Festifeel 2013 review

'A completely different festival proposition'

Photographer:Josh Shinner

Will Saunders - 25 June 2013

Set in the industrial environs of Islington’s Metalworks, the fourth incarnation of Festifeel, the annual music festival hosted by breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!, brings an up and coming indie street-cred to the start of London’s ever-busier summer music scene.

Festifeel, curated in 2013 for the second time by CoppaFeel! patron Fearne Cotton, combines a clear culture of emerging musical talent such as Tribes, Maverick Sabre and The Milk with overt and repeat references to the CoppaFeel! message – and certainly isn’t afraid to wear its boobs on its sleeve.

Festifeel sees the Metalworks transformed by legions of volunteers into a vibrantly colourful homage to boobs. Cup-shaped cupcakes, titillating lollipops, hundreds of helium-addled, nipple-adorned boob balloons and a giant Hollywood-style flashbulb-lit sign spelling out the day’s key word: ‘boobs’, mark a constant reminder of CoppaFeel!’s central motif – to regularly check one’s boobs to increase the chances of early diagnosis of breast cancer.

Combined with the CoppaFeel! drapes and signs, bric-a-brac, vintage stalls, candyfloss and face-painting, the whole event has a lo-fi garden party charm, and a clear, stand-alone personality – in stark contrast to many of the more corporately homogenised festivals that litter the summer calendar.

Other key selling points of Festifeel are the very reasonable £25 ticket price and the event’s fully indoor status – a welcome anathema to wellies and waterproofs on yet another chilly and showery weekend.

However, all the good intentions and noble causes in the world mean nothing without the day’s key ingredient: music. A combination of Fearne Cotton’s little black book, returning favourites and personal favours produces an eclectic roster of up and coming excellence from all walks of the acclaimed indie-pop spectrum. From acoustic to freestyle, and flat-out guitar fury to electro-pop boucealongs, there's a broad range of styles, but a common young hunger and youthful exuberance, as if Festifeel was the end of term showpiece for an indie-kid laced Glee-club graduation class.

The acts are split between two stages, with a smaller acoustic and DJ room playing a supporting role to the main stage. The main stage retains some old fashioned rock grime and gloom in spite of Festifeel’s brightness; a squint-inducing musty cavern at odds with the natural light streaming through the open-greenhouse ceiling of the 'market square', like a rock and roll Laserquest on an almost summer's day.

The 10 hours of nigh-on back-to-back music see an impressive litany of acts take to the stage, including:

Rae Morris (7) offers her blend of powerful pounding chord piano-laden room-filling (and silencing) emotional overdrive balladry - with ‘Don’t Go’ a particularly heart-wrenching highlight.

Gaoler’s Daughter (6) rattle through a charity-shop adorned-reverb-drenched star-spangled guitar recital, like a lower-fi unisex Veronica Falls meeting the Virgins in a ramshackle drunken scrape.

Lewis Watson (9) gives the day’s standout performance in a rare solo show, with his endearingly tender and intricately emotive acoustic power folk-pop and distinct line in Geri Halliwell banter proving a strong favourite.

Abandoman (7) showcase a unique Flight of the Conchords meets 8 Mile crowd delighting folk funk freestyle fusion.

Gabrielle Aplin (8) plays a strong solo set of emotively wistful zeitgeist-capturing and captivating acoustic tunes, befitting of her status as upcoming damsel du jour. An impromptu duet with Lewis Watson cast the two as a perfectly harmonized first couple of heartstring-wrenching.

Tribes (5.5) Excellent recent album ‘Wish to Scream’ may peddle a languidly muscular and confident hair-flailing sinew-straining melodic indie-dancehall rock, but the intricacies and melodies of recent radio-bothering hits are lost among a wall of noise that sees everything turned up to 11 and beyond - much to the detriment of their performance.

Maverick Sabre (7) gives Michael Kiwanuka-esque soulful soaring vocals and rap infusions over stripped-back light beats and funk jazz-flavored guitar.

The Milk (8) close the festival perfectly, providing crisp FM radio friendly harmony-dripping kinetic bop-along and pop-hook driven rock stylings à la Maroon 5 on an English seaside weekender.

Embodying the message of the day, every act makes at least one reference to boobs during the course of their set. Lewis Watson summed up the sentiment to Virtual Festivals, saying, “it’s all about the cause. I’ve known a couple of people who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately it was diagnosed early and they recovered, but I’ve seen how the illness affects people, and whatever we can try and do to raise awareness of that early detection is really important. I was honoured to be asked to play.

Epitomising the personal touch and spirit of Festifeel, CoppaFeel! founder and CEO Kris Hallenga and Fearne Cotton make a joint and impassioned speech prior to Maverick Sabre’s performance.

Speaking to VF, Cotton expressed her delight at Festifeel’s fourth-coming: "It's just been an amazing day, all the bands have been brilliant and they've stuck around to watch each other and really got into the spirit of the event. It's great to see how it's grown year on year and fantastic for CoppaFeel!, and Kris especially, that so many people have come down to get involved and help spread the CoppaFeel! message. I feel so immensely happy and proud because it means a lot to everyone here."

Festifeel may have grown year on year, but it’s still very much small-scale enough to offer an effortless grace of intimacy. Performers mingle in and among the throng, and there’s a genuine artist and audience connection. This prevailing wind is best embodied by Abandoman’s affable crowd baiting, the up close and personal opportunities for fans to meet the artists fresh from the stage, and the festival highlight of Lewis Watson’s unplugged mid-audience rendition of Guillemots’ ‘Made Up Love Song #43’.

As a deliberately small-scale, indoor and single day event with the primary purpose of raising money to continue promoting CoppaFeel!’s boob-friendly raison d’être, Festifeel offers a completely different proposition to almost every other festival across the summer season. It’s a unique chance to find a new favourite band and meet them, to check out some of the UK’s hottest up and coming talent in an intimate environment, and to see stripped-back and experimental performances from contemporary radio staples free of the pressures of arenas or big crowd expectations.

Considering it’s a DIY independent effort with no sponsors, no backing, and only the good grace of volunteers and bands playing for the cause rather than the chequebook to keep it afloat, Festifeel is almost a flawless exhibition of what can be done on a shoestring with no small amount of determination and elbow grease. If the ultimate standard up to which Festifeel will be held is increased boob awareness through the power of music, then it’s mission resoundingly accomplished.

Click here for the full Festifeel story.


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