After sixteen months of multiple lockdowns, and restrictions, due to one covid pandemic, the weekend of the eleventh and twelfth of September twenty twenty-one finally saw the arrival of the highly anticipated Portals Festival. For those of you without an awareness, Portals Festival is a celebration of experimental rock, a two-day event, which takes place in London, and is split between three venues.
The Dome, Boston Music Room, and Aces And Eights bar, play host to an incredible line up of diverse, and unique acts, some of whom you will recognise, and many of whom you will be completely unaware of. This year saw the likes of Bossk, Pijn, Ohhms, and Jo Quail perform, to name but a few. It was my first time attending and reviewing this event, and after waiting for what seemed like forever for it to come, the arrival of it, for me personally, has signaled the end of a very tough year indeed.
While attending, I was so very fortunate to get some time with the event organisers, Sam Festenstein, Asher Kenton, and Arran Oakes, and I had the opportunity to see just how a pandemic has affected things. We discussed just how much time and effort goes in to organising a large event such as this, and now that things appear to be returning to somewhat of a normality again, and what the future holds for all involved.
We talked at length, I pitched a few questions, and here are the results of that very encounter.
there seemed to be a real gap in the market concerning a large-scale event that dealt with the genres of math and alt rock…
Why did you start the Portals Festival, and when?
Portals Festival was set up four years ago, as there seemed to be a real gap in the market concerning a large-scale event that dealt with the genres of math and alt rock. As there are so many bands around in that genre, it seemed fitting to look at organising an event which covered that. There are plenty of festivals and events set up which cover the whole hard rock and metal scene, but there didn’t seem to be a comparable event in place for the alternative bands.
With being members of bands, and promoters, it seemed only logical to create something that would open up that arena for like minded bands, something that was more than just your average heavy event. It was a good opportunity to introduce a lot of smaller bands that are coming through too.
How easy was it to set up?
There was a lot of hard work involved, but thankfully through time spent already dealing with promoters, other bands, and venues, it became a handy network to get things rolling. There were a lot of conversations, emails, and telephone calls to get a plan in place, and then it was finding a venue, or venues, that could house such an event. Thankfully The Dome and Boston Music Room were happy to jump on the idea, and the Portals Festival was born.
Moving forward, and with restrictions easing, what will be the situation regarding international bands?
Obviously, pre-covid, there were international bands booked to play the Portals Festival 2020, so with everything that happened, things had to be adapted to allow Portals Festival 2021 to take place, and the biggest change was having to make the line up predominantly UK bands. With the exception of The Guru Guru, from Belgium, it really showcased just what the UK has to offer.
With Portals Festival 2022 now being the next project to start working on, hopefully things will change, and there will be the possibility of having international bands coming back to play in the UK, and specifically at Portals Festival. Obviously, time will tell, but hopefully it will be something that can be offered next year.
the biggest change was having to make the line up predominantly UK bands…
Who has been the biggest surprise this year?
It’s a question that’s been asked a lot. Obviously knowing the bands that are booked in advance, it isn’t such a surprise, but the nicest surprise has been the response from the audience. To see how well it has been received, and that it’s been very friendly and welcoming, has been the biggest highlight. Considering the way the last two years have been, to be able to open up, with such a positive response has been the nicest thing all round.
Thoughts on this years turn out?
Again, its all been very positive. People have been respectful and understanding, the bands have been well received, and ultimately the response has been fantastic. It’s been an absolute success.
Looking to the future, how do you see the Portals Festival progressing?
There has been a lot of talk about evolving the festival, the possibility of expanding, even the idea of making it a music and camping event, but the conversation always came back to just how nice it all is now, and keeping that vibe, and spirit going. Building on the hard work to keep it as something that the audience will enjoy and keeping the community spirit.
to go bigger means more money, bigger venues to entice bigger bands, and then ultimately its additional costs, which will possibly take away from the point of the event itself…
As with these things, to go bigger means more money, bigger venues to entice bigger bands, and then ultimately its additional costs, which will possibly take away from the point of the event itself. The one unified attitude is that it isn’t about making money, at all, or getting rich in the process, but more for it being a platform for emerging and experienced bands to reach out to the wider community and speak to a bigger market. By musicians, for musicians.
When I came away from our conversation, the biggest thing that struck me was that all three guys aren’t doing it for any other reason than for love of the music. We discussed, at length, what a task it actually is putting on such an event, not only financially, but to have people put their faith in you when you are putting it all together. In a time when the smaller bands are having less and less opportunities to get themselves out there, this beacon of light really is a wonder to see, and what’s been created really is such an achievement.
It truly was an honour to get to spend some time with the guys, and chat with them, and see just how passionate they are about it all. Roll on Portals Festival 2022, with Sam, Asher, and Arran leading the way, it promises to be something truly magical indeed.
Interviewed by: Lee Beamish