Review: Gottwood 2017
Festivals are magical places of discovery that create wonderful yet delicate moments out of hedonistic chaos… and then it rains! For Gottwood the Anglesey barometer reverted to default as revellers were treated to regular showers, but that certainly didn’t dampen enthusiasm.
In its eighth edition, we all know the plaudits lavished on the festival by critics and punters – only last year we ourselves gave the festival a 9/10. But in more difficult conditions the quality of the festival really shone though. Last year we described Gottwood as “a fantasy world as stunningly pretty as it is cohesive” and that certainly hasn’t changed, but what I was struck by was the overall communal sense of discovery.
For those who haven’t yet managed to get down to the Welsh woodland for the pleasure, the festival programme is built around showcasing collectives, crews and party promoters, all contributing to the UK scene. Teif, Percolate, Make Me, Rhythm Section… they all curate and create pieces of the festival jigsaw. Festival goers aren’t necessarily drawn in by big names (of which there were many), but find themselves gravitating to areas through the vibe. Each area a party unto itself, with its own line up, and its own residents.
Nottingham’s Wigflex got a huge reception, thrashing out a unique brand of jacking UK techno. Skilled sectors such as Lukas showcased impeccable turntable-ism and selection that left several in the crowd making comparisons to weightier names. The atmosphere was pure “party” and even before the end I was already lobbying my friends to make a pilgrimage north of London.
Another impressive showcase came from Banoffee Pies, who, whilst already gaining considerable and deserved plaudits for their label of recent times, came with the goods behind the decks. Beneficiaries of a rain shower midway though Sunday, their brand of big room, party-friendly edits were well received. All those “sheltering” in the Walled Garden, certainly danced themselves dry, then sweaty.
The Ricky’s Disco stage was a slice of East London afters, shifting out slinky minimal and tech from noon till morn. Recognisable contingents filled the corners by the booth and around the speakers, whilst DJs pushed the familiar brand of 4×4. The Back 2 Basics boys were an absolute delight on the Saturday, from Tristan da Cunha’s exuberant batty-bouncers to Denny’s cosmic grooves, a rainy Anglesea got a real treat from Leeds’ finest.
With regards to the bigger names, Roman Flügel produced a masterclass on behalf of Hypercolour in the Walled Garden. As a selector, Flügel is able to turn his hand to any genre and deliver the dance – a Machiavellian beat-smith. This set was no different as he seamlessly shifted pace and mood over his 3 hours.
Margaret Dygas, in the unfortunate absence of Zip, played an extended set on the final night. Situated far away from the Black Madonna, who was shutting down the Treehouse stage with her unmistakable disco and house thumpers, Dygas held the crowd in the palm of her hand, showing restraint, whilst building tension. In the soggy early hours, Dygas offered up a set with warmth and focus.
When the sun did shine, boy it was glorious. The Lawn stage, which hosted the majority of the live music, was picturesque. Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra offered welcome variety, and some brilliant sing-a-long moments. Everyone in high spirits, prancing around by the lake, hollering “too much informatiooooooooon”, was certainly one of the moments of the festival.
Beyond the music, the stages facilitated the vibe with individualism and character. From the big-room techno slant of Trigon, which hosted the likes of Ryan Elliot and Blackhall & Bookless; to the Hit and Run collective rollocking the acoustics of The Barn whilst toasting on the mic in fine style – there was an attention to detail that’s regularly overlooked at electronic music festivals. The artistry of the adjoining waterfall, the sculptures that lined the walk down to the site; the Mother Owl stage a wooden sculpture itself alone.
By the time Craig Richards stepped up and demonstrated his own mastery closing the Sunday (with a cheeky b2b with Nicolas Lutz near the end), there was certainly a 7am Fabric feel about the place. As he drew to an end, some of the tunes seemed like they were spiralling out of comprehension for those revellers still left – maybe a taste of things to come with Houghton festival (curated by Richards and organised by the Gottwood crew) only a couple of months round the corner.
Ok, so the weather was not the early summer sun Gottwood has come to expect over their eight years, but it certainly wasn’t spoilt. This year Gottwood prevailed as it offered something beyond the lineup. A beautiful and communal festival where thought has certainly gone into the intricacies, but care has gone into the whole.
Photography by Madeleine Dodd