Wilderness festival was back with a bang last weekend. An explosion of colour, glitter, sequin and champagne filled Cornbury Park Estate in Oxfordshire under the baking August sunshine. Wilderness is so much more than just another music festival. You can spend your weekend doing a little bit of everything from dancing, axe throwing, lake swimming, debates, leaning how to spice up your sex life to fine dining.
Things all start on the Thursday afternoon after strolling the Idyllic surroundings it’s time to head to one of the many banquets on offer, I’ve decided to choose the kiwi chef Chantelle Nicholson former winner of the Catey awards. After four scrumptious courses and wine that kept on flowing it’s time to head to maybe the most boujee part of the festival the Veuve Clicquot champagne tent. The funky beats go on until midnight and the perfect ending to day one.
There are many different ways to start your morning at Wilderness, you could head to the sanctuary for a facial or a relaxing massage but the breakfast of champions is to throw yourself into the lake for a quick swim to shake off the night before (or work off the chocolate cake from last nights banquet feast). Just as I’m about to jump in a naked man comes running past me being shouted at by the lifeguard, apparently the only rules here is no diving, swimming costume is optional.
The main stage on Friday afternoon is opened by pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. After keeping the nation entertained with her kitchen discos during lockdown she brings the party bangers to the colourful sun kissed crowd. There is a cover of “just like a prayer”, “Groovejet” and set closer “Murder on the dance floor”. Thankfully there are a lot of shaded areas at the festival to escape the heat. We head over to the Hustle tent, the dancing shoes still firmly on there’s a mix of electronica, acid melodies, funk and soul.
Friday evening is all about the main stage Peggy Gou steps up bringing her house music first of all and the on to the headliners Jungle. Now on their third album and seamlessly going from strength to strength. The sizeable crowd gets loose as the sun disappears embracing fan favourite tunes like “keep moving”, “all of the time” and “busy earning’”.
Saturday starts off once again cooling off under the tree lined “Jumpyard” stage, set on a Sloping hill. Count Skylarkin’ kicks things off bring along with him the 30,000 hours of mini disc tunes the the late great DJ derrick gave him after his sad passing in 2016. A beautiful mix of reggae, dancehall and swing, accompanied by a few funny tales from old local Oxford music venues the Zodiac and the Cellar.
When at Wilderness is easy to get distracted when moving between the stages at one point you can be watching a trapeze artist, the next thing being dragged into some sort of 80s spandex workout At the Atrium stage and then the next thing you’re following a caravan driven across the site surrounded by people dressed as walking disco glitter balls dancing to a bit of Lionel Richie ending up nowhere near your intended destination. Eventually we end up at the main stage this time for Craig Charles who brings his funk and soul show. This sets up the evening perfect for the next act Irish singer Róisín Murphy, the former Moloko singer not only brings with her some beautiful disco inspired pop but also the biggest outfit wardrobe of the weekend. I loose count of the different outfits and hats that are replace after each song.
Tonight‘s main headliner batten is handed over to Years & Years. Olly Alexander has had quite the rise since debut album “Communion” also becoming an actor in the critically acclaimed “It’s a Sin” TV drama. Tonight’s show, stage production and presence shows why he is rightfully topping festival lineups now. The weekends biggest crowd is pulled in and treated to some Glorious electropop, stage props include a giant bed, a telephone box and treadmil. The crowd leave with big smiles and now the late night fun can continue.
A mass congregation head over to “The Valley” hidden away in a far corner of the festival this place comes alive once it gets dark. This years newly revamped area now plays host to an array of DJs over the weekend including Jodie Harsh, Eats everything, Derrick Carter and David Morales all taking to the stage that beams out looking like a giant temple in the night sky.
Proceedings come to a close on the Sunday and what better way to kick start things with the House Gospel Choir. Electrifying house music covers and a few of their own songs backed up with beautiful gospel singing has everyone dancing and singing along.
Sunday nights closing act are Underworld set highlight include Jumbo and two months off. Karl Hyde works the crowd into a frenzy with the last song of the night as they play 90s cult dance hit “Born Slippy”
Wilderness will be back next year 3rd - 6th August with early bird tickets already on sale here