Bella Terra has continuously outdone itself as a small town festival, while keeping its reputation for pulling some of the biggest names in music and giving them a personal and organic experience.
Year after year festivals come and go from the circuit. These festivals open up new venues, new bands, and new experiences, but it isn’t until a festival has been around long enough to establish itself that you recognize the importance of all of these new avenues for the music world.
The extensive focus on both music and art makes the festival not just a string of fantastic musical performances, but an experience. Over the past few years Bella Terra has established itself as a festival with the bandwidth to hang with the best of them. The venue is small and intimate which gives patrons the opportunity to enjoy big names in a smaller crowd.
Bella Terra takes place year after year at Gardner’s Farm, nestled quietly in the sleepy town of Stephentown, New York amid the beautiful backdrop of the Berkshire Mountains. Being in between the capital of New York State and the Massachusetts border, the venue is out-of-the-way but in the middle of it all making it very accessible and an easy drive.
Conspirator was one of the main highlights of the weekend playing a 2 hour set and releasing a ton of new material. The band played their new sound “Quick Sand” which had extremely low-key but solid jams that were unlike anything they have put out thus far. Conspirator does a fantastic job of balancing each other out musically on stage. No particular band member takes the spot light for overly extended periods of time, and the entire band plays off of each others energy to create a phenomenal balance and stage presence. The entire set was leaning more on the jam side than their usual heavy-electronic sets, but still they included their classic sound of synth and bass oriented jams.
Papadosio played the Wicked Cool Stage directly following the Conspirator set which was an organic transition due to the parallels between the two bands. Over the past few years Papadosio has drawn quite the following and truly established themselves within the music scene.
Surprisingly, the tent during the Abakus set was next to empty with just a handful of die hards dancing intently throughout the small stage area. This is a shame as this was perhaps one of the most phenomenal electronic performances of the evening. Abakus played a set blending acid-house, electronic and trance that showed why Abakus has accumulated the amount of respect he has within the time he has spent at music festivals.
Local Upstate artists like Digital Dharma, DJ Leila, Mentally Ill, Formula 5 and Lucid represented well at their hometown festival with fire sets across the board. Turkuaz played a fantastic and energy packed daytime set with the perfect musical backdrop to begin the last evening of the festival. Dr. Fameus, aka Allen Aucoin of the Disco Biscuits, showed that you don’t need much more than a drum set to make the crowd move. Saturday night turned into a full-blown dance party with DJ Craze and his spectacular and mind-blowing spin-techniques. This seemed to be the biggest crowd pleaser of the weekend. Perhaps it was the exceptional amount of energy that both Craze and the crowd reciprocated throughout the set, or perhaps it was the insane and unrealistic style of DJing. Araab Muzik seemed to be another huge crowd draw, however it would have been nice to break up the heavy electronic acts with something a little more versatile. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this set was finding out that Araab Muzik uses an MCP Drum machine so all of his beats are being made live on stage. This definitely set him apart from all of the ‘push-play’ DJs that take stage from year to year at all of the festivals world-wide.
The Canadian electronic trio Keys and Krates packed the dance tent and blew the crowd away with a spectacular, high energy performance. They played a few new songs which seemed to settle well with the crowd, as well as their fan favorites “Dum Dee Dum,” and “High All the Time.” The Sky Net Stage lit up the night deep in the woods of Stephentown with a smaller set up and psychedelic decor. Cosmal, Ali Laz, and B.A Dario made for a great closing of the evening drawing the crowd away from the main concert stage and into the woods until the late hours of the night.
The huge focus on visual arts is also extremely evident throughout the festival. With a full set up of wooden cut outs of anyone from Theodore Roosevelt to Randy “Macho Man” Savage, art installations by Cinder Block Hustle included many set ups for live graffiti and painting lining the greater portion of the concert venue; it was refreshing to see such a solid blend of different medias. Throughout the long weekend fire spinners lined up to do their thing alongside the main stage in an enclosed area. There were fire spinners as young as five years old with immense amount of talent and passion. It was nice to see so many local artists of all different age groups and styles coming together and creating such beautiful and different varieties of art.
To sum up the festival in the words of Jules Jennsen of IndoBox:“The people who put it on are solid people. I have a lot of respect for what they do. This festival is true to their vision and they persevere in an ever-changing environment through the Northeast festivals. There’s always a good lineup and always a good vibe. I’m just happy I can go home and feed my cat.”