FESTIVAL REVIEW: Truefest 2017

It's been three years since a Vulture ventured into Baskerville hall, but we went back for Truefest 2017, and we had all of the fun.

Three years ago, when Cultured Vultures was a piddly little blog on the tip of a pustulating boil on the arse end of the internet, Chris McSweeney graced us with our first ever music festival review. He bravely ventured into the wilds of Brecon to seek out Baskerville Hall and experience the fabled Troyfest. A lot has changed since then: Jimmy has dropped a lot of that weight, McSweeney is missing, presumed to have been choked to death with an Amber Leaf pouch by an enraged troll and the Cultured Vultures festival quota has ballooned from a handful of events into dozens, ranging from the UK to Croatia to Greece to Canada.

One thing has not changed, Troyfest is still with us, although it’s moved further along the calendar and adopted a new name – Truefest. The branding may have been reworked, but the principle remains the same: take one massive, Conan Doyle inspiring mansion, stuff it full of music and set a battalion of Cardiff and Bristol hippies loose on it for three straight days. I can’t see any reason why you’d ever want to tamper with such a formula, and true to form (geddit?), founders Simon Troy, Sam Bailey and their team have not.

Photo Credit: Craig Kirkwood

I only had Chris’s review and accounts from friends from my Welsh residency days (before I became a filthy Londoner) to draw from before heading in, but in sum, coming from a first-timer with a pretty varied festival history – it is utterly unique. Musically, it’s kind of a showcase for all the talent from the local scene, both in DJ and band form. To get an idea of the vibe, you need only look at the headline acts – Lazy Habits, The Allergies, Lakuta, Cut Capers, Jman & MasterStatus, Johnny Cage & The Voodoo Groove. If you know any of those names, you know that the emphasis is on big energy and big fun.

It might have been funk, ska, reggae, blues or even drum and bass but the site was never lacking for a particularly infectious brand of happiness anyone who’s ever been on a big night out in the right areas of Cardiff or Bristol will be very familiar with. It’s a very small festival, probably fulling just shy of 1,000 attendants, but it’s a lively one, whether you’re running from room to room inside the mansion feeling out for the most fitting atmosphere for your headspace, or taking in a live performance at the outdoor tent, this year brought by festival mainstays Chai Wallah.

Photo Credit: Craig Kirkwood

It would be very easy to allow an event like this to spiral into something chaotic and rudderless, but the lineup was carefully chosen, the set times were blocked out to allow for breathing room and the site is spacious enough to allow for people to explore and occupy themselves in other ways outside of the music itself. The decor is particularly notable, as the inside of the mansion looked like The Shining by way of Bamboozled, with each room bearing a distinct and intriguing personality. If I had a penny for every person I saw talking to that giant buffalo head, well I still wouldn’t be able to afford anything, but I’d be able to play that penny flicking game that got banned in secondary school.

Truefest is one of those great examples of something which started out in life as a social summit and is gradually gaining a broader reputation. For the first few years, it was almost entirely attended by those with either direct or second hand connections to the people in charge, but in recent years, and particularly since the name change, it’s started to pick up momentum. It probably won’t ever get much bigger, I mean it physically can’t, the grounds are only so big, but it’s exciting to think that with each passing year, new faces from across the UK (maybe even further out than that) are going to discover Baskerville Hall, and run around it dancing like maniacs.

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