The Rise Of The Independent Festival

So the festival marathon is over and it’s time to shove our tent, wellies and weird portable shower thing that we never use anyway into our backpack, put it in the attic and forget about it until it’s summer again and we discover the whole thing’s gone moldy.

The Libs have been crowned kings by the NME Festival survey and we couldn’t agree more. Some of our other favourite moments, however, have been from the little festivals – the independent ones.

We’re talking about the ones where the local Rotary Club dish up burgers and chips to punters and artists alike in the catering tent rather than you having to fork out (boom boom) for a gourmet ostrich burger. The ones where you bump into the same guy in the same bright orange jumper rocking out in front of every stage you go to, rather than not even being able to find your friends because your mobile’s dead and the Main Arena has a three mile circumference. And we’re pretty certain security wouldn’t let this happen at Reading and Leeds…

The rise and rise of the independent festival has reached a mud encrusted peak this year and we decided to round off the summer with Southsea Fest, a small event with a surprisingly good line-up including Pulled Apart By Horses, Goldheart Assembly and The Strange Death Of Liberal England. So here are our 10 Things We Learnt at Southsea Fest, our last independent festival of the summer.

1. Independent festivals aren’t about the money

Tickets for Southsea Fest were £15, bit of a difference to the price of a pass to Glasto or Reading And Leeds. There might be a difference in the number of radio plays the headline bands have at Southsea Fest versus the big players – but for the line-up, it was a bit of a bargain. Plus you got a free programme, rather than having to spend £6 on one so you could see when the bands you’ve paid hundreds of pounds to watch are actually playing.

One of the organisers of Southsea Fest, Vicky Halliday, told NME.COM: “We are a not for profit organisation and event so the money that we make goes back into Southsea Fest. For us, it’s not all about the money. That’s how we can keep prices down. Bands tend to have a good time here, it sounds cheesy but it’s almost like a family so the bands are part of the team.”

2. Everyone has to see The Agitator at one point in their lives

Two drum kits, a snappy set of protest songs and a dapper pair of braces. The Agitator, who kicked off his career on Rough Trade Records at just 14 years old, is a frequent face on the independent festival circuit. If you missed him this year, make sure you don’t in 2011.

3. There are lots of men in Southsea who look like Jay Jay Pistolet

4. A Pulled Apart By Horses gig is the sweatiest you could go to this summer

We’ve seen Pulled Apart By Horses lots of times this festival season and every time has been the sweatiest, steamiest and most energetic gig of the weekend. The boys didn’t fail to live up to their reputation at Southsea Fest, playing the tiny Edge Of The Wedge venue to the 100 lucky fans who got to see the band. The Xcerts even called us amateurs for having to take a cider break from the manic crowd.

5. ‘Catch Up Gaps’ are a good idea

Let’s face it, things never go to plan – especially when you’re trying to organise hundreds of bands to play across 15 venues on a minimal budget. But delays in stage times effect the biggest festivals. Southsea Fest scheduled ‘Catch Up Gaps’ to let them, well, ‘Catch Up’. That’ll come in handy if Guns N’ Roses ever play.

6. You can’t stop The Ruskins when they’re determined to put on a guerilla gig

When security waded in to stop The Ruskins from playing a gig in the street the band eventually packed up, but not before lead singer Eamon told the crowd they’d set up again down the road. The guys have previously ‘band-jacked’ Soccer AM and Big Brother and told us back at Beach Break that they want to do the same on the news. We also learnt that The Ruskins are the best band to challenge to an after-party dance off…

7. If your festival wristband is so tight that you can’t feel your hand, it’s pretty difficult to write and do your job as a journalist

8. BSM and Alcopop! can put together a great line-up

The two labels teamed up to put on the music in the Edge Of The Wedge and had the likes of Tall Ships, Stage Coach, Shoes & Socks Off and The Attika State playing, with Leeds chaos-makers Pulled Apart By Horses headlining.

9. No matter how old we get, we’ll still sulk if two bands clash and we can’t watch both.

10. The best hair of the weekend goes to…

Adam Woolway from The Strange Death Of Liberal England.

Check out the NME team’s festival highs and lows of the summer here.