, decent toilets, tasty food, and the fact you are treated as responsible humans rather than potential criminals or idiots means that, whilst there are always going to be a minority of morons at any gathering, Solfest manages to bring out the best in people and, for me, stands head and shoulders above larger festivals, reminding me of Big Green Gathering in its early days.

On that note, many thanks to the organisers, stewards, Wellfairies and all the other volunteers who make Solfest a unique, highly enjoyable, and unmissable date on the festival calendar. And
to all our new friends, see you next year!!

Lindsey Annison