There’s a unique resilience to the British festivalgoer, sold a dream of blue skies and a sun-dappled fields but knowing full well that rain and mud is more likely. Back in June, the prospect of a 1976-rivalling heatwave wasn’t yet being entertained and so it was with the usual trepidation for northern Welsh weather that we approached the 2018 edition of Gottwood.
Now our third visit in a row, there’s a comfort returning to a festival site that tr. Not much has changed to the site in our four visits – most importantly the capacity – but then why would you when the formula works so well? Festival’s have contingencies for bad weather and Gottwood seems to ride it as well as most, but it blossoms so effortlessly in the sun. The lawn becomes a sea of reclined colour, the floating restaurant like your pub round the corner with the perfect beer garden and the nearby beaches become crowded with weary dancers in full on holiday mode. The ritualistic sunrise walks home that normally play out like a scene from Dawn of the Dead also took on their own aura, as the hanging lights caught the mist drifts up from the lake. The only people who didn’t appreciate it were the unlucky few to bag undercover daytime sets, but they could play in the knowledge that there was enough sun to go around.
Gottwood 2018: the year of lobster red tans, sun-bathing on the Anglesey Riviera and leaving the wellies with last year’s mud on them. Here’s six standout sets from our team and 150 track IDs.
Wolf Muller & Nikas Wandt (Live)
With programmes packed to bursting point, minutes on stage is a rare commodity at festivals and, by extension, so too is the notion of risk taking. Lose the audience’s interest and they can play lucky dip with a handfull of other stages. That made the ten minute spoken word beginning from Wolf Muller and Niklas Wandt all the more admirable. Unperturbed by short attention spans and itchy feet they embraced their eccentricities and produced one of the most unique musical displays of the weekend.
Words: Aaron Levitt
Sven Atterton (Live) and Red Laster Records
Ruffy’s Lab is, hands down, my favourite festival stage in the UK. “Stage” might be a bit flattering. It’s more a garden extension that skipped planning permission and propped itself up by two walls of old TVs and a sound system. An evening there is one spent down the rabbit hole of Ruf Dug’s unmatched mind. Decorated and programmed by him all weekend, it’s a Manchester flag-waving exercise with arms that never tire. With my ears still ringing from the Stamp The Wax takeover on Thursday, there’s was no need to go anywhere else on the Friday, in the company of Red Laser Records. Having missed the live set from Essex producer Sven Atterton here last year, I made sure to get front row seats this time. On paper, a DJ set of his own material with live bass-slapping shouldn’t cause such a stir, but his 60 minute rendition was high-impact enough to leave Artwork drop-jawed, unable to move at the front. The rest of the night was left to Red Laser family on rotation including chief whip Il Bosco, Randy Brunson who co-runs the Hi-Tackle record store and DJ Garys who couldn’t perform under her better-known real name due to an embargo from another Welsh festival that season. Speed garage, blended out of The Smiths, into italo and synth with enviable ease. The crowd swelled to breaking point as word spread and, by the end of the night, even the often-straight-faced Ransom Note CEO was spotted to the side in a rare moment of hands-up elation.
Words: Aaron Levitt
DMX Krew (Live)
Hypercolour’s stage on the Friday night was a much-needed injection of energy after an excitable first night at the festival. As Label boss Cedric Maison brought his set to a close, the crowd began to swell inside The Walled Garden, all present to see the dynamic live imagination of Ed Upton’s project DMX Krew. Over an hour his set built from his more italo leaning productions before reaching into heavy breaks and electro stylings that worked the crowd into a frenzy.
Words: Rosie Cain
With good weather from start to finish, there’s no other stage quite like The Lawn. We played host on the Saturday with residents DJing between live sets from Wolf Muller and Niklas Wandt, Manana Cuba’s Ariwo, Africaine 808 and DJ Nomas. Early in the day huddles of friends sat upon the grass sipping bloody maries and Pimms, before night fell and everyone was firmly on their feet. The sun started to set as DJ Nomad finished up, leaving our own resident Harri Pepper to close out the stage. Exuberant and beaming from ear to ear throughout, Harri masterfully worked through jubilant disco cuts while the crowd lost themselves. A closing set that became our pinnacle festival moment, proud to see Harri working the big stage unphazed.
Words: Rosie Cain
You’re unlikely to catch Nico Lutz on a bad day, but add some sunshine and a couple of hay bales into the mix and there’s very little that could go wrong. In fact, everything was right about it, including the fact that there was ample space to dance. This time, he was playing b2b with Binh, who he often appears alongside, and brings out some slightly more melodic elements from his record bag. Lutz however is known as the master of the ‘what the fuck’ moment. So many times in the space of the hours they played, people turned to us incredulously. Straight up techno gives way to acid and then minimal, all completely unfindable and unidentifiable. Granted, this was slightly dampened by the presence of Binh, but that was no negative.
Words: Raoul Rechnitz
The head of Perlon is an interesting man to watch DJ. On occasion, he perhaps prefers to play safe and play full versions of not the most interesting minimal tracks, and we’ve witnessed this before, but there’s another mood of Thomas Franzmann, and this is playful and downright incredible. It’s the latter we were treated to in the confines of Ricky’s Disco tent as part of Half Baked. We’ve seen him in a similar mood only at Sunwaves Festival, and he deftly mixes between house classics, Perlon-esque clicky minimal, UKG and techno. There’s nothing better than seeing such mixing performed by someone with a smile on their face at all times and bobbing along no matter what the genre he’s playing. While that tent was initially an odd choice of location for him to play, when standing near the back where people weren’t as bunched together, and taking in the full atmosphere, it was pure perfection, with a huge disco ball just rounding things off amazingly.
Words: Raoul Rechnitz