overview

Rocket Festival 2008

published: Wed 21st May 2008

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Friday 16th to Sunday 18th May 2008
near Granada, Andalucia, southern Spain., Spain
Rocket Festival 2008 tickets available for £70
last updated: Wed 30th Apr 2008

To the South lie the the mountains of the Sierra Alhama, their craggy cliffs and wooded valleys looming up behind the main stage; to the North East the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada are visible above the campsite; the most immediately striking thing about the Rocket Festival is its location.

Rocket

About a 45 minute drive outside the capital of Iberia's last Moorish Kingdom, Granada, the site of Andalucia's answer to Glastonbury is stunning, if a little rocky for those sleeping in tents or tepees. However the organizers have not let the scenery alone provide the festival's visual aspect, but have been hard at work building gardens, installations, sculptures and fields of flags to create a truly striking sight/site. Stilt walkers, circus acts, bhangra and colourful costumes are also featured.

Even the stall holders - many of them English - have got in on the act, making a huge effort to decorate and brighten up their stalls. The one or two that didn't saw very little trade as a result, and there wasn't a single greasy burger van or corporate bar to be seen. The result was one of the friendliest and most welcoming festivals I've ever attended, one where people seemed genuinely happy to chat to complete strangers day or night, small enough so you could always find them later, but big enough to keep you permanently entertained.

Comparisons with Glastonbury might seem a little odd, for the Rocket Festival is about ten times smaller, but they're not that far off the mark. After a little wander around it became clear the resemblance to Pilton's Green Fields here in Spain was by no means coincidental as several of the organizers here are also involved in Glastonbury Festival. Indeed the Rocket Festival is very much an English Festival in Spain - there was mud wrestling (to make up for the lack of actual mud) and somebody even started a game of cricket! It took its cues from Glastonbury, Shambala (Saturday night fancy dress) and the Big Green Gathering, with most of the early arrivals seeming to come from either Bristol or Brighton.

Rocket

The links with these two cities was explained by the organizers' past experience as free party organizers in Brighton and the strong Bristol element in the line up - Babyhead, The Zen Hussies, Think! & Miss Cecily. The Spanish did show up, but they didn't really come en mass until the Saturday when the Festival finally felt properly packed and many had left by Sunday evening (there were different rate tickets available for the day trippers). Also, being in Spain meant everything ran on on Spanish time - so late starts, headliners usually on around 3am and some stages programmed right through to 10am - Mark Headspace, the last act of the festival went on at 8am Monday morning. An afternoon siesta in the healing fields was a must for anyone wanting to go the distance.

Despite the Festival being non-genre specific there was a definite bias towards dance music, partly due to the Spanish habits and partly, I suspect, to the organizers backgrounds in free parties. There were only really two "band" stages - the main stage and a tiny solar stage - whereas there were four dance tents, a circus stage and two other stages that only featured the occasional live act.

However, apart from a few baffling bookings including some very bland by-the-numbers rock and indie groups (both English and Spanish), the quality of the music was superb. Coldcut and Adam Freeland were the big English names, though Babyhead, Beardyman and Rrradio Gee might be familiar to some, while the Spanish seemed to go wild for Muchochita Bombo Infierno, Circo Abusivo and Los Delinquentes, who were indeed excellent party bands even if we didn't have a clue what they were singing about. However, the lesser known ska, swing and hip hop bands - The Zen Hussies and Lazy Habits in particular - were excellent as the various dance tents kept this reviewer and his friends dancing throughout the four evenings we were there. Special mentions must go to the excellent Village Disco and the Eat Prunes collective, whose drum n'bass version of Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale was a stunning aural and visual treat. As befitted the festival's ethos improvised sets were also taking place across the site, often being highly entertaining.

Rocket

It was a bunch of friends who pulled this festival together, with no corporate sponsorship or outside finance. It can't have been easy and I hope they broke even as it would be a tragedy if Rocket Festival didn't happen again next year for I'm already itching to book tickets for for it. I have never had so much fun at a festival; the vibe was so friendly, the site so magnificent and the music so unexpectedly good. I would definitely recommend making the trip next year - it really is worth it!
review by: Theo Berry

photos by: Theo Berry

Friday 16th to Sunday 18th May 2008
near Granada, Andalucia, southern Spain., Spain
Rocket Festival 2008 tickets available for £70
last updated: Wed 30th Apr 2008


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