Helen Giles escaped reality for a weekend at Cirque Du Soul's carnival style festival
Last updated: 6th Jul 2018. Originally published: 3rd Jul 2018
Image: El Dorado
Promoters Cirque Du Soul are known for their vibrant, unique carnival-style events across the UK, and this year the travelling collective are back in the scenic Herefordshire countryside for the third instalment of El Dorado Festival, offering a brief escape from reality.
It is clear to see how popular the festival and the brand have become, as thousands eagerly arrive early on the Friday to ensure they don’t miss a single piece of the action. The general atmosphere around the campsite is very relaxed as people bask in the glorious summer sun whilst setting up their home for the weekend, preparing themselves for the opening later in in the evening.
After a slight delay, security finally open the iron gates to the public, and they excitedly descend down the hill towards the main arena. Upon first impressions, the site seemed very compact, with bars, stages and other facilities all within close proximity to each other for ease of access. However, as you continue to explore you discovered so many hidden gems tucked away out of sight, which only enhanced the experience. The Fantasy Tribe were on hand making everyone sparkle with glitter, colourful outfits and fluorescent hair extensions, and the numerous bars and food stands offered a wide selection of refreshment, with the added bonus of a happy hour at selected times of the day – making your money stretch even further. The contactless wristband system also made life much easier when purchasing goods.
There is no denying that the line-up for El Dorado was made up of an eclectic mix of genres, meaning there was a style of music for everyone to enjoy, and the opportunity to discover talent you may never have heard of before. One of the highlights from the Garden stage on the Friday were the House Gospel Choir, a collective of passionate singers that combine both house and gospel genres for a completely new and vivacious musical experience, and this energy spread like wildfire into the crowd, with everyone dancing and singing along with them. Over at the Holy Bale stage, Mungo’s Hi Fi provided a reggae soundtrack to the evening as the sun set behind the hills, while later on One Eye Open took us back to the 90’s with their themed rave, dropping plenty of classics from this notable era, including Snap’s ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ and the iconic ‘The Man with the Red Face’ by Laurent Garnier, that brought an air of nostalgia in to arena.
As the sun continued to beat down over Eastmoor into the Saturday, so did the feel-good atmosphere as festival fans were treated to even more fun activities and musical talent. The Garden stage was the perfect place to soak up the rays and watch some incredible live performances. 9-piece brass band from Manchester Riot Jazz entertained the crowd in the early evening, their raw talent and enthusiasm mesmerising to watch. Their creative rework of Britney Spears hit ‘Toxic’ had everyone up in an instant channelling their inner diva. The master of reggae and dancehall David Rodigan gave a DJ set filled with a mixture of old skool sounds and more contemporary, upbeat, bass heavy tracks, smiling and chatting to the audience throughout getting everyone hyped.
Two of drum and bass’ biggest stars headlined their respective stages on the Saturday night. Flying in all the way from a set in Croatia was Wilkinson, who alongside MC Ad-Apt went in hard from the beginning with an energetic performance full of up-tempo rhythms and heavy basslines that pulsed through the open air giving the crowd the energy to dance uncontrollably, whilst weaving in a number of his massive hits including ‘Wash Away’ and ‘Half Light’.
Over at the Cirque Du Soul arena in the early hours of Sunday morning, the soulful sounds of Shy FX’s brand new collaboration with Maverick Sabre ‘Call Me’ emanated from the tent, enticing the hard core festival-goers into the warm for a masterclass in old skool jungle and drum and bass, accompanied by urban vocalist Youngman, and kept them there until the very end skanking away to some of DnB’s signature sounds.
The final day of El Dorado was all about the disco, as people dug out their sequins and flares ready to make the trek down to the festival site and enjoy what was left of an already memorable weekend. Craig Charles entertains the early risers with his signature funk and soul sounds that is always guaranteed to make you groove, while Artful Dodger made the hay bails shake with old skool garage classics over at the Holy Bale arena. But the main act of the day, and the one most eagerly anticipated were disco legends Sister Sledge, who rammed a jam-packed arena with their positivity and addictive energy that exuded through the audience along with their soulful, iconic voices that have entertained and pleased fans across the decades.
El Dorado Festival is more than just a music festival. It is about theatrics, adventure, discovery and uniting everyone through shared experiences of the weird and wonderful. Considering it is still only in its third year, you can only expect this festival to get bigger, better and even wackier in the future, making an exciting addition to the boutique festival circuit.