Tag Archive | "Solfest 2011 Review"

Solfest 2011 Review – The Extra’s


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

Solfest 2011 Review – The Highlights

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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

Solfest 2011 Review – The Beginning


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