In only its 6th year, Gottwood has already carved out a reputation as one of the top small festivals of the summer. Tucked away on the grounds of a 17th Century estate, each year it opens its doors to just 5,000, to dance in forests, old barns and beautiful lakeside lawns in the shadow of the great manor.
With a consistently enticing line-up, including headliners like Zip, Hunee, Move D and Motor City Drum Ensemble, the amount of good music played over its four-day duration was always going to be hard to beat. After coming away having heard plenty of old classics and new favourites, we’ve paired the following review with a 50-strong track playlist of ID’s that peaked our ears over the course of the festival.
Some particular highlights included Move D finishing his Saturday night set with ‘Summertime’ by Rosinha De Valencia, ‘Oh Jabba’ by OB Ignitt making an appearance during a mind-blowing back-to-back from Ben UFO and Craig Richards, and Hunee playing ‘Touch Me In The Morning’ by Marlena Shaw.
Thursday night saw the festival kick off with a bang, with proceedings getting very sweaty in the barn where 2 Bad Mice were dishing out jungle, whilst Artwork’s assorted selection and wedding-MC hosting in the forest provided plenty of great moments. In a packed Walled Garden, tINI delivered a set of heavy, big-room tech house including Efdemin’s new remix of ‘Kinda Kickin’‘.
After Thursday’s teaser, waking up to a fully open festival site on Friday was worth a sight for sore eyes. Strolling through the site revealed endless attractions and distractions, from giant armchairs, artists creating installations live, and the two very popular Gottwood dogs. Walking past the Mother Owl stage revealed the pristine lake and the Lawn stage, where the Good Block DJs provided an eclectic mix of world music as people were either dancing or catching some glorious Welsh sunshine. As afternoon turned to evening, queues at the independent food vendors began to swell and rightly so, with mouth-watering food of every variety all very fairly priced.
Friday night provided some serious musical gold. In the Walled Garden the Hypercolour takeover was bubbling over nicely, while over in the Forest the Louche residents and Marcellus Pittman had everybody grooving away between its characteristic hay walls. The highlight though was on the Trawler stage, where Margaret Dygas and Zip provided four hours of captivating, stripped-back grooving house and techno. Track IDs were few and far between, save Claro Intelecto’s classic ‘Peace of Mind’ played by Dygas early on, but time flew by and near the end of Zip’s masterclass the man himself could be seen grinning ear to ear. After a quick stop in the mind-bending LZRDM we made our way back to the Forest as Hunee closed the night in characteristic fashion with a selection of disco bombs and housey stompers that were lapped up (along with the bottle of Jim Beam he handed out) by the very up-for-it crowd.
Saturday began – despite the forecasts – with more sunshine, and earlybirds were treated to a free lakeside yoga session to blow away the cobwebs of the night before. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening Sounds of the Universe provided the perfect soundtrack to a day sprawled out on the lawn: a live set from Andrew Ashong and his band included a slow-jam cover version of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love?’, for a great mid-evening respite from the four-to-the-floor. Elsewhere Tornado Wallace began to warm things up with a set of stadium drum-filled house and disco movers to an energetic but sparse crowd, most likely thanks to Move D’s special daytime disco set. Later on in the day Move D graced the decks once more, this time a magical three-hour set to close the night on the Trawler, which saw him in full festival mode. To the packed crowd’s delight, cuts from Leon Vynehall, Moodymann, Traumprinz and his own ‘Eastman’ all made appearances, but the true highlight came as ‘Otaku’ by Black Dog Productions was playing, where he got on the microphone, glass of red wine in hand, and declared “Isn’t this arguably the best record of all time?!”.
At some festivals, Sunday is a quieter day to ease partygoers back into the reality of the following week, but thankfully there was still more to come. Dancers flocked to the Mother Owl for the Rhythm Section takeover, and head honcho Bradley Zero closed the stage at sunset with infectious grooves sparking dancefloor limbo-competitions.
Meanwhile, a monster 7-hour b2b session from Ben UFO and Craig Richards was kicking off in the Walled Garden with a short interlude for a Radioactive Man live set. Ducking in towards the end of his show, Radioactive Man’s brooding 808-heavy electro perfectly set the tone for Ben and Craig’s return as they unleashed darker techno and heavy house, with whoops and cheers emerging when the winding bass line of OB Ignitt’s ‘Oh Jabba’ came blaring from the finely-tuned sound system. Over in the Forest, a highly anticipated set from Motor City Drum Ensemble was kicking off, but as he moved through disco to tougher house selections, the set somehow never seemed to ignite due to some sound issues.
So it was back to the Walled Garden to watch Ben b2b Craig as they moved to what we couldn’t believe was already the last hour of the festival, yet thankfully one of the best hours of music all weekend. Whereas some back-to-back sets can feel forced and disappointing, this worked as both artists reached deep into their crates to the crowd’s constant delight. As the last tune ended and the cries for one last tune faded into the night, everyone made their way slowly back to the campsite, dazed after not only the quality of that last set but of the entire weekend.
Thankfully, it wasn’t just the quality of the line-up that made the weekend special. With crisp sound provided by Fabric’s Martin Audio, friendly stewards giving directions to the beach and one of the nicest crowds of festival-goers (with ‘ALAN’ noticeably absent), it was easy to see why artists and punters alike return year on year, and we will certainly be keeping up that tradition. Keep an eye out for early-birds for next year.