Gottwood festival: an effervescent exploration into the wonderful Welsh countryside. Ten years of colour and vibrancy, ten years of experiences and stories told and untold; a movement, a gathering, something that waxes and wanes in a manner that exudes creativity and flair, whilst a resonant beat echoes through Wales’ blissfully bucolic woodland.
This was the festival’s tenth edition. What began as a small, nondescript gathering soon flourished into a thriving boutique experience. Over the period of a decade, the Welsh retreat has grown on all fronts. We’d heard the stories and seen countless videos, so we decided there was no better way to celebrate such an occasion than to dive headfirst into Gottwood’s gloriously blissful expanse.
London’s mobile record shop. Located in a small corner of the main area, a silver plated van stood benignly on four wheels. A gathering of people danced outside, as faces laughed and voices merged, whilst hands and fingers eagerly leafed through boxes of vinyl. A turntable, located underneath a small shelter, laid host to hunched over punters with headphones on, as tapping feet signaled this to be a very good listening experience.
With a solid speaker system set up outside the van, the daytime sessions were a place of gathering. Slinky, groove-laden minimal pervaded the outdoor space with vigour, as the likes of Harry McCanna and Berna provided a masterclass in the iconic sounds of London and further afield.
The after-evening sessions were where this hub truly came alive. When the music stopped in the early hours, the Wax Material van provided the perfect shelter for an intimate – very intimate – mid-morning session. Huddled within the carved wooden confines, akin to a classy coffeshop, we danced and chatted, as vinyl spun and drinks were drunk. This was an after-hours affair, off the record, and an experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Check out Trommel’s interview with Jessi Vincent, the driving force behind Wax Material, here.
Half Baked – The Curve
Half Baked’s takeover of The Curve was the standout session on the Sunday. The London party enlisted a fine selection of true selectors to showcase their take on the garage-flecked, dub-ridden minimal sound. Regulars Sam Bangura and Greg Brockmann were on top form during the day, playing a storied selection against the quickly setting sun.
Digby soon graced the decks as night began to fall. The scene was set: purple lights flicked wondrously across the gently gleaming lake, as wandering crowds descended upon the verge. Like pilgrims on their way to prayer, the sounds of Digby serenaded the open space with a poignant inflection; one that meandered from oddly formed vocal samples, into staggered, percussion-heavy cuts, whilst the overarching thump of a rounded kick resonated throughout the air. It was Villalobos-esque, with the long-haired selector looking completely calm behind the decks; more than calm, at peace almost, with his wide smile suggesting the experience looked cathartic. This was the most special set of the weekend: crafted, emotive and reciprocally therapeutic.
Sonja Moonear – Collisions
Germany’s leading female talent made a welcome return to Gottwood on the Sunday evening. We made ourselves comfortable behind the decks and settled in for our six PM viewing. With a cigarette in tow, the minimal queen worked her magic, slaying the crowd with the likes of R10’s Banana and Dominic Rosa’s remix of Pekkuliar & Driahn’s Point in Time. Pulsing bleeps converged on whistling hi-hats, swinging us from side to side, whilst her unflinching mixing talent provided a smooth journey through the beautifully chaotic soundtrack. If anyone created a party at Gottwood then it was Sonja. Her smile said it all: quality selections being played to a crowd who were hungry and raring to go. Now that’s a recipe for success.
While the mud may have been a slight inconvenience at first, the improving weather conditions quickly rectified the problem. Easy access to water taps, impeccable sound quality, and a top-quality crowd created an incubator for the perfect festival experience; whilst its serene countryside location provided the ideal backdrop for similarly impeccable DJ sets.
An introspective experience, with an overarching feel of warmth and enthusiasm, that created a thrivingly special party atmosphere.
Gottwood festival: we’ll be seeing you next year.
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Photography by Rob Jones for Khroma Collective (www.instagram.com/khromacollective)