Festibelly started as a birthday party in a field in Hampshire’s New Forest, arranged by its founder Andy Bell (hence the ‘Belly’ tag). Whilst it’s grown a little from those early days it still very much has the sense of being like someone’s private garden party, just with a lot of extra friends.
With a mellow, chilled out atmosphere by day, helped by pretty much festival perfect weather, to the more raucous party-spirited evenings, over its three stages (Main Stage, the big top like Terrapin Station and the large tipi construction that formed the Massive In China stage complete with sofas, benches and hay bales to sit on) Festibelly provided a smattering of established acts and festival favourites as well as plenty of newer artists, to a crowd of young and old alike.
Here are 10 things we learnt at this year’s Festibelly:
1. People like a sit down during the day.
This confused some acts. They seemed determined to make punters stand on their feet and dance, largely without success. This brings us on to points 2 and 3.
2. Just because an audience is sitting down doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying themselves.
If as an artist you are faced with a seated crowd don’t force them to get up. Don’t even ask them to stand. Let them do what they want, they’ve paid to be here, and if you’re good with both the music and the banter you might even get an encore irrespective of what the crowd are doing, rather like indie folk rock band Feldspar did, in the ‘difficult’ early Saturday afternoon post-hangover slot.
3. People like a dance at night.
It’s cooler. Some alcohol may have been consumed. People are now ready to dance. Take for example Skinny Lister’s early evening slot on the main stage. Passing round a dubious rum concoction to the crowd Skinny Lister rammed home vein bursting energetic trad folk number after trad folk number and a merry old hoe down was created. Forget Mumford & Sons this was far more fun. (See video)
4. Crowd surfing with a double bass is awkward but Skinny Lister know how to do it.
Over the last few years we’ve noticed a number of festivals moving away from the traditional green / grey / blue plastic portaloos to use composting toilets. There’s no doubt in our mind that composting toilets are the future. Not only do they smell less and are generally better ventilated but they are better for the environment. Festibelly kept with the portaloo option. On the whole they were well serviced (every time we used one we found toilet roll inside so didn’t have to use our own) until the closing Saturday night when they became exceedingly full and by Sunday morning, when people were setting off home, they were unusable. This was the only criticism we have of what was otherwise an excellent event.
6. Mausi should be a chart topping top 10 singles band.
Electronic pop four-piece Mausi are the sound of dancing, factor 30 sunblock, cool blue seas, partying, skinny dipping, cocktails, nightclubs, sex, more dancing, getting high and living life to the fullest. Put all of this on a festival stage as the sun begins to set and within twenty minutes the crowd swells both physically in size and with the euphoria of it all. Mausi played seamless pop-banger after seamless pop-banger the net effect being akin to finding yourself in an Ibiza nightclub rather than on the edge of a picturesque part of the UK countryside. The only question that remained was why are they not yet hitting the UK top 10 singles chart? By the time they reach My Friend Has A Swimming Pool we’re convinced they should be.
7. The Cuban Brothers aren’t actually Cuban.
Fake tan? Scottish accents backstage? Shock horror; those sexual talking, body grooving, hip thrusting acrobatic dudes nearly had us fooled. However their Latino grooves from dancers ‘Double Penetration’, funky tunes, smiles, costume changes and down to pink underpants semi-nakedness kept the crowd thoroughly entertained. It just all seemed to be over far too quickly.
8. Kassassin Street are becoming the indie guitar equivalent of a STD
That is to say their set was thoroughly infectious with plenty of groovy hip thrusting guitar chops. Opening with recent single The Royal Handkerchief Ballet the band set off full throttle and never let up. With slinky riffs and the best ejaculation face drumming we’ve seen for some time Kassassin Street left us spent, wasted and in a higher place after what seemed like one half hour long psychedelic indie rock climax.
9. Festivals are becoming the new 'to do' event for Hen and Stag parties.
We spotted one of both at Festibelly and at least one other at every festival we've attended so far at festivals this year. Thankfully all of them seem to have been music fans as much as girls and boys out on the lash and seemed to be no different to any other punter on site (except for the fairy costumes for the girls).
10. Small is beautiful (and cheaper)