2011 Music Festival Round-up

From Pigstock to Belsonic, there's much to look forward to in the months ahead - now, where's that tent?

When it comes to music festivals, Northern Ireland makes a nonsense of the adage that you can have too much of a good thing. Festival Season 2011 looks set to be the most action-packed yet, with new festivals springing up out of nowhere, familiar friends getting bigger and better, and even a dead and buried colossus rising Libertines-like from the grave.

Perhaps the festival calendar is at risk of congestion, but what's certain is that this year music lovers have countless reasons to chisel the mud from their wellies and work out where to pitch their ten quid tent.

Having grabbed the attention of just about everyone in the land with its mighty line-up of home-grown heavyweights, Pigstock will be rocking Killinchy, County Down, for two days starting Friday May 27.

Stand-outs on the card include the towering And So I Watch You From Afar and Mojo Fury on the Friday night, followed next day by Wexford's Adebisi Shank, hip-hop motley crew Team Fresh and Belfast bruisers Lafaro.

Pigstock had been the festival season’s best-kept secret, but this year’s formidable bill means that people no longer have a choice but to take notice.

‘This year's show is truly going to be incredible,' says festival organiser, Jonny Tate. 'We have the best line-up (in my opinion) that we have ever had. Forget faux-hippy sentiment or two dimensional pop stars, come and see something that's real and exciting and full of RAWK!’

After last year’s incredible tenth anniversary, Glasgowbury will once again be overlooking all (in height terms at least) from Eagle's Rock in Draperstown, on Saturday July 23, with the option of camping the night before.

The man behind the ‘small but MASSIVE’ festival, Paddy Glasgow said: ‘At the end of the day we're a festival that has always tried to promote the best in new and established talent from these shores. We don't go out of our way to book massive acts because that's not our remit, and yet we still get thousands of people coming to enjoy the best this country has to offer.’

With around 30 acts still to be announced, the 2011 main stage awaits a first headline performance from Belfast's Cashier No. 9, signed recently to Bella Union ahead of their highly anticipated debut album To The Death of Fun. Alongside are Downpatrick hell-raisers The Answer, who, having toured the world with AC/DC, are not to be missed by fans of no frills hard rock.

‘We've kept our ticket prices low and competitive to give everyone a chance to come and party with us, and away from the music there's going to be a host of interactive and fun activities for all to get involved in. So come and enjoy it with us for our annual Sperrins bash!’ added Glasgow.

Another fast growing local festival with a decidedly different approach is Willowstone Arts & Music Festival, taking place in Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh, from July 1 - 2. Promoter Stuart Campbell’s ethos is to centre the festival around one stage and ensure everything on it is unmissable.

'The idea is for it to be an all-encompassing sort of festival,' he said. 'There's stuff for everyone to do and we're good for families, because under twelves go free and the kids are kept entertained during the day, meaning the adults can relax a bit more and enjoy themselves.'

On top of great Northern Irish live acts like Not Squares and Pocket Billiards, the Walled Garden hosts a headline set from UK beatbox sensation, Shlomo. ‘He's worked with the likes of Björk and Jarvis Cocker,' affirmed Stuart, 'and been on Jools Holland a few times. He's basically like a one man show but well worth watching.

‘The base of the festival has always been local bands and it always will be, but I don't want to limit myself to just local acts. I've been trying to bring in people from across the water and hopefully, in the future, from further afield.’

And let's not forget the two big hitters. The announcement of Tennent's Vital's return after a three year absence has delighted many a music fan. With promises of jaw-dropping performers such as American rapper Eminem and an ambitious relocation to Ward Park, Bangor, after Snow Patrol's record-setting spectacular last year, the August bank holiday weekend event looks set to be another major live music event in the calendar.

The first line-up details will be announced through the official Facebook page on May 25.

Overlapping Vital across the bank holiday weekend, and now in its fourth year, is Belsonic, an eleven day extravaganza of stand-alone gigs in Belfast's Custom House Square. From August 16 - 27, this year's star-studded card will see the likes of Elbow, Dizzee Rascal, Plan B, The Specials and Liam Gallagher's Beady Eye perform.

These events are simply some of the highlights of what to look forward to this summer - remember the Coors Light Open House Festival in Belfast is coming up too. Keep an eye on Culture Northern Ireland’s What’s On section for the latest details.