Arriving onto the winding roads of the Keele University campus to be hit with the sound of squealing students and thudding speakers, instantly sends a wave of nostalgia into the heart of this Keele graduate. Having experienced three Woodstokes in my undergraduate life, returning to witness a fourth event as an outsider, is truly a welcomed experience.
Woodstoke is the Keele University’s end of term festival in which the lairy, young students celebrate the arrival of summer and freedom, with music and entertainment in the biggest forms. This year the Keele Student Union Events Team had coordinated an affair that was set to be their best yet.
On the car park outside of the SU, was a parade of shining funfair rides from Earth Shakers to Twisters- all giving the students a jolt of adrenaline, mixed with a dizzy head and sickened stomach. Alongside this was a line of outdoor bars serving up ice cold Jägermeister, country ciders, hot food and candy floss. Amongst these was The Hippy Hippy Shake stall, with their music themed milkshakes including Circa Custard Whipped Waves and Heavytrakerz Galaxy- all coming with an optional shot of alcohol (Baileys, of course, being the necessary add on). Around the other side of the SU in The Outback, was a giant, inflatable igloo where you could grab your self an icy refreshment and dance the night away.
The main attraction outside, however, was the glorious KUBE stage. KUBE is Keele University’s student-run radio station and TV enterprise who were proudly hosting the outdoor stage this year. As team members Aaron Godfrey, Tayla Dickinson and Ben Dowle all managed the stage (whilst simultaneously flying around a drone in the sky), it was a great surprise to see their other team mates performing too- including Manisha Chauhan who performed soft, acoustic covers, including Britney Spears’s Toxic, with her endearing voice.
Later taking to the stage were newcomers Boston Sidecar, a local four-piece playing rough and ready grunge indie, who went down a treat with the growing crowd. They were soon followed by local music giant, John Dhali, covered in specks of glitter. He quickly acquired a sea of young fans, all chanting his name and taking photographs, as he sung his classic happy melodies with tracks like Ballad of a Holy Man, Here and Only One. As well as this he performed some more honest and haunting numbers such as Taste, in which he brought out his ukulele and silenced the audience. Ending on a cover of Jackie Wilson’s Higher and Higher he readied the whole crowd for the rest of the Woodstoke party to come.
The time then came to move inside where you were hit with an abundance of options- in the Scruffy Squirrel you could play some pool and have a drink whilst listening to resident DJs mixing away, or you could head to K2 and grab the chance to see Heavytrakerz, Sneakbo or Jay Knoxx on the decks. The most popular choice was to head into The Ballroom, where Ben Malone played house classics in between intervals of other leading performances, including Circa Waves.
On this gleaming May evening, Circa Waves could not have been a more perfect choice to perform, as the epitome of a summer band. Getting the sweaty crowd all worked up, they kicked off with Wake Up, before moving into their bouncing, happy tracks from their debut album, Young Chasers giving everyone the uplifting atmosphere that Circa Waves always conjure. Mixing in songs from their latest record, Different Creatures, which are significantly heavier and darker, the contrasts between the two albums worked perfectly together and showed off the bands impeccable skill set. As they left their two biggest singles, Fire That Burns and T-Shirt Weather until the end, an army of smartphones soared into the air to record the anthems. Full of energy and charisma, the entire band trooped on through the stifling heat and gave everyone the time of their lives.
Although my time at Woodstoke was at an end, it was far from over for the rest of the crowd, who would continue on to witness Panjabi MC, a Pendulum DJ set and Nathan Dawe, before the doors would close at a whopping 5am. What a way to see the university year out.