REVIEW // Gottwood 2013 // 20th – 23rd June
Where to even begin in describing Gottwood 2013? For a supposed ‘small’ festival hosted in a remote corner of Anglesey, Wales, Gottwood delivers something truly unique and wonderful.
Despite its size, Gottwood already has an impeccable reputation within the UK festival circuit and among fans of underground house and techno. Make no mistake; this will only have been improved following this year’s instalment.
After increasing the capacity by around 500, some were worried about the affect this might have had on the oh so special vibe that Gottwood boasts. Yet such fears proved misplaced as soon as you entered the site or the wooded arena – everyone here seems to be on the same divine mission to enjoy everything that the Welsh woods has to offer – which is a hell of a lot.
One such delight came in the form of the Urulu, whose appearance on top of the Boxford Caravan Stage set the tone for what was a night of thumping tunes and pumping bass lines. Next door in a packed out Barn, Zoo Look demonstrated why many are predicting them to have a big year before Detroit Swindle show exactly why they have just had one.
Elsewhere, Ejeca and Extrawelt have pulled big crowds but NEN returns to the barn for Cera Alba and Charlie Banks, who agree to go back-to-back for the middle third of their respected sets. The crowd lap it up, dancing in small amounts of space as others jealously peer inside the barn to see what all the fuss is about.
Saturday, and a quick trip into town proves timely as the Holyhead air helps to clear sore heads. Waze & Odyssey and Josh T are playing on the Boxford Caravan stage, but NEN heads to the Walled Garden, ready for something that makes Gottwood truly memorable – the dome, complete with spectacular visuals provided by RFID.
The next few hours pass by like a dream, with BareSkin, Tom Demac, Alex Jones, Luke Vibert and Cedric Maison enchanting the crowds under mind-boggling visuals and sounds that take you to some place else. After cancelling his set last year, Move D tries to make up for it by playing a four hour set, but it’s far too quiet to enjoy – a rare black mark against the festival’s name. Back to the dome it is then, where we are carried deep into the night under the sky of trippy visuals and slamming techno beats.
Sunday rolled around far too quickly, and the fact that there had been very little rain meant that the Lake Stage was open for business. Here, Joonipah and Rob Amboule deliver mouth-watering sets that catch the imagination of a crowd who appear to have recently had a paint fight. The crowd is a sea of multi-coloured hippies, hipsters and balloons. A new edition, the Lake Stage showcases more of the estate’s beautiful grounds, allowing some to rest and take it all in. This must be one of the most isolated and stunning parts of the country.
Having learned from Move D’s quiet set the night before, the organisers decide to move the Boxford Caravan’s acts to The Wild Thing – an outside stage framed by stacks of hay bales. We catch Sisterhood, and KRL who play blinding sets before Bicep and Wolf Music take the reins. The crowd become engulfed by the disco-infused sounds of Bicep’s opening gambit, grinning and boogying under the canopies above. Gazing up, it’s hard to imagine the world beyond the fairy lights and 4/4 beats of this magical forest rave.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Gottwood is a smack in the mouth for those who believe that they have seen it all with festivals. Jaw-droppingly gorgeous, well-planned and modestly created without the help of any corporate sponsors, it is surprising just how special this festival really is.
Perhaps the biggest attraction of the festival is the crowd – knowledgeable, passionate and a pleasure to be around, Gottwood seems to have sieved out all the rotten apples and opted instead to facilitate only those worthy of such an event. Not a shuffler or thug in sight, the weekend passes without an ounce of the trouble that can often ruin a normal festival. No one is violent, there are no thefts that we hear of and everyone seems to belong to the same tight-knit community of fun-loving house and techno aficionados.
After another successful year, you could excuse Gottwood if they were to increase the capacity by a few hundred again next year. The main task for the organisers will be to do this without it affecting the atmosphere of the festival. Despite being miles from anywhere, bass heads from all over the country happily flock to Anglessey because they know that Gottwood is a special woodland rave like no other.
Understated, romantic and truly the most unique festival experience going, Gottwood is a lesson to other festivals who shy away from niche markets and toward mainstream acts and sponsors. The music, the people and the festival itself are a testament to the fact that Great British small festivals are brimming with life, originality and feel-good vibes.
It’s hard to see how the festival could be improved, but we’ll be back next year regardless.
9 out of 10