Deep in the woods, something is stirring in a hidden valley. Seemingly miles from the nearest civilisation, a stunning range of visuals and colour are lighting up the night sky. Beats thump, stomp and batter as a happy band of blissed-out beauties offer their psy-souls to the Gods of Trance and Techno. This is Noisily. It's grand to be back.
Fourteen months ago, on a sunny bank holiday weekend in May, I came to this Leicestershire woodland for the second Noisily festival. My review was mostly glowing and for good reason. A small festival with high production values and beautiful, friendly people, it really put a stake into the ground left by Glade. How would the third Noisily compare?
The first thing I notice is that there are more people here than last year - but this is no bad thing. This is a site that has the capacity to expand and the doubling of punters from a thousand to two thousand appears seamless. This generally isn't a festival where you queue, bustle or push fellow punters in an effort to get from A to B; rather, this is a festival where you chill, chat and chew the ear of fellow punters while you forget that you were even heading to B. Plans are afoot to grow Noisily further to an ultimate capacity of 5,000. I'm convinced it'll hold onto it's charm.
There's a new stage this year in an expanded part of the woodland. We've still got the main Noisily stage and the wooden, faux library that looks down on it. We still have the Treehouse stage, up a path and hidden deeper in the woods. Whenever I head up to the Treehouse stage, the numbers dancing there feel sparse. There's a new 'Boombox' stage that's slotted high on the valley bank, shaped like a ghetto-blaster from yesteryear. Head deeper into the woods, down a straw-strewn path that sometimes squelches underfoot, you get to the visual delight of a new area. This Liquid stage has taken over.
Liquid was a pivotal stage in the development of the Glade festival. Specialising in all things psy-trance, many I talk with over the course of this weekend are delighted that Liquid has a new home in the Noisily woods. I chat with punters from South Africa, Belgium and Milton Keynes. All have come to stomp along to the booming bounce. A stage with beautiful decor, lit with purples, reds and greens, we're all being encouraged to lose ourselves amidst the music and the atmosphere. I duly oblige.
I am stood in a spaceship. This is a spaceship that might have just landed in these woods. Hexagonal in shape, like a flying saucer, I find an entrance and explore. Other, inquisitive festival goers are also trying to make sense of their surrounds. It's decked out like a kitchen in here. China plates, boxes of cereal, a kettle, a sink and an oven. This small room is covered by a dome-shaped piece of Perspex. Standing up straight, we can look out and see the world pass by. In this small spaceship I chat with men on stag do's, women on hen do's, farmers on mushrooms and students on ket.
One area of Noisily that I praised last year was the food and drink provision. The excellent 'Got Game' is back for another year with their Wild boar, Venison and halloumi treats. If there's a better festival food stall I'm yet to find it. The Pizza Kitchen also returns along with a range of other food places selling wraps, piri-piri chicken and curry. It's all of the highest quality. There's not a burger and chips van in sight. I was most impressed last year that the lager and cider of choice was Asahi and Thatchers Gold. Sadly, such quality isn't continued this year with Tuborg and Somersby disappointing at £4.50 a pint. One of these pints of cider is served to me as frothy bubbles. But, I mustn't moan too much. Noisily did offer an excellent real ale, the Nymph (there was no ale last year), ideal for a session of afternoon drinking in the sunny shade, chatting to strangers and making friends with people you vaguely recognise.
Unlike the majority of people here, I've never been to Goa. Psy-trance, techno and it's spin-off genres fascinates and excites but doesn't consume my every moment. Thus, Noisily's venture into comedy and live bands on the Saturday afternoon at last year's festival provided some welcome respite from the aural bombardment. This year, there's no comedy and no bands (from what I can tell). Most don't seem to mind this lack of variety. It gives them longer to stomp and twirl, to twist their poi and juggle their flames. "Back in the day, when Capetown was exciting, we'd dance non-stop from Friday night through to Monday morning and create a bowl of dust," I'm told by another South African at the side of the Liquid stage. I need to work on my attention threshold. I positively relish the short stabs of funk and feel energised when David Byrne and Talking Heads occasionally find their way into the mix.
Those who are consumed by this music understand the intricacies, diversions and deviances served up by the quality line up of DJ's. They stumble between stages, having taken note from the notice board in the centre of the site which DJ they are dancing to. But I'm neglectful of my journalistic duties. I allow the music to wash over me irrespective of who's playing it. I might see sets by Max Cooper, Gaudi, Phaxe, and Symphonix; I might see sets by Tristan, Avalon, Killerwatts, and Earthling. But this isn't the sort of festival where you tick off the names of acts from a pre-prepared list of must-sees. There's music, there's lights, there's lovely people with broad grins. Let's dance.
Noisily is a festival that is clearly a labour of love for the team that put this together. There's an attention to detail at play here that's always going to win through. Impeccable toilet provision, a bank of free showers, Funktion-One speaker stacks and state of the art lights and lasers. This is a dance music festival at which people are treated well and as a result it's a festival where we're all looking after one another. The woods have been transformed into a magical playground and we've had fun playing through midday, dusk, midnight and dawn. We've smiled in intense sun; we've splashed in downpours of rain; we've giggled, we've stomped, we've struggled to stop. Here's to the growing success of this mini gem.
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