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Bella Terra 2011 Gets the Important Stuff Right

What makes a festival awesome?

Yes, Sherwood forests, silent discos, karma car-washes and 5k races are fun- but for most, the heart and soul of a festy lies in the music.

That’s why – despite a couple snafus – Bella Terra Festival, held last weekend in Stephentown, N.Y., got it right.

The biggest draw of this festival, now with three years under its belt, was the line-up. Packed into three days were over 50 acts, with some [personal] highlights including  Buckethead, Fear Nuttin Band, Rubblebucket, The Alchemystics, Dopapod, Mickey Heart Band, and Wes N Worrell (really just scratching the surface here).

Not only was the music stellar, but it went very late into the evening and through the morning. Having been spoiled by Wormtown and Strangecreek’s late-night cabins where music is sometimes played until 8 a.m., this is one of the most important things for me when attending a festy. Therefore, I was more than please that my Saturday morning ended (or, started) with me chilling on the grass with headphones on while Jeff Bujak performed in The Massive Tent Stage until the sun came up.

dopapod tearing it up at the vernville earth stage on thursday night.

The festival set up shop at Gardner’s Field, which used to be used as a driving range (at least that’s what somebody from Stephentown told me), so it was basically just one long field that went camping / cars – firepit – vendors – stages. So in the span of five minutes you could leave the main stage to get more booze from your car and take a pee without even missing a whole song. Layout simplicity = a big plus. There was also plenty of room to camp, dance, hoop and play frisbee (God I hate frisbee players). The space factor is definitely a benefit of a smaller festival, and can really make or break your experience.

But for all of the stuff Bella Terra did right, it still fell prey to some problems that definitely wouldn’t fly at a larger festy. The biggest and most noticeable being the scheduling issues. I had no complaints on Thursday when Rubblebucket, originally scheduled for 12:30 a.m., went on at 10:30 p.m. because another artist was late. But unfortunately this set the tone for the weekend, and the schedule served as more of a loose guide rather than a bible.

lucy the unicorn raged a little too hard...

Also, a lot of the time slots were really screwy. Literally every band I saw play at the Vernville Earth Stage or The Massive Tent Stage made a comment about “not having much time.” On Friday it seemed like artists were basically being kicked off the stage, yet on the Bella Terra Main Stage Mickey Heart Band played for like, four hours. While they sounded great, I would rather them play an hour less and have that time distributed to Dopapod, the Alchemystics or Roots of Creation.

For it being the third year of Bella Terra, the festival also seemed to lack a general theme. The idea was “Art, Music & Culture,” three things I can totally get behind, but the signage was a little weak and the overall festy “decor” was very no-frills. There was some cool artwork going on from the guys at GRAPHIC throughout the weekend, though, and it would be cool to see that incorporated into the main theme for next year. But, as I discussed with my friend, if having a solid line-up means skimping on fancy stage decorations, then I would much rather listen to heady music then look at heady designs. You can always take hallucinogens if you want to see cool sh*t.

Assuming the line-up next year is as good as this year, I would definitely go to Bella Terra again. Sure it had a couple of minor snags, but a festival is nothing without good music and Bella Terra hit that nail right on the head.


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I saw, I read, your life exhausts me. xxxooo

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