I have to say that free Rotation is one of the maddest little festivals I’ve been to. We’re talking about a 3 day event where you can stroll into a toilet cubicle and STILL find toilet roll/not drown in a deluge of someone else’s effluence. It’s essentially one big free party and keeps a loyal band of followers returning year on year for one almighty mash up. The setting is Baskerville hall, apparently built by the lord of the Manor originally as his Party house. This place was designed for a ton of people to get down and boogie, right through the centuries. Of course, times have changed now and Free Rotation has survived through the adherence and respect towards the manor and the owners as the heat appears to have been consistently raised by the surrounding neighbours, who, from what I can gather, consist of one farmer and a very elderly chaffinch. It is the most powerful chaffinch I have ever heard of with a hatred of sound by the looks of it. Not wishing to get bogged down by chaffinches, however, I would like to turn your attention to the event itself.
Free Rotation prides itself on its underground line-up and there were some absolute treats for some all over the weekend. Friday kicked off with no apologies, the outside tent now a large geodesic Dome, and some excellent warm up sounds were emanating from there right from the off. The bars in the hall are something of a revelation. So this is a festival and yet I’m paying £2.60 for a can of Red Stripe? Where’s the catch? There isn’t one unless you count the usual catch with drinking too much cheap alcohol, i.e. a head that feels like its taken part in THAT vice scene from Casino.
Free Rotation is known for its deep and soulful flavours of techno, house, dubstep, electronic jazz, experimental, electronica, chillout, ambient and dub. That’s what was on the menu but for me, Friday was definitely all about the various dubstep/dub-techno sounds coming from the main ‘bar’ room from the likes of the Hessle audio crew, Shackleton and the incredibly French ‘F’.
Hessle really stood out for me this year with a tag team back2back session of all kinds of beats and bass. It was so fresh I had to check that Will Smith wasn’t hiding in the background crying at the loss of his 80s moniker. It was a real demonstration that this kind of music is beyond being labelled properly anymore. You can’t just say this was a great dubstep set or techno or whatever, because it had so many different types of tune in there it would be pointless to try and tie it down. It was a good rave is what it was. Shackleton then smashed the fu ck out of the system with his live show, consisting of ever changing beats, spiralling percussion and swirling bass boom. It was again a joy to watch, masterfully held together and never dull.
‘F’ was next on as the crowd thinned out for a while but soon swelled up again as people realised what was going on. This guy provided a quality set to maintain the vibes set up by the previous peeps, solid drums and deep bass a consistent presence and very easy to brock out to. Obviously there was much more to check on this night, with a quality buzz about the crowds moving in an out of the venue but I wouldn’t like to be more specific than that as I didn’t really take in the other rooms that night, a really irritating debilitating headache smacked me off to my tent around 5am.
Saturday brought a smattering of rain, which was actually quite pleasant. I considered trying to catch some in my mouth as a source of cheap refreshment until I realised it my contain some kind of poisonous heavy metals and that perhaps a refreshing cup of Chai may be a better idea. I have to give a shout to the Tea tent. It is EXACTLY what you want after a night of ridiculousness and these peeps will provide pretty much whatever kind of tea you can think of as well as several delicious looking cakes.
I owe them my brain I think, although hopefully they won’t try to claim that particular prize.
Music kicked off on Saturday afternoon, huge dubby bass could be heard from the campsite for a good while indicating it was time for some chilling and perhaps another beer. A quality afternoon highlight in the dome was Tom Ellis doing a little live set, dropping some nice housey funkness with the addition of some live bass provided by him. It was a perfect time to have him on and got plenty of heads nodding as the sun slowly tried to break through outside. Well enjoyable. As day progressed into evening there was plenty more to enjoy, especially on the slightly harder techno side as this was DJ bone’s time to absolute rock the hall out. It was great to see he’d been given a fairly decent 3 hours to belt out a total belter of a 3 deck set and I don’t know how many tunes he racked up but it must have been a ridiculous amount as I don’t remember him leaving those decks alone for more than a second. I’ve not repped them yet but the visuals provided by the VJ’s were a great accompaniment to a lot of the sets and this one was no exception. There were some pretty insane images going on at times that’s for sure. In the 2nd room for this night there were plenty of random additions to go along with the belting techno. Spatial and Gatekeeper stood out for me the most. Spatial provided some crazy change ups in style, one minute some real old skool flavours were wacked out like so many odd socks before a multitude of bass heavy quality was delivered. Gatekeeper laid down some of the darkest beats of the weekend, earth shattering in mood and really refreshing after so much 4/4. It was Bone I saw through to the end though and, fully spent, I returned to the campsite to bother the neighbours with a bout of vicious snoring.
Sunday appeared sooner than expected and the weather by this time had decided it was going to bring out the big guns. The big guns in this case being the sun and not actually a large revolver which would have definitely put more of a damper on things as gun death is not really as conducive to a festival in the way that Sun very much is.
The afternoon was luxuriant and the vibes were very nice and chilling, courtesy of Jus Ed. His deep house goodness was well measured, funky and layered with a good smattering of growling bass. Not too much, but enough to make this one grin. It was the right amount of time I thought, making the glorious sunny day all the better for the chilled out vibes it produced.
Further down the line and we had Tom Demac do a live set, dropping some silky smooth numbers and gradually pulling peeps into the tent to get on down. An excellent early evening bit of fun and set things up nicely for the remaining hours as Free Rotation prepared to funk out its final time. Resident Move D was my choice for this, having missed his set on the Saturday in the chillout room; I was keen to check this time round. I wasn’t disappointed as plenty of jacking beats were on offer and top grooves, it was perfect for my somewhat sagging constitution. I won’t say too much on it as it’s not really my realm, suffice to say there was a decent crowd fully happy with proceedings and I was quite satisfied with some subdued bopping.
As quickly as it had come around again Free Rotation was done bar Mondays rude awakenings by the bouncers (an upside down shouty man not being my ideal alarm clock but effective nonetheless). If you’re down for these musical types then I highly recommend getting on this festival if you possibly can. Even if it’s not necessarily your cup of tea I rate you would have a blast anyway. It’s full of decent people, I didn’t see one bit of agginess all weekend, and I’d dare someone not to have a silly, rambunctious adventure full of possibilities and daftness.
Shouts need to be given to all the fancy dress bananas, Sailors and other randomly dressed ones for adding to Sunday surrealness and all those striving to make up the most offensive turns of phrase possible on a magnetic words board. Free party of the summer in my book, so respect to Suzybee and Stevio for holding things down so well and obviously all those that played or VJ’d and the staff at the hall because they are some of the most pleasant people I’ve seen working at a festival considering so much madness going on around them! Here’s to the next one.
Photos by Matt Bimpson