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Balter: To tumbledance clumsily

When the 31st of May came around, my mind couldn’t quite fathom what I was about to embark upon. Basing a judgement on last years experience, I knew we were in for a treat and that we would surely not be disappointed.

Balter is plonked in the middle of the Chepstow horse racecourse, and a number of around 4000 attendees flood the fields for a weekend of music ranging from jungle, drum and bass, jungletek, bassline, hardcore, dub, grindcore and metal, and almost anything else that resembles a melodic noise and a bpm.


There were 10 stages in which to explore, all able to cater for your boogying needs. Partying in this wonderland is like stepping into an alternate dimension; where people favour dancing over sleeping, where silence is a synonym for constant wobbing basslines, and a place where all the inhabitants are actually welcoming, nice people. The last point sounds silly, but it’s rare for a gathering of thousands of people to create nothing but a glowing beam of positivity and friendliness. This delightful  atmosphere is all due to one important aspect: everyone was there for the love of the music, the culture and everything within. Nothing more and nothing less.


As we waited in the queue early Friday afternoon, getting too excited over the five yards we moved every five or 10 minutes, on the other side of the fence a rig was set up and a hardtek set started sparking the life into everyone. Other festivals should take note, it starts the party off before you even enter, and makes the queue a much less painstaking process. 



The entrance to the main stage area from the campsite could be compared to stepping into Narnia, where life is flipped upside-down and nothing no longer makes logical sense. Amongst all the jolly ravers and wonky dancers, you can even settle down and get married in the Church, or get if you wished to get an exorcism, even that can be done here too. Ottopia was definitely a standout attraction in terms of things designed to make you lose your mind: it was a sort of secret silent disco covered in spiralling black and white patterns, with trippy actors walking you through the entrance. You get given headphones and there’s a choice of three different channels, from what I can remember, one channel was folk music, the second was some mad gypsytek, and the last was a narration of an animal documentary. Purely bonkers yet simultaneously ingenious. 


To my delight I received a free programme upon entry, although set times were some-what disregarded as most of the sets I visited happened to be wherever my legs felt necessary, jamming wherever was going off. Which happened to be almost everywhere, all the time. Gypsy Unit started off the weekend in a merry and uplifting mood, with a lovely set full of groovy basslines and an uplifting energy for the party at hand and ahead. One highlight of the weekend was definitely on Friday night, with a six hour UKJ takeover with the likes of Omnirythym, Supa Ape and Tony Dread, full with clanging amens and tinny drums. A real raw energy was drawn from the UK jungle scene. 


Saturday welcomed some lovely drum and bass to my body through the aid of the Buckyham Palace. Maztek spoiled us with those massive drums and tinkering percussion we all long for, and with Black Sun Empire straight after, we were fully treated to a good couple of hours to some lovely drums. For me, Buckyham Palace soundsystem definitely rattled me the most.


Photo by Ash Piper​ 

Later on the tone was smoothly settled with Chester P followed by The Mouse Outfit. I caught the latter half of Chester’s set, where he brought aspiring MCs and hiphop artists on stage for a cypher. It was cool to see a legend of his calibre not sitting on a high horse, and is keen to introduce the future of UK hiphop to us, as an unsuspecting audience. After this some-what of a spectacle occurred. The Mouse Outfit, featuring Dubbul O, Ellis Meade and Berry Blacc, put on one hell of a show. A masterclass of performance art, the band fully destroyed the Caravan Stage whilst stamping a big ol’ bag of respect for everyone from Manchester. 


When Sunday came into play, the usual done-in expressions were found, although not in abundance. The party was still alive and well, and the motivation to keep it going was thoroughly in place, as, arguably, the biggest night was almost upon us. Rumble in the Jungle VS Minirig Sunday Soundclash. With Benny L b2b T>I, Kamoh, Apprentice MC and AC13 repping for Rumble in the Jungle. And Ed Solo b2b Deekline, JFB, Jago, Navigator MC and Kaotik Kartel representing Minirig, there was no doubt in my mind that this was going to blow the stratosphere off the Earth. From 19:30 through to the end of the night, this annoyingly clashed with another very sort-after set of the weekend: Vandal b2b Mandidextrous. Although I didn’t witness the b2b as my body was elsewhere, apparently it was an utter roadblock as the set was shutdown early due to the madness that went on. No surprise there! One frustrating note for many of the punters was that, on occasion, you could not get into either of these stages, The Hex and Jigsore, due to the sheer number of ravers wanting to have it out. We got into the Soundclash eventually where, once again, Rumble in the Jungle took the win. It was a tight one, but nonetheless I was happy to be lost in the merriment of dubs, dubs and more dubs. 


Balter, once again you have proved for another time why you are one of the only festivals that need attending to. Nothing beats the vibe and the party that you guys put on. I find myself in a state of exasperation due to the fact I try to explain how astounding and unique this place is, yet never truly being able to explain it well enough for someone to comprehend. It is a festival like no other, frankly one of a kind. 

Matt Knight

July 18th 2019

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