Balter: 'To dance artlessly, usually without practiced form or skill, but always with great, contented enjoyment.'
Never has a festival been named more appropriately. Crash-course collisions and side-splitting hilarity set to an audio assault of industrial snares and punishing kick drums…and that was just Hellfish's set on the Sunday evening. A gift from the festival gods, this little event launches a flying head butt at mainstream festival culture, wraps one elbow firmly around its neck before ruffling its hair, giving it a big hug and sending it on its way after telling it to stop taking itself so bloody seriously.
1) Take five people laden with tents, sleeping bags, and supplies for the weekend.
2) Turn up the temperature to around 22 degrees before adding to small, white Kia
3) Squeeze gently and close the lid so as not to spill.
4) Increase temperature and leave to simmer for 40mins before extracting the contents
5) Pour gently over Chepstow racecourse and leave to rise…
Arriving on site, we cued (briefly) for our tickets and wound the car around the racecourse, incredibly grateful we were not the poor sods who had arrived on coaches, lugging their heavy bags in the sun across the field to the campsite. The car park was free and situated right next to the festival and the camping area so it took no time at all to get to a pitch and set up (unless of course you were one of the aforementioned coach sods. Note to future self: don't be a coach sod.)
We were able to walk from the car to the camping area in a matter of minutes through the site, which comprised of 10 stages, a number of independent, boutique shops including a mass of black and white spirals decorating the TAPT stall, and Pica Bazaar selling stunning handmade clothes and a range of vibrant accessories (if you're a fan of festival garments, fur and sparkles a-plenty, check out 'Miss. Cheivious Gladrags' on Facebook for a taste of what they had to offer).
The festival is set out in a strip with the stages and stalls either side of a wide, grassy area acting as a walkway up to the campsite. It's highly unlikely you'll lose your friends with the walkway acting as a perfect meeting point when falling out of the stages and stumbling back up to the tents
The camping area was spacious, with enough room for our group (consisting of around seven tents) to set up in a large circle. After pitching our tents and lounging around in the sun for a bit, getting to know our temporary weekend neighbours, we wandered over to the stages where the music was already in full swing, having started at 2pm.
Tea Unit were playing the Sika Studios stage, which would host artists including Klashnekoff, Leaf Dog, Jack Jetson and Gypsy Unit over the course of the weekend. The three piece hip hop outfit blasted out a selection of (classically British) tracks about life, love, smoking and drinking obscene amounts of tea before handing out free copies of their album 'Mug Shots 2' to audience members, along with a complementary tea bag.
Just opposite the Sika Stage was a bar you could buy cider, larger or Buckfast, very reasonably priced at around £2 a pop. Ticket holders are asked to bring the equivalent of one crate of booze and make full use of the bar so that the organisers can give a little something to volunteers and put towards booking artists for future festivals. I genuinely think this not-for-profit, look after everyone attitude makes a huge difference to the feel of a festival. Continuing on this vein, a mention should go to the security at this festival. Possibly one of the best troupes I've seen at any event. I saw no trouble over the course of the weekend which was probably due, in part, to the lovely crowd, but also to the stewards and security who seemed to be constantly smiling, eager to help and generally really lovely whilst being quietly present and making sure everything ran smoothly.
At the end of the field stood the Caravan Stage, which was where I ended up spending most of my time. The Inner Terrestrials, led by (the somewhat mesmerizing) Jay Terrestrial, played a mish mash of punk and ska with elements of folk thrown in, a perfect booking for Balter echoing the non-corporate, anti-establishment (not so subtle) undertone running through the festival.
Another inspired booking, who also took to the Caravan Stage on the Saturday, was Captain Hotknives. Previously unaware of this utterly fanta-mazing, Yorkshire ball of total fantossity, I spent a blissful 40mins to an hour giggling and wobbling away to his extensive collection of hilarious songs, including such timeless classics as; 'Johnny Depp Wi Me Bird', 'Anti-gravity Cats' and 'I Hate Babies', covering topics from solvent abuse to the crushing disappointment experienced by a man hoodwinked into buying a sub-standard muffin by a deceitful till lady. I would urge anyone who hasn't heard him before to go out and buy the man's music…or anyone who has heard him for that matter…but you probably already have. Cos it's amazin'.
The weather was incredibly kind throughout the whole weekend. Sun-soaked and watching Los Albertos deliver a steaming set of ska come punk on the Sunday, bopping around to the horn section while the sun-set was a perfect end to the day before night descended and drum and bass and breakbeat became the order of the evening. Cue Hellfish, DJ Hazard, insane VJ visuals, lights, camera chaos, you know the rest.
All in all, a brilliant little festival, roll on next year's instalment! 10/10
This festival is, as its names sake – pure, unpractised, skill-less, contented enjoyment. Balter: no art, ALL heart.
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Balter Festival 2018 review