Carregewlyd Estate | 19 – 22 June
Based at the idyllic Carregewlyd Estate on the north west coast of Wales, Gottwood is now in its fifth year and has morphed into one of the most important boutique festivals that the UK has to offer. The fact it clocked in at 7th place in RA’s list of the top ten festivals in June gives you an indication of the manner in which it has grown. Still, the lineup and size of the festival remained intentionally modest for 2014, in order to keep the core values that the Gottwood family seems determined to hold on to.
Eschewing the commercial aspects prevalent in many other UK festivals (other than the ever present Bulmers and Tuborg on tap), Gottwood also continued in the vein of focusing their lineup and stages on the quality, yet (relatively) underground crews that pepper the surrounding areas. Back to Basics and Louche from Leeds, Wixflex from Nottingham, and Bristol’s own Futureboogie, Shapes and Hypercolour all hosted areas across the weekend. In fact you would have been hard pushed to find a ‘mainstream’ DJ anywhere on the roster. Sure the likes of Tale Of Us, Gerd Janson, Margaret Dygas and Calibre are all well known to those that dig a little deeper for their electronic fix, but in terms of mass appeal? Deadmau5, Laidback Luke and Annie Mac they ain’t.
On the Friday night the Wigflex stage in the woods stole the show, with their amphitheatre of hay bales under psychedelic trees providing the perfect canopy for Spam Chop’s tech-house and techno, with his final record When the Going Is Smooth & Good by William Onyeabor getting a very appreciative response from the assembled throng. Following on from the Wigflex resident, Max Cooper and Stephan Bodzin kept Crack from checking out Craig Richards over in the Walled Garden. Some slight programming headaches on a small lineup meant a couple of missed artists which was possibly the only large criticism of the weekend, but Tale Of Us was a must for the final set of the evening, and they didn’t disappoint with a roaring set highlighting just why they are one of the most sought after selector duos around at present. Being able to watch the sunrise next to some ruins, or on the beach, is a pretty great way to finish off any night at a festival, or to simply provide some downtime before carrying on the party.
One of the defining factors of Gottwood as a festival is as such, its strength in the daytime, due to the aforementioned beauty of the estate itself. The perfect weather throughout the weekend definitely contributed, when all that most could manage was a gentle dance to the early sounds of disco and funk next to the lake, whilst laying back down and soaking in the weather with friends. Or a lot of hula-hooping, something a few of the revellers managed to do for the entirety of the weekend, having brought their own vibes for the party. Of the early afternoon sets, Real Nice treated the crowd by the lake to an excellent mix of party tunes such as Puzique’s Don’t Go; always welcome in the sun.
When the skies darkened once more however, Gottwood dropped the chilled demeanour and brought a full scale assault on the senses; many of the punters wouldn’t look out of place in Boom or Burning Man, and the fact that one of them told Crack that ‘Saturday night means trips night’ gives you an idea of the state of play for most of the ravers. Gerd Janson clocked in with a typically excellent set, with the duel Futureboogie rush of PBR Streetgang and Crazy P Soundsystem, and Back to Basics’ Tristan Da Cunha, Denney and Ralph Lawson bringing rave reviews from revellers who had managed to catch their sets. Margaret Dygas had our full attention for two hours however, with frankly one of the best sets we have seen in as long as we can remember, but the normally very chilled out security disappointed us in killing the music at 4:01, halfway through a track. For a festival in the middle of nowhere, we figured they probably could have let the song end at least, highlighting just why English festivals will still struggle to compete with countries that have more relaxed laws on noise. Despite this minor criticism, Gottwood is definitely up there as one of the most enjoyable festival experiences we’ve had, and we’re pleased to hear from the organisers that they have decided they have reached their ideal capacity, and won’t be expanding further to pocket some coin. We wish more festivals and parties shared their mentality.
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Words: Kane Rich
Photography: Kane Rich and Max Foster