Gottwood’s reputation certainly precedes itself, known as the foremost festival for those searching for the world’s best intimate underground musical experiences – and a whole lot more. With over 200 artists squeezed into its colourful woodland setting, this Welsh warped-wonderland getaway has the credentials, professionalism and production quality of other bigger capacity events - yet keeps its ‘DIY’ edge.
A haven for adults who never grow up, Gottwood is known for encouraging otherworldly attire. However, there was another thing on the mind of festivalgoers this year as the gates opened on Election Day. While communication with the outside world is difficult when at the festival, its results became the sunrise topic of conversation around the campsite on night one.
Night one in itself burst Gottwood’s doors open with a cocktail of booms, snares and hi-hats blasting from the speakers. With acts like Archie Hamilton, Levon Vincent, Mathew Johnson and Sonja Moonear, they were hardly warming us up gently.
But alongside throwing ourselves into the abundance of electronic music on offer, we took frequent dancefloor breaks to explore our surroundings - based in a forest filled with installations and live-art creations, the juxtaposition of nature against the cosmic, colourful creations is one-of-a-kind. Not to mention the characters that you find lurking within them.
Exploration over, we made our way to the Trigon where we danced to an edit of 'Somebody to Love' by Jefferson Airplane. This year could be described as ‘the year of the remixes’, as other standout reworks featuring classic vocals such as 'Foolish' by Ashanti were amongst those also heard throughout the weekend.
On Friday morning we were surprised to find sunshine and headed straight to the lake to enjoy the glorious weather. With a backdrop of chilled out beats from Wu-Lu, this idyllic combination of sun, fun and relaxation has become a familiar daytime Gottwood scene.
Friday’s evening lineup tore the masses again, with dOP, Luv*Jam and Erol Alkan b2b Leon Vynehall to choose from. But our ears were drawn to the Trigon where the Wigflex team followed on from Half Baked’s hypnotic selectors, picking Extrawelt and DJ Tennis to headline.
From Trigon to Treehouse, we grooved to Rolls ‘n’ Do as the heavens opened, showering us with as much power as the beats they selected. With plastic sheets over the decks, the pair soldiered on. But without our waterproofs, we took cover too at the Smokey Tentacles shisha tent to end our night.
We were excited for Saturday morning as it presented one of the more unusual events at Gottwood. Ruffy’s Lab hosted a Moog Clinic, packed with numerous electronic toys and an open invite to play them.
When musical playtime finished we warmed up to the sounds of classic smile-inducers including CB Funk – Subway to Cologne before joining the queue at the Triagon stage. Such masses of people could only mean one thing – the Move D disco set was beginning. This has become a thing of legend, and a reason so many return to Gottwood.
Back to Basics, another regularly returning crew, was too much to resist for the rest of Saturday evening. Filling Ricky’s Disco with a mixture of old-school house and future classics, Dave Beer, Tristan Da Cunha, Ralph Lawson and Denney proved why the night has been relentlessly running for the past 25 years.
The final day reminded us of how closely Gottwood’s regulars hold the festival to their heart, noticing a flurry of banners and makeshift birthday hats adorning a structure within the forest. A group of party pals surprised their unsuspecting friend on his 30th - the small, intimate moments like this are part of what makes Gottwood so special.
Sunday evening resulted in regular trips across the bridge, as One Records took over the Curve while Louche seized the Trigon. Eventually, we settled at the Trigon where Zip was nowhere to be seen however, Margaret Dygas took the reigns for a superb extended set, mixing warped out techno with diverse, psychedelic beats.
Our Gottwood journey ended with the remarkable Adam Shelton B2B Tristan Da Cunha combination back at the Curve. Assaulting our ears with ridiculous tracks, we grooved to their infectious selection until the gates closed for good.
This is just one Gottwood account. While some have stories from different stages, others will leave with tales of woodland adventures, or licking their lips after dining at the floating restaurant – there simply is no ‘one’ way to experience this festival. For those that like to explore electronica and beyond, the only way to find out really is to take the trip…