What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen – Part 1/4

We're flying! In the air! (Though apparently Jari sees nothing alarming about the situation) Photo: Pauli Borodulin

We’re flying! In the air! (Though apparently Jari sees nothing alarming about the situation) Photo: Pauli Borodulin

“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire

It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.

Once upon a time, Greenrose Faire was offered a gig in the Elf Fantasy Festival in Arcen, on the strict condition that we bring the travelling harmonium along. This was a big thing for us for a couple of reasons. Firstly it would be the farthest from home we’ve gone as a band, and also what looks like the biggest stage for us yet. Secondly, whatever genre our music might represent, the heart of that scene is undoubtedly in The Netherlands so it’s a great pleasure to play there.

And thirdly, it would be the first gig where we can’t just rent a minibus and bring all our usual gear, starting from the drum set, amps, instruments, backup instruments, backups for the backup instruments (just kidding), the banners, flags, barrels and the green-stuff for the stage, the merchandise tent and tables and chairs to go with it, camping equipment, etc. Instead, we were to travel on one of those flying tubular things, with combined amount of 31 kg of gear per person, so a total of about 250 kg for the lot of us. It looked like a pretty tight squeeze! (Although after this computation I start to wonder how many kilos of stuff our usual load is..) The drum set and bass amp were just impossible and we’d have to ask to borrow them on location, Pete had to leave the other keyboards behind, spare instruments could not be spared, and of course almost all of the decorations was out as well. The backdrop banner with our bonfire artwork we at least managed to squeeze in one of the suitcases. Then there was still the two-hour trip from home to the airport in Helsinki, and again from Düsseldorf airport to Arcen. There was no easy way of renting a van or minibus in Düsseldorf end, so we booked two station wagons from airport car rental instead.

For some reason I left booking the flights a bit late, and come July the direct flights were already so pricey that we had to find an alternate route. To absolutely minimize the risk of our baggage getting lost or delayed, we picked flights with a generous 4 hour changeover time in Oslo.

When the day got closer, there arose a little matter of a general strike in Finland planned for the day we were supposed to fly out. It was in the news for a couple of weeks before, causing us some amount of nail-biting, and planning alternate routes (anyone for a 42-hour ride by minibus through Sweden, Denmark and Germany?). In the end, the strike stopped only the buses, which did not affect us (although we stopped for a coffee on the way at the same time as a bus-load of people on strike on their way to a demonstration in Helsinki), and grounded Finnair’s flight for a couple of hours, which luckily was not our carrier this time.


So all fair and well, we roll out from Tampere at 6 am with the band reinforced with our sound-man Pauli (who would be mostly focusing on photography this time) and our merchs lady Laura. We find the airport almost deserted, and get through the formalities in a flash (even though Tomi, Hanna and Pauli are picked out for extra inspection) and arrive at the gate almost 2 hours too early. We get to spy through the window as our instrument cases get gently loaded onto the plane, and the flight takes off exactly in time.

On the plane, after the obligatory group photos, I immerse myself again to study Dutch on my phone (with Duolingo) and pretty much master the phrase ”Excuse me, I am an apple”. I suppose a situation may arise where I’ll need that.

The stopover in Oslo is uneventful. We try to find the awfully expensive beer they are supposed to have in Norway, but have to settle for almost reasonably priced pints. Don’t see the baggage get loaded on the plane this time but hope ours was still in tow.

These bags are already on their fourth round but no sign of instrument cases yet. Worryty-worry... Photo: Pauli Borodulin

These bags are already on their fourth round but no sign of instrument cases yet. Worryty-worry… Photo: Pauli Borodulin

Arrival in Düsseldorf gets bit more exciting about at the moment that it is clear that our instruments are not going to appear on the baggage conveyor belt. So, walk about a kilometre to the inquiries desk, and then walk back about a kilometre to the shady corner where the special baggage is dumped. Luckily all our gear is there, and I tear open by bouzouki case and all the fillings to check that nothing indeed has broken. So far so good.

The rental cars turn out to be brand new, shiny black, with darkened windows, cockpits like those of a space shuttle, and with less than 50km on the odometer between them. And apparently all the stuff that had no problem fitting into our own two car’s trunks on the way to the airport in Finland has somehow grown in size during the trip and does not agree at all with the dimensions of these space shuttles. After a bit of Tetris with large and bulky blocks, everyone and everything is finally fully inside the vehicles – although not exactly comfortable – and then it is 5 floors down the spiralling driveway from the parking house, honorary laps around Düsseldorf central while the in-car GPS tries to decide where it wants us to go, until finally we are on the autobahn leading towards The Netherlands.

Our ride, bit different from the usual battered minibuses. Photo: Pauli Borodulin

Our ride, bit different from the usual battered minibuses. Photo: Pauli Borodulin

At this point we notice the world has started to drift towards the medieval times already, as our cell phones all lost reception on the road. We can’t get calls through from one car to another and even text messages don’t go through. Without homing pigeons on hand, it’s down to driving in close convoy, but fortunately Pauli’s lead car has pretty fancy shaped tail lights so it is easy to pick out in the traffic.

The crossing over from Germany to The Netherlands is marked only by a welcome sign on the roadside, and as the night gets darker, the roads gets smaller, until we arrive at our assigned lodging. Upon entering we are promptly offered free beer by a jovial gentleman we later learn is “The Professor” who apparently has been involved in Elfia since the dawn of times. A more pressing matter however is finding something to eat and perhaps doing some advance scouting of the festival and stage area.

There is no food to be had in the hostel at this hour and we are directed to an alehouse along the road. Arriving there, they too have already closed their kitchen, but give directions to the village (”go that way and you can’t miss it”). We don’t – no thanks to the received directions but rather to Google maps – and enter the first establishment that looks like there could be hot food in it. Again no luck there, and new set of directions to a restaurant they guess should be open. Eventually we do not find that one either, but instead there is a Turkish 24/7 fast food place wherein I use my new-found Dutch skills to point at a food on the menu. I’m not sure if most of the conversation actually was in English, Dutch, German or some other language, but it does the trick and gets me probably the best Turkish food ever in my memory. When we are about to leave, they learn we are from Finland so they promptly wish us good night – in Swedish. Well close enough.

The walk back to the hostel takes us past the gates of Elfia. In the darkness beyond the gates, a sound check of sorts is going on, with a lonesome electric guitarist having a go at Slayer’s Reign in Blood.

…to be continued tomorrow…

What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen – Part 2/4

GF (750p)
“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire

It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.


After a trying night (there is no cell coverage within the rooms either so one has to go into the lobby to get some), we are up at 7 AM to catch a quick breakfast before heading to the castle grounds. As we are the first band of the day, we are allowed a proper sound check first thing in the morning before the gates officially open, so we’re in a hurry to make the most out of it.

We get in through the side gate and back way to the backstage area, which is somewhat bigger and better organised than what we’re used to. The stage manager Steef takes us in his office for a quick run-down of the day’s schedule. Then we have the main stage to ourselves for a while. It turns out not to be quite as large as in the specifications because the sides are taken up by the massive stacks of loudspeakers hidden behind curtains with big steam-punk machinery painter on, complete with ambient machine noises and a puff of smoke now and then. Just as well, and even if there’s lots of room on the stage, I like to set up at about similar distances as we have at our practice room. I have a theory about that involving the speed of sound across the mutual distances (but let’s leave it to another time).

As ordered, there is a drum kit for us, but it is in a box, disassembled to the last nut and bolt, so Tomi has some quality time putting it back together. Pete and Tomi set their respective shops up on risers that can be wheeled on and off the stage as whole, so that certainly speeds the entrances and exists. After plugging in about the three hundred required cables and making sure everything is plugged where it ought to, it’s nice to have time for a proper sound check, that is to play bit of different songs and make sure everyone hears themselves and the others in right proportions, and that everything sounds good on the stage monitors.

I’m still mystified how the sound of my bouzouki seems to acquire an unpleasant klang after going through the PA, and how it’s possible that it is different sort of ringing each time, so there’s a bit of fiddling with knobs and levers to tame that out for the day’s needs. While sound check is essential to getting the sound we like and to being comfortable on the stage, this is probably not very entertaining to watch so we are glad to be able to do this before the gates opened and the people are in. This time at least on the stage everything ended up sounding brilliant, and we finish about 10 minutes past the opening of the gates but well in time to get off the stage before the official program began. Then it’s fingers crossed that each cable and knob and fader stays about at the same place until it’s time for us to start our show…

There is a couple of hours of spare time which goes by quickly while strolling around looking at things, and shopping for a spare shirt I could use on stage. Tomi found a flashy buckle for his cloak and had the merchant sew it on for the same price. As more and more people are strolling through the grounds in most elaborate fantasy and sci-fi costumes, it is very strange to feel even under-dressed in my stage clothes. Usually it’s the other way around. The day’s weather is turning out to be a bit damp and the ground muddy and my pointy shoes don’t appear to be exactly waterproof, so I’m happy to know I have a change of shoes in the back.

Wandering back to the backstage area through a well-hidden crack in the surrounding fence (and trying not to wake up the dog who lay sleeping across the opening), I find that our first set is to be a full hour long instead of the 45 minutes we have prepared for, so Tomi and Salla are at work revising the song list. It was of course already carefully clocked to exactly 45 minutes, down to the detail of shortening the intros of some songs here and there, but never mind about that.

Shuffling the song list, one hour until the gig

Shuffling the song list, one hour until the gig

We have the use of a booth next to the stage for selling our CDs from one hour before our show to one hour after it, so it has to be set up as well. We had dedicated only one piece of luggage for merchandise, so it is a bit reduced selection today, and of course lot less decoration than what we’d like. I notice there’s a bit of language confusion if I greet people with “Hi” because they think I said “Hoi” in Dutch and the next few lines after that involve negotiation on the language in which to conduct the rest of the conversation. Pauli is setting up one of his cameras on a stand to video the wide shot of the gig and gave me a GoPro camera to set somewhere on the stage. I set up a separate recording device for audio next to the camera. I like to record as many of the gigs as I remember, and even most of our rehearsals.

Stand at the merch stand with our best faces on. Photo: Pauli Borodulin

Stand at the merch stand with our best faces on. Photo: Pauli Borodulin

Finally, the time comes to jump on the stage for our first gig. Our usual 2-minute intro tape has marks for us to enter the stage just at the right time so that there isn’t too much standing around and fiddling before the first song starts. However, our coordination with the announcer wasn’t too clear, so he announces us on the stage before the intro rolls, so of course we have to walk in and then stand around for the duration of the intro tape. At about this point I remember that I’ve forgotten all about the GoPro. Also right from the start there is some strange constant feedback on stage that wasn’t there during the sound check and I try to convey this fact to the monitor mixer by pantomime with my head and eyes. On top of that, there’s the little fact that I’m still on antibiotics riding down a pneumonia so I have to push my act up to about 110% to compensate. I end up playing the full intro for The Tavern that was supposed to be shortened. But at least the rain lets down a bit and the sun even makes an appearance during the gig. Also, there is remarkable amount of photographers pointing their tubes our way through the whole show.

After the last song and the customary quick bow to the audience, I turn back to find my pedals and all have disappeared from the stage. The breakdown of our set-up is really efficient by the stage crew, and for once I feel I’m just in the way. After rediscovering my gear behind the stage and a quick pow-wow agreeing to use the shorter version of the intro tape for the rest of the shows, it is again a couple of hours’ break before the second show of the day.

…to be continued tomorrow…

What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen – Part 3/4

Greenrose Faire
“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire

It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.

SATURDAY (cont.)

It is now good seven hours since the sandwiches at breakfast, and there is a rumour about a VIP tent where there should be something to eat, so we set off looking for that. The food is not out yet, and will not be before we are due to be back on stage, but the nice people fetch some sandwich supplies from the back. Boterham as they call it. It is getting a bit chilly, and as I return to the backstage area I find the others huddled in our dressing room, door ajar only enough to let in the cord for the electric heater. I guess the Finnish take the sauna with them wherever they go.

Come the second gig and a mad dash to get our stuff on the stage roughly in the same set-up as before, and connect the three hundred or so cables all just right. The start of the gig is certainly smoother with the short intro tape. I notice there is now a different microphone on Pete’s harmonium, sort of flat one that just lies on top of it, and it is bouncing about a lot as the stage shakes from the drums and us jumping around. A belly dance group does their thing in front of the stage during some songs, and there is an Indian chief in the front row with a big grin on his face most of the show. This time I stop in the halfway of The Tavern‘s intro before remembering we just decided to play it all to avoid confusion. Oh well.

Our gigs for the day over, I go man our merchandise desk for the allotted hour after the show. There’s a fair amount of people stopping by to say how they liked us, and quite a many even get the CD’s. Harmony Glen (Facebook) are setting up and doing their sound check on the stage and I pop out from the booth now and then to check out how they handle doing sound check in public as it were, with the audience already wondering about. It seems it’s a show of its own. Their gig proper starts and they rock out and all the time more and more people gather in front of the stage to dance.

In the evening there’s a dinner for the performers at the VIP tent. We’re a bit late it seems and have to wait for a bit for a table, but in the end they improvise an additional table for us. There’s some local organic beer available which is pretty good during the wait for the food.

Our dressing room... Or is there some other band called just Greenrose here as well who get to share it with Rapalje?

Our dressing room… Or is there some other band called just Greenrose here as well who get to share it with Rapalje?

After the dinner, it is already getting dark and Rapalje is about to start their set. The area before the main stage is really packed at this point, I guess all the other program on the grounds has ended and it’s too dark to walk around in the gardens too. I’m happy to finally see Rapalje live, because ever since I started playing Irish music I come across them again and again when looking for good versions of tunes and songs I’m learning by ear.

Some of us are heading back to the hotel ahead, and because it’s so dark and so crowded it’s hard to keep track of who’s where. Wouldn’t it be nice if the cell phones worked properly and we could use those? Eventually we find everyone and head back to the hotel, stopping for a quick pint in the halfway house on the way. They have these small maybe 2 dl pints which is agreed to be a pretty good idea in terms of synchronizing when everyone’s emptied their glass at the same time so we can move on.

Turns out there’s a jam session at the hotel where most of the musicians are staying. I’m right at home with the Irish repertoire, though I wish I had also my banjo with me. We are requested to do some of our own songs, and as far as I can remember we did at least Witchdance and My Home Is Where My Heart Is. And a Finnish traditional Kalliolla kukkulalla as a capella that for some reason we knew the different voices to (seems you have to go abroad to sing Finnish folk songs together with your band mates). At some point also Harmony Glen arrives and the session gets pretty intense, and so loud that I can’t even hear my own bouzouki. However, the wakeup being at leisurely 8 AM next morning, I call it a night so shortly after 3 AM.

…to be concluded tomorrow…

What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen – Part 4/4

Until we meet again! Photo: Pauli Borodulin

Until we meet again! Photo: Pauli Borodulin

“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire

It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.


Woke up before 8 AM to someone singing in the shower, same as the last day. The breakfast is a bit quieter than yesterday but it seems everyone made it through the night alone. We take the benefit of walking the route back to the castle in daylight for the first time, for there is a lot to look at on the way.

There is also finally some time to walk around the castle grounds and appreciate the different horticultural wonders gathered there. Again, with lot of the people dressed very elaborately as characters from popular culture, I amuse myself thinking someone must be trying to figure who I’m supposed to be dressed as. Hanna reports having been asked to pose for a photograph, but I face no such requests.

Turns out our today’s sets will be back to back, so we decide not to play the exact same show twice but shuffle in some extra songs. Couple of them we have not played in some while, so we have a quick run-through in the dressing room with air instruments. I try to ask around for Helena who was my main contact when arranging these gigs over email, but have not yet met in person and I even have no idea what she looks like.

As I sit down in the stage crew’s tent (and get offered coffee), a bare-foot girl says I look just like someone from the Vikings series (forgot who already). So that answered what I was wondering earlier. Clearly I’ll have to watch that show some day. She introduces herself as what sounds like Elfia to me, and as I can’t catch the proper spelling she conveniently has her CD with her with the name written on it (it’s Elvya). Her main instrument is hammered dulcimer and we swap CD’s (I ended up liking hers quite a lot).

CD Swap

The first show of Sunday starts with the full intro tape this time, so we have plenty of time to walk onto the stage. I drop the decorations on Pete’s desk on my way and have just enough time to put them back before my part starts. I notice the microphone on the harmonium has been fixed on place with gaffer tape this time. Somehow my bouzouki sounds really weird on the monitors today although everything should be the same as yesterday. During Feed the Flames I sneak behind Salla so that I can lean over her shoulder just as she sings ”stand behind my shoulder”. She’s amused but doesn’t miss a beat.

There is a 15 minute break between the sets and I go get another sandwich (they really like their boterham‘s don’t they) and manage to eat almost half of it before the show must go on again. We play maybe half of the songs of the first set again, but still many of the people watch the second set as well. There is one guy standing at the back with his hands crossed who’s been there for all for of our gigs, stone-faced but nodding his head very slightly. He came by the booth to buy all the three CDs after the last gig though. For this last gig, the stage sound is finally fine, and now I have already pretty good idea of how far my cable allows me to run on that stage and overall it’s the most relaxed of these gigs.

The breakdown after the show is more hectic than usual, because we have only about half an hour before we need to start towards the airport again. As we’re packing the last of the cases into the cars, Steef brings Helena to me and we finally get to shake hands. She said she managed to see part of our show and liked it very much, and maybe we should come again next year. I’m very much in agreement.

The drive back to the airport takes a bit more direct route than our arrival in the night, but still it is a close shave what with the returning of the rental cars, distributing our possessions again into the suitcases, so that the potential threats to the safe operation of the flying machinery such as bottles of water and dangerous-looking metal belt buckets don’t go into cabin bags etc, and then running with the instrument cases about couple of kilometres to the furthest corner of the terminal for the special baggage desk. Tomi, Hanna and Pauli are picked again for extra inspection at the security check.

The stopover is in Frankfurt this time but it is a shorter one than on the outgoing trip. Pauli has again shot hours and hours of video and previews some of it on his laptop.

By the time we reach Helsinki airport, everyone is pretty exhausted (how tiring can sitting for miles and miles be), but at least we are back in Finland with the benefits of having steady cell phone reception so we may once again call and text anyone should we feel like it.

It is close to midnight but there is still the two-hour drive back to Tampere, with the mandatory coffee and donut break in the middle. I’m home after 3 AM, wake up for work at 7:30, and might have thought it was all just a dream if it wasn’t for all the photos and videos of the festival that start to appear on the internet over the following days.

What a magical journey! And to top everything off, two weeks later I get an email from Helena asking if we would like to return already in April for Elfia Haarzuilens. It’s in the middle of preparing to that journey one week from now that I’m typing this diary from my notes and reliving the weekend… And I’d like to add one more point to my initial list of why Elfia gig is so important to us: it’s the all-around good spirits and friendliness of everyone we met and worked with on the journey, be it the stage crew or just a random Dutchman on the street giving us directions. Expecting to have just as excellent weekend in Haarzuilens, hope to see you there!


Castlefest 2015 – Arjan

Castlefest 2015 Banner
To some they are all about the music, to others they are an escape into a world of fantasy. There are those festivals that crowd their stages with the biggest names, and there are festivals that try to give smaller groups a chance to grow, a stage to shine from. As you have probably noticed, last weekend we were at Castlefest, and personally I would say that Castlefest is all of the above! This festival, to many visitors, is unique in its way to create a whole new world, a place where all the things exist that we would like to see in every day life but somehow don’t seem to work in the “normal” world. Maybe that’s why 2015 saw the 11th edition of this happening, and in all those years the organization has shown that they keep finding new ways to grow, to evolve. This growth does however mean that one does not get to see everything at this festival, so in this report, as complete as I will try to make it, you can read about what I saw and experienced, which is not even 25% of the whole festival. 🙂


Starting on Thursday morning, with the pitching of the tent at the camp-grounds, the feeling of “home” took over everything else, and surrounded by friends, most of whom I hadn’t met yet, Castlefest 2015 took off! We were asked to help out with some of the audio workings of the Castlefest live-stream by our friends of Bastaard.net, so it was off to the backstage around lunchtime for us. I won’t bother you with too many details, but with plenty of time to spare, a whopping ten minutes before the broadcast was supposed to start, we fixed the last audio issues that come along with something as high tech and massive as this, and we went live! I can tell you that being a part of this Castlefest family, because that’s what it is, a family, is an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world! The shared feelings of joy and elation as the video and audio feed combined and were sent into cyberspace and the world was amazing, and it is very awesome to be able to send some of these Castlefest vibes out into the world. Small presentations, and some clips from last year, and then it was time for the first performance.

Scotch is a Dutch band from Dordrecht that describes its music as Party Folk, and party it is! A combination of many different styles up to and including ska, and some “other than standard” instruments on stage, combined with quite the stage presence, made for a very interesting show and a great way to start the festival.

Next up was a fire show by Solstix. Because of this show being presented in front of the stage rather than on the stage this gave a very intimate and closely connected feel. The audience was sitting right on top of the show!

After this show it was time for the headliner of the evening, a performance by Afro Celt Sound System. Because of, shall we say, reasons, we were not allowed to broadcast this show, and I wish I could tell the viewers back home that they didn’t miss much. But I’m afraid they did. The show was amazing, and one of the best words I can think of to describe it is empowering. The energy flowed, gushed, from the stage and into the audience and I don’t think many people would have minded this show to continue for even longer, even though they gave several encores and played for I believe almost 25 minutes past their time.

After the evening was concluded there was a party backstage, which I am not at liberty to discuss 😉


The second day started as a typical festival day. Way too early, because not enough sleep, but way too late, because I missed the first performances at the festival. Though, to be honest, I mainly missed those shows because I was at the 24 hour tent, the catering and party tent on the campsite, listening to another great performance by our friends of Pyrolysis together with Iris of Fiddle ‘n Drum on bodhran, who were booked to play several shows here this year. It’s really amazing to wake up with some nice coffee, some nice friends, in some nice early sunshine, with a nice acoustic folk performance! I wish life could be like this all the time. But I know, we all have jobs, and frankly, I don’t have enough room in my house to accommodate all the band-members of Pyrolysis all the time, so I’ll just have to enjoy it extra here.

Then on to the festival grounds with all its music and diversity in people. Again I was struck by the level of acceptance. This to me is the epitome of Castlefest. The most extravagant costumes combine with the most every day outfits. Fantasy meets steam-punk meets pagan meets fun costumes meets, well, you get the point! Heavily armed knights dance and drink with soldiers from the Umbrella Corporation and the best part is: nothing happens! No arguments, no fights. Friendship and love rule this festival and that is exactly what makes this event so addictive!

As for the performances, what can I say? From what I’ve seen Triskilian was deep and amazing, Cesair beautiful as ever, La Horde and The Dolmen turned the festival into massive parties, each in their own way, and Omnia was their magnificent self on stage. Their stage presence is hardly rivaled and their music is deep, spiritual and powerful as ever.

I must admit that with this being my first real festival day, because Thursday was filled with work on the live stream, I met so many friends, old and new, all through the day that I did not get the chance to see as many shows as I would have liked, and not enough of the shows that I did see.

This was also the day that we ended our competition to win the new SeeD album, or the SeeDee as they call it, and I challenge you to organize a drawing, get a band, two radio people and a prize winner all together, and do that all within one and a half hour at a festival! 😉

The day ended with a performance of Euzen on the Forest stage (the main stage of Castlefest) that blew me away and must have sent vibes all over the city and farther. What a show it was!


Day three, Saturday, and traditionally the busiest day both in terms of visitors and catching as many shows as possible. Of course my day started with coffee and Pyrolysis again, my two comrades in the morning, but this day I was at the festival a lot earlier.

So after first starting with a bit of Irish/Scottish folk at the 24 hour tent, my wake up session was perfected by the great Danish sounds of Trolska Polska on the Forest stage. This group to me, together with Virelai, is the epitome of festival-feeling, and I play their music a lot when I need to fill up my “reserves” in times when there are not many large festivals to visit. Seeing and hearing them live on stage again, seeing them absolutely love music as they play it, I’m sure will help me in the coming winter whenever I need a little festival boost.

Then quickly on to the Village stage for the combined performance of LEAF and SeeD, with the latter also presenting their new album there. These two groups not only have in common that they are both Dutch, but they are both very spiritual and focused on getting as much spirituality and perfection into their music as possible. LEAF is in the process of recording and mixing their new album and we were treated to some new tracks, including a galdr called LYS which resonated into the deepest depths of my soul! I can’t wait for this new album to be released! But speaking of album releases, next up as mentioned before was a set by SeeD in which they not only presented their album but even played some songs that will be recorded on their next one! Now, an album presentation is often an somewhat emotional happening for a band, and you can usually hear this in their performance. But the amount of passion and love for their music and their ‘Portal to Elfland’ that SeeD put into this show here was astounding! Koen is a natural entertainer, joking and playing with the audience, and I really felt an amazing connection between the musicians and us, the people that were fortunate enough to be there at that time. After the show I didn’t want to stop applauding, and I wasn’t alone in that. The SeeDee’s sold like hot cakes, and rightly so! But I can’t dwell on one show too much, as there was an entire weekend of amazement!

After meeting up with more friends the next show I saw was La Horde on the Forest stage. During the weekend I’ve described them in a Facebook post as crazy-pirate-disco-punk-folk, and I stand by that. I would like to add, to be clear, that this means the absolute right kind of crazy! Watching them perform and do all sorts of crazy stuff on stage, you can’t not be entertained! A tennis match between Mathieu and Arno, “serious” music that moves into Daddy Cool, and to top it all off they cleaned out a local IKEA store and bought loads of pillows for a pillow-fight in the audience, which they started with a “wall of love” during the song ‘Ulfhednar’. As always a combination of pure fun and pure music!

After all this I took some time to get some rest together with some friends and then we got into position to fully experience the wickerman ritual. If you don’t know what that is, this is a ceremony based in ancient traditions. The Celts, among others, are reported to have performed this in the Iron Age. A figure, usually a man, was built from wicker and filled with offerings. After a ritual or ceremony it would then be set alight to send the offerings to their Gods. Castlefest always holds a ritual like that, and this year, with the theme being love, the wicker figure actually consisted of two figures, a man and a woman holding each other. Throughout the weekend people could bring offerings and place them inside the statue. These offerings could be anything. Some will bring traditional gifts for traditional Gods, others will bring a diary which they would like to burn in order to “close another year”. Reasons are always personal, as are the thoughts as to where these offerings are sent. But through the magic of Castlefest hundreds, maybe even thousands of people join in this ceremony and I can honestly say it is always one of the most powerful moments of the year for me. With the amazing sounds of the guiding music, written and composed by Fieke van den Hurk of Orchus Studio, and of Cesair, the procession and ritual have a certain powerful elegance and standing there you just feel connected to every other person witnessing the event. Many a tear will flow each year during this ceremony. Once the wicker was almost completely burned, Cesair, a band that I first encountered at Castlefest a few years ago, started their set and as usual it was amazing! This is a group of very talented people that have such a focus on quality that I personally find it hard to compare them to anyone else at the moment. Two years ago they had an orchestra and choir when they played on the Forest stage, this year they had flame-throwers, which made for a very impressive show!

After this I was quite overwhelmed, and I decided to retreat towards the 24 hour tent on the camp-grounds, where the silent disco, which is actually not very silent if everyone wearing headphones sings and stomps along to the music, the outdoor jam-sessions, the hamburgers, mead and beer, and especially the amazing people, combine to create that very special Castlefest Camping Feel. If you’ve never been in the 24 hour tent I highly recommend that you buy the Castlefanatic ticket next year and join in on the 24 hour fun that starts as early as Thursday morning and can continue until Monday morning, if you wish. I personally do try to get a good four hours of sleep a night, but that’s everyone’s personal choice.


Sunday, the last day. And you can feel that realization reverberate through all of the Castlefanatics. One more day to live the life we want to live, one more day of maximum enjoyment!

Once again I found myself late on the festival grounds and the first performance I (half) caught was Theodor Bastard on the forest stage, while I was having some lunch with friends. World music from Russia, it had some very intriguing depths to it. I would really like to see some more concerts of that group.

Then it was off to the Village stage where Cesair was playing and our lovely merch-babe was, ehm, merching. 🙂 Sitting in the shade together with friends, backs to a fence, drinking a cold beer and enjoying the wonderful sounds of one of my favourite bands… life could have been a lot worse.

And then right after the show we saw Fieke being rushed out of the backstage, through the normally closed off path, by a Vana volunteer. As it turned out she was on her way to surprise the people with a guest performance at the Omnia show on the Forest stage. As always, this scene is one big happy family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Since we didn’t have the means to fly to the other stage that quick we decided to stay around the Village stage for the next show, which was Shireen. This is a band that has a sound that is hard to describe, hard to place it in a specific category. So I won’t. I’ll just call it Shireen. Like several other bands at Castlefest you can hear that they focus on quality. The music flows together, and the depth and layers of the songs will let you dream away while wide awake and that makes it perfect for a Castlefest afternoon!

The last performance of the day, and therefore of the festival, was a stomping, heart pounding power-play by Prima Nocta. I first saw them at the Castlefest Winter Edition and I knew then and there that they would be amazing on the Forest stage! The power that they convey from the stage to the audience is amazing and it definitely picked up all of these tired festival goers and gave them a last massive burst of energy!

After this the stages were cleared, the instruments packed, the tech gear broken down and Castlefest 2015 was almost over. I say almost, because different people have different traditions, and there are always some after-parties. The 24 hour tent is one place where Castlefanatics could go to keep the party going a little while longer, but since most people had already left the camp-grounds, leaving only the hardcore campers 😉 you also see groups forming all over the camp-site with people wanting to hold on to that feeling of togetherness, sharing that last bottle of mead, that last beer, that last song, but certainly lots of laughter.

As I come to an end of this report I have to add some things. This report was obviously written from my point of view, and as stated I wasn’t everywhere all the time unfortunately. This means that there are more performance I have not written about then there are those that I did write about. On one hand this is a sad thing, because I would have loved to have given you a full description of the entire festival, but on the other hand it does leave something for you all to dream about without knowing. If you want to know more, then come to Castlefest next year and find out for yourself! 🙂

There is one more thing that I need to mention here. Castlefest originally started out as a market with music, and even though I’ve mainly written about the music here, the market is still a very important part of the festival! You can get anything here, from beads and laces to entire costumes. Drink special ciders, extraordinary meads or maybe a nice fruit smoothie, and don’t even get me started on the food! A friend that came along this year works professionally with food and he was amazed by the quality of just about everything you can get here. I do believe he tried his best to taste everything, I still have to ask him if he succeeded in that mission.

All in all Castlefest has been the highlight of my year for several years now, and I’m certain it will continue to fulfil that role for many years to come. I would invite you all to come see for yourself. There’s just one warning. Over the past years I’ve seen that Castlefest very easily breeds Castlefanatics. This festival is as addicting as they come! Be warned! 🙂

– Arjan


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