Festival Review: Balter Festival 2019
Travel through tranquil valleys and serene forestry until you reach the Chepstow Racecourse, the South Wales site where Balter Festival takes place annually. Upon arrival late Thursday night, a sea of tents were already perched whilst stages were still being erected, managed by a dedicated Balter crew busy preparing the final phases. The festival hosted ten music stages all situated surrounding the central field, within less than five minutes walking distance between each other. This saved any hassle of long walks between sets, and meant that friends were always within reach. There was a mix of music to mingle with, from underground rave music such as garage to drum and bass, there were also more rootsy genres including reggae, hip-hop and acoustic amongst others.
When Friday began at 12PM, the first stage to open was the 24 hour Garage Girls, featuring up to five sexy ladies onstage at a time shaking their booties to grooving basslines. From Fed-X opening the performances at 1PM, to Kanji Kinetic B2B Hadean at 7PM, this stage was a constant rave. Friday daytime was considerably calm - aside from 24h garage girls, most stages weren’t actually opened until 6PM. Nevertheless as the day progressed, excitement intensified as pissed-up revellers awaited the nighttime. The site buzzed as sunshine scorched, soaked up by topless, rowdy gallivanters surviving off scarcely diluted spirits. In amongst the madness Balter attained a rare feeling of ultimate freedom, people were free to pursue whatever thrill they seeked - however if any accidentally overdosed on the fun, kindhearted volunteers were close by at all times to pick up any who fell. When the warm summer evening inevitably dawned, a majority fleeted from the Hex to the Dutty Disco opposite. Bouncing between raves kick-started by the likes of Octo Pi, Revert, Joe Burn & Tenz, Hex went on to host the junglist / hip-hop styles of Pete Cannon & Dr Syntax. Inja & Kelvin 313 were next up, accelerating the liveliness before later being followed by the dark dub / drum n bass styles of Dub Phizix & Strategy. A highlight for the ganja people was seeing Kaotik Kartel at Balkanical Circus, 10-11PM. When the sound-systems shut down, the parties continued in the campsites which were alive with conversation and mini-rigs until daylight.
The dust definitely settled by Saturday, although a few all night ravers were far from fresh. Fortunately, shower facilities were at hand for those in desperate need of a scrub-up. Alternatively to Friday, stages such as Balkanical Circus and The Lab had welcome early openings at 12PM. The variety of stages bestowed opportunities to discover new talents, explore genres or relax to some easy going melodies during the daytime. Those too tired to dance socialised, whilst others trialled tasty concoctions of fruity cocktails from the boozers or the fast prepared, homemade food stalls plotted nearby. For fans of hip-hop, the night began when veteran Bristol rapper Datkid took to the Caravan Stage around 7PM. Giving an passionate performance throughout, he unleashed singles from his recently released High Focus debut, Confessions Of A Crud Lord. Afterwards, hip-hop headliner Chester P stole the show on The Caravan stage, reciting fan favourites with precision and clarity whilst also bringing through rappers from the crowd to cypher onstage. The Mouse Outfit finished with a spectacular finale, propelling the energy to ecstatic extents. Afterwards, The Hex stage was the place to be as the Born On Road junglist crew: Aries, Kelvin 373, Selecta Jman and Act13 put on a high-octane two hour performance. When midnight struck, the remainder of the night was spent wandering between the Dutty Disco and Jigsore, before the music finished at 2AM.
Sunday afternoon was a lot calmer, with a majority of time spent recuperating. People were evidently feeling the past few days and the cloudy overcast did little to brighten people’s spirits. Nonetheless, as the day progressed the energy gradually began regenerating. Sika Records hosted a dynamic takeover at the Balkanical Circus, starting at 12PM. Plymouth emcee Wyattearp impressed with an impassioned performance despite an initially small turnout, performing anthems lifted from collaborations with Sniff and Skinzmann. The standout shelling of the weekend followed, from Liverpool rappers MAL & KHVLID. Laced with grime, trap and bassy instrumental flavours, the talented young spitters had a whole field skanking - watch for these two if you’re at Nass Festival 2019. An hour later, Eva Lazurus and Gardna brought nice, irie vibes on The Caravan stage, infusing quick-fire lyricism with soulful singing over uplifting reggae/dub riddims. They were later followed by Ed Cox & E Coli, who delivered a entertaining, enlivening performance from start to finish. As it was the night of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham, when clocks struck seven the match was projected on screens in one of the boozer tents. After getting amongst the rowdy scouse celebrations when Liverpool won, the night was awash with alcohol and memory loss. When the music shut down around midnight, the festivities slowly died down as people enjoyed the remainder of the evening, reflecting on the three day madness which had ensued.
From beginning to end, Balter Festival had a homely atmosphere perpetuated by the friendly ethos of all attendees, organisers and volunteers involved. Fractured memories of raving with mates, sunbathing with strangers and getting utterly waved throughout each day will be remembered ‘til old age. Still a small scale festival, it was no surprise this year Balter didn’t host too many jaw-dropping headliners. However following this year’s sold-out success, the support will surely grow for Balter to host bigger names on next years stages. Altogether the musical spectrum didn’t disappoint, an array of veteran and up-and-coming talents from a variety of genres thrilled throughout the weekend. If you seek the company of fun-seeking freaks, the sounds of the underground and a place of respite for intoxicated escapism, don’t sleep on Balter Festival in 2020.