For the glitter soaked, outrageously attired folk that return to the Isle of Anglesey year on year, Gottwood is a ritual celebration of the wild and free. With the incredible art, the finest DJs and an almost complete lack of phone signal, the Gottwood family have curated an escapist’s utopia that has made them both the critics’ choice and one of the most in demand tickets each year.
In 2017, the organisers didn’t take any opportunity rest on their laurels, showing a clear investment in better lighting and sound. Strobes, lasers and bass kicks had a greater presence throughout the festival. The greatest technical improvement on previous years was The Curve, one of the larger covered stages set right next to the lake. Last year we had struggles to get comfortable and lost in any of the sets over the weekend. This year it felt like the failsafe hit, we lost many hours to great sets from the likes of Felix Dickinson, Erol Alkan and Leon Vynehall.
Another welcome addition in 2017 was a brand new fine dining restaurant, NEST, floating on the scenic Gottwood lake. A proper sit down meal in the sun with sharing plates of “Gottwood fried chicken” and local caught crab felt like a brief moment of class before diving into another night of raucous behaviour. This year also saw an addition to the line-up in the form of mud as some wind and rain meant the weather wasn’t as picturesque as 2016. However there were still plenty of moments of lakeside sun lounging and the farmers tans to prove it.
Once again we experienced another unbeatable program of live musical and DJ performances, from ambient to jungle and everything in between. If we had to pick our favourites, it would be these 5 shows.
The Manchester crew wasted no time kicking off the festivities on Thursday evening. The rabble of party starters once again tore the roof off of the newly refurbished but still tiny Barn house; playing heavy bass music, random obscurities and a few numbers from their own brilliant LVL 11 Mixtape. Their set displays a lack of fucks easily summed by their huge sing along to the BBC Grandstand Theme Tune and the intro music to TV show Home And Away.
This three-piece brought the best live performance of the weekend. Featuring the most rock star violinist we have ever experienced. The whole lawn crowd was on its feet but no one was having as much fun as him, busting Van Halen style air kicks all over the stage. They had the powerful performance to match, incredibly polished, soulful and blissful; so much so that by the end of their finale “Bermuda”, 95% of the crowd had one shoe in the air in celebration. It’s hard to explain why – it made sense at the time.
By the final day, we had been reduced to functioning entirely on emotional impulse and a bout of sunshine led us to soaking rays with a cold one in the mystical walled garden. We had previously heard good things about the Bristolian crew Banoffee Pies, who were currently playing to a handful of daytime dancers, blending unusual cuts of tropical and far eastern sounds, including some top notch Bhangra vibes. Then, suddenly, the heavens opened and the crowd went from 15 to 500 as people took shelter in the covered marquee. The duo seized the opportunity, zig zagging between deep UK Garage, house and disco bangers. Soon the crowd was going nuts as the less informed tapped shoulders to ask “Who are these guys?!”
Our favourite DJ of 2016, Hauff brought her usual unrelenting intensity that has seen her shoot into the limelight in the past year. Powering though her frustration with some vinyl technical problems, she showed no mercy on her 3-day deep crowd; warming up with speedy dark techno before slamming on a full electro and breakbeat thunderstorm with seamless technique whilst casually rolling cigarettes and chain smoking all at the same time. The crowd were suitably stunned, as embodied by one reveller we overheard screaming – “WE ARE NOT FUCKING LEAVING HERE”.
With Zip unable to make it to the festival for his closing set in the Trigon, Margaret Dygas extended her set till end of play. Possibly sensing the fragility of some attendees on the last night, Dygas warmed up the crowd with soothing hypnotic cuts like Efdemin’s “Some Kind of Up and Down Yes”, interspersed with the deepest of dub techno. It was a perfect eyes-closed end to another blinder of a weekend in the Gottwood forest.
Words by David March.
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This August sees the Gottwood team launch their new festival, Houghton, curated by Craig Richards. We will be going, read our preview here. Find out more and get tickets here.