Nestled in the Malvern Hills, in the grounds of a beautiful castle, for one weekend every year you will find El Dorado. This festival has been running for five years now and is beautifully bonkers, with excellent staging, eclectic music, and one of the most welcoming crowds I have encountered.
Friday was blessed with beautiful sunshine and musical offerings from Eli Ingram, Sampa the Great and Maverick Sabre only amplified the good vibes. For those who wished to cool off in style, a slip and slide was placed in the middle of the arena for an hour - a real blink and you'll miss it moment. I have to say that this was one of the absolute highlights of the weekend, providing plenty of entertainment as people propelled themselves down the slide with varying levels of style and grace (and nakedness).
It is worth mentioning that the festival site was notably smaller than previous years and that there were seemingly some behind the scenes issues on Friday, with one of the key theme areas containing stages and stalls, Vice City, not having finished being constructed until Friday night. This led to some of Friday's scheduled events having to be moved or cancelled, which caused a bit of confusion and inconvenience to some. This was not the only issue that encountered in relation to planning, as one of the originally planned stages was not built in time for the festival, causing a lineup reshuffle. However, the positive thing was that this closure was announced a week prior to the festival so we at least had the heads up.
On Saturday the festival experienced what was to be the first of a few shutdowns due to thunderstorms and lightning strikes, but the party remained going in the campsites. The main stage was reopened by Dutty Moonshine Big Band offering a brilliant fusion of live brass, vocals and thumping baselines to get the crowd moving. They were followed by Saturday's headliner, KC and the Sunshine Band whose energetic set full of classics like “That’s The Way (I Like It)” whipped the crowd into a frenzy, climaxing with a dazzling firework display to send the crowd off into their exploration for late night adventure. We found our way to the Tipsi Tipi stage, a tiny area tent attached to the main bar, for a brilliant Hip Hop and Afrobeat set by first time festival DJ Oli Wyatt. This was a true highlight of the evening, and I hope that in future this DJ and these genres will be given a bigger space at El Dorado.
Sunday was once again disrupted by poor weather, and there was some confusion as to the status of the festival as communications were done through the Woov app - however the site had very poor internet coverage. This led to the lucky few with signal acting as modern-day town criers, shouting out to campsite neighbours when the arena was set to reopen. When the arena did reopen, it did so with a bang! The Vengaboys were first on, and it seemed like the whole festival was there, the delays only heightening the anticipation (and intoxication levels) leading to a riotous set full of classics and covers. It did, however, feel like they would have been better suited to a late-night headline slot, as the later performers did not command such a large or excited crowd.
In terms of food, there was a great selection of vendors, from breakfast bacon butties to late night kebabs. Special shout outs to Burger Theory and the Paellaria for our best dinners. However, many of the food vendors began selling out of menu items from mid-Sunday, which reduced options for our final night dinner. The main bars offered a variety of tinnies, and if you wanted to mix things up there were specialty bars dotted about - Brewdog had a beer tent, Pimentae had a margarita tent (offering a punchy spicy margarita) and there was a sweet shop themed cocktail bar by Stoli Vodka serving delicious frozen cocktails.
More and more festivals seem to be implementing theme days where revellers are invited to dress up, but none seem to have such a committed crowd as El Dorado. Saturday's Space Cowboy theme was especially great, with the vast majority donning cowboy hats, glitter and inflatable aliens and although Sunday's appropriate Gold theme was slightly hindered by poor weather, it was clear that many had gone all out with their golden costumes. This uniformity only added to the brilliant vibe in the crowd, and the whole festival felt like a truly communal experience. I hope to one day return to El Dorado and rejoin the golden family.