It’s already been and gone. The 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of June 2017 vanished in a blur. Gottwood is over for another year. The Facebook posts are starting to go up, friends sharing memories and photos, others sharing requests for help finding items lost; cameras, wallets, expensive sunglasses…I hear a few people are still looking for their sanity. Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of Gottwood.
Being those type of festival goers who don’t feel comfortable unless we have at least three changes of clothes per day, we decided this year to drive to Anglesey from London. Sure, the train is quicker and cheaper, but being able to pack two huge rucksacks plus four large holdalls and wellies for two people (yes…TWO PEOPLE!) into the boot swayed us. It’s about a six hour drive with time added for pit stops; simple motorway miles most of the way. We broke it up with a night in an Air BnB which I’d highly recommend and arrived feeling fresh.
Walking around the site on the first day felt like returning to Narnia. The vast majority of the site was laid out the same, in particular the big items (stages, toilets, food stalls and shops) were pretty much where we left them the year before. However, like a DJ tweaking his dials, the owners had amped up a few details here and there. We stumbled upon one of our highlights from the weekend almost immediately as we found the brand new floating restaurant on the Gottwood lake. NEST (who currently have a pop up in Moorgate) brought their ‘Food with Friends’ vibe to Wales offering a proper sit-down meal with wine and beer and an array of sharing options. The food was a much needed boost for weary festival goers, with baskets of fried chicken and chilli sauce, local caught crab and vegetable goodness each on offer for under £10. Gottwood has an excellent choice when it comes to take away food, with carb filled options from Fleetwood Mac & Cheese, Bagel Boy and Fundi pizzas. Those craving something healthier headed to AVO who, you might be able to guess, sold all things avocado in a wrap for £5.50 or in a box for £6.50.
Newly added extras around the lake were a handmade 20ft high dragon firing water over the bridge walkway and a few fountains spouting jets of lake juice into the air.
We also discovered the excellent Ricky’s Disco tent which was new for 2017 and spent many hours packed in with the glitter and sequined masses. In total, there were 10 stages this year, the larger Trigon, Walled Garden, Treehouse and Curve and the more intimate Mother Owl, Cpt. Cabeza and Barn. The Lawn hosted many acts and when the rain held off, the area was permanently packed. This year the Picture House had a busy programme too, offering morning yoga sessions and, for those less able, the giant cinema screen had cartoons and films each day, descending into trippy visual treats in the early hours.
With all this up for grabs, you have to be selective with your time. You may never be able to see all of the artists you want to at Gottwood and there are bound to be clashes along the way; the best you can hope for is to pick your top must-see acts, and go with the flow for the rest. You will find yourself caring less and less as you realise timeslots are missed and you’ve had a much better time doing away with rushing about as you party with your newly discovered lifelong friends. That said, because of the many extended sets on offer it is possible to catch all on your hitlist if you’re organised. Plus, the site is the perfect size – stages are very close to each other compared to some of the bigger festivals so you won’t find yourself walking for miles trying to catch your faves.
As with all festivals, there are stalls for those with money to spend. Gottwood however always has an extra special collection of traders packing a tempting array of unique attire and accessories. We spent a fair amount of time returning to them during the long weekend, trying on (and purchasing!) some absolute gems. From glitter stalls to accessory shops, there was a breath-taking amount of colourful, wacky options to sort through. We stopped by Jackfruit and met the lovely Freya and went back with friends no less than three times in one day. We also spent an obscene amount of time trying on feathered head gear and sequin capes in Out Of the Ordinary where any festival goer would be in heaven. I’ve never felt such an inability to decide between slightly different shades of sparkly purple.
It seemed like the security presence had been stepped up this year, but as ever there were many lovely, happy characters taking care of everyone. We were on first name terms with many within a few days. We also found the rest of the wider team, such as the bar staff and volunteers, to be a decent bunch of ever helpful, ever happy and mostly dancing souls.
The weather needs a mention as we experienced some shocking downpours and horrendous winds. As with every festival, you are at Mother Nature’s mercy; you can only pack and hope for the best. There were a few long periods of steady downpours which unsurprisingly left heavy footfall areas with muddy sections. What I did notice though, was gravel bags conveniently located just next to these sections and they were quickly used to soak up the mud and add something more solid for you to walk on. Winds whipped across the campsite areas and those who had not tied down their tents and gazebos properly were soon left grimacing. Each time a cheer went up as something took off, we saw plenty of people on hand to help grab, return and secure the fly away items. Such is the friendly vibe at Gottwood.
You didn’t have the feeling of being over crowded in the campsite either, certainly there were a few intricate webs of overlapping guy lines to catch you off guard at 4 am, but holding the capacity at 5,000 as per previous years was genius. It does keep the often overused expression of an ‘intimate’ gathering true to form and we spotted a few of the headliner DJs wandering about at times, mingling with the crowds and happy to be papped in a few photos.
Friday came around all too soon and we caught one of our favourites at the Treehouse. Andrew James Gustav played a two hour set that seemed to creep further into the night. Free from the shackles of playing a single genre, Andrew took us on an elaborate journey and hit a high point with each new track. Seemingly a more upbeat and party vibe than normal, though still typically obscure in places, he pulled in a big crowd and was fully supported behind the decks too as we saw TiNi dancing away for the duration.
Saturday landed and we had our busiest day trying to catch acts at all the different stages, but Move D’s disco set at the Trigon topped our list by far. There seemed to be a lot of disco tunes floating about over the course of the festival, but we were happily exhausted by the end of the German maestros set. Trigon, perfectly surrounded by a high wall of hay bales and just in front of a cocktail bar, was packed, as were all places whenever Move D was expected.
On Sunday we made our earliest start to catch Funkwise & Cordz, aka The London Disco Society at the Mother Owl stage. What a sight! There are busier stages and larger crowds and there are lasers and all sorts around the site, but for sheer ridiculousness, the Mother Owl stage is where it’s at; as its name suggest, it’s a giant elevated wooden owl that the DJs play inside of. Kicking things off with a smooth groove so funky I had to ask the name (Super Koto by Ponzu Island (Andras Fox Extended Mix)) the boys did us proud over a two hour set that was a mixture of jazzy house, upfront disco classics and modern day re-works. The perfect company to an early afternoon snack and the first cold beer of the last day.
Next up, a Gottwood regular himself, Jacques Adda at the open and airy Cpt. Cabeza stage. His style is hard to define, deep and atmospheric in places, psychedelic in others, I even felt some African beats mixed in with faint chanting lifting the energy levels as the sun dipped seductively behind the Gottwood house. Watching his larger than life grin behind the decks was the best way to cross over from daytime to dusk and on into the early darkness, giving us a much needed boost of happy vibes on the last night.
The last entry into my notes app was Bradley Zero. Playing at the Treehouse on Sunday night, the muddy masses were out in droves to see what the Peckham local had to offer. This was by far the funkiest set of the weekend for me; the crowd lapped it up, people on friend’s shoulders for the duration, some of the wackiest dance moves I’ve ever seen, and behind the decks Bradley and friends grooving and mixing to the ecstasy of the crowd. It was so busy, people were dancing outside the hay bales and as Spies Are Watching Me by Voilaaa was playing out, we hit a weekend high that I can still feel.
I can tell you in secret the one bad thing about Gottwood; it’s that it has to end. It’s like celebrating a fine Indian summer after waiting all year; gone too soon.
On the long journey home, when I always try and think up the best way to describe a festival in the best analogy possible, it hit me; Gottwood feels as if a larger festival has squeezed out all of its finest bits into the mystical enclave in Anglesey. Super concentrated like some freshly made orange juice. Festival purity levels reached 99% this year. I’m not sure we could handle 100% anyway.
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