‘Escape’ or ‘escapism’ appears to have much currency within the increasingly saturated British festival market; though ultimately the basis for any festival weekend, the term is easily and often thrown around, attached onto everything from the mighty Glastonbury to Jamie Oliver’s The Big Feastival. Gottwood, too, has attracted this label. But nestled on an island off another island in North West Wales, this weekend felt so far removed from the rain-drenched and heaving crowds of Parklife and Field Day across the border.
It had immediately promised a lot - a weighty, wide-ranging and at some parts unknown DJ-heavy line-up, curatorial control from labels and collectives such as Stamp the Wax, Tief, and Percolate, and a beautiful woodland setting to get lost into. And, it delivered. Under a canopy of leaves adorned with lights, the decorative assembled stages became wholly embedded into the flesh of the Georgian country house and estate; crowds snaked around art installations and stages and, like a stream opening up into an estuary, poured out into the open lakeside nucleus of the site. Here, daytime truly thrived. Following the throngs of crowds around the liquid centrepiece, Move D’s annually popular Disco Set held things down in the distance, whilst the smooth and soulful jazz-inflected house of lakeside Cassio Kohl bled into a woozy mix of DJ Mujava’s Township Funk.
Perhaps its this constant, collective drifting of people (a clientele with a firm average age of early twenties) which makes Gottwood feel so special, well delivered and cohesive, that when one small stage’s crowd overspilled and forced you out there was something ready to be discovered but a short walk away. Gravitating in and around the lake, peeling off into stages nestled all over the estate, Gottwood is best enjoyed aimlessly. Tumbling into the Trigon on Saturday night - a stage held together by wooden triangular pylons meeting in the middle - you could find yourself in the hands of Newcastle and London based Jaunt> Records. Though initially drawn in by the syncopated techno of Ostgut Ton’s Virginia it was DJ Deep who followed, opening with ghetto house pioneer Parris Mitchel’s Rubber Jazz Band spliced over heavier techno rhythms, that proved a highlight of the weekend.
It was a festival full of - for want of a better word - ‘moments’. Be it Axel Bowman closing with Small Town Boy, or Ben UFO b2b Craig Richards sending off the festival piano-smashes of Four Tet’s Pinnacles, the genuine collective enthusiasm from those in attendance (all with ‘family’ stitched into their wristbands) really and truly contributed to this sense of escapism. And perhaps this is all one can ask for. Aided by the warm weather, the gorgeous faraway surroundings and the carefully balanced size of the crowd, Gottwood stands a cut above the rest in truly removing you from normality.
Words: Josie Roberts