Reviewed: Wilderness 2022
With the sun shining and a palpable sense of excitement in the air, the masses descended upon a little corner of Oxfordshire known as Cornbury Estate to embark on the 4-day bonanza that is Wilderness 2022. With its reputation as “Britain’s poshest festival”, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is perhaps not the first place to turn in the search of a night laced with house and techno debauchery.
Look beyond the poetry recitals, naked cricket matches and luxury hot tubs, however, and you uncover a chunky line-up that wouldn’t look out of place on a flyer for Printworks. Coupled with unknown acts playing in secret corners of the woods and pop-up daytime raves, Wilderness is able to satisfy the appetite of any four-on-the-floor hungry raver.
First up to kick things off for the 128 fanatics was Peggy Gou. Slotted on the main stage between the jazzy delights of Binker and Moses and ethereal sounds of headliners Jungle, it would have been safe to assume that a more stripped-back set for the daytime crowd could have been on the horizon. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Peggy started strong, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with acid-infused techno that thundered out of the dominating speaker stack. As the sun descended, she steered the ravers through uplifting vocals and disco remixes, creating those hands in the air, singalong moments that have become a trademark of the international DJ.
As night descended upon the woodland, it was time for the crowds to make their way across the festival site to The Valley. This mammoth groove cut into the side of a hill is arguably the jewel in the Wilderness crown. Endlessness lasers and towering sound systems guide the seething crowds down the hill towards the dance stage where an evening of electronic bliss was about to ensue in arguably one of the best dance arenas the UK festival circuit has to offer.
Flanked by gogo dancers, Jodie Harsh stepped up first, bringing a blend of infectious grooves and elevating melodies that gauged the mood of the crowd perfectly and kicked the night off with a bang. Up next came Irish producer Krystal Klear, bringing a tougher, darker sound that thumped through the trees and took the crowd on an emotional journey. Finally, it was the turn of party maestro himself, Eats Everything. Blending acid, disco, old-school rave, piano bangers and his own productions all into one, it’s easy to see why the Bristolian has ascended into the lofty heights of elite world-touring DJ.
As day two commenced, many headed down to one of the two wild swimming spots that Wilderness has to offer. A quick dip in the icy water is enough to ease the symptoms of any raver’s sore head before marching back into the main site and getting straight back on it.
Given the middle-class clientele attending Wilderness 2022, high-end brands have now joined the ranks alongside traditional food vendors and begun running their own exclusive areas. One of the most notable is the Veuve Clicquot tent. Despite the eye-watering prices for a bottle of champagne, this is the place to be if you are after a day-time shuffle set to quality electronic music. With no official line-up, the crowd are there for the love of the music and guest appearances are often made by main acts who have stayed on for the duration of the weekend.
As the sun set on another day, it was back into the valley for an evening of exceptional dance music. Louise Chen was up first, bringing with her an eclectic blend of feel-good bangers and uplifting rhythms that perfectly paved the way for award-winning house legend David Morales. One of the original superstar DJs, he wasted no time in proving why he boasts a career that has spanned across the best part of four decades. Thumping melodic elements infused with classic house and emotional breakdowns, that at times felt almost spiritual, were brought perfectly to a close with ‘Where Love Lives’ by Alison Limerick. Finally, it was the turn of Circus Recordings head honcho Yousef to step up and see off the evening with his raw, chunky sound that squeezed out whatever energy the crowd had left to give.
Day three and the headliner’s name was on everyone’s lips. 90’s Rave legends and movie soundtrack specialists Underworld were set to take to the main stage and see off the festival. With the final day having an earlier finish time than normal, many of the main DJs were playing during the day. Tribal and percussive house aficionado Melé was on-hand to liven up a visibly exhausted dancefloor before lady-of-the-moment TSHA took to the decks, bringing a high-octane infusion of underground beats mixed with choppy vocal hooks and intricate basslines. Finally, it was time for Underworld to take the stage to round off the festival with their own brand of pulsating synths and jagged melodies that have earned them a spot in the dance music hall of fame. With the instantly recognisable, ever beloved, ‘Born Slippy’ rounding off the set, the crowd couldn’t contain itself. The Trainspotting theme song touches a nerve so deep it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye.
There really is something for everyone at Wilderness, whether it be expansive thinking, spiritual awakening or just a good old boogie in a field, the welcoming family spirit that swills around in the air keeps so many returning to the little slice of Oxfordian festival heaven year after year.
Thanks to all for having us at Wilderness 2022, we’ll be sure to return next year! Follow the link to book now for 2023 https://bit.ly/3dTPzhd