Solfest 2011 Review – The Highlights

Posted on 23 October 2011 by Mizzle

The Safires played a hauntingly good set on Friday night, and then mixed it up with an incredible beatboxer who stopped people in their tracks – I can’t remember his name, but he was g.o.o.d. Then Rory McLeod filled the air with harmonica and quirky lyrics before Dogan Mehmet and the Deerhunters took over the stage and raised more than a few eyebrows. If you haven’t looked Dogan up yet, and like rousing multicultural rhythms, do so. Another band to mix the cultures and well worth checking out has to be the Balkanics, especially if you hate standing still at a gig, but it’s hard to top the Pikey Beatz for skanking rhythms either. I have a squidgy soft spot for the Pikeys and simply cannot get enough of them. Or Spoonfish.

The Drystone is the Pikey Beatz spiritual home, and this Northumberland band deserve a rousing review for making Solfest their own over the last few years. So much so that now people are looking to use the occasion of their set to make wedding roposals prior to the Pikey’s playing. Each year, the Pikeys have played the Drystone and managed to find another
space to play again for their hardcore and growing audience. That dedication was rewarded this year and on Friday night they totally owned the Main Stage.

It was heartening to see that there were possibly more fans there than for other far better known bands. On Friday we were treated to the likes of Spoonfish (definitely my favourite Solfest song)  and Pictures, whilst their Saturday set included old avourites such as Allendale, Marsupial King,  and Supercalifragilistic to an absolutely packed Drystone Hill. Rumours that they would be playing again, somewhere, on Sunday appeared to be untrue, but I for one will be gutted if it turns out we missed another chance to see them. If you book bands and want your audience to dance their hearts out, you need this north-eastern, footstomping, reggae/ska band on board!

Last on Friday evening on the Drystone was the simply awesome Dub Jazz Sound System. They are playing in 3 weeks time in
Manchester and I will be going! Talented jazz musicians, they had the whole of Drystone bouncing, and I hope that there is  more video footage and downloadable music of theirs online soon.

Camille O’Sullivan played the main stage immediately after the Pikeys’ Saturday set and her show was breathtaking, including lying on the front of the stage at one point, which must have made some of those at the front think they might be about to ignite. What a voice and what a presence! I dashed back to catch some of 3 Daft Monkeys set at Drystone before the Damned, and was extremely glad I had. Their reviews are, if possible, too modest and their awards well-deserved. Sadly, I missed the full set of Super Best Friends Club later due to the UK Subs playing the Bar Tent, but their psychedelic pop is going on the iPod, especially Sunshine.

The highlight on Sunday at the Drystone is always the Weird String Ceilidh – for example, enthusiastic “Stripping the Willow” from 2-300 festival goers, many still in fancy dress, is a sight to behold. And local band Room Full of Mirrors on Sunday evening will hopefully make it to the main stage next year, especially as apparently Jake the drummer works in our local co-op!

Right next to the Drystone is the MostlyAcousticCumbria tent which you could almost miss, but this was very much a space in which to stumble upon rare gems. The young lady on Saturday afternoon with the astounding voice to send shivers down your spine was one such, and reminded me of Nathalie Merchant of 10000 Maniacs. I suspect the MAC tent will gain more fame in years to come for those who are privileged to fall over those special moments that Solfest is fast gaining a reputation for.

Two new tents this year were House of Joy (24 hour reggae) and The Loveshack (a bit of everything) and this corner of the site was abuzz. Hopefully, these tents will become a permanent feature – thanks to the Wailers popularity last year and the overflowing reggae tent, it’s probably a given. Dr Huxtable of Axis Sound, who played the Wickerman Festival reggae tent, gave us a stomping set, as did DJ Jah Vis from Lancaster/Kendal. House of Joy covered everything from ska to roots, reggae to dub – something for everyone, and no-one who dropped into HOJ seemed to leave in a hurry! The Jamaican food stall next door added to the atmosphere with curry goat and sweet potato chips our top recommendations.

The unexpected highlight of the Bar Stage for me was UK Subs. A really tight set of short fiery songs, including Warhead, meant a kicking mosh pit which featured Elvis, a banana, and Where’s Wally pogoing madly! (Saturday night is Fancy Dress night). Bombskare blew the Bar Tent off its axis on Sunday night, and you can see why they deserve the title of “Scotland’s Premier Ska Band”. If you can stand still to this you must be superglued to the floor!

Lindsey Annison