The music doesn’t start until 7pm, and the curfew is 11. There’s no camping. The acts don’t even take place on consecutive days. It doesn’t sound like I’m describing a festival, does it? In fact, as I’m writing this I’m wondering if anyone in this part of the world has even heard of Belsonic. But today you are going to learn all about the festival that holds a special place in the heart of every Northern Irish teen.
For context – back home we don’t have the same musical experiences as everyone in England. We don’t have any camping festivals, and no big artists actually include Belfast in their UK tours. So, once a year, always just after exams, we flock to Ormeau Park in the city to actually experience some live music. The trains are packed out with glitter-faced fans and you can guarantee you’ll stop every five minutes to say hello to someone you went to school with (it’s a very small world).
Looking at the headliners, this is where Belsonic is full of surprises, given the clear lack of concerts nearby throughout the rest of the year. In its 11 years of existence, the acts have gotten bigger and bigger every year, and the festival really tries to provide for all tastes. 2019 brought some of the biggest names in music – Stormzy, and The Killers, who went straight on to headline Glastonbury a week later – as well as artists like Hozier, Slash and Marshmello. Not only does this lineup contain some of the best mainstream artists, it offers a show for some more alternative musical subcultures across the country.
It isn’t just the music that makes Belsonic so significant – it represents the beginning of the summer, Instagram posts with your friends and generally just a great night out. It becomes a rite of passage for teens from the end of their GCSEs, and everyone has a good memory from the festival. Personally, the night Green Day and Rancid graced Belsonic in 2017 stands as one of the best nights of my life. I was just a few rows from the barrier, screaming my lungs out and surrounded by fans every bit as passionate as me.
Even though I’ve moved to Southampton, I still get that same excitement when I see one of my favourite artists on the lineup (moment of silence for The Killers tickets I didn’t get, though). It always makes for a good night out. In many ways, it’s like any other festival – you can still rely on the extortionately priced food (though I’m more than willing to shell out for a slushie for a gig on a hot day). On the other hand, and perhaps most importantly, the price of a day ticket is significantly lower than most other festivals.
As each year goes by and the acts get bigger, it looks like Belsonic is playing to win. But a part of me hopes that it never loses its small festival charm. So yes, the music starts too late. There’s no camping. It doesn’t even happen over consecutive days. It may not be as glamorous as Glastonbury, it may not even count as a real festival in the eyes of most people. But it’s ours.
Check out the video below to witness the exciting, electric atmosphere at Belsonic.