Reviewed: Noisily Festival of Music and Arts 2015
My first Noisily festival will most definitely not be my last. With four stages of the cream of electronic music laid out in a lush green woodland packed with art installations, performers, communal chilling spaces, fun stuff to play with, an array of bar and a great food market, this really was everything you would ever want in a much larger festival compressed into the perfect size. With this edition of Noisily festival having one of the best line ups I’ve seen in a long time, the main challenge was going to be how I could see and hear as much as possible of it over the weekend…
Arriving on site late Friday night after a long day at work, I was keen to see DJ Josko, who’d been one of the highlights of last year’s epic Boom Festival. Unfortunately the practicalities of camping got in the way and it was much later when we finally made it into the festival site itself. When I did finally catch up with the man himself on Sunday afternoon he laughed and told me that his set at Boom 2014 hadn’t been one of his good ones and his set at Noisily had been much better – just my luck eh?
Walking into the festival itself for the first time at night was absolutely breathtaking with the ambient forest lighting reflecting off a cornucopia of beautiful shiny art installations, lanterns and hammocks. While the lights and lasers from the perfectly-placed Noisily stage drew us in, with friends to find and other stages to discover we resisted the urge to spend the next 3 days at this magical musical altar and explore what else the festival had in store.
After a much-needed falafel from a cafe high up in the trees we followed the fabulous funk coming from the Tree House stage to find bastion of British bass music William Breakspear holding the fort. Up to his usual high standards, we stopped for a quick wiggle and to admire the lush In Orbit décor before it was time to head back to the Noisily stage for some Jossie Telch from Undergroove Mexico, who, alongside his label-mate Rulas had been lauded as festival favourites by the likes of James Monro. Next up, prog-tech man of the moment Ben Coda followed with his unique blend of progressive techno funk which had a swelling dancefloor stomping along.
You really can’t beat that feeling of anticipation on a Friday night at a festival, as people slowly but surely forget the stresses of their daily lives and start to really unwind – safe in the knowledge that they have found a haven of hedonism and that this is only the start of something special. Resisting the urge to stay for a rare set from Dataura, we headed through the trees to the Liquid stage, where the psy trance crew were going crazy to Earthling’s set. Too soon he was finishing up and handing the stage over to the legend that is Laughing Buddha – whose Friday night Liquid stage closing set was definitely one of the high points of the weekend for me.
With the incredible décor from the Liquid Faeries, we really felt like we’d landed in a magic forest, the enchantment only aided by the various performances throughout the weekend from tight-rope walkers, trapeze artists, aerial projectionists, fire shows, jugglers, a group of people dressed as cavepeople (the Tribe) and perhaps most uniquely, belly button decorations. There were also endless examples of the true British festival spirit as the lines between entertainers and festival-goers were well and truly blurred with unicorns, fawns, nymphs, fairies and a bloke with flames coming out of his top hat all coming out of the forest to create havoc and wonder on the dancefloor.
While it seemed a bit disconcerting to queue for a few minutes to get back onto the main site on Saturday morning at 11am, meaning the opening DJs had to start off playing to empty dancefloors, it was refreshing to walk into such a green pristine space. The colourful festival tribes were soon sitting eating breakfast and chilling with a liquid lunch at one of the many shared spaces built into the trees, and perhaps even more unusual for a British festival, there was an abundance of spotless loos. Walking around the site in daylight for the first time on Saturday morning I was impressed by how much had been carefully constructed into a relatively compact area: the combination of the organisers being seasoned festival pros and the land actually being Noisily’s permanent home all coming into play. So, not only were there lots of little covered communal sitting areas for people to sit and socialise and take shelter from the elements, but a beautiful wooden cocktail bar built into the forest equipped with benches and bean bags, and attention to detail wherever you looked in the lush green woodland. Forcing myself to take it all in instead of going straight to any one of the four stages to dance was hard work though, especially with inSpiral event innovator Aliji kicking things off at the Noisily stage with his signature groovy sounds, so we headed over to catch the last of his set and to see London’s ‘Take It Deep’ tech-head Tom Real take over the helm. Despite it being barely lunchtime the dancefloor was already starting to build and the vibe was contagious.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire festival for me was eclectic Melbourne-based Kiwi maestro Grouch’s set on the Liquid stage on Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, the Function 1 sound was blasting, and the happy technicolour blissed out crowd were loving it as he dropped some old-time favourites, such as ‘On the downs’ and ‘Switch arms’ dispersed with some of his newer tracks. Technically this wasn’t Grouch’s first UK set in too many years as he had already played a ‘Grouch in Dub’ set at the Tree House Stage the previous day – which from all reports went down a treat – but the crowd at the Liquid stage were most definitely appreciative as the atmosphere stayed peaked for his two-hour set.
The international headliners kept rolling as Israeli full-on psy-trancers Loud took over, followed by London-based Hungarian-born Hopi’s unique take on full-on psy. As a big fan of Hopi’s techier stuff I would have liked to see him follow Grouch and take it into full-on, but as he was followed by pioneering label Flying Rhino showcasing the techier sounds of Bumbling Loons, 4D and Darshan, it all made sense. A combination of techno great James Monro and psy trance legend Dick Trevor, this scarce set from Bumbling Loons was always going to be a festival must for many. Surely one of the hardest-working artists at the festival on Saturday, Monro kept the tunes coming for his more minimal-tech 4D collaboration with Grant Collins, followed by Collins solo, aka Darshan’s distinctly darker sounds, which even got some of our non-psy trance friends up and into the groove.
Unfortunately Noisily stage headliner Boris Brejcha was unable to make it due to illness, but Stephan Bodzin, Victor Ruiz and progressive techno live act Nanoplex more than made up for it on Saturday night, the occasional rain only adding to the atmosphere on top of the trippy lights, lasers and smoke. Then it was down to James Monro to take it home – this time flying solo – who was quite simply amazing, proving that good things do still happen in threes as he closed his third epic set for the day.
Sunday was jump-started by progressive selectress Sophia Bohman aka DJ Svess opening the Noisily stage, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t proving cooperative, and while it was great for having a much-needed sleep-in snuggling in our tent, we only just managed to make it down for the last bit of her set. After a quick queue for coffee, pizza then of course, drinks from the cocktail bar in the trees, we finally tracked down the Nicholas Cage stage to catch the tail end of international jetsetter Robin Triskele’s set. Her sumptuous blend of funky downbeat electronica was a perfect Sunday session treat as happy festival-goers chilled on the abundant bean bags to Scuba’s ‘I Know’. Covering everything from disco to reggae, the Nicholas Cage stage also served as a retreat for those who wanted to relax away from the more pumping sound systems of the main stages.
Bimbling around the Noisily stage for the bulk of the afternoon for progressive sets from Morph, Hamish and Emok I made a belated discovery in the form of Kingbloom Cocktails, which come in a jar with a lid so you don’t spill any of your drink dancing. With just a couple of hours left on site we managed to catch the last of Planet Shroom’s Lurk on the Liquid Stage and a bit of Scandinavian prog god Gaudium, heading back to the camping field to pack up our tent just as another tight-rope walker emerged out of the forest high above the Noisily stage. But we had to tear ourselves away and were tucked up at home chilling with a DVD before 10pm ready to face another hectic week. Friends assure me the Bassport FM takeover of the Treehouse stage on Sunday night smashed it, with Duffer and Durburban Poison b2b followed by Freefall Collective rinsing it for their closing set.
Having been to countless festivals over several continents — from many flawlessly planned Japanese and European events to the biggies like Glastonbury and Boom — I didn’t expect to be so impressed by a wee festie such as Noisily. But the beautiful location, stonking line-up, slick organisation, gorgeous décor, up-for-it friendly crowd and nicely understated green credentials all make it one of the most delectable yet. The fact it’s barely an hour’s drive from my front door and easily commutable from London is just the cherry on the top. So please only tell your close friends about it – while there’s plenty of room for it to grow, we want to keep this one as unspoiled as possible.