Set in the woodlands surrounding the Carreglwyd Estate in the far north-west of the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, Gottwood Festival took place from the 7th-10th of June. Now in its ninth year, the award-winning boutique electronic dance music festival did not fail to meet its high expectations. It should be noted the real star of the show was the stunning weather that graced the festival for the entirety of the weekend. The sun constantly shone, emphasising the natural beauty of the surroundings that hug the Irish Sea. I truly believe the impressive weather that encapsulated the sticking environment, added to the whole experience of the festival. It was clear to hear from volunteers and organisers it made the festival much better than last year’s edition.
Firmly in its ninth year, Gottwood still presents itself as a family affair. Sticking to its five thousand ticket capacity it echoes the party the founder used to throw for his friends on his family’s estate. Move D, a close friend of the Gottwood family, was even spotted walking around the festival with his Toddler on the Saturday. The festival really does create an inclusive community feeling. The crowds are incredibly friendly and the artists even stick around after their sets to soak up the atmosphere and experience the vast amount of talent being exhibited.
What made Gottwood standout for me was its layout. Set within the woodland of the Carreglwyd estate, it truly is a mystical setting. Camping around ancient stone circles and numerous stages situated around a tranquil lake in the centre of the forest; the site removes each and every festival goer from the outside world. This is also helped by the lack of any phone signal. However, this is not a negative as it encourages people to interact and embrace the festival and what it has to offer. Gottwood doesn’t have a mainstage. This was a refreshing change. At Gottwood each stage was understated yet impressive, all boasting a similar capacity. Some larger than others but there is no standout main stage. Furthermore, the festival is cleverly curated. In the sense, each DJ plays the stage where their sound is best matched. Meaning there isn’t one stage where more well-known artists play. Allowing up and coming DJ’s to rub shoulders with more established ones. This style of curating allows every artist to be respected and valued the same. Again, adding to the family and inclusive atmosphere of the whole festival. I believe this also encouraged the crowd to explore the festival. Uncover new music amongst the vast array that was on offer.
Now let’s get to the music…
An impressive feature of Gottwood is the quality of acts on each day, even on the Thursday. First up was Jasper James at the Trigon stage, which proved to be an extremely popular stage for the whole weekend. With hay bales as walls, it created a long but slightly narrow corridor accompanied with a pulsating sound system and impressive light show. This produced an intimate setting and dominated many of the nights over the weekend. Jasper James has gone from ‘one to watch’ to cementing himself as a respected figure in his own right. The Glaswegian played his own brand of off-kilter house mixed with disco and funk, moving to a deeper sound towards the end of the set. Trigon on Thursday was the place to be with a strong lineup all night and so that’s where we stayed. Next up was fellow Glaswegian and close friend of Jasper James, Jackmaster. Establishing himself as one of the world’s best, Jackmaster doesn’t confine his DJ sets to one style or scene. Spanning Detroit techno, U.K. garage, minimal techno, disco/funk, and, well, anything else that gets the crowd grooving. Jackmaster was joined on the decks, performing b2b with Grain. Grain is Artwork’s enigmatic techno alias. Artwork has been a key part of some of London’s pivotal music scenes, bringing his Art House residency to London’s XOYO. His influence on the UK music scene can be tracked across three decades. Having two DJing heavyweights b2b, their three-hour set did not disappoint, transcending across electronic music genres from disco and funk to house and later into some heavy techno. Both DJ’s are well-documented friends. This showed as they were supremely comfortable playing together. Feeding off one another’s high energy styles and charismatic personalities. The highlight of the set for me came when they dropped ‘Let Go Of This Acid’, an Artwork classic that really got the crowd going. Last to take to the decks was Avalon Emerson, a Berlin-based San Franciscan. The past few years has seen her become an A-lister in the underground music scene. Emerson was the star of Thursday night. If there was ever a set that took you on a journey this was it. Her selecting accompanied with astonishing mixing talent moved the set through nearly every electronic genre from techno to liquid drum & bass. She even mixed in ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, a classic from The Prodigy. I would highly recommend if you have the chance to see Avalon Emerson.
Friday came along and the lineup was just as congested with acts including the likes of DMX Krew, Palms Trax, Andrew Weatherall, Axel Boman and Move D. Unfortunately, this led to several clashes. The first act we saw was Special Request, one of Paul Woolford’s many aliases. Inspired by breakbeat, techno and drum & bass you could hear these influences within his set. Straight after on the Curve stage, Paul Woolford played under his own name. You have to appreciate the dedication and stamina of Paul Woolford, playing for nearly five hours straight. Between these acts, I managed to briefly see Mr Scruff, who was playing a funky set at the Lawn on the bank of the festival’s amazing lake. Mr Scruff was joined on stage by an MC, something I hadn’t seen before during a disco-y techno set. It was really entertaining and added another element to the set. DMX Krew was next on the schedule and favourite performance of the weekend. Ed Upton, the man behind DMX Krew, is a master producer and has been making records for over twenty-five years. He used all this experience to throw down one of the best sets I’ve seen. Playing an upbeat trippy electro set that included a whole host of originally produced tracks. Some of the standouts being ‘Come To Me’, ‘Dramatic Exit’ and ‘Spiritual Encounter’ to name just a few. There was a real energy throughout the set and within the crowd; it was truly something special and the highlight of my weekend. Axel Boman was followed by Move D who finished the night. Boman originally from Stockholm demonstrated why he is such a sort after DJ. Delivering a groove-heavy playful house set that included several tracks produced by himself. The standout track being ‘Not So Much’. This is an expertly produced tune with a complex yet relaxing arrangement that combines numerous musical elements and summed up the set perfectly. Move D finished off the night. Playing his first of three sets over the weekend he looked effortlessly cool behind the decks. Playing a funky house and techno set he incorporated a number of jazz components that really got the crowd moving.
Saturday boasted another considerable lineup with the likes of Denney, Crazy P and Ben UFO. As well as Axel Boman, Move D and Andrew Weatherall playing for the second and even third time. The highlight of the afternoon was Move D’s third and final performance of the weekend. It was a dedicated disco set that had a special party atmosphere. Personally, I felt it was the best out of the three sets and the crowd appreciated it the most. Next was the surprise act of the weekend Margaret Dygas. I hadn’t heard of her before and unexpectedly stumbled upon her set; a blend of minimal techno to an extremely receptive crowd in an intimate environment. She was the standout act of the day. Next, we managed to catch the end of Denney, a tech/house producer from Leeds. From what I saw he dropped some deep techno tracks that pulled in a large crowd. ‘Low Frequency’, produced by Denney, was well received. Following Denney was a relatively unknown DJ dubbed Tristian da Cunha, yet he managed to maintain the large crowd. Selecting a darker more bass-heavy form of techno and electro, the style suited the nighttime environment deep within the forest. Then it was time for the most anticipated act of the night, Ben UFO. One of the hottest properties on the circuit right. He remains one of few DJs to have made an impact without a production career. Thus, his reputation is exclusively the result of his selecting and mixing skills. Both were clearly on show for his two and half hour set at the Trigon stage, effortlessly mixing an extensive back catalogue exploring sounds both old and new across several different genres. The only downfall was the large queues to enter the stage with the capacity being reached.
Sunday presented the crowd with the tough decision of who to see close what was an incredibly intimate festival experience. With a choice between Dominik Eulberg, Craig Richards, Sonja Moonear and Hunee. But, first there was the small matter of Lutz b2b Binh. As the Anglesey estate transitioned from light to dark so did the track selection perfectly preparing the crowd for Sonja Monnear to close the festival. Demonstrating an eclectic vinyl collection, varying from acid and minimal to breakbeat, this four-hour set was a definite highlight of the festival, which was admirably well received by those lucky enough to experience the journey that the duo took them on. Hunee had the biggest turnout of the night with an impressive disco set encapsulating the vibe of the whole festival and attracting a crowd that the Curve stage couldn’t facilitate. This, however, didn’t dampen the spirts of those that were forced to enjoy Hunee’s back catalogue from the outskirts of the tent.
Overall Gottwood was the perfect location to host some of the biggest names in underground electronic music. The setting, alongside an impressively curated lineup and clever staging, made for an exceptional weekend. The intimate atmosphere produced a festival with a real community felling. It is hard to find any faults with Gottwood. I and the rest of the festival goers could tell that we were part of something special. It is clear to see why Gottwood has gone from strength to strength in its nine years on the UK festival scene, cementing itself as must on dance music lovers’ calendars. We cannot wait to return to the woods for next year’s edition.