Noislily festival – It’s growing in the woods – review by Sean Tizzard
‘And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever… ‘
We’re sat in the library at Noisily Festivalexcept it’s not a library. It’s a sculpture made out of wood with comfy armchairs backed with a wallpaper of books. We’re looking down from our vantage point, through an array of trees and plants, shimmering shades of green, towards the main stage. The main stage is itself a small, delightful, wooden structure entirely fitting in with the surrounding. The intense, afternoon sun is breaking through the fauna and it’s making me hot watching the sweating, scantily-clad, stunning people dancing to psytrance in the clearing below. In this moment of relaxed and yet pounding calm I ponder to myself if this is that ‘moment’.
Who would have thought this on the Friday when we arrived? Dark and dangerous clouds filled the skies and though the site for Noisily was clearly a bit special, the hill from the carpark, steeper than Glastonbury’s infamous hill of death, was rapidly becoming a mudslide. We’re met at the bottom of the hill by a bit of a queue. Security appear to have been instructed to check every punter, every suitcase, every backpack to ensure that nobody is breaking the alcohol allowance of eight cans or a bottle (not in glass). Whilst their reasons are clear and they carry out their task with good humour, I do wonder if the checks on tampons, condoms and Graze Boxes are completely necessary and hope that this paradise isn’t going to be stifled by suspicion. My fears are fortunately not realised.
The rain stops as my tent goes up for the first time this summer. I joke to a near neighbour that we won’t need our umbrellas again this weekend. I didn’t believe I’d be right. Dusk is drawing in and I sit in my camping chair and survey the lie of the land. This is clearly a beautiful site. There’s a sense of being in the middle of nowhere. Dance music echoes from the woodland below the mown, tidy field on which we camp. The campsite is gradually filling (though it never gets too busy all weekend). It’s a young, well-to-do crowd. Jemima, Lottie, Charles and Alexander have just finished their A-Levels at a posh London establishment and they’re here to let down their hair. Smiles and friendly conversations are plentiful and this pattern continues over the course of the weekend. With a crowd of no more than 1,000 you feel by the end of the weekend that you might have chatted to everybody on site.
We head off, wrapped up in fleeces, jumpers and kagoules, to explore the wooded playground below. It doesn’t take very long to realise that a real amount of thought and no doubt dosh has gone into the production of this electronic and visual art festival. There’s two stages across the site. We come to the Main Stage first where people are already getting pumped up by Real Nice’s old skool electro set. At the end of a beautifully lit path, we arrive at the Treehouse stage. As with all of the stages and other art installations that are dotted around the site, this stage is largely made out of wood. It fits in with the landscape showing off the beautiful natural setting that we find ourselves in. Eniz and Deniz are playing some house classics and showcasing the wares of the ‘Saints Don’t Sleep’ club night. It’s a feature across the weekend that this stage is given over to London and Southern based club night promoters. On the Saturday we have a Soltek showcase and on the Sunday Real Nice and TheseDays mix it up. It explains the prevalence of London based party people at the festival and makes clear why this feels like an inclusive community, accepting of strangers, but hugging of friends last seen in the Brixton Jamm.
Quality extends to the bars and to the food stalls which are again sympathetically set within the trees. Got Game becomes my favourite food stall over the weekend with its mix of wild boar, venison, confit duck wrap and quails eggs all presented perfectly. They’re not doing many festivals this year but if you’re lucky enough to see them at any you really should check them out. The Italian Kitchen is on site serving their quality pizza and pasta. Vegetarians are well catered for with the excellent Goodness Gracious Healthy Foods serving up their mix of burgers and Falafels. Completing the food offering is Roaming Giraffe’s Fools and Horses van selling coffee, cakes and fantastic bacon butties. There’s two bars on site. They’re busy but you never have to queue for long and the staff are friendly and chatty. Pints of Thatchers Gold or Asahi lager are the main draught offerings a little different from what you see at most festivals and a steal at £4. Pints of coke, lemonade, cranberry, orange and apple juice are £2 a pop. Cocktails are £6 if that’s your bent. Decent prices and you don’t feel like you’re being ripped off.
We’re sitting on a sofa in a treehouse laughing at people laughing at themselves as they blow £2 on a balloon filled with Nitrous Oxide. There’s no abundance of canisters adorning the woodland floor here for balloons are being inflated in a pop-up tent with giddy abandon. It’s a festival made for chilling and chatting, eavesdropping on random conversations. It’s Skins with a dash of Made in Chelsea. I love hearing about one punter who swears blind that his GP diagnosed him as having ‘Techno Shoulder’ after raising his arm at a rave a bit too often.
The music runs until six AM each night/morning and begins again at midday so it’s a full on aural bombardment we’re getting. Friday night for me is all about the breakbeat and electro licks that are coming from the main stage. Plump DJs are experienced elder statesmen in this wood and their infectious enthusiasm shines brightly. We get chatting to Lee Rous’ in-laws who live in Leicester and have never had chance to see their son in law play before. This friendly, intimate environment is a decent introduction to the sounds of the duo and their strong, varied set brings out smiles and adoration from all those gathered in this moonlit clearing. Back at the Treehouse stage, we sample a bit of Medlar, and then Citizen. It’s deep house and completely cool. I chat to people, smile more, buy drinks and realise that I’m not going to make it through until six. The tent beckons and I stumble back home passing the molecular breaks of Atomic Drop on the mainstage as I do.
Saturday (and indeed Sunday) morning arrives with a blast of glorious warmth. The woodland site doesn’t open until midday when the music starts so this is a time to chat with neighbours or get clean in one of the clean, free showers on offer. Toilet provision both in the site and on the campsite is adequate. Throughout the weekend, they’re cleaned well and stocked with paper and handwash.
The site’s small and compact but we hadn’t seen the Field Lounge Village on the Friday so that’s our first point of call when we head in on Saturday. It’s a chilled cafe space, complete with bales of hay. There’s all sorts of woodland art around here-painted toadstools, elaborate carvings you can sit on and old twelve inch records floating freely from the trees. We choose to watch some comedy put on by promoter Tickled Pig. It has its moments but it’s quite ramshackle and we don’t stay to watch headliner Phil Kay although we do see him mooching about. I chuckle when compere Robbie Ormrod describes Leicester as the sort of town where you look out of one Greggs window to see another Greggs down the Street. This is as good as it gets. But I don’t want to appear too harsh because there’s no doubt that a ramble with comedy early on a Saturday afternoon provides welcome variety to the electronic music on offer.
Not that the electronic music isn’t in itself varied. There’s live electronica coming from the mainstage on Saturday afternoon and early Saturday evening. We sit on a big chair, covered in artificial grass, straight out of Alice in Wonderland and watch Moho Mynoki, Captain Flatcap, and Dems do their stuff in the sun. Moho Mynoki are a female fronted funky house outfit though they seem to be unclear about who they want to be. It’s not unpleasant background music but there’s little here that draws me away from people watching. Captain Flatcap are much more interesting. It’s electro-swing performed with flute and mandolin and as their set progresses they draw a growing crowd intrigued by the opportunities to dance. I’m really impressed with Dems and it’s such a shame that they draw a disappointingly small crowd. Hunched together in a circle a la caribou, this trio do a dreamy, electronica with the sweetest of soul vocals. If there was any justice in this world they’d be bigger than Bastille. Proper songwriting but perhaps too chilled for the early evening party massive.
The main stage is Techno-central on Saturday night, Whilst many of the crowd are clearly drawn to the pumped up beats, we choose to take in the house based Soltek offerings coming from the Treehouse Stage. Before that though, we spend time chatting around a makeshift camp fire that’s lit by the Italian Kitchen. People aren’t rushing to get anywhere. Although the beats from the stages are often frenetic, there’s no such urgency coming from the punters and this adds to the laidback calm that the site brings. I recognise Lizzle who’s DJing on the Treehouse stage. She’s camped behind us and her pink jumper is a defining image. She puts in a solid set before apparently being hideously sick. I know that she’s hideously sick because she’s not shy in telling her campsite mates the next day about her escapades. Dale Howard is a deep house DJ with a sphere that’s rising and tonight he really gets the party moving with hypnotic nods, tinkling keyboards and submerged vocals. People are exuberant, swaggering, swaying and standing right in front of the speakers to get the full bass effect from this set. We stay for more but again I realise that my days of dancing until six are over and I depart for my tent. It’s been a glorious day but I’m grateful for my thermals tonight.
Sunday is Psytrance day. It’s also bloody hot. It’s when I almost have my moment. It’s been years since I randomly stumbled upon a Tribe of Frog night in Bristol and since then I’ve had a fleeting affection for all things Psy. I’m by no means an expert like many who are here to party for the solid 18 hours but I know that today in the heat will be a treat. Fuzzy Logic, Fede, and IPcress all put in full on, bass heavy sets helping the afternoon to sparkle but the real revelation is Bahar Canca who takes us into another orbit with her boundary shaking revelations. I take a break to eat another Wild Boar burger and return in good time to catch the whole set of Perfect Stranger. Perfect Stranger is the stage name for Israeli DJ, Yuli Fershtat. I doubt that this ‘headliner’ has played a smaller, more intimate festival for quite some time but he throws his all into this. He gives us a masterclass in mixing, a lesson in keeping our attention. He plays just as it’s getting dark. Somebody turns to me and says they can’t work out if the sun is going down or coming up. I laugh but I can fully see how this is music that can confuse, distort, contort and flap. The hour and a half passes in a flash and I’m left wanting more. I stay and watch Lumi for a while but this doesn’t immediately seem to fit with the Psytrance that has gone before. There’s dark lighting and flashes of dark guitar mixed up with a strand of female vocal but I can’t tell if this is just a soundcheck. The greatest hits of the Chemical Brothers seem to be interspersed within the mix and it all just feels a tad too odd.
We head up to the Treehouse stage for one last dance of the weekend. Mat.Joe, two young lads from Germany, are gracing the stage. It’s more deep house this time from Berlin. Sometimes the mixes don’t always seem to work but they do a better job than I could do. It’s not as busy up here as it was last night. In fact, the site has thinned out considerably and I wonder why this is, especially as it’s a bank holiday weekend. Mat.Joe are replaced by Monte and though I don’t stay for all of his set I’m impressed by the soulful house that is offered up. I look skywards. A plethora of lights are bark-bouncing; the trees are shuddering with beauty and I quietly announce to myself that I’ll be back here next year.
Noisily Festival of Music and Arts is an absolute delight. It’s a miniature, more palatable Glade. Even if you’re not a big fan of Electronic music, I think you will squeal at the beauty that’s on offer. There are moments to be had here. Who’s joining me in 2014?