This was our first time at Shindig having had it strongly recommended by both previous punters and acts that we know. This 5000 strong party is in its fourth year at Gilcombe Farm in Somerset, an added bonus being it is a 20 minute drive away from where we live. The location is very rural and that must help towards music continuing to 3 AM, there are no neighbours to annoy. Entry starts from 1500 on Friday with music starting at 1700 and I must admit that I have seen better organised traffic management for CV fields but we all got in somehow and the staff were universally lovely whilst doing it.
There is no official main stage, just 5 tented venues with enough capacity for what is on. At no stage did it feel crowded in any tent irrespective of the act or time of day. Each is flavoured differently with Ghetto Funk running their Nightclub with break beats, the Sugarhill Gang headlining Friday, and a Scour records takeover featuring the excellent Hong Kong Ping Pong Club. The Tuttl Frutti provided the Drum and Bass courtesy of a Fabio and Grooverider takeover on Sunday, a Tropical Tea party, and various from Utah Saints, Slipmat and Freestylers. The Stardust Discotheque supplied house and cheesy disco galore, whilst the Father Funks Church of Love lived up to the Funk label, along with a bit of everything else. HMS Nautilicious had everything from a knife thrower to Peasedown’s finest musical export the Inbredz providing Somerset rap about having 6 fingers and drinking Black Rat cider. The Dig Inn seems to be the unofficial main stage with the majority of the bands for the weekend with The Heavy as Friday Headliners, Dub Pistols Saturday, and a This is Now Agency Takeover for Sunday with Too Many T’s leading the line.
The crowd were of all ages, a good kids field was well used at all times and the feel was always relaxed and good natured. On the upper part of the site was the Love Food Feast with a number of quality street food sellers around a small covered stage and within a tent area. This was really popular everytime I went up there for a good coffee. Also on the upper area was the Samhadi wellbeing garden offering yoga, meditation and massage.
I was personally disappointed with the bar offering. Just before the event a welcome email laid out the beers on offer including the signature Shindig IPA and Pale Ale, neither of which was on sale for unknown reasons; the names were painted out on the bar menu. We were left with a lemony craft beer (not that nice if you ask me), Thatcher’s cider, and 2 lagers (Amstel and Korev). The cocktails at £8 for a pint glass were good but still didn’t make up for the lack of beer. The reusable cups were a good idea but unlike other festivals, you couldn’t trade it in for a token when not using it so had to have a big enough pocket to store it. Some bars wouldn’t swap it out for a clean one, some did and consistency would be nice. Thatcher’s put into the dregs of a Tequilla sunrise ain’t that nice. The only option is try to find a water supply and wash it out, or buy another one which is kind off defeating the object.
There were really good composting toilets that were cleaned and stocked frequently but no urinals, a topic that frequently came up in the inevitable queues. The queues moved fairly well but you got the impression that urinals would have helped them all but disappear. Really minor gripe but it was mentioned frequently by a lot of people.
The food on offer had a good veggie selection and was high quality with interesting offerings ranging from India to Peru via seafood and pizza. All delicious and good value. The organisers know their crowd and supply the right sustenance. There were various shopping opportunities but a lot were quality vintage and pre-owned so supporting the feel of the event.
Musically the party vibe is maintained all weekend. The majority of acts are DJs of all flavours. Some big names such as Krafty Kuts, Stanton Warriors, Fabio and Grooverider, and Todd Terry played in the various venues. There were some decent bands as well, The Heavy were Friday Headliners in The Dig Inn and were excellent, Dub Pistols smashed it on Saturday with a 1 AM set, and Martha Tilston was really good on Sunday afternoon in HMS Nautilicious. The sense of humour was maintained by typically great sets from Captain Hotknives, Beans on Toast, and Oh My God It’s the Church delivering a Sexy Jesus gospel party.
Shindig gets all the important things just about right. The crowd are served what they want and on sufficient different stages to ensure there is always somewhere to be and somewhere to go to next. The site is kept clean and almost everyone helps in that by acting like an adult and using the bins. The toilets are clean, kept stocked and there are sufficient without being over supplied. When you compare the toilets to some of the squalid cess pits seen at some other festivals, these are really top notch. The bars work and there are enough staff, even if the beer choice was sadly lacking.
Would I go again? Yes, I would even though it is more DJ heavy than I would usually go for. There is so much good about the event that the line up becomes pretty irrelevant. I saw some cracking sets and overall had a great time in the sort of atmosphere that I look for. Since the beautifully crafted Croissant Neuf festival ceased operating it has been hard to find a similar vibe of “family party in a field” and I have been to a lot of different festivals. This may well be one of the best overall atmospheres that I have found in the last few years and is an excellent start to the season.
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