There has been a Wales shaped gap in the music festival calendar for far too long. In 2009, the last Escape Into the Park was held at Swansea and since then, dance music lovers in Wales haven’t had a major music festival to call their own. On Saturday 31st May, the first ever Together Festival was held at the Carmarthen Showground in South West Wales, and what we all wanted to know was: “Is this the festival that we’ve been waiting for? Or is it another false dawn with as much substance as a 90s Welsh rugby revival?”
TranceFixxed went to the festival to find out:
The first key ingredient for a successful festival is it’s location. The Carmarthen Showground is 1 mile West of Carmarthen, about 16 miles (dual carriageway A48) from junction 49 of the M4. While a bit further West than some of those travelling from Cardiff or Newport may have preferred, the site is easily accessible and I haven’t heard any real complaints from anyone about where the festival was being held, which is a first for a new event!
The site is approximately 75 acres in total, which for an event expecting up to 5,000 people to attend, was more than adequate with ample space for parking, camping etc. Set in the rolling hills of the Carmarthenshire countryside with warm sunshine for most of the day, the location was ideal.
Site & Facilities
The 2,000m² Exhibition Hall at the Showground housed ‘Bionic’, the biggest stage at the festival, and the largest of the bars, easily 30m in length. There were 5 other arenas – Delusion vs Lifeline, Dirty Knees, Conspiracy, Memorex and 2gether – in tents to the north and east of the Bionic arena plus a VIP area hosted by ReelHouseFM, an ‘Outdoor Terrace’ and a ‘Talent Stage’. There were also 2 other smaller bars, numerous toilets, a small but adequate number of fast food stalls and the almost obligatory fairground rides.
All the arenas were proportionately sized for the event with powerful sound-systems (as you would expect) and good lights / lasers. The arenas were located quite close to each other (see below picture of tents being set up) which helped to create the compact, intimate feel of the festival. The downside to this was a noticeable ‘bleeding’ of sound, such that in the central area you could hear conflicting music from 2 or 3 arenas battling for your attention.
To prevent queues at the bars, drinks could only be purchased using drink tokens. This was highly effective at keeping the queues at the bars to a minimum, but resulted in queues forming at the booths to purchase tokens, so was only a partial success. Toilets (of a standard typical for the majority of music festivals) were plentiful and distributed well across the site, so queues weren’t a problem.
The VIP area looked like it had run out of time to be fully assembled, as it had the wooden frame for a hot tub (but no hot tub as advertised) and there weren’t the little extras available that you’d expect (lockers, better drink options etc). There was a VIP bar, VIP DJ, outdoor seating, and better standard toilets but maybe not as much as some might have expected for the additional £20 VIP surcharge.
All festivals have their own challenges and problems, and while some aspects reminded you that this was a first time festival, on the whole the site and facilities were more than a good enough standard.
The line-up for the evening was quite simply exceptional. Packed with world class talent such as Marco V (Dutch), Technoboy (Italian), Atmozfears (Dutch) and Scot Project (German), and the best of British – Judge Jules, Lange, Jordan Suckley, Aphrodite and more – the organisers did an amazing job in attracting such a high quality line-up. The afternoon line-up was filled with local artists and up-and-coming stars who all performed with great relish and enthusiasm.
With artists performing Trance, Progressive, Hardstyle, Hardcore, Jungle, DNB, House, EDM, Deep House, Techno, Hip-Hop and Breaks, there really was something for everyone!
I visited all of the arenas but I spent the majority of my time in the Delusion vs Lifeline arena where Trance and Progressive was on offer. From the festival opening at Midday with Joe Byrne and Hywel Matthews from Journey right the way through to Angry Man closing the night at 2am, there was delicious mix of storming beats, pounding synths and swirling melodies to get your heart racing and your feet dancing. There were too many great moments to mention but a few personal highlights included Mark Sherry climbing off the stage to dance in the crowd at the end of his set, and hearing some of the classics, such as Lange playing ‘Follow Me’ and Angry Man playing ‘Southern Sun’.
The consensus of opinion from everyone I spoke to at the time and following the festival, was that the music was brilliant.
Value for Money
The cost of drink tokens varied depending on the quantity that you bought, but as a guide a can of beer cost around £4.00 – £5.00. I will let you draw your own conclusion if that was expensive or not, as I have seen pricing much higher and lower than that at comparable events in the UK in recent years. Food prices also varied, but you didn’t get much change from £10 whatever your ordered.
Lanyards, with the running order and timetable for the different arenas, cost only £5.00 which was good value compared to other festivals.
Entry tickets on the day cost £50.00, but substantial savings had been on offer for those who had purchased their tickets in advance. There were 3 limited releases of tickets costing £17.50, £27.50 and £37.50 (all +BF) respectively. If you compare that to £75.00 for the cheapest of tickets available for this year’s Creamfields festival, I think that the Together Festival tickets were great value for money.
Preparation will only get you so far, as the effectiveness of the staff at the site on the day can make a big difference to the success of a festival. Upon arrival, staff were helpful in directing you where to go. Ticket and security inspections were quite slick, so the queue to enter the festival was kept moving at a good pace which was commendable. There was a visible police presence at the entrance and security staff were well distributed across the site without being too obtrusive.
Some festival staff however, clearly hadn’t familiarised themselves with the site as they were unable to accurately assist me with some basic requests for directions to facilities. I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a stall selling festival merchandise, which meant that to purchase a lanyard I spent a not insignificant amount of time searching for one of the mobile sellers.
I have also heard of a few instances of people who had bad experiences camping which would have been alleviated by better communication from the staff.
So the site organisation on the day was mixed, and would be something that I would recommend is reviewed for improvement for next year.
The festival wasn’t perfect, as there were a few first event teething problems. Only around 4,000 of the 5,000 available tickets were sold, so it wasn’t a sell out either. But these problems were to be expected, and the positives of the event far out-weighed the negatives.
The fans’ feedback was almost overwhelmingly positive with a real buzz of excitement and interest before and after the event on social media. The festival was great value for money and highly competitively priced compared to similar events elsewhere in the UK. There were no significant incidents requiring police or medical attention during the event.
Sergeant Kerry Scoberg from Dyfed Powys Police said on the day: “Things are going well. Everyone is good natured and well behaved and seem to be enjoying themselves.” In fact the only trouble the police had was taking down their tent after the festival!
The performing artists all gave great feedback, saying how much fun they had, and literally everyone I asked said that they would consider coming back next year and / or recommend the festival to a friend.
So the answer to the question, “Was the Together Festival 2014 the successful festival that Wales has been waiting for?” is a resounding “Yes! We can’t wait for the next one!”
The event on the day had the uplifting expectancy of the start of something new. I look forward to watching it grow over the coming years into something truly special.
Replay: Will Rees B2B Rhys Thomas
LIVE at the Delusion Vs Lifeline Arena (Trance)
Kutski’s Video Diary
LIVE at the Bionic Arena (Hardstyle)
Together Festival 2014 Line-up
Together Festival 2014 Site Map
Delusion vs Lifeline Cover Picture Source – Photo Kandi
Carmarthenshire Coast Picture Source – Visit Wales
‘Setting up the Tents’ Picture Source – Together Festival
Delusion vs Lifeline Arena ‘Blue’ Picture Source – Tim Turner
‘Sunset at the Festival’ Picture Source – Photo Kandi
Together Festival Website – www.togetherfestival.co.uk
Together Festival on Facebook – facebook.com/TogetherMusicFestival
Together Festival on Twitter – @togethfestival | #TogetherFestival | #WeAreTogether