Notfest, Sicily – Italy
Sicily, the island that looks like it’s being kicked by the toe of Italy’s boot, is a place more often associated with arancini, gelato and sun, sea and sand than contemporary dance music. But just outside the recently restored UNESCO World Heritage site Noto, a beautiful sleepy town on Sicily’s east coast, the locals host a 3 day festival called Notfest.
Held in the local football ground with views of the cathedral dome and the kind of stunning sunsets you only get in the Mediterranean, the small festival attracts an up for it crowd from all over the island as well as from “the continent”, as mainland Italy is called here.
In complete contrast to the jumbo line-ups and endless, in your face, screaming publicity efforts that characterise the recession-era music festival as promoters try everything to lure in punters, Notfest takes a more minimal approach, choosing just 3 “names” to headline its proceedings. This year they were Tricky Live, Berlin label head Dixon and old favourites 2manydjs.
We started our Notfest experience on the beach – there’s several to pick from nearby but Carratois comes with white sand, warm waters and on-demand cocktails. Tan having reached an acceptable level, though still (literally) paling in comparison to the locals, we headed off to where the music was coming from. With just 1 stage, scheduling clashes are non-existent so thankfully there’s no need to create complicated excel docs before departure, or shell out a fiver for a paper programme that’s bound to be reduced to pulp by a combination of rainwater and warm cider like back home (Big Chill 2009, I’m looking at you).
With the sea air in our lungs, we sang along with 2manydjs as they played out their standard set: classic tunes beat matched for optimum dancefloor fun. Setlist stalwarts such as LCD Soundsystem and Jacques Lu Cont remixes were joined by latest indie darlings AlunaGeorge (no, not the Disclosure version). Live VJing from VJ Emme and VJ Kar accompanied the music, projecting bright and bold images straight onto the exposed wall of an empty building opposite the stage. Tricky, on the other hand, received a more mixed response from the Sicilians, with many complaining that he didn’t perform anything they knew, opting for material off new album False Idols that’s harder to dance to. Dixon, who followed, got a warmer reception with his bass-heavy, beat-laden cut of melodic electronica.
With the sun awake and shining bright, we stopped for breakfast of almond milk and espresso in nearby Pachino before driving back to our campsite with the top down. By far the best place to stay is the Da Vinci campsite – a lively spot in a lemon and olive tree grove where as a Notfest ticket holder you get a discount – and they practically have home brewed Nero d’Avola on tap. On our last night a famous local circus troupe rocked up and treated campers to an impromptu performance as well as the biggest seafood grill we’d ever seen.
For anyone tired of the already over-hyped, over-saturated and over-crowded beach festival scene, Notfest provides the perfect antidote with its more low-key offering, in a beautiful setting as many delicious local flavours as you can handle.