Cornbury Park Estate flung open its gates on the Thursday afternoon to the excited revellers. With camping spots carefully selected in preparation for the incoming storm it’s time to head to the arena. The Clubhouse opened with the Ultimate ABBA party, table dancing, mass singalongs and a drag dance teacher to show the dance moves, the tone is safely set for the rest of the weekend.
With DJ Spooky Cash-Cash has just taking to the decks, it’s time to shuffle over to the Peacock bar. Despite only being 15 years of age, he manages to mix his infectious energy, thumping baselines and beats flawlessly. On this showing it seems that dance music is in a safe pair of hands for the future.
Thursdays at Wilderness are the warm up for the rest of the weekend with the music winding down a little earlier, but there still time to head over to The Atrium stage. A natural amphitheatre covered by a large open tent plays hosts to Andy Cato one half of legendary dance duo Groove Armada. But this evening Andy isn’t alone on the decks, he is joined by Spooky Cash-Cash who, we find, is his son. The two of them play a set that spans two hours to a packed-out audience and that takes them on a journey through funk, techno, house and everything in-between.
With the earlier finish, some wake up bright and fresh on Friday morning with time for a stroll to the Wellbeing area, taking in the beautiful Cornbury Estate on route., Here there are an abundance of options from yoga, wild barre and meditation workshops. Always wanted to perform? Wilderness have your back. At 11 am the Wilderness Choir rehearsal begins for enthusiastic choristers. Opting for the tenors section, over the next hour lines and harmonies are learnt to The Beach Boys ‘God Only Knows’ and a heartfelt rendition of ‘Nothing Compares To You’. With rehearsals a success, a full performance at the front of stage Sunday is in sight.
As the afternoon rolls on its time to head over to the main stage, the opening act for this year is Jo Whiley bringing her 90’s Nostalgic anthems with her. Packed with visuals of those glory years there is snippets from Trainspotting, Brit-pop royalty and everything Cool Britannia. Effortlessly cool on stage captivating the crowd into sing-alongs cover everything indie/pop and gunge.
If you could pick one band that sums up the energy of Wilderness Festival, then look no further than Confidence Man. The Australian indie electro pop band take to the main stage with energetic dance moves, dressed in disco suits that seem to move on their own accord but also with the music to back all off this up with. Easy to see how this band have become festival favourites over the world with songs like ‘Does It Make You Feel Good and set closer ‘Holiday’.
The mood is now set for the weekends biggest crowd and the Friday Night headline slot is given to big beat duo The Chemical Brothers. Pioneers of dance music for nearly 30 years Tom & Ed take the crowd on a trip of mesmerising beats and visuals. They don’t hold back at all unleashing early set bangers such as ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Get Yourself High’ and ‘Do It Again’. The night sky is a light with flares and neon light from the crowd. By the time the encore comes round the visuals on the screen tells the crowd to ‘Hold Tight Wilderness’ as there’s still time from crowd favourites ‘Galvanise’ & ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’.
Saturday morning approaches and something that no festival goer wants to see creeps in over the hills… Storm Antoni arrives bringing with it torrential rains and strong winds. With the campsite a ghost town apart from a few brave souls, most opt for shelter and a bit of extra sleep. As the rains pass and dancing wellies thrown on many head back to the main arena. Surprisingly most areas survive despite Antoni’s best efforts and with the lyrics ‘She’ll make you take your clothes off & go dancing in the rain’ calling from the Atrium it seems the perfect place to carry on the festivities. The Cash Cows are on stage reworking popular songs in their own style, think big double bass, brass section and all the charm to go along with it. From Ricky Martin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton and a barn dancing version of ‘Ring of Fire’ It’s clear the rain will not dampen anyone’s spirits this weekend.
As the evening approaches at the Wilderness stage it’s the turn of London duo Franc Moody to delight fans that have gathered. Having previously been billed to play Wilderness in 2021 before covid hit the band they don’t waste any more time getting people moving. Disco, funk n soul inspired tracks. ‘Skin On Skin’ and ‘Dopamine’ prove to be the biggest track singalongs. Based on this showing the duo will only go onto bigger things.
As day 4 of the festival rolls in so does the sunshine. Now seems a good time as any to take advantages of one of the many unique delights of Wilderness – wild swimming. Jumping into the ‘Lake Superior’ will literally take your breath away but after a few moments gaining your composure you’ll feel your body releasing all the endorphins of a cold-water swim.
No trip to Wilderness Festival is complete without taking in a spot of cricket, where tongue in cheek commentary is provided by Bearded Kitten in a Test Match Special style. This year’s match is between England and Australia, a chance to regain some bragging rights after failing to recapture the Ashes over the summer. After the first innings, Australia looks to have stolen the show with runs from Crocodile Dundee, Dame Edna Average and Steve Irwin. The umpire, a full drag Miss Piggy, tries her best to control the game, with play frequently interrupted by audience members stripping and streaking. The scoreboard showing that a record 104 braved to bare all in front of the cheering crowds. England mounts an unlikely fight back after tea to deliver a win helped by Elton John and a Met Police officer.
It may be Sunday evening but cue the biggest singalongs of the weekend. Up step pop trio The Sugababes, taking to the stage in the evening sunshine performing to an ecstatic crowd that are keen on keeping the party rolling. With ‘Freak Like Me’, ‘Hole In The Head’, ‘Round Round’. it’s a set that is pop hit after pop hit. Back now with the original line-up Keisha tells the crowd they ‘were nervous before coming on stage’. With the crowd in full voice, dancing and inflatables being passed around in the air, there was no need to be.
Sunday evening is drawing to a close but Right Here Right Now this is the place to be as Fat Boy Slim takes up the main position on the Wilderness stage on his birthday. Starting with Queens ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ all hands are up in the air. The Legendary DJ keeps the pulsating energy going from start to finish, wit retro inspired beats followed by new cutting-edge electro beats. The visuals bring loud cheers from the crowd with imagines of Prince, David Bowie and Tina Turner and the message ‘Only Love Can Conquer Hate’. There has been no hate this weekend at Cornbury Park, nothing but love and lots of it.
If any wild ones want to experience all the fun then early bird tickets for 2024 will be on sell from wildernessfestival.com