Wilderness 2022 – Music News

The Wilderness Festival was back in full force last weekend. An explosion of colour, glitter, glitter and champagne filled Cornbury Park Estate in Oxfordshire in the scorching August sun. Wilderness is more than just a music festival. You can spend your weekend doing a bit of everything from dancing, ax throwing, swimming in the lake, debating, how to spice up your sex life, to fine dining.

It all starts on Thursday afternoon after wandering around the idyllic surroundings it’s time to head to one of the many banquets on offer, I’ve decided to choose former Catey award winner Kiwi chef Chantelle Nicholson. After four scrumptious dishes and wine that just kept flowing, it’s time to head to perhaps the most boujee part of the festival, the Veuve Clicquot champagne tent. The funky beats last until midnight and the perfect end to the first day.

There are many ways to start your morning in Wilderness, you can head to the sanctuary for a facial or a relaxing massage, but the breakfast of champions is to jump into the lake for a quick swim to shake off the night before. (or working on the chocolate cake from last night’s banquet). Just as I’m about to jump into a naked man he walks past me and gets yelled at by the lifeguard, apparently the only rule here is no diving, swimsuit is optional.

Friday afternoon’s main stage is opened by pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor. After entertaining the nation with her cooking discos during lockdown, she’s bringing the party bangers to the colorful sun-kissed crowd. There is a cover of “just like a Prayer”, “Groovejet” and a closer set “Murder on the dance floor”. Fortunately, there are plenty of shaded areas at the festival to escape the heat. We head to the Hustle tent, dancing shoes still in place, there’s a mix of electronica, acid melodies, funk and soul.
On Friday night, the main stage is Peggy Gou going up first, bringing her house music first and then Jungle headliners. Now on their third album and going from strength to strength. The large crowd breaks away as the sun disappears embracing fan-favorite songs like “keep moving”, “all the time” and “busy winning”.

Saturday begins to cool again under the tree-lined “Jumpyard” stage, located on a sloping hill. Count Skylarkin’ kicks things off and brings with him the 30,000 hours of mini-discs the late great DJ Derrick gave him after his sad passing in 2016. A beautiful mix of reggae, dancehall and swing, accompanied by some funny tales of old Oxford’s local concert halls, the Zodiac and the Cellar.

When in Wilderness it’s easy to get distracted when moving between stages at one point you can watch a trapeze artist, the next thing being swept up in some sort of 80s spandex workout. At the Atrium stadium then the next thing you follow is a caravan driven through the site surrounded by people dressed as walking disco glitter balls dancing to a bit of Lionel Richie finding themselves far from your destination. Finally, we find ourselves on the main stage this time for Craig Charles who brings his funk and soul show. This sets up the perfect evening for the next act Irish singer Róisín Murphy, the former singer of Moloko not only brings with her beautiful disco-inspired pop but also the biggest wardrobe of weekend outfits. I lose count of the different outfits and hats that get replaced after each song.

The main latte from tonight’s headliner goes to Years & Years. Olly Alexander has had a meteoric rise since his debut album ‘Communion’, also becoming a cast member in the critically acclaimed TV drama ‘It’s a Sin’. Tonight’s show, stage production and attendance show why it’s rightly at the top of festival line-ups now. The biggest crowd of the weekend is drawn in and treated to Glorious electropop, stage props include a giant bed, phone booth and treadmill. The crowd leaves with big smiles and now the late night entertainment can continue.
A mass congregation heads to “The Valley”, hidden away in a far corner of the festival, this place comes alive once it gets dark. This year, the newly revamped area now hosts an array of DJs over the weekend, including Jodie Harsh, Eats Everything, Derrick Carter and David Morales, all of whom take to the stage that looks like a giant temple in the night sky.

Debates end on Sunday and what better way to kick things off with the House Gospel Choir. Electrifying house music covers and some of their own songs backed by beautiful gospel vocals have everyone dancing and singing along.
Sunday night’s closing act is the highlight of Underworld, including Jumbo and two months off. Karl Hyde drives the crowd into a frenzy with the last song of the night as they perform cult 90s dance hit ‘Born Slippy’

Wilderness will be back next year August 3-6 with early bird tickets already on sale here.

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