Chepstow Racecourse welcomed 4,000 fun-seeking ravers this June, kicking off the summer with the fourth instalment of Balter Festival. A three-day, adults-only event comprised of ten very different stages, Balter offers an array of eclectic underground music from the South West music scene and beyond.

By definition, to balter is ‘to dance artlessly, without particular skill or grace, but always with great contented enjoyment’ and the festival certainly lived up to its name with thumping basslines, debauchery, friendly vibes and a distinct aura of unpretentiousness.

the festival certainly lived up to its name with thumping basslines, debauchery, friendly vibes and a distinct aura of unpretentiousness

Balter is a grass roots event that has grown exponentially, from 700 people at the first event to this year’s 4000, but the festival has retained its intimacy, making it easy to get your bearings and bump into a friendly face. With the mantra ‘Don’t be a Dick’, attendees emanated this with good vibes, friendliness and generally looking after one another.

Balter Festival 2017 – A lovely little festival full of misfits and circus freaks

Tickets will set you back an affordable £105, which is especially good value for how much entertainment you get across the 10 stages. Balter secured an eclectic lineup including drum and bass, techno, reggae, dub, hip hop, garage, bassline, ska, gypsy; the list goes on. There was something for everyone.

Heading the bill on Friday night was ska punk stalwarts First Degree Burns, who shook off the festival cobwebs at The Caravan stage with a slightly soggy skank; followed by Balkan gypsy brass pandemonium from The Baghdaddies.

Heading the bill on Friday night was ska punk stalwarts First Degree Burns, who shook off the festival cobwebs at The Caravan stage with a slightly soggy skank

Later, hardcore hero producer and DnB legend Limewax was also one of the headliners to catch on Friday, smashing through a stomping set that packed out The Drawing Room tent and got everyone fully into festival mode.

Saturday’s mayhem started early, with Bristol-based DJ Lemon Girl drawing crowds back into the Drawing Room, spinning a selection of jungle and all things tek.

STNM @ Balter Festival

Vital Techniques, Mikey B and MC PEAN took the sounds of Second To None down to Balter Festival 2017 Here's how it went down with the 24hr Garage Girls!!!Featuring cameo's from DJ EJ, Deadbeat UK, Dr Cryptic, Thorpey, FORCA, King Hydra , Shosh and more.#BalterFestival #UKG #Bass #STNM

Posted by Second To None Music – Record Label on Thursday, 8 June 2017

24hr Garage Girls – situated smack bang in the middle of the small festival – did a great job of keeping the party going all weekend at Balter, with the boiler-suited girls (and boys) rinsing down the raving crowds to pumping wobbly basslines all weekend – especially with the sun shining on Saturday.

Bristol’s Zen Hussies injected some swing into Saturday night’s bill, bringing the boogie to the Balkanical Circus stage with their original brand of swinging stomp.

A lovely little festival full of misfits and circus freaks-Hex

A lovely little festival full of misfits and circus freaks-Hex2

Also on the bill were Alix Perez and Break, hidden away in the Hex stage – a gem of a tent tucked behind some sound-absorbing hay bales.

For those needing a break from the heavier stuff, the Disco stage was there to provide temporary refuge, with cheese and disco classics spinning late into the evening.

For those needing a break from the heavier stuff, the Disco stage was there to provide temporary refuge, with cheese and disco classics spinning late into the evening

On Sunday, Yorkshire’s finest Captain Hotknives took to the Caravan Stage for an uplifting set of hilarious songs, with favourites like I Hate Babies and I Skanked Me Nana bringing a smile to tired faces.

But Balter’s weekend residents didn’t look too shabby after three days of partying – rave favourite Mandidextrous and Vandal’s set in the Jigsore stage on Sunday got so rowdy that the moshpit surge broke the barrier and the venue had to be closed while it was repaired. Adults were moshing like thirteen year olds, but things remained friendly, and anyone who took a tumble was instantly pulled to their feet.

Balter’s weekend residents didn’t look too shabby after three days of partying – rave favourite Mandidextrous and Vandal’s set in the Jigsore stage on Sunday got so rowdy that the moshpit surge broke the barrier

Balter’s charm lies in its small size and nice vibes; every festival goer feels part of an extended family. However, Balter is not for the light of heart and there were undoubtedly a few casualties (as at any gathering that’s grown out of a rave scene), but the festival team made sure anyone who had gone too hard was very well looked after, and those same faces could be seen lively and well the next day.

// Read more: Meet the Mad mind behind Balter – festival co-founder E-Coli  //

The festival is completely independent and so making money from the bar is important to help with running costs. That being said, the bars were incredibly affordable with hooligan and hipster favourite Buckfast being served at £2 a glass, and cold cans and pints only £2.50 and £3. And various food stalls provided a plentiful range of organic, vegetarian and carnivorous options, keeping us fuelled for the weekend.

A lovely little festival full of misfits and circus freaks-bingo

Balter tends to step into the surreal, providing a complete escape from the comparatively drab reality of everyday life. One moment you could find yourself participating in a random game of bingo with soft play balls being drawn from a washing machine by a fat, bearded man in a bikini; and the next, diving through a hoop into a paddling pool at the end of a timed and graded assault course.

Balter tends to step into the surreal, providing a complete escape from the comparatively drab reality of everyday life

The Room of Obstinate Obstacles was the talk of the town, with participants entering a dark room full of mission impossible-style lasers blocking the exit. Points being awarded for how few you managed to trigger on the way out.

Lemon Fun was there to keep you smiling with space hoppers and a slip and slide, alongside a giant wicker game of chess. Festival couples new and old could get married in Rey Shneider and The Band of Angels pop up church tent in hilarious and bizarre ceremonies.

Chepstow Racecourse worked brilliantly as a venue, with easy access into the festival and it being completely flat made it very easy to walk back to your tent in the dark. The campsite and live-in fields were spacious and it was easy to camp next to friends. It’s also not much more than a half hour drive from Bristol, from where Balter had lured many of its artists and attendees.

Balter kept to their promise of stepping up security this year with increased fencing and security staff providing a safe place for people to party

Balter kept to their promise of stepping up security this year with increased fencing and security staff providing a safe place for people to party, and festival stewards and security were always eager to help, whilst keeping everything running smoothly.

Revellers were lucky when the rain that fell on Friday and Sunday quickly turned into beautiful sunshine, making most of the festival dry and warm. Although, spirits were so high that a bit of rain wouldn’t have bothered anyone anyway.

All in all a lovely little festival full of misfits and circus freaks who just want to let loose. Roll on next year!

Words by Charise Clarke
Photos: Balter Festival

// Read more: Meet the Mad mind behind Balter – festival co-founder E-Coli  //

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Next Weekly Picks: 12 – 18 June // A jam-packed weekend including Kraftwerk, House of Pain & Boomtown warm up party

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