Gottwood Festival 2019: Five key performances

  • It rained, it poured, but nothing could dampen the tenth edition of the beloved Welsh event.
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  • Gottwood celebrated its ten-year anniversary in 2019. That's a milestone many great festivals fail to reach. In many ways, its longevity feels related to its humble approach. As highlighted in this year's festival booklet, the Welsh event started as "a party for our closest friends. We never once [thought] it would evolve into what it is now." Gottwood's family vibe is obvious. It takes place in the grounds of Carreglwyd Estate, the home of one of the organisers. At one point, I walked past the Carreglwyd family house and saw Move D peering through the bedroom window like a chilled house cat. Many of the same crews and DJs play the festival each year, and plenty of punters are also return customers. Even the food traders—one of whom is a sibling of a Gottwood founder—seem to have deep ties to the festival. The festival is located on a north-westerly tip of Wales, where rolling pastures meet the Irish Sea. The site is miles away from a major city. This remoteness means that, aside from groups of surprisingly up-for-it local farmers, those that make the journey really want to be there. This year, the conditions weren't always perfect—biblical rain fell from Friday afternoon through Saturday morning—but come Monday, this barely felt like a problem, which says a lot about the rest of the weekend. With beautiful nature, great people and a lineup that balanced big-hitters with talented up-and-comers, there was little to dislike about Gottwood. Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
    Enzo Siragusa (Jungle set) If there's one thing you can rely on UK festivals for, it's that the crowd will be raring to go from the first night. Enzo Siragusa's jungle set on Thursday was a great place for enthusiastic ravers to let loose. The Fuse London cofounder has made his name with stripped-back house music, so he might not be an obvious candidate to smash out a set of vintage jungle. But the clues are there in his music. Speaker-busting bottom end and hyperactive percussion, both key elements of the Fuse sound, are directly linked to his early years of raving in London. Siragusa's set was an expertly curated selection, filled with deep cuts like "Quest" by Andy C & Shimon, Roni Size's "Fashion" and "Horizon" by LTJ Bukem. Seeing people going wild to frantic breakbeats in The Barn, my mind flashed back to long-since-closed venues like Stratford Rex. Siragusa's set felt like an authentic revival of jungle's rowdy energy.
    Freakenstein Festivals can sometimes feel like a war of attrition and a day of non-stop rain on Friday made life difficult. Some cowered in their tents or ducked for cover while the hardcore majority stuck it out under the downpour. A few hours of vintage electro closing the Curve stage—first from Radioactive Man and then from Freakenstein—was a just reward for braving the elements. Freakenstein, an obscure alias of the larger-than-life UK veteran Tristan da Cunha, was one of the most surprising sets of the weekend. His take on electro verged on the lurid. Miami bass, ghetto house and raunchy electro, such as Aaron Carl's "21 Positions," made up a set of politically incorrect bangers. Da Cunha's enthusiasm was palpable as he head-bopped to the pacy music. The set finished with what sounded like sampled squeals from a porn film. Behind me, a doof stick, covered in fairy lights and topped with a dilapidated cuddly toy, rose above the crowd in appreciation.
    Palms Trax At around 5 PM on Saturday, the rain finally relented. As the sun mercifully shone down on Carreglwyd Estate, Palms Trax's selections epitomised the now-balmy mood. His set began with some deft use of the isolators and Stephanie Mills' disco classic "What Cha' Gonna Do with My Lovin'." A turning point came 15 minutes later with Justin Van Der Volgen's edit of Bobby Thurston's "You Got What It Takes," sped up by about ten BPM. This allowed Palms Trax to pivot into a string of trans-continental chuggers. From thereon in, it was smooth sailing. The tent swelled to capacity and the atmosphere buzzed. A flurry of expensive Afro disco cuts teed the crowd up for a final run of hits. LaSo's "Another Star"—a cover of the Stevie Wonder classic by Latin disco legend Joe Bataan—raised the temperature. A three-person-strong human tower shot up. The final one-two punch of "Janice (Don't Be So Blind To Love)" by Skip Mahoney and an edit of Billy Paul's "Only The Strong Survive" was a true chef's-kiss moment.
    Sonja Moonear The Walled Garden featured some of Gottwood's most anticipated sets. Highlights included the Berlin-based diggers The Ghost, a back-to-back between Craig Richards and Nicolas Lutz, and a technical masterclass from DJ Stingray. Sonja Moonear's equally strong performance took place on Sunday afternoon. The Swiss DJ cut her teeth on the minimal scene of the mid-'00s, but has since broadened her range. There was little that bound her set together other than a constant, effervescent groove and a preference for sonically impactful records. The set veered quickly from obscure MJ Cole-style garage and ravey synths through to classic techno such as Lemon 8's "Model 8 (Lemon 8 Remix)." A slick mixing style meant that despite the mood and genre shifts, everything hung together perfectly.
    Peach b2b Nathan Micay Peach and Nathan Micay are two DJs perfectly suited to closing a festival, partly because they share an unironic love of silly dance music. They played Ricky's Disco, one of the most compact stages at the festival. With a covered roof and (relative) protection from the rain, the space often took on the atmosphere of a rowdy house party. Peach amped up the crowd early by playing unarguable party-starters like Cybotron's "Cosmic Cars" and pulling beat tricks on the CDJs. Micay upped the ante with Earth Link's "Blink," a track full of guitar power chords and churning acid lines. Towards the end, the goofy vibe intensified. As the records became increasingly uncool, they became more effective. Pop-house remixes of R&B tunes met the Artful Dodger's remix of Sisqo's "Thong Song." The climax came with a Nathan Micay edit of Andrea Bocelli's "Time To Say Goodbye," a record truly remarkable in its tastelessness. As the record shifted from opera to a sickly sweet EDM-style drop, resplendent with air horns and spinback sound effects, Peach looked on in horror. Micay smirked. When the second drop hit, the guy next to me guffawed and spat out a drink. Only DJs who take their craft seriously can deliver a set this unserious. It was a plainly ridiculous, yet somehow apt, way to end four days in a field. We've compiled a YouTube playlist with some of our favourite tracks from Gottwood Festival 2019. Check them out here.
    Photo credits / @hirobjones For @khromacollective - Lead, Palms Trax, Peach b2b Nathan Micay, Lawn, Raw Silk, Crowd, DJ Tennis, Andrew Weatherall, Fireworks Daisy Denham For Khroma Collective - Enzo Siragusa, Freakenstein, Sonja Moonear, Umbrella Jake Davis For Khroma Collective - Move D *Correction: A previous version of this article included a line about jungle that we have since acknowledged was offensive.