United Kingdom | 15 September 2009
After the success of last year, a downscaled Waveform Festival proved very different from its previous incarnations, writes Joe Taylor.
Overall - 6/10
This year’s Waveform Festival came in a very different form to its previous incarnations. Due to changes in the law regarding police presence, the organisers of the event were forced to downscale the number of tickets on sale. This meant that the festival’s capacity stood at a meagre 500 people, making an already small festival into a tiny party. This change in capacity also caused a few of the sound systems to pull out, leaving a smaller range of musical choice and limitations on sound. However, the party went ahead and a fantastic weekend was had by those who had managed to get their hands on a ticket to the sold out event.
Getting there and back - 8/10
Being situated in the heart of the country meant that Waveform was about as conveniently located as possible for just about everyone. Located on a small airfield near to Stratford-upon-Avon, the tourist hotspot ensured that the transport links were as regular and efficient as could be hoped for.
Unfortunately the festival itself wasn’t well signposted and we heard a great deal of festival-goers complaining about how they had driven past it several times. Once again the organisation of the event had let it down, and one small A4 piece of paper just didn’t do the trick.
The site - 7/10
Waveform used the same location as Global Gathering this year, so the site has some festival pedigree behind it and had already been tried and tested. Its history as an ex-airfield meant that there was solid ground for cars to drive on, and should there have been any rain, it would have been a saving grace for ticket-holders.
The small and cosy site meant that it wasn’t a struggle to walk around and take luggage to and from cars, which provided a nice change from the larger festivals where you seem to walk a small marathon just to get to the campsite. Waveform has a very green ethos, being a former winner of the Greener Festival Award in 2008, with plenty of recycling points and very little litter making both the campsite and the arena a more pleasant place to be. Unfortunately there was only seven portaloos for the entire festival, which meant queuing was a bit of a problem, although the toilets managed to stay clean, reflecting the caring and respectful atmosphere of the festival.
Atmosphere - 9/10
The smaller scale of this year’s Waveform seemed to be more of a benefit to the festival than a detrimental effect. It gave the festival an intimate, cosy vibe that made you feel as though you knew almost everyone in the site. Allowing only 500 tickets on sale for the whole event meant that the only people who were there were those that really wanted to be there. This combined with the possibility of the festival being ruined by police restrictions made the people more determined not to let that happen and party on.
The main form of music at Waveform is Psychedelic Trance, which always brings out fun-loving crazy people who seem to thrive on dressing up and entertaining themselves and others. This made the small festival like a twisted Mad Hatter’s tea party, with an array of amazing UV decorations and light shows, as well as people forming part of the attractions.
Two big signs projecting the words Peace and Love across the festival set the ethos of the festival going and this continued through to the last and like a lot of smaller festivals there were very few, if any people out to cause trouble. The workshops that were held in small tents around the arena were a big hit with ticket-holders looking for a chilled-out daytime, and varied from political issues to dance and relaxation. This attitude combined with beautiful weather, made Waveform a relaxing and meditative end to a brilliant festival season.
Music - 5/10
Due to some of the stages and sound systems pulling out of the festival, Waveform was left with only three main music stages. These were limited to Drum and Bass, Break beat, Psy-trance and some occasional live music. This really was the biggest let down of the festival, providing very little choice and not much value for money. Sound limits were put on the speakers, meaning that the music was turned down after 10pm and finished early in the night, leaving the more hedonistic members of the crowd sorely disappointed. This combined with a few losses of power during DJ sets left the crowd feeling like their £95 wasn’t necessarily well spent. Having said that, there were some brilliant sets from some of the best names in Psy-Trance at the moment, and the Psy-Trance area had an absolutely amazing atmosphere at times.
Scorb - 9/10
Sunday night’s festival closing set really got everybody dancing with the very best in progressive psy-trance. The atmosphere in the reasonably small tent was palpable and every single person was fully into the music providing one of the best DJ sets witnessed this summer’s festival season.
Autobots - 8/10
Heavy Breakbeat basslines at the Archangel stage got everybody moving and provided a refreshing break from the psychedelic music that encompassed the majority of the festival. Autobots succeeded in their task of getting people pumped for the headliners that night, playing some classic tunes from the world of Breaks.
Far Too Loud - 9/10
By far the musical event of the festival, Far Too Loud was a perfect choice for the line-up. People were talking about them from the start to the finish of the festival and it’s easy to see why. Far Too Loud combines both Breakbeat and Psychedelic music to form a genre they have labelled Psy-Breaks. Given that most of the festival were divided between the two genres for the entire weekend, this one set brought with it a sense of unity in the musical styles that wasn’t quite achieved anywhere else.
Drum and Bass - 4/10
Whilst some of the more hardcore Drum and Bass disciples may disagree, the genre dominated Saturday night of the Archangel Breaks Stage, but just didn’t seem to gel with the genres or the mood of the festival. The stage seemed to be flooded with people who had just taken over the decks and picked up a microphone and it put a dampener on the atmosphere. The MC’s left a lot to be desired and the music itself got very tired very soon.
Chad Jackson - 5/10
A reasonably unknown DJ took to the stage without much of a fuss, and started playing a decent set of Drum and Bass and Breakbeat. Just as the crowd were warming to the unfamiliar DJ, he decided to drop Bloc Party’s latest single ‘One More Chance’. Without wanting to detract from Bloc Party, this was not the time or the place for their brand of commercial Indie-Pop. It was a poor choice that saw booing from the crowd and ruined the rest of the set.
No shows - 0/10
Due to the restrictions imposed on the festival, which were, admittedly outside the control of the organisers, some of the most eagerly anticipated artists of the weekend did not show up. This put a bit of a dampener on the weekend and reflects badly, not on the organisers but on the artists themselves.
As well as artists not showing up, whole stages could not afford to be at the event because of a new policy by police to start charging for their presence at community events, something that threatens to challenge the future of small festivals across the country.
Where to start? The entire festival was a plethora of party people dressed to impress and oddities of all shapes and sizes. A fantastic feast of phantasmagorical festival fun!
By Joe Taylor.
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