I feel like every time I write on this thing each post starts me confessing to not having been somewhere, or tried something before. Usually something that, ashamedly, I should have done a long long time ago.
Up this week on my cultural failings is Supersonic Festival. Despite living in or close to Birmingham for most of my life, having interned at the PR company that does all the press for the three day event and having friends who go every year, I’ve never been.
On Saturday, after minor coercion and guilt was applied from a mate who would otherwise be there on his own, I finally popped my Supersonic cherry.
Supersonic has long been thought of in the UK as an off-the-wall, underground event with pic’n’mix line ups full to the rafters with obscure bands and events you wouldn’t usually find on the bill at other summer festivals. We’ve all seen the highlights of T4 on the beach and V Fest, picture the opposite of that, go a bit further and you’ll be around about the Supersonic mark.
However, over the last few years has picked up quite a significant following, securing widespread praise and receiving a lot of hype from national press. It only takes a few minutes of wondering around the multiple venues and spaces on Floodgate Street in Digbeth to understand why.
The festival, curated by second city music production collective Capsule, prides itself on it’s forward-thinking programme of events and always eclectic list of bands and artists hosted over four days in and around different locations in Birmingham, including the Town Hall.
But it’s not until you’re there that you can actually quantify just how diverse the lineup is. To put it into context, I went from flailing my body around to Flamingods – a head dress clad quintet, mixing tribal drum beats with mind bending psychedelia – to being immersed inside the dark, dubby techno of The Bug ft Dylan Carson accompanied in part by Flowdan of Roll Deep.
It’s not just the music that has kept people audiences so interested during the festival’s 13 year tenure. Supersonic prides itself on it’s fringe events and accompanying activities aside from the main stages that add to the entire experience. Various workshops, book readings, record stores, and even a ‘kids gig’ make up the festival’s other offerings.
Inside the ‘other offerings’ section of Supersonic I would also include the food and drink. Being a food and beer obsessive and with this being a website predominantly about the subject of the two, I’m going to spend some time explaining why both made Supersonic that little bit better.
With street food in the UK and Birmingham thriving at present, gone are the days where you might have a greasy burger van serving up food-poisoning worthy cuisine in the car park outside a venue.
The regular gatherings of independent traders at the likes of KingshEATh and Digbeth Dining Club in the city have meant that there is now a boat load committed culinary enthusiasts, producing quality food on the road. This also means that attendees of festivals like Supersonic expect a higher class of snacking options.
And of course, the event organisers were happy to oblige in supplying us all with tasty grub. I opted for Canoodle‘s beef rendang and jasmine rice topped with coriander and pickles and it was just bloody glorious.
Street Souvlaki were also busy serving up their Cypriot skewers outside, while the cafe area inside was stacked high with awesome looking cakes.
It kind of made it feel like a music festival, wrapped in a street food festival, mixed with afternoon tea at your Nan’s house.
With Purity Brewery having free reign of the beer for the entire festival, I knew I’d have something tasty to wash away the spicy burn of the rendang.
Setting up bars in both the Boxxed and The Crossing venues as well as scattering their bottles and 330ml Longhorn cans around fridges at various different watering holes around the venues.
Lawless Lager was the main keg staple – it looked like Longhorn IPA may have already sold out by the Saturday – with Mad Goose and Pure Gold making appearances on the hand pulls. I guess you could argue there’s nothing that special about a decent lager and a couple of cask ales being available at a festival, but having been to such events in the past when you’re paying almost £5 for a pint of Fosters in a plastic cup, it’s a highly refreshing change to see a local brewery getting full rights to such a big event and smashing it out the park.
They’d even had the aforethought to produce some toughened plastic pint glasses for the occasion so we weren’t treading on empties the whole day. As well as helping to stop us murdering the planet that little bit more.
Anyway, as the evening went on – and I got progressively more drunk and fell deeper in love with all things the festival had to offer – my guilt for having not experienced Supersonic before now only grew.
It even had dinosaurs for crying out loud.
On a side note, all the drinking of Purity beers must have subliminally made me want to visit Pure Bar and Kitchen again. But when on earth did it become Purecraft Bar and Kitchen? *checks Twitter* oh yes earlier in the month. Of course, I knew that.
Either way, I visited the Waterloo Street beer factory on Monday night since they added the craft as a suffix, had a pint of Roosters Baby Faced Assassin on cask and would probably put it up there with my favourite beer of the year so far. Jolly good weekend indeed.