Words & Pictures: Adrian Choa
Our man in a field meditates on a weekend of throbbing bass, lakeside vistas, and giant owls. All at Gottwood Festival (somewhere in Wales).
Gottwood Festival has a whispered cult following.
Capped at just 5000 people, and nestled on the coast of the Welsh isle of Anglesey, its reputation is more mystical squat-rave than classic British festival.
The first and most important thing to note about the event is the setting.
Gottwood takes place on the grounds of a majestic country estate which boasts a lake that is wonderful to look at on pingers.
Majestic Gottwood. Good on pingers.
Dotted around this lake are 10 extremely varied stages, ranging from the almost pagan setting of The Trigon, the sweaty Curve tent to the intimate house party of Ricky’s Disco.
Also, there’s a giant owl which serves as a stage. ✔︎
A giant owl is a giant bonus.
With such a serene backdrop, it is clear that weather is an important factor. Last year’s event was cursed by 48 hours straight of rain. But the Welsh Gods were, fortunately, gazing happily down on us that weekend. We were blessed with 4 days of glorious sunshine.
Anyway, I arrive Friday night and dive straight into the fray. After navigating a sea of bucket-hats and 90s nostalgia-garmed-sesh-heads, I arrive safely at my destination: Palm Trax’ set at The Curve.
Curve was the closest you’ll get to a typical festival tent at Gottwood. Chock full of ecstatic punters loving Trax’s jubilant party tunes.
Jubilant party tunes o’plenty.
From here then, to Ricky’s Disco. An ‘intimate’ area playing host to the brooding grooves of Man Power. With only 80 or so people, it felt like someone’s living room.
Changing setting equally dramatically, I then found myself in The Barn for a liquid DnB set by Commix.
The Barn is quite literally, a barn. Populated mostly by an energetic selection of aggy hetero males. As they happily chew on the scenery these boys are fully turning-up to the music, which is a welcome antidote to the more saccharine disco that personifies many stages here. And for this reason, The Barn became my spiritual home for the weekend.
After a thrilling hour or two of Nanny Banton, it was time to return to the tent.
My tent and others.
As far as campsites go, Gottwood’s is pretty serene. Unlike the Mad Max hellscapes of other British festivals, this didn’t feel like a place where someone would knife open your tent and steal all your wet wipes.
After a much-needed rest, I sauntered down to the lake on the Saturday and felt like I had arrived at festival nirvana. Bodies lay in the sunshine as a Bloody Mary van did the rounds to a zen soundtrack of aromatherapy-massage music.
But it wasn’t long before the walking dead emerged from their triangular tombs – ready to feast once more on the tasty flesh of the disco.
Zombie Apocalypse does 90s nostalgia.
As the sun went down on it was clear that the ‘wavey-garms’ brigade had fully refreshed the settings and were ready to tackle a Saturday night blessed by the master selector Ben UFO.
Like moths to a rave flame, crowds amassed at the Trigon stage to see Hessle Audio’s finest, surf expertly across a wave of genres.
The crowd looked significantly wonkier at this point. But with enough basic motoring to show their love for Mr UFO.
Aside: One thing to note at Gottwood is the invisibility of the security. Rarely the case at festivals. Too often they’re less a celebration of liberal freedom and more like trying to party in a police state.
But to finish on a breezier note, here’s a picture of my mate wearing the remains of some pointy sunglasses. Literally, every girl at the festival seemed to have a pair. We thought it was really funny at the time.
Pointy glasses. Funnier at the time. Gottwood.
So, because I’m an #adult with a #job.com it was finally time for me to navigate my way through a lakeside mist of balloon canisters, ketamine, and regret. With my tent packed and ready, I made my way to morning train home.
These days it’s hard to find festivals that aren’t a branded circle jerk. For example, All Points East had a booth where you could get temporary tattoos of its sponsors. Also, many are too large to maintain any sort of identity. So, I only hope that the Gottwood organisers don’t get greedy and go the same way. Gottwood is, after all, a unique event.