Gottwood Festival 2017: A Review
Gottwood has become the perfect festival for Leeds uni students to celebrate straight after exams, with several buses going back and forth from Leeds to accommodate everyone. Now being in its 8th year, Gottwood has acquired a reputation for having a feeling that everyone is friends and knows each other. Walking round felt like walking around Leeds uni campus, giving the naming of the crowd as the ‘Gottwood family’ a true meaning. The festival manages to keep numbers to a few thousand, meanwhile ensuring it doesn’t need to be paid for by corporate sponsors.
After setting up tents in the haphazard winds of north Wales, you head into this lit up woodland, being greeted by staff with high fives. The path takes you through this beautiful forest, with shops being made using the surrounding environment; vintage shops in the shape of mushrooms using the trees bounding them. You carry on down the path, you hear this playful beat, your ears are just ringing with melodious disco, then as the trees break you become awe-struck by the sight of the festival.
This set-up which Gottwood have built upon over the last eight years has been crafted to perfection. As you walk across the green lawn you pass the live music stage, while some dance and some sit by the lake with beers. At Gottwood’s first ever festival they only had one stage, now there are eight all designed to stand alone, and all capable for handling the biggest of names. The lack of main stage makes the festival truly unique. An issue however, is that the only way to find out who is on which stage is to buy a £5 programme. Due to the mud and the rain, it quickly became drenched in mud or left at the bottom of a puddle. There was lots of asking people who was on where, and ‘could I take a picture of your programme?’. There’s a lot to be said for the ideology of the festival to not be about who you saw though, that seeing a big name should not matter in your decision of stage.
Knowing the extensive and rare lineup at the Trigon stage which included Grain, Matthew Jonson, Levon Vincent, and Jigsaw, I headed straight there. The Trigon stage is simple but sweet. Wooden triangles in the middle, the stage surrounded by hay bells, and a superb sound system and light show to match. Artwork’s techno alter ego Grain was seriously dark and he really showed his eclectic knowledge. It was not the fun loving side of Artwork so many know and love. Levon Vincent then brought a slice of summer into his techno set, with a remix of Sergio Mendes’ ‘Mais Que Nada’. The night finished with a perfectly timed live set from Mathew Jonson, which showed Trigon real colours at this eerie and intense stage, with his performance of ‘Marionette’ being the highlight of this. This all worked erratically with the news of election results, as confusion only increased. Walking back to tent, with the chanting of Corbyn to the music, everyone was desperately trying to work out what had just happened.
Friday began as a stereotypical summer’s day, with the sun pounding down and friends sitting on the lawn drinking some cold beers, discussing last night’s election results. Come 4 o’clock, Move D’s first set of the weekend came to the Walled Garden. He played well over his set time, like many other DJs did on the weekend. It was a classic example of how much DJs relish festival performances, it certainly was not just a slug out job.
When talking to Archie Hamiliton’s girlfriend, she discussed how all the musicians just loved the whole aspect of the festival, and why they return every year. After Move D’s 3 hour set, we headed for food, which was distributed really well with food vendors always being close and lots of great choice. My top pick had to be a vegan van, which provided the dirtiest and greasiest vegan kebab. But there really was something for everyone, and all at fair prices you could be fed for around £5/6. As the night began, the rain started, the mud started to appear, which it turned out would be an overhanging task to overcome for the weekend. Nonetheless, at Trigon this worked with Extrawelt’s electrifying set, working as a soundtrack to the battle with the rain and mud. Extrawelt has been around for a long time, but is still yet to really get acclaim in the UK, this picking summed up the extent to which Gottwood curate their varied lineups. The German really was the highlight of the weekend. Lindstrom’s set later that night at Ricky’s Disco, a hut submerged in green land, suited his Scandinavian disco, although the stage did lack the kind of sound system which Trigon or other stages supplied. It was not a major issue, but in certain areas you didn’t feel like you were completely in the music, as Lindstrom’s ‘Closing Shot’ lacked the crisp sound it deserves.
When Saturday arrived, I had just crossed the mid-point of the festival, and the knackering feeling had hit me. The sight of all my important possessions being in a ruined wet tent caked in mud had now become aggravating. It had rained through the night and Gottwood was completely mud by this point. Gottwood, however, is capable of taking the weather it was given, and making the best of it. People’s tents were destroyed, festival goers were drenched in mud, but everyone took this as an opportunity to have fun. Groups squashed themselves into tents like sardines, friends pushed each other over. It could have just made the weekend ruined, but somehow Gottwood’s atmosphere took full advantage of this weather conditions.
Crazy P Soundsystem performed in the The Curve late Saturday afternoon. Performing a disco set, they established why they’re invited back every year. As any sign of fatigue disappeared, and everyone was full of energy, Gottwood went into full force again for the Saturday night. We had completely lost our planner, and were basically aimlessly going from stage to stage. Trigon’s setup seemed like a reliable choice. Ryan Elliott was on the decks, after he had done a stunning alternative set earlier in the day. He was now here for his self-described ‘Kick Drum. Bassline. High Hat’ style. His set, even so, did disappoint, it lacked the punch which he normally carries. Maybe it was just my mood, or the weather, but it was not as innovative or as fun as he had been.
[The Curve: Crazy P Soundsystem]
By the Sunday, even though the best of festival goers were tired, nonetheless the friendly atmosphere was still there. The day started yet again with everyone on the lawn, while Ross from Friends performed a live set an hour later than scheduled. His lo-fi house fitted in with the relaxed feel, while friends were starting to begin their goodbyes and reminisce about the weekend they’d had. This theme carried on when arriving at the Walled Garden, as Craig Richards blasted Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’, while friends put their arms around each other’s shoulders belting out “Oh I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me.” This was a fitting homage to the end of a lovely weekend in North Wales. After some time to look back on the weekend, the night began at the Treehouse, with Bradley Zero, as he provided a fist-pumping, sing along set, exhibiting his 80s catalogue. Human League’s extended dance mix of ‘Don’t You Want Me’, created a complete singalong with the crowd. But after I returned from the bar I was greeted back to the stage by an estimated 40-minute queue. As tickets for Gottwood were largely sold at £170, I did feel this is a lot of money to not be able to visit a stage.
Due to this I turned to Ricky’s Disco, with Olaf Stuut performing his live set. Unsure whether it was just me, the sound quality seemed to have improved since the Friday night there. Resident Advisor describes Olaf Stuut as a dreamy trip, which tells a story, and this was felt within Ricky’s Disco. Gus Emmett came to the table, it was quick to see he wasn’t going to just give up his set to sing-alongs and old classics but rather showcase why he got picked by Gottwood, and why he is a top talented musician as he twisted vinyl to Unknown’s ‘Loving’ (OC edit) and Roosevelt’s ‘Wait Up’ (Moscoman Remix).
Walking back to the tents after this was filled with blues, as people scrambled for plastic cups to return for a pound. Gottwood this year introduced a nice scheme for paying an extra £1 deposit which is refunded when returned. It was a bit challenging during the night, but Gottwood has to be cleanest festival I have ever gone to.
(Images: Will Philpin (When it Rains Collective), Jake Davis (Hungry Visuals), FANATIC)