This summer, we witnessed the triumphant return of Westival after a three-year hiatus and were reminded of the resilience and passion held by the community that built it. Tucked away in a small corner of the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales, Westival is still a relatively new presence on the festival circuit, yet it has already gained a reputation amongst avid festival goers down to its unbridled energy and standout lineups.
Debuting in 2017, the festival was born out of a private birthday party and has since evolved into a masterly produced project with stages and sound systems to rival that of larger, more established festivals. Every one of the six stages had its own identity; from the domed greenhouse, ‘Botanica’, with its foliage and trippy art installation, to the rave-centric ‘Grid’, lit up by neon green lights, and the homely ‘Rendezvous’, complete with carpets and eclectic knick knacks.
Westival is a testimony to how incredible smaller festivals can be. Not only do you get to experience prolific DJs such as Shanti Celeste, Call Super and Dan Shake up close and personal but you are also exposed to a wide array of talented up-and-coming artists, plus the quality of every set across the weekend was so high that the transition from lesser-known artists to headline acts felt seamless.
Beyond the music, the festival also made the most of its local surroundings with a shuttle bus to the idyllic Manorbier beach. There were also a number of striking artworks and installations around the site produced by Breaking Out the Gallery, a community arts organisation based in Pembrokeshire who also hosted art workshops for party-goers to get involved in.
It’s not often that you get to know a crowd on such a personal level either. Consisting of Welsh locals, who were thrilled they didn’t have to travel far for once, music-heads looking for a more intimate festival experience and the friends and family who have been there since day one, the crowd was nothing but amicable, relaxed and respectful.
Across the weekend there were many sets that stuck out, but we’ve tried to whittle it down to the six that’ve been fresh in our minds ever since. This sits alongside a playlist of 40 tracks heard across the weekend.
Mr.West B2B Moiser (Friday, Botanica)
The first standout set from the weekend comes from the co-founder of Westival himself, Mr.West, who riled up the dancefloor on the Friday afternoon with a high-powered B2B with fellow Westival resident, Moiser. Ideal for a sunny Friday in the Botanica greenhouse, the pair did not hold back as they kept party-goers moving with an intoxicating mix of speed garage, bassline and house that featured cuts from the likes of DJ Pooch and the Grooverider Mix of The Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’. Mr.West and Moiser certainly set the tone for the rest of the weekend with a B2B that encapsulated the ethos of Westival as being a welcoming and unpretentious space with community and soul at its core.
Bruce La Danse B2B Apricot Ballroom B2B Admin (Saturday, The Garden)
One set that truly captured the community atmosphere of the weekend was an epic B3B consisting of Bruce La Danse, Apricot Ballroom and Admin. What was supposed to be three x two hour sets turned into a six hour collaborative marathon which sent spirits soaring in the Garden. The crowd absolutely relished in the uplifting sounds of soul, disco, jazz, house and funk as the DJs oscillated between well-loved classics such as Archie Bell & The Drells’ ‘Everybody Have a Good Time’ and lesser known house edits of classic Afro grooves, such as Radio Mundo’s ‘Base Terre.’
Dr Banana B2B Lukas Wigflex (Saturday, Botanica)
Saturday came to a climax with a five-hour B2B set from UK selectors and partners in crime Dr Banana and Lukas Wigflex. Both known for being figureheads of the UK underground scene with their own distinct sounds, the two filled the Botanica with wonky techno steppers and wobbly basslines. In signature fashion, they didn’t hold back on the silly edits, particularly the Antiques Roadshow rework aptly named ‘Antiques Roadman Show’, which, of course, the crowd went wild for. There was a moment during the track where Dr Banana “conducted” the crowd as they warbled along before a filthy bass dropped and the tent went into chaos – it truly felt like British culture at its peak – you wouldn’t get that anywhere else.
Mixtress (Saturday, Grid)
Bass heavyweights Keep Hush made their Welsh debut with a takeover at the Grid on Saturday. Amongst an array of unstoppable selectors, we were treated to an utterly relentless set from Mixtress who took over the 10pm – 1am slot. Mixtress brought the rave to Westival with a selection of tracks that highlighted her deep knowledge of high-speed dance music and heavy rollers. Not shying away from intense breaks and adrenaline-pumping jungle, Mixtress’ musical prowess was felt by everyone as the crowd was engulfed by bass. During her set, she paid tribute to old school drum n bass icons with bangers such as Nasty Habit’s 1996 record, ‘Shadow Boxing’, as well as elevating tracks from her contemporaries such as 4am Kru’s ‘4AMK2 (Smoke Something)’. Mixtress’ set was definitely not for the faint hearted yet it made a powerful imprint on everyone in attendance.
Hollie Profit (Sunday, Grid)
The self-proclaimed Welsh Disco Queen, Hollie Profit, certainly made an impact with her Sunday evening set, which was infused with a bubbly selection of feel-good house and disco anthems. You could almost feel the endorphins being released as the crowd sung along to everyone’s favourite ‘Yes Sir, I Can Boogie’ or when the beat dropped to a very cheeky ‘What Goes Around…Comes Around’ edit. Hollie Brough her charming eccentricity and unrestrained energy as she tackled each transition with nothing but gusto, blessing us with sunshine on an otherwise cloudy and grey day. Her set, which had been moved from the Garden to the Grid due to programme changes caused by the rain, contributed heavily to the house-party atmosphere of the final day with everyone throwing themselves into the party and not looking back.
Kamma & Masalo (Sunday, The Garden)
The weekend festivities couldn’t have asked for a better finisher than the Dutch duo Kamma & Masalo, who are connoisseurs of dancefloor culture. Despite a day of non-stop rain, spirits were not dampened as the pair closed the Garden (that had been tactically moved under cover) with a high-energy set spanning disco, funk and house. An unfortunately timed power cut couldn’t even disrupt the joyful spirit of their set as a handful of percussionists kept the rhythm going until the power re-booted, highlighting once again the resilience and vitality of the festival. The pair reeled out tune after tune, revelling in complex rhythms and feel-good melodies whilst celebrating togetherness on the dancefloor. A unanimously favourite moment of the weekend was their closing track, Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost in Music’, to which everyone sang along as an emotional send off to Westival’s 2022 chapter.