I arrived at Brownstock on another beautiful English summers day in Chelmsford that had the excited punters in their finest festival attire. I entered the gates and made my way down to find the press accreditation area but was instantly greeted with what seemed like a never-ending line. As I approached the front of the queue, the source of the problem became evident - there were only three channels for security checks and they appeared to be rigorously checking every single person attempting to enter the festival. This was undoubtedly a reaction to the two deaths at the festival in 2013, one of which was due to the consumption of a legal high. This being said, festival organisers know the reality of what happens at festivals and I couldn't help but feel the process could have been far more organised in order to avoid visitors having to lug their bags around for a mile. One festival-goer told me took him 4 and a half hours to get in.
Accreditation completed, I was thankfully able to skip the queue and head straight in to get set-up. The campsite was fairly small given the 6000 person attendance, meaning that you feel noticeably cramped. This was in complete contrast to Blissfields, which I attended the previous weekend, where you had enough space to bring your tent, camp chairs and the kitchen sink. The crowd was largely made up of teenagers, the Fosters out in force and enough Huaraches to sink a small party boat. Having necked a few beers and letting the mid-day sun pass over, I changed into some slightly warmer clothes and headed to the arena for the first time. I began with the only stage at the festival that could be found in a tent, the badly titled ‘The Good Shed’. However, the crappy name did not reflect the sounds within. I stumbled into an upbeat Pied Piper set that immediately had me jumping up and down, getting involved with the Essex crowd as they echoed ‘Do you really like it’. I later made my way over to the main stage stopping by ‘Pie Hard’ for a bite to eat before finding a good spot for the headliner of the Friday, DJ Fresh. His electro-dance set consisted of mostly his own tunes with the odd guest track chucked in for good measure and it seemed to be a real hit with the younger members of the crowd. The final act of the night was the legendary Lethal Bizzle bringing his Rari Workout to the stage, and getting everyone to show off their best Fester Skank; finishing with 'Pow', leaving us all absolutely buzzing for the rest of the acts over the weekend, but also ready to hit the tents.
I was woken up early on Saturday morning by some BBK wanna-be’s shouting a shit rendition of German Whip, and it was at that point I concluded that I was not at home within the confines of Brownstock. After calming down and trying to get a few more hours sleep I awoke to another scorching day. I let the morning hours pass as I got nicely burnt in the sun, and once I was a radioactive pink colour, I decided it was perhaps best to find some shade and go check out what was on offer around the site. I made my way back into the arena and found myself in a small outdoor shisha bar where for just 4 pounds you could chill for as long as your heart desired. After about 15 minutes though, I was pretty bored and decided to move elsewhere. I once again braved the heat, and went to check out the neighbouring stage ‘The Treehouse’. The most (and only) creative stage at Brownstock, it unsurprisingly had a tree running up and through the centre of the stage and a raised DJ set to one side. I stayed for a short while and watched a large band of drummers perform a few songs but quickly became antsy and decided to go grab a beer. The last attraction on my list to check out was the ‘Slippery Saddle Saloon’ a small bar resembling an old western tavern. Although this was quite a cool place to be it was very small, having a maximum capacity of about 50 people, and that was only if you are comfortable with being rubbed up against some hot sweaty strangers. The Saturday night welcomed some great performances from more huge acts including Bondax, DJ Zinc and Sigma with the two stand out performances being from the equally legendary Basement Jaxx and MJ Cole who headlined the main stage and The Good Shed, respectively.
By the time Sunday came around I had seen everything the festival had to offer...three times over. I attempted to negate my boredom by checking out the 24hr silent disco but found no one there as it was only around midday. I then resorted to having a few beers at the campsite and trying to find shelter in the tent from the weather that had now taken a turn for the worst. I headed into the arena for 5 in order to catch an expectedly dirty set from the Sussex born DJ Kove. After filling my face with a foot long grilled chicken burrito I felt revitalised and ready to go check Beatbox legend Beardyman who electrified the main stage and set the mark for the headline acts of the last night. Sunday night also welcomed the set of a Champion Up North favourite and jungle legend Goldie, who brought the shed down with some absolute bangers. Other noteworthy performances came in the form of Sub Focus and Example but were overshadowed by my highlight of the weekend, Friction.
I left the site on the Monday morning feeling very tired, burnt, hung-over and ready to head back up North. As I collected my thoughts on the experience I couldn’t help but feel that I had spent a lot of time just sitting around with very little to do. I got to thinking about how Brownstock always manages to get a nomination for best small festival and honestly, just wondered why? Yes, the festival is incredibly cheap at around £80 a ticket and yes, given that price tag the line-up is very impressive. However, when looking at some of the other festivals now on offer across the UK the team behind the festival really do have a long way to go to even get close to touching them. There is no doubt if you go with a group of mates you’ll have a banging time but I would suggest leaving Brownstock to the Essex locals and looking into some of the other festivals on offer.