Ask most people what comes to mind when thinking of music festivals and the answers are likely to be similar: big name bands, big stages and a vast open space (be it field, beach or forest). While that sort of experience is obviously great, that's not the only form a music festival can, or should, take.
It's important to recognise and celebrate some of the smaller festivals that aren't always able to shout as loudly as those with bigger budgets and grander set-ups. Festivals that have their own unique charm, and portray exactly what is so great about the huge diversity in music festivals across the globe.
Next up in our quest to highlight those lesser-known gems is Sicilian festival Ypsigrock; an intimate indie idyll which calls the historic town of Castelbuono home. Christoph Storbeck from the festival's team told us what it's all about.
What song would you pick that embodies your festival?
Rather than a song, it’s Glenn Gould’s Variations on Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ – the opening music of our main stage since the beginning of the festival a couple of decades ago.
Can you tell us a bit about the festival’s setting?
Castelbuono, located about an hour's drive from Sicily’s capital Palermo, is a charming Sicilian town on the foothills of the Madonie mountains. The main stage is hosted in the iconic medieval castle's square (below), with shows starting at around 9pm for a maximum of 3,000 people.
The square of a cloister is a more intimate, but no less important, setting: it had some real gems over the last years, like stunning performances by Sun Kil Moon, Giant Sand and Sicily’s own noise-rock legends Uzeda.
A fully renovated baroque church hosts everything from electronica to singer-songwriters and neo-classic. After-parties happen in the bars around, but mainly at our fourth stage at the camping ground all night long.
Also, super exclusive pop up shows happen in the castle itself. All is connected by only a short walk through the ancient Sicilian mountain town.
The camping ground is in a fresh pinewood to which we provide 24 hour shuttle busses. And if you fancy a swim, it's a 30 minute car ride. Indeed the festival is a unique chance to enjoy a rather unconventional and unexpected experience of a Sicilian-Italian holiday.
What kind of people am I going to find here?
You'll find a peaceful and fun audience that is just enjoying itself, the artists and the atmosphere. From early adopters, tastemakers and festival-goers that look obviously different from the rural Sicilian society, to families, music lovers of all ages, curious young and elder locals, and party people having a good time without going too far.
We hope to be an event for everybody, be accessible, and provide the new, the unknown – stimulating curiosity. In Castelbuono, everybody is welcome. Be part of a new family for a weekend - or maybe much longer.
When I come, where am I going to stay?
Preferably at the campsite so that you can live the festival in its entirety, located in a pinewood providing enough shade. We even offer pre-pitched tents. It’s affordable, secure, social and fun.
Otherwise find your way through connections into private accommodation, the few hotels that are not occupied by our artists, or stay with friends you made in the years before.
What am I going to eat?
The most amazing Sicilian-Italian food you can imagine, or read and hear about - it’s all true. Castelbuono offers a wide range of great value for all budgets: from the festival’s own homemade panini with Sicilian sausage right on the festival ground, to Fiasconaro’s divine all-year-panettone in the central square.
Delicious ice cream all over the place, amazing pizza, street food up to Michelin star and Routard marked restaurants - all within ten minutes walking distance and with enough time to sit down between one show and the other.
If you wonder what to drink: a wide range of sun-tainted Sicilian wines, cold tap beer and nicely chilled cocktails and long drinks. There’s nothing like a Negroni aperitif (or ice cold water) in the setting afternoon sun.
What kind of music am I going to hear?
Our definition of indie-rock is large: while there's always a touch of the programmer's 90s/00s-ish all-time faves – e.g. The Jesus & Mary Chain this year, Mogwai, Dinosaur Jr. and many more in the past years – there’s a loose relationship with the term indie. Better to call it just music.
This can be from danceable electronica acts to intimate singer-songwriters to afro-beat. You are going to listen to some acts you’ve never heard of before, Italian and international.
Many times we had the luck to welcome artists really early in their career or just before blowing up, like Django Django and alt-J in 2012, Jon Hopkins in 2009 and Loyle Carner before landing on DIY’s cover. Our audience loves to discover new music and so do we.
What's one of your favourite memories from a previous edition?
That’s when the rain and thunderstorms come into play – a little organisational nightmare, but it has its charm...
Though we've been lucky the last few years, even during the hottest Sicilian August there can be monsoon-like rains. We’re well equipped and people love the special atmosphere where we’re all becoming one, sharing umbrellas and beers under the tents, together, facing nature.
Like the artists and our heroic teams together saving the stage of East India Youth and Metronomy that was almost flying away. And we well remember Shout Out Louds not stopping to play in the pouring rain. Their comments were: “We are used to this, you are not” and “Oh, mate, it’s pissing in my beer”. Wow, that was one hell of a party!
How would you describe your festival’s atmosphere?
It’s peaceful, a warm welcome in all senses. It’s very emotional and a lot of authentic fun.
What is your festival's spirit animal (mythical or real)?
The donkey - come and see it.
Ypsigrock Festival 2018 takes place 9-12 August. Book tickets and camping options here.
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