Festival Report by DJ Skirtbag
Last week, I hit up one of Europe’s biggest dub festivals, held on the outskirts of the unsuspecting and sleepy Spanish town of Bigastro in the Alicante region – Yes, I could only be talking about the dubbers mecca of International Dub Gathering – the only place for discerning dubster dudes to be found over this Easter weekend. If you didn’t make it out to Spain for the sangria and sound systems – fret not! DJ Skirtbag has got you covered with this full-on report of how the bass, bars and beats went down at the 3rd edition of the newly-relocated IDG 2018 festival.
✓ The tickets for this year’s IDG were SO reasonably priced and represented absolutely amazing value (even with the currently painful post-Brexit exchange rate). The most you could pay for a full 3-day festival ticket was 109€ at the ‘taquillas’ (box office to any anglophones), which worked out an absolute steal at the bargain basement price of just 36€ per day.
✓ Any dubsters with military grade organisational skills had the option to bag one of the first 300 tickets released on 15th November, which were priced at a measly 59€ (+ booking fees) for the whole 3 days of festival. This deal sold out quickly as it turns out that dubbers are surprisingly quick to react to super early bird dub tickets! You’ll have to be quick off the mark if you want to nab a similar deal for next year. If you missed the super early bird prices you could have still made some serious discounts during the 2nd round of the early bird tickets releases, which were available to purchase up until 14th January, before the tickets went full price.
✓ Those who didn’t fancy the whole long weekend of dub could have opted for a 1 or 2 day pass. These ‘prince’ (1 day) or ‘queen’ (2 day) tickets set you back 30€ or 60€ respectively if bought them in the 2nd round of early bird releases, otherwise they cost a reasonable 39€ and 79€ on the door.
✓ It was possible to combine local IDG-sourced accommodation with your festival ticket in a bundle ticket.
✓ At the festival, the palmed-tree lined ticket offices were well-
organised when we arrived on the first day, with barely any queue. This video shows the colourful welcome you receive on entering the festival.
✓ I noticed that late on the first afternoon of the festival some gazebos had been put out at the ticket collection points to shade anybody waiting in the line, which was a nice touch and showed that the organisers were trying hard to cater to their guests; although we had already stood in the sun to collect our tickets by the time the gazebos went up (we were among the first guests to arrive).
✗ The line up and daily schedule were not available at the time of ticket purchase, so you were taking a risk of travelling abroad for an unknown line up. However, looking back at the previous two editions of IDG, held in Barcelona, it was clear that we were going to be in safe hands! This was also backed by the fact that IDG is hosted in collaboration with Rototom Sunsplash and the Dub Academy and organised by Greenlight Sound System – so to me there was never any doubt that the line up and organisation was always going to be FIRE! It just would have been nice to know at least one or two of the headliners a bit in advance.
✗ I didn’t see any loos at the ticket gate for those waiting to get in. This probably wasn’t a huge problem however just thinking of people who may have travelled a long way to get to the festival this may have been a useful addition for them.
✗ The festival used some ultra fancy-schmancy tech, which came in the form of a microchip attached to the festival wristbands (yes, microchips, at a DUB festival). It was at all not clear to me what on Earth the microchip was necessary for initially. It only became evident when we tried to enter the campsite to sort out our glamping tents, when we were stopped by a security guard who had a device (think it may have just been a mobile phone with a sensor?) who proceeded to scan our wrists before allowing us entry. Typically, my chip was denied entry, so I was sent back to the ticket office to arrange for the chip to be activated. Very complicated! I don’t understand why it was necessary to set up this system – it must have been an extra expense for the festival organisers – when surely a simple and cheap coloured wristband system like this would have sufficed in its place?
✗ Once inside the festival, your wristband doubled up as a futuristic payment method. This meant the whole festival site was CASH-FREE. In order to pay for any food, drink or merch you needed to prepay and top up your microchip with credit (I feel like I’m from Back To The Future explaining this). I had not seen this advertised prior to the festival so it was a big surprise. There were several options available to top up: you could either attend the manned top up booth and pay by cash or card, or you could use one of the top up machines which were located at the entrance and in the chill out zone of the festival. There were rules around using the microchip payment system, e.g. the minimum top up amount was 2 euros. In order to receive a refund of any unspent credit you needed to have a minimum of 2.50€ on your microchip and you had to request the refund before 5am that day, otherwise you would lose any prepaid monies. This left a few people confused, especially around 14 hours into the festival when it became hard to keep track of how much you had left on your microchip and you were made to calculate exactly how much money you needed to add to your chip to see you through the rest of the night without having to top up again or queue up for a refund by 5am. One night at 3am we were in a weird situation of figuring out some sums on the dancefloor – one of us had 3€ on their chip, the other had 1.50€, we needed to figure out how to maximise the money before we lost it, so we worked out the complicated solution of obtaining a refund for the 3€ on person 1 (before if fell below the 2.50€ threshold for a refund), giving the 3€ to the other person for them to top their card up with 3.50€ so that we could have exactly the right amount of prepaid credit to buy one last round of two beers before bed and not lose out on any unused money – complications I would have preferred to avoid and just get on with enjoying my night. We also ran into situations where we had lost track of the amount of credit left on our microchips (easy to do when you have been dubbing all day and night) so we went to the bar, ordered beers which we then couldn’t pay for, so had to go back to top up the chips. This kind of situation would have been avoided if we were able to just pay with cash or contactless bank card. We realised though, that if we weren’t sure of our remaining credit we could pop to the microchip machine and scan our wrist, then our balance would be displayed as if by magic. It felt as thought the festival organisers had opted for this microchip system, not only to prevent any five-finger discounts from the tills, but possibly also to monitor our transactions and analyse our spending habits to see who spent what, on what, how often they topped up, by how much etc. If this data is going to be used I would like to think that it would be to tailor the stalls and products on offer to the clientele in a more targeted way to maximise their enjoyment and experience at the festival. This sort of Orwellian payment system didn’t seem to fit with the overall laid-back atmosphere of the dub festival and was a bit of a hassle to be honest. Although I can see that it probably allowed for faster transactions to occur at points of sale (e.g. the bartender would flash you the total price, you would nod, put out your wrist, they would scan you with their device and show you your remaining credit, you nod in agreement and walk away) no waiting around for change or being asked if you have a smaller note etc. But I can still imagine that overall it probably cost more money to run this cashless system it than it saved, mostly since the devices must have cost a fair whack and the cashless till points had to be manned throughout the whole festival.
✗ As a young lady who does not appreciate to be touched by strangers, I felt uncomfortable to be manhandled by the security men every time they needed to scan me in and out of the festival (like an object an the supermarket checkout) or any time I needed to pay for something. After a day or so though, we all seemed to have settled into the arrangement and most of the security guards had come up with a way to scan our microchips accurately without having to hold everyone’s hands (ick). And I had developed a clever technique to hold the microchip in place for the security guards to scan without them having the need to touch me. I’ve put this awkwardness down to a cultural difference on my part, as I am aware that Spaniards are not always as prickly about their personal space being invaded as us Brits can be.
✗ Once checked into the glamping site we were issued with ANOTHER wristband (this time chip-free). Personally, I would have preferred to wear just one wristband which showed both the last day of the festival I was allowed to enter with entry to the campsite embedded, as sporting an armful of synthetic and plastic wristbands along with long sleeved tops, jumpers and jackets at night was a somewhat cumbersome and uncomfortable arrangement. I would suggest that a striped wristband like this could work in this scenario.
✓ IDG 2018 was hosted in the enormous indoor/outdoor nightclub venue Carmen\24 outside of Bigastro, Spain. This location between Murcia and Alicante made it accessible to those travelling from abroad, as the nearest airports in Alicante and Murcia are around an hour’s drive away.
✓ Carmen\24 is situated outside the town of Bigastro, with the nearest residents living a good 10 minutes’ walk away. This was ideal in terms of the DJs being able to crank up the bass guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that we were probably not disturbing our nearest neighbours or imposing on the nearby townsfolk.
✓ IDG coordinated with a local transport company to offer cheap transfer coaches between the nearest major airports for festival goers to reach the festival site and nearby accommodation at a reasonable price. ✓ The best way to access the festival site was by car. There was a car park directly opposite the festival entrance, with parking spaces available at a fee of 5€ per vehicle for the whole 3 days.
✓ IDG had struck a deal with Avis car rental to provide a discounted price for any festival types – we found a cheaper deal elsewhere though, but did appreciate that the organisers had gone to the effort to ensure that people could afford to get to the site.
✓ Bigastro felt like a very safe town to walk around. It is a very chilled out place with a slow pace of life and provides great views of mountains in the distance and is surrounded by fields of lemon trees! There is a large lemon factory just a few minutes’ walk from the Carmen\24 site and lemon trees even lined one side of the festival site, so occasionally the sublime fragrance of bergamot cut through the green haze to provide a fresh, sweet blast of balmy Spanish air. If I were to catch that scent again it would transport me straight back to the palm trees and bass of IDG with a whiff of nostalgia. IWe were also lucky enough to see the lemons being loaded into the lorries at the local factory – Citrus fruit production must make up a large percentage of the economy of the Bigastro and Orihuela area.
✗ Bigastro seemed like an unusual place to hold a festival as it is not situated near the coast (beaches were over 30mins drive from the festival site so had to forget the idea of sleeping on a sunbed), public transport to and around Bigastro is EXTREMELY limited, as are the facilities in the town. The town itself is so quiet, you would be forgiven for thinking there had been an unfortunate chernobyl-type incident there with several disused building merchants and industrial zones adjacent to Carmen\24; It was virtually a ghost town at all times of the day (although perhaps this was down to the fact we were there over the Easter weekend…?). I only found one moderate-sized supermarket – a MasYMas – which, to be fair, stocked all of the essentials, such as the wet-wipes we had forgotten to pack. I didn’t see any restaurants in Bigastro to use as an alternative to the food stalls available on site and I only came across three small and very ‘local’ bars during my explorations of the town, so finding entertainment or sustenance outside of the festival site was not really an option. It felt a bit like we had been dumped in the middle of nowhere to be honest, which in a way worked very well for me as I was using the festival as a holiday to escape the hustle and bustle of my hectic inner-city life in the UK, but it was a slightly isolated place to be. Obviously the organisers must have run into difficulty finding an appropriate venue with decent transport connections and nearby facilities for this year’s festival, but I wouldn’t complain if the festival were to be held at Carmen\24 again – it made for a unique festival experience!
✗ The transfer coaches to and from the festival had to be booked in advance via Whatsapp, which I thought was an fairly unusual arrangement – but maybe this is common in Spain? Personally I was worried that this unorthodox booking method could result in an unreliable bus service, so we didn’t dare to try it out this time around. I didn’t happen to see any of these transfer coaches at the festival site either, so have no idea how reliable or popular this service actually was.
✗ The nearest train station to the festival site was 6km away in the town of Orihuela. The trains which ran to Orihuela from Murcia and Alicante over the IDG period were few and far between. We looked up the times on the Renfe website ahead of our visit and it seemed like there were trains every 20 minutes so we made our way to the stations, however this was a different story when we arrived at the train stations in both Alicante and Murcia, where waits between trains to Orihuela were anything from 1 to 2 hours! And for some reason the media distancia trains were not stopping at Orihuela the weekend of IDG (again, perhaps because of the Easter weekend), and the línea C-1 Cercanías Murcia/Alicante route seemed to be operating a reduced service that weekend too.
✗ There was a public bus from Orihuela train station to Bigastro centre which ran every few hours, however this bus didn’t seem to run anywhere near the festival site, only to the centre of Bigastro, so public transport to the festival was basically impossible. I did not see any festival shuttle buses to transport punters to the train station, which I had expected to see given the distance between the station and the festival site and lack of public transport.
✗ Given the absence of public and festival transport available we had no choice but to hire a car at the last minute from a cheap place outside of Alicante airport. Although this was an extra expense which we had not factored in, I’m so pleased that we had the car, as it meant we were able to easily access the slightly out of the way festival site in our own time, and we also managed to fit in a cheeky day trip to Murcia in between the dub nights.
✗ The onsite car park was very rocky ground, had limited spaces and was full by the first evening. At least half of the vehicles accessing the festival had to park across the A road around the abandoned industrial estate opposite the nightclub and drivers and their passengers had to cross a busy A road with no pavement or crossing.
✗ By the last day of the festival, the car park had unfortunately become quite badly littered with rubbish and smashed glass. I think that some of the people who were sleeping in their cars and vans in the car park left a lot of litter behind, which goes against the environmentally-friendly ethos of IDG. It would be helpful if the organisers could add some wheelie bins or recycling bins to the car park.
✗ Pedestrian access to the festival was absolutely shocking. And I’m actually amazed that nobody was seriously injured crossing the roads and walking between town and the festival site. The festival site is a sharp turn off an A road with no pavement – the pavement that does become available beyond the festival site has ENORMOUS holes in it and is not lit at night. To get to the town you had to circumnavigate a busy A road roundabout with 4 exits, partial dual carriageway and no pedestrian crossings or pavements! Beyond the treacherous roundabout the pavements in town only started once you had reached the main factories about 10 minutes’ away from the festival entrance. Needless to say that anyone with mobility issues would not have been able to leave the festival site without personal transport. For future editions of the festival held at Carmen\24 I would recommend that the organisers liaise with the local municipal officers to arrange an accessible and well-lit pathway for the festivalgoers to access town safely. This would be especially important to provide adequate access for those staying at the Camping La Pedrera. I would recommend that anyone going next year and considering camping at the La Pedrera take a lightweight torch with them for the walk to/from the festival.
✓ IDG organisers had kindly secured hostel accommodation for dubbers to book in the local town of Orihuela. It was helpful to know that there was somewhere nearby we could book to stay if necessary. IDG staff regularly updated their Facebook page and the IDG website in the lead up to the festival weekend to keep us informed of the availability of beds – e.g. when it was 50% sold out. Other festival accommodation was also made available at the Palmera Beach apartments in the coastal town of Mil Palmeras – 26km away from the festival for those who had transport. The hostel and hotel deals could be booked in combination with your IDG ticket and discounts were available for those booking in large groups.
✓ IDG provided a very exclusive number of parking spaces for camper vans to reside on site. These were situated right next to the campsite entrance on site.
✓ The Glamping Company provided a range of tented accommodation to hire on site to suit all budgets. We plumped for the cheapest and simplest option – a 1/2 person Easy Tent, similar to this model, with no porch, just a slight hood over the front, and a front door and back window. At 60€ for the 3 nights, based on two people sharing it worked out as 10€ pp/pn. Camping equipment hire of an inch-thick cushioned floor mat similar to this one, a hanging camping lamp and a combination code padlock were included in the price.
✓ The ‘Glamping‘ facilities were basic but were more than adequate for a short stay of just 3 nights. The easy tents are spacious 4 man tents (I can stand up in them, but I am a bit of a shorty!) and the tents are laid out in rows and clearly numbered, so locating your tent is easy, even after 19 hours of straight dubbing! The tents are sturdy and even withstood some unseasonally strong winds.
✓ Residents of the glampsite had access to its own separate toilets and showers in portacabins and an alfresco sink area for communal teeth brushing next to a field of fragrant lemon bushes. I am very pleased to report that the glampsite toilets came equipped with raspberry handwash and were fully stocked with loo roll at all times I visited! 🙂 I didn’t test out the showers (wet wipe washes only I’m afraid!) but they did have shower curtains and private cubicles, not communal.
✓ Other options in the glamping area included bell tents, which were arranged in a pastel rainbow and looked really pretty at twilight.
✓ When you arrived at the glamping check in desk, you had to put down a cash deposit of 40 euros, which was refunded to you upon inspection of your tent at the end of your stay and once you had handed back the padlock and lamp lent to you. Check-out was swift and well-organised with inspectors radioing back to the reception desk via walkie-talkie to confirm the state of the tent before the deposit could be returned.
✓ The glampsite was RIGHT NEXT to the festival venue. At first I was anxious about this, as thought the noise from the stages around 25m away from my tent was going to be unbearable. Thankfully, this was not the case for me as the outdoor stages whose sound carried across closed down at midnight, which is when the indoor stages opened. This drastically reduced to amount of noise the glampers were subjected to and meant although we could still hear quite loud music, it was not anywhere near as invasive and disturbing as it could have been and was actually quite pleasant to sleep to (saying that I really do LOVE dub and could probably fall asleep right at the front of the show it puts me in that much of a trance, so don’t just take my word for it!). Further to this, the day stages which started at midday were based at the furthest end of the festival site to the glampsite, so this really helped in keeping the noise disturbance in the campsite at a reasonable level in the mornings too. The stalls at the chill out zone started to play gentle reggae music at around 10am, such as a playlist from the Solé and breakfast bar of Chronixx, Protoje, Alborosie and Bob Marley. This gave us 3 music-free hours between 7am-10am to sleep in (provided your neighbours weren’t too noisy like ours – could have throttled the Italian girl who jumped out of the tent opposite ours at 9am every morning to enthusiastically shout BUONGIORNO at the top of her lungs to each of her friends one by one – grrr) and some people in the glampsite were such hardcore dubbers that they even brought their own hi-fis to play their own dub music back at the campsite, as if 19 hours of reggae was not enough for them – true sound system addicts!
✓ You could take your own food into the glamping area, but not into the main festival, and there were no kitchens to prepare food. If you wanted to cook your own food you would need to bring a camper van. We didn’t take any food into the tents as didn’t want to end up with an infestation of wasps and ants. Although the bug situation was relatively under control in the glampsite area, I did see a lot of ginormous ants going for the rubbish in the car park – wouldn’t want to mess with THEM.
✓ For anyone who missed out on glamping or who wanted a better night’s (read: day’s) sleep away from the festival, there was an alternative campsite, La Pedrera, just out of town and 2km from the festival site.
✓ Using The Glamping Company is so easy and really helps when you are travelling from abroad as you don’t have to worry about packing a tent in your luggage and carrying it around with you on your travels. You can travel light and everything is perfectly set up for you when you arrive. Not having to take a tent meant we could load up on the extra bedding and blankets which we definitely needed, as night-time temperatures dropped to as low as 5°C (it was snowing in other parts of Spain that weekend and many of the Semena Santa parades had been cancelled due to high winds, rain and snow!).✗ The toilets at the glampsite flooded on the second day. Luckily it didn’t contaminate the festival site and was cleaned up quickly thanks to the fast-acting cleaning team. It was just a slight inconvenience one morning.
✗ The girls toilets at the glampsite were not equipped with bins to dispose of feminine hygiene waste. As a female, this was an inconvenience for me and I regard this as a basic Human right for women to have access to feminine hygiene equipment in all toilets in the year 2018.
✗ The campsite was INCREDIBLY DUSTY. We were rather unlucky to have been hit with a wind storm which blew up the dust something chronic. I got dry eye infections in both eyes! On the windiest day we actually had to leave the campsite and festival site altogether as the dust was even getting into my eyes whilst wearing sunglasses and was making us feel like our throats were lined with chalk, which was quite unpleasant. Even despite the rain on the 2nd day, the campsite was so dry that it didn’t dampen down the dust in the slightest and the dust was even blowing all over the chill out area, so we couldn’t get comfortable there either. I would suggest that if this site is going to be used again that the rocky walkways between the tents should be lined with astroturf or some sort of temporary boarded flooring to prevent the awful dust clouds from kicking up and choking and blinding the customers. It can’t be good for anyone to be breathing that in! Or if the dust cannot be managed through a flooring solution, the festival could provide some face masks or goggles for people who are suffering badly with the dust!
✗ On the final morning, Easter Sunday, the music stopped at 7am. ‘PHEW!’ I thought, this is my chance to sleep before packing up and heading off – WRONG…! The folk of Bigastro had other plans and proceeded to set off several daytime fireworks displays, presumably for their Easter celebrations, from 8am, again at 8.30am and 9am. By 9am simultaneous firework displays from neighbouring towns could also be heard echoing around the campsite. I took a video of the ‘displays’ (of course they were mostly invisible aside from some puffs of smoke). I was not aware of this as an Easter custom (we don’t do this in the UK at all!) so was somewhat miffed to say the least at the prospect of no Sunday lay in after 3 days at the festival!
✗ On the final day of the festival when the glampers were leaving I could not believe the piles of rubbish left behind. There was a distinct lack of bins for glampers, and as I was leaving the site I saw a van plough through piles of rubbish stacked up around a bin and burst lots of bags and cartons – it was a real mess and wouldn’t take much to provide just a few more bins around the glampsite, especially at the exit on the final day.
✗ The camper vans were parked RIGHT NEXT to the day stages, I’m talking 10metres away from the speakers of the Back A Yard stage and main arena – so I felt very sorry for anyone staying in those come midday when the music kicked off – the campers there must have got very little rest in that area of the site.
✗ The accommodation options arranged by IDG seemed to be quite difficult to access, especially the site at Mil Palmeras, and booking transport ahead of time to return back to these hotels at anytime up until 7am seemed to be too difficult which is why we did not consider these options.
The festival site and music:
To hear a selection of the best tunes I heard at International Dub Gathering 2018, check out my latest mix on Mixcloud – it is GUARANTEED to take you back to Bigastro!
Features tunes from:
Wayne Wade, Don Carlos, Afrikan Simba, Beres Hammond and Zap Pow, Alborosie, Vivian Jackson/Yabby You, Imaani, Junior Delgado, Benjammin, Michael Palmer, Danny Red, Superior, Ziggi Recado, Hatman, Dixie Peach and UK Principal.
- This festival site and layout was so unconventional, it warrants a full explanation!
✓ Altogether there were 6 stages, all playing wicked dub music:
- Back A Yard,
- Main Arena,
- IDG Free Yard,
- Rototom Arena,
- HortiDub Lab
✓ The venue was a mixture of indoor and outdoor stages, which made it fun to explore, and different sections of the venue were opened up at different times of the day to contain noise pollution.
✓ The full line up for all stages except for the IDG Free Yard was proudly displayed in the festival entrance. NINETEEN (yep, 19!) HOURS of PURE DUB PER DAY – a dusbter’s paradise!
✓ At the front of the festival near the entrance was an outdoor market, bar and food stall area. The options for food were rather limited – oriental rice or noodles, paella, pizza or crepes, for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for 3 days. I found the crepe stall offered the best value and the most versatile option, as for under 5€ a go you could switch it up and have a sweet crepe for breakfast then a savoury one for dinner. Apparently the noodles were REALLY good, but rather on the pricey side at 8€ a pop and for only a small carton. Some of the food stalls provided seating and a small amount of shelter under their marquees. Some of you may recognise the crepe stall from the main stage at Rototom Sunsplash, which was nice to see such a familiar stall.
✓ The market area also included a range of market stalls selling art work and a rad clothing shop, Lion Army, which stocked a range of rasta-themed basketball tops and t-shirts alongside khaki and camouflage military style Lion Army branded clothing and hats.
✓ The market area also included a range of market stalls selling art work and a rad military style clothing shop Lion Army,
✓ The outdoor area Back A Yard was my favourite, as it was underneath a canopy of trees, lined with bushes and fully decked with astroturf. The venue was intimate but was spacious enough for a large crowd to dance energetically. Benches were available on a platform behind the stages, and the venue had that sort of amphitheatre shape where spectators could stand on higher ground around the edges of the dancefloor to get a brilliant view over all of the proceedings. This area even featured artwork in the form of sculptures, including a car which was fully covered in astroturf and had its own raised bar and food joint! Tree shelter, snug dancefloor and dub is an absolute winning combination! See my video of the daytime dubbing sessions at Back A Yard here.
✓ On Friday night, the Afrikan Warriors Sound System took to the decks, powered by Greenlight Sound System, and kicked the first evening of the festival off with a bang. I enjoyed their set so much that I went on to buy their t-shirt from the merch stand! Catch the video of their set here.
✓ On Saturday and Sunday night, Dubstoned Sound System took over the Back-A-Yard area with Tunelon Iration on the mic. They seemed to play for hours and introduced plenty of special guests, Dadda Wanche from Kanarias Reggae – watch my video here – and musicians playing live instruments such as melodica and saxophones (video here) and including Don Fe on the flute. It was also one of the Dubstoned crew’s birthdays on Sunday night, so the energy in the yard was particularly high for their sessions.
✓ The vibe at Back A Yard was so sweet and you couldn’t help but have a great time there. These youngsters were certainly having the time of their lives with their glow poi and dancing on the roof of a car (until security asked them to step down)!
✓ The main arena was undercover but the ceiling was so high and with no external walls on 3 sides, it gave a light and airy sensation to make you feel that you were still outside – imagine a dome-shaped roof as high as an aircraft hanger but with a massive tree growing up through the middle of the roof surrounded by a circular bar in the middle – then add sound systems and that is your main arena. The music here and in Back A Yard started at midday and carried on until midnight. 12 hours of outdoor dubbing per day – that’ll do nicely – thanks IDG!
✓ The main arena featured a wall of light shows and displays to provide ambience and entertainment – mostly they displayed the logo of IDG or the particular act or sound system playing at the time.
✓ With the DJ and MC booth at the epicentre of the dancefloor revellers had the opportunity to stand around the epicentre of the Main Arena and get up close and personal with the artists as they selected tunes, manipulated the amps and took to the mic. This was the best position to be in and many hours could be spent enjoying the music and artists here.
✓ We also checked out the mighty Jah Shaka, powered by Greenlight Sound System, for a bit, but only caught the very end of that set as we were too busy rocking out at the Back A Yard all night, so can’t really comment on the set – sure it was red hot though as Jah Shaka always delivers!
✓ Greenlight Sound provided a quality set with maximum vibes alongside MCs including Macky Banton and Biga Ranx! These videos are a must-watch for the mad MCing and massive tunes played – video 1 and video 2 here!
✓ The woodland theme continued through the other side of the main arena, which led onto a semi-open forest chill-out area with bar, loos and urinals for men.
✓ A further palmed-tree lined outdoor area was found at the back of the site between the main arena and the glamping area, and was open 24 hours a day. This was a real Ibiza-style chill out area, with a covered seating area full of comfy patio furniture, some with cushions, tables, market stalls, massage stall, alcohol-free Solé bar, astroturf lawn for yoga and playing with circus props, coffee shops and a free mobile phone charging unit. This area did not host a stage, however the cafes did play reggae soundtracks throughout the day from about 10am and some of the stalls selling records played music quietly in their corner area. I spent a lot of time in this area just taking in the atmosphere and relaxing in between dances/recharging with a snack. At night this area also housed two fire lamps, which were extremely useful for warming up at night before bed! In the daytime the giant slopes were the perfect place to lay back and catch some sunrays and take in the beats from the main stage, or watch the sunset with a drink. Snacks such as muffins and cookies were available to buy from 2€ each and fresh orange juice from 3.50€ in this area. This area was just great – there were always plenty of seats and lots of shaded areas to relax in.
✓ The mobile phone charging unit was an excellent feature of the festival for glampers. We were particularly grateful for this as we needed to converse our phone battery for the sat nav journeys. It was free to use, you just had to plug in your phone (with your own charger) and sit nearby to keep an eye on it for a while while you enjoyed a little sit down in the chill out area. Simple!
✓ The indoor venues opened up one at a time throughout the evening. The first one to open was the IDG Free Yard. This was a small rectangular shaped room with the DJ stage at the entrance and a bar down one side and what seemed to be secret toilets at the back (easily the cleanest and least used toilets at the festival!). The IDG Free Yard opened up at around 10:30pm, which was ideal as by then the outside temperature had started to plummet, so was great to get inside into the warm.
✓ We saw some awesome DJs at the IDG Free Yard, most of which were previously unknown to myself. GudariDub seemed to be hosting the stage and played several times. Some real highlights of mine were Tatanka Sound but in particular it was K22 Sound who stood out to me for their seamless blending of some bad boy reggae tunes one after the other.
✓ Following on from the IDG Free Yard, the next stage to open was the Rototom Arena at midnight, where main acts such as the phenomenally popular Soom T and Iseo & Dodosound played. This was an arena-sized concert hall equipped with large performance stage, extremely high ceiling, glitter balls, aircon, a bar – I would say it was around a 2,000 thousand capacity venue and it was completely ram-jammed on the first night! As a vertically challenged person I am pleased to report that the dancefloor sloped down gently towards the stage, hence I was able to see the goings on on stage from the very back of the hall.
✓ Blackboard Jungle provided endless hours of tunes at the Rototom Arena as a solid late night fixture at this stage, also stepping in to cover for late or absent DJs at the last minute, such as for Channel One Sound, who were grounded at London Stansted following a fire outside the airport building. When listening to their show on Worldwide FM directly following IDG 2018, I wrote a comment to say what a shame it was they couldn’t make it. Their response was detailed and fully explained why they were not able to perform at the festival, which was much appreciated as no information was provided about their cancellation at the festival itself – listen here from 1h26min.
✓ The penultimate venue to open up was the HortiDub Lab, which was accessed via the staircase inside the Rototom Arena, or via the external staircase at the entrance to the IDG Free Yard, or via a stair case entrance at the Main Arena. The HortiDub lounge featured a bar, geometric optical illusion sculptures and sliding patio doors.
✓ The HortiDub Lab room hosted the mighty sounds of UBIK. We also spent a long time there skanking to Alpha Steppa and Ras Tinny (Kibir La Amlak and Danny Red were on a bit past my bedtime unfortunately so missed them!).
✓ Also upstairs was a sprawling terrace which housed yet another bar, seating areas, access to a lift for any disabled guests and even MORE secret toilets. You could look over the veranda down to the main arena but by the time you were allowed upstairs the acts were already finished.
✓ And finally, by 1am all of the indoor venues were opened as the outdoor stages were fully closed and people came inside to the warm – the last stage to open was the Bassment, which was accessed through the IDG Free Yard, or though the Rototom Arena, or through the fire exit by the toilets at the Main Arena or via some steps at the main arena. The Bassment also included YET ANOTHER BAR area, and a large empty space with just a sofa(!).
✗ The sound clash in the market stall and food area between the main arena and Back A Yard was really annoying. In fact, just walking past the main arena to get to the food stalls was quite an unpleasant aural experience as you walked around the speakers, so the sound levels were out and the shrieky, tinny sound rang in your ears, but once you were inside the centre of the sound system the sound quality was SIIIIICK!!!
✗ Paolo Baldini Dubfiles and Hempress Sativa were due to play at the Main Arena on Sunday evening. This was the event I had most been looking forward to over the entire weekend. Hempress Sativa has some big hits, she is a serious talent and I was determined to get right to the front to get the best view. I wiggled my way through the sparse crowd (that was easy!) and positioned myself RIGHT AT THE FRONT in a prime position and waited for the Hempress to come Rock It Inna Dance. The Charltan 58 including Sister Awa ran over, so I assumed that the Hempress but have been running late or the shows were behind schedule, so I patiently waited. Next thing, Greenlight Sound’s Daddy Savi was spinning some low key tunes – cool – any minute now the Hempress will be here, this must just be some mid-show entertainment until she arrives, I thought. TWO HOURS LATER and still no sign of Hempress Sativa, only the act which was due on after her Greenlight Sound with Macky Banton and Biga Ranx had started up a couple of hours early. No word from the hosts on the situation with Hempress Sativa. OK, sooooooo….WHAT the FUDGE is going on here? We decided that the Hempress was clearly not going to be attending, or maybe the sets had been switched and she would be here later? I didn’t bring my mobile phone with me, luckily my partner had his and knowing how much I needed to understand the situation he kindly used his international data roaming to log onto Facebook to find out what the story was. Turns out, to my deep disappointment, that Hempress Sativa had been unable to attend the event due to unforeseen circumstances. If only someone had said that at the time she was due to play, or had put a little notice on the huge line up banner next to the main arena, then I might not have stood at the front of the main stage like a complete lemon for TWO WHOLE HOURS in a state of mild distress and confusion. Weirdly, I didn’t hear anyone talking about it AT ALL, and there were no announcements from the crew about it that I heard. Only way to find out the sitch was online, which for many of us at the festival was not a possibility. And also weirdly, none of the other acts played any Hempress Sativa tunes which I heard of – you might have thought they would to please the crowd with her huge dub anthems ‘Boom (Wa Da Da Deng)’, produced by Paolo Baldini Dubfiles on the Kingston 6 riddim, ‘Skin Teeth‘, ‘Rock It Ina Dance‘ and a big hit with the sensimillia-smoking crowd is her refix of The Fugees ‘Fugee-La’ tune, Hempress Sativa style ‘Oh la la The Weed Thing‘. To be fair to the organisers, this artist cancellation was completely out of their control (apparently it was down to visa issues), and they have since kindly expressed that due to the number of artist cancellations (Channel One Sound were also absent), anyone still wearing their IDG 2018 wristband can benefit from a number of special treats this year, including a 5€ entry to see Hempress Sativa play in Barcelona later this month. That’s a lovely gesture on the part of the organisers, and is great for those people who are based in Barcelona, but we travelled all the way from England, mainly to see Hempress Sativa – the tickets were also my Christmas present. It’s just one of those things and is always going to be a challenge to arrange an international festival and get everyone at the place they are supposed to be at the right time. I’ll look out for any of the extra special offers for IDG wristband wearers and will hope that perhaps I can go to some of the events – if any extra events are linked to Rototom Sunsplash I can go to that one as already have my ticket for 2018!
✗ The IDG Free Yard was a bit of a mystery to me. The listings were not noted on the main line up board along with all of the other stages, so it was anyone’s guess as to what time it would be opening/closing and who would be playing. It seemed to just open magically and we went inside not understanding where we were or what was happening until we found an a3 poster of the line up blutacked to the wall on the dancefloor inside the IDG Free Yard!
✗ The HortiDub Lab was also extremely crowded on the first night, but had an excellent sound system so you could hear the music perfectly even standing outside on the upper veranda.
✗ This daytime event hosted by some of the performing artists was extremely poorly advertised, hence many of the punters were not aware that talks were happening in the HortiDub Lab during the afternoon. After the talks had already happened I saw a plain white a4 poster wrapped around a pole advertising it. It was, of course, advertised online, but we didn’t have an internet connection so were not aware.
✗ The music in the Bassment was DEAFENINGLY LOUD – Ear plugs should have been provided to anyone who dared to enter that zone!
✗ The building which housed the indoor stages felt a bit run down and I was worried that it may not be structurally safe at times, especially with the mega hertz going through the place!
✓ In total there were 10 bars (2 alcohol-free) across the site, so nobody was going thirsty!
✓ The drinks on offer were limited – see the price list below.
✓ In addition to these drinks, you could buy herbal teas, espresso coffee, fruit juice and freshly squeezed orange juice from the alcohol free bars in the chill out zone from 2euros.
✓ IDG operates the same reusable cup scheme as Rototom, whereby you pay a 1 euro non-refundable deposit for your cup and when you order your next drink you can either choose to refill your original cup or exchange it for a clean cup. At IDG, if you no longer wanted your cup you could exchange it for a small green token, which you could then present at the bar the next time you needed a cup. This is a great scheme as it cuts down on waste, unnecessary cleaning and compliments the environmentally friendly ethos of Rototom and IDG.
✓ If you wanted to collect your cup to take home as a souvenir, you had the choice of two designs – a red IDG logo, or the new black one. If you are trying to collect all the different designs you can keep swapping your cup until you find the design you want to keep.
✗ There was a distinct lack of a decent rum bar! Considering this is Europe’s largest dub festival, authentic Caribbean food and drink was disappointingly hard to find.
✓ Available to purchase were special 3rd edition IDG T-shirts with the slogan ‘Warriors Dance Like Nobody’s Watching’ in black, an IDG ‘My DNA chain shows low frequencies’ T-shirt in white, and a classic grey T-shirt featuring the yellow IDG logo (same as which staff wore).
✓ All T-shirts at the merch stall cost 15 euros, no matter what design or size.
✓ Many of the items for sale were also available for purchase year at the Dub Academy at Rototom Sunplash, or are available to purchase on the Dub Academy web store here, such as the ‘All Day Dubs’, ‘Born To Dub’ and ‘Sound System Addict’ tops.
✗ The limited edition items sold out so quickly, by the time I got to the merchandise stall there were none of the T-shirts I wanted in my size – Sad face!
✗ There were far more items of clothing on offer for men than for women. I tried some of the tops on, the #BornToDub and #AllDayDubs logos were COOL AS, but alas, the shape of the cut was ill-fitting on me 😦
✗ It is not possible to buy much artist merchandise at the stall, only dub and IDG themed goods.
As this was my first time at IDG I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have to say that overall the festival surpassed my expectations in many ways. The interesting layout and design of the venue stands out to me as making the festival particularly memorable. I think that the organisers should be proud of themselves to have moved the festival from Barcelona and have planned in at lightning speed (they only found the venue in October!) and especially planning it from a distance – it is a real achievement and shows an astounding level of motivation and professional skill to pull off such a feat in such a limited time and with all the obstacles the team faced. The festival shows no signs of slowing down, if anything it is expanding year on year and preparations are already under way for the festival to take place in Bigastro again next Spring. In terms of escapism from everyday life, I couldn’t have asked for more than to have been part of the IDG dub bubble, to be part of the energy, the oneness and feel grounded back to the Earth through the bass resonating under my feet and my ears left ringing with the sweet sounds I’d grown so accustomed to hearing even in my sleep from 19 hours of dub per day (genuinely living up the the ‘All Day Dubs’ slogan! Maximum respect to all of the team who created this magical event and here’s hoping that IDG will remain a firm fixture in the festival calendar and continue to share the philosophy of solidarity, peace, roots and culture.
BRING ON IDG 2019!!!!!!!!!!!!