cone magazine

Review: Troyfest, Hay-on-Wye, Wales (May 1st-4th 2015)

Troyfest 2014, Cone Magazine.

Troyfest is a festival of miniscule proportions when compared to some of its comrades, but its ability to deliver a high-energy long weekend of music is second to none.

The story starts in the most romantic of ways. A festival, born through an ambitious attempt by Troy (the festival’s namesake and all-round manager) to throw an unforgettable 40th birthday. The event was held in Baskerville Hall – a stately home under the guise of a hotel outside of the first weekend of May. Located just outside of Hay-on-Wye, by the Welsh-English border, the mansion acted as the perfect facilitator for the night’s frivolities. A picturesque view of mountainous valleys surrounds the hall in all directions, whilst several green pitches provide party goers with a place to nest. A few DJ’s and bands played, and several friends attended. The night was a huge success – so much so that they were invited back again the next year.

Fast forward 5 years and the idea is still the same. Troyfest keeps its roots firmly to the ground – nestling into a 1000 capacity, half festival/half house-party atmosphere. Baskerville Hall is taken over every year on the first weekend of May, turning a rather drab hotel interior into a magical wonderland for festival goers. The exterior is nothing short of majestic, and one can’t help but think that some swindling business-man had taken over the premises in the 70s to establish his idealistic view of a Welsh retreat. Those extensions and interior decor were yet to be refurbished, but it worked in favor of the festival.

My crew and I were camping in one of two large sights. The convenience of it all was somewhat refreshing – a mere 50 steps from car to tent, with the hall just a 2-minute walk in front of us. There was space to breathe around the tents, as well as the picturesque Welsh Valley mountains which acted as a backdrop to the festival. Additionally, glamping (glamor camping in beige t-pee huts) and hotel suits were offered as accommodation, as if already camping in festival style was not enough. Within just minutes I was led to believe that this congregation of Troyfest enthusiasts were holding something magical in their hands – primarily because of the sheer lack of them compared to those who were not attending. The perks were in abundance – sweet manor pads, affordable social-club-style food, and cheap old-man-pub drinks – all in unison with a low-key, high energy music concert in Wales.

The weekend unfolded quickly, with all of the days frivolities merging into one long string of adventurous mishaps and musical discoveries. The manor acted like a pleasurable labyrinth, with each room showcasing a different band, musical act or theatrical performance. Genres ranged from, but were not limited to: hip-hop, electronic, ska, funk, gypsy swing, and big band, all with a splash of roots.

A specific highlight was the ever-changing You Are Here stage. Being the only stage outside, it attracted all punters prior to the manor entrance. The Saturday saw Cardiff 6-7 piece Hipicat blast out a wall of psychedelic pop numbers, each song beautifully textured with guitars, synths, drums, and vocal harmonies. It was their answer to a festival friendly Animal Collective, with 60s voicing styles to boot.

Mid-morning encounters with DJ Moneyshot and Cheeba (we’re talkin’ post midnight) brought Friday night to an end. Behind their untouchable mash-ups stood a wall of changing imagery (literally) to compliment the samples and rhythm. The three-way-mix may have been archived for now, but their ludicrous skill of holding hostage even the most unassuming listener is a testament to their likability as artists and performers.

Giles Peterson acted in a similar vain, claiming Saturday night as his time to showcase some hits from the back catalog, keeping a packed audience grooving until the sun well and truly rose. Preceding headliners came in the way of Molotov Jukebox and Mr. Scruff, who both performed at their pinnacle.

Overall, Troyfest offered a refreshing beginning to the festival season, not to mention a number of bands from Bristol. The overriding mentality of the crowd was wholesome and friendly; something that larger festivals have lost amidst their growing popularity. But that’s not surprising for Troyfest – considering the number of attendees its quite possible that each and every face knew the man who just wanted a banging birthday party.


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