WeAreFstvl – 26 & 27th May 2018
My friends and I booked tickets to WeAreFstvl (We Are Festival) at the beginning of the year when they did a 4 for the price of 3 ticket deal. The main pull for me was the incredible line up. I’m usually more of a live band, rock n roll girl, but at festivals I do love a really good DJ, and WeAre had an EDM line up second to none. Plus the fact that it was in Upminster, which is on the tube map, meant London-dwelling me was happy I wouldn’t have to travel far or get a hotel/AirBnb.
I’d heard some bad things about this festival; that it usually had quite a rough crowd, and that it was quite commercial. I knew it wasn’t going to have the magical feeling of Glasto or Shambala, but the line up and proximity to London were too tempting for my gang, and I like to try new things.
We booked weekend non-camping tickets for 4 of us, and at a later date 4 other friends bought Saturday day tickets. We set off Saturday early afternoon from Bow Road along the District line after meeting and glittering up at a friends house. Arriving at Upminster, it was a boiling hot day (28 degrees C). We only had to wait a short while for the free shuttle bus to the site at Damyns Hall Aerodrome, however the bus itself took 40 minutes and had no air conditioning. We were really quite sweaty on arrival!
Entry, Arrival and Queuing
Entry and security was a smooth process, although I will say I don’t think they were searching people very well. I know it’s a fine line, but I would prefer to queue for a bit longer to feel a bit safer. Saying that, queuing then became a theme of the day. Our first stop once entering the festival was to buy drinks tokens which took around 20 minutes to queue for. They cost £2.50 each, so 4 tokens was £10, 8 tokens were £20, etc. The whole point of drinks tokens at festivals SHOULD be that it makes purchases at the bar smoother, meaning shorter queues. However, all day all of the bars had long queues. Also, I was not impressed with the cost/selection of drinks on offer.
There were no pints, and the only beer/cider options were Desperados cans (250ml) and Kopparberg cans (330ml). These cost 2 tokens (£5) and 2.5 tokens (£6.25) respectively. Over £6 for 2/3rds of a pint of cider? Are you kidding me? A single vodka and red bull cost 4.5 tokens = £11.25. For a single. Let that sink in… I don’t usually moan about these things, but for a festival that has a reputation for being quite drug-fuelled, you would think they would have reasonably priced legal alcohol as an alternative. I’m sure a lot of younger folk would consider buying a £10 pill a much better idea that two small cans of beer, and they wouldn’t take into account their safety in making that decision. Anyway, I’ll move on to the positives…
Our day – who we saw, where we went
Once we were in, had got our bearings and had drinks in hand, things got better. We started off by seeing Hannah Wants at the Terminal 1 stage. It’s an aircraft hangar which is the perfect host for a stage. It looked impressive, had a roof to shade us from the scorching sunlight but also had open sides to let a breeze through. The sound was pretty good in most places, but you had to check where the speakers were because in some places it seemed quite quiet. Hannah Wants was pretty good, her house mixes were a nice start to the day, but we went exploring to find something a bit more juicy.
I suggested seeing Sub Focus at the Power Station, and this turned out to be a great idea. The Power Station was an outdoor stage surrounded by painted, WeAreFstvl branded shipping containers, the sunshine was glorious and the sound was great. We all had definitely loosened up by this point, and dancing in the incredible sunshine was the highlight of my day. Sub Focus served a fantastic set of favourites, the crowd was singing along and living for the drops. We had a good spot and were able to nip off to the bar or toilets when needed (though again, both had far too long queues. More needed for next year!).
After Sub Focus, we had a walk around the site, pausing at CircoLoco for a while to catch a little of Joseph Capriati. This was another outdoor stage with a circular speaker set up, and was a great place to sit for a bit, have a chat and just enjoying the sunshine and people watching. There were a lot of amazing outfits being worn, attendees are really starting to up their festival fashion game, but in my opinion, spending your day posing and pouting for Instagram photos isn’t the best way to enjoy a festival. There was a little too much of this happening for my taste!
Into the evening, we headed back to Terminal 1 to see DJ EZ, followed by Sigma, then the headliner, Andy C. These three in a row were perfect; from Eee Zed’s bouncy UK garage set as the sun started to set, into the high energy, yet super heavy drum n bass set from dynamic duo, Sigma, finishing with the legend Andy C, the co-founder of RAM Records absolutely destroying the decks accompanied by fantastic visuals.
We spent the entire time slap bang in the middle towards the front where the sound seemed best, and really enjoyed ourselves raving away. One thing to say was that despite us being quite far forward at the ‘main stage’, it was easy enough to nip to the bar or toilet and still get back to the group after which was helpful.
When Andy C’s set finished, we were all floating on a happy high, having enjoyed the last few hours. This unfortunately did not last long, as we joined the queue for the shuttle buses back to Upminster. WeAreFstvl is probably about 30% camping to 70% non camping attendees, which is unusual, and therefore the majority of the site all had to try and pile on to buses all at the same time. It took us over an hour to get on to one, and we’d even left a few minutes before the set ended to try and get a headstart. Then when we finally got to Upminster, we had been told they had extended the times of the District line for the festival, this turned out to be a lie, so our only option was to go to Fenchurch St on the mainline, where I then ended up having to get a £30 Uber because there was no night tube option and there was a huge thunderstorm happening. In the end it took me 4 hours to get home, from Andy C’s set finishing at 10pm, I got home at 2am. Not ideal.
Sunday? Maybe not
As I mentioned at the beginning, myself and 3 others of the 8 friends that went on Saturday also had tickets for the Sunday. We woke up, and starting texting between us 4, and came to the decision to not go on the Sunday, and to sell our tickets. I think it was a combination of travel being awful, drinks being expensive (I spent so much on the first day), the possibility of heavy rain, the fact we would only have half the group, and the ease at which we could sell the tickets that led us eventually to this decision.
This is my first review blog post that is mostly negative, and for me to give up a day at a festival is a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a good time on the Saturday, but that was mainly because I love my group of friends and we made the best of it. This festival had no soul, no nice vibes, it was purely a money making scheme. My love of festivals comes not from the line up, but from all the little things, the feelings, the experiences. WeAreFstvl had none of these.
- great weather
- interesting stages
- fantastic line up if you love EDM (particularly DNB and techno)
- good layout of the site
- shuttle bus was free (surprising considering they charged for absolutely everything else)
- far too expensive (drinks/food/everything)
- no pints served (!!!)
- token system pointless – purely there to make extra money
- awful travel to/from, even from London
- not enough toilets/water points
- no soul
- long queues for absolutely everything
- attracts what most consider “the wrong crowd” – not the usual festival lovelies
- if you were camping, no late night entertainment past 11pm
I had a great time at WeAreFstvl but won’t be back
at least whilst it’s on the late May Bank Holiday weekend
There are so many amazing festivals to choose from on the late May bank holiday. I think next year I’ll make my way to Hogsozzle, Under The Hill, Shindig Weekender or Love Saves the Day