The legend of El Dorado tells a tale of explorers on an epic trek to find a city of gold hidden in South America.
“It’s just the most ‘festival-ly’ line-up I’ve ever seen” - Tom (Limp Bizkit’s Sound Engineer)
Deep in the hills of an unlikely deer park in Herefordshire, the mythical dream of the city of gold became a reality. El Dorado was a spectacular display of glitter, gems and allurement – labelled by some critics as a ‘mini Boomtown’. Headlined by Maribou State, Wilkinson and Sister Sledge – including sets by Artful Dodger, Congo Natty, Nightmares on Wax and old man ragga, David Rodigan – El Dorado is a small festival with a larger than life personality.
Such a fantastic variety of acts provided a huge draw for the festival. The organisers clearly made a big effort to cater for everyone. The weekend bounced seamlessly from drum & bass into garage and then rollercoastered into disco and jazz.
If you were lucky enough to get a tent pitch on the top of the hill, the surroundings resembled a scene from Hobbiton – picturesque and tranquil. After a slightly late start, as a result of heat exhaustion to the El Dorado’s merry staff, the crowds of people entered the madness from the campsite.
The scorching South American heat didn’t let out for the duration of the weekend.
We kicked off with a set from Mungo’s Hi Fi at The Holy Bale stage – a small unusual stage surrounded by hay bales, the boxing ring platform in the middle was the jam in the jammy dodger. The sound system was disappointing considering old school legend Artful Dodger was performing here tomorrow. For a reggae act, arguably, a reggae sound system should be shipped in (of which there are many around the UK). However, Mungo’s Hi Fi still rocked the decks with their all vinyl set, playing old school roots and contemporary reggaetón; their assembled crew accompanied the late setting sun perfectly.
House Gospel Choir in the evening sun was a weekend highlight. The crowd danced and sang along to Gospel covers, 'He Is Worthy' mashed into The Jackson’s 'Can You Feel It'.
Over a lake and deep in the fluorescent forest, Mr Scruff’s 3-hour set was on-point timetabling, filling the Nest and surrounding forest in the early afternoon. The dreamy surroundings complimented the funky tunes and the audience danced with rapture.
Riot Jazz brought the sound of the trumpets, playing out originals like ‘Corn On The Cob’ from their new album Sousamaphone, then switching effortlessly into Britney’s ‘Toxic’ - all the while maintaining the feeling of a funky Bavarian Oompah Band. As we ventured into the forest once more for South London’s Soul Train, they followed us. Popping out from trees and various tactical spots within the crowd, they joined along with the DJ's homage to Isaac Hayes.
Craig Charles performed the next morning. “You can’t go wrong with Stevie” he said, following 'Sir Duke’, as he then played his third Stevie Wonder song of the set, ‘Master Blaster’. This was one of our favourites from the ex-Robot War’s Craig. We had the chance to chat to his sound guy, who suggested the production team deliberately encourage Craig to have as much fun as possible....meaning his wife has issued a warning: if he comes home drunk too often she’ll have to start supervising backstage. You have to admire the man's sense of fun and his want to join in on the party, along with the production team trying to get him into trouble - maybe this is how Craig Charles masters his amalgamation of everybody’s ‘Dad Dance’.
Lewisham born-and-bread Joy Crookes is appropriately named, and an artist to keep your eye on, with her jazzy soulful vibes and down to earth attitude - an absolute joy to see perform. Her genuine performance style captured the whole fields attention (Miranda had “a huge girl crush on her”). Her nerves were on show for a millisecond, as she broke into laughter during ‘Mother May I Sleep With Danger’, thanks to a leopard printed legend in the crowd going mental with a tambourine.
Next up, Crazy P, who started with their classic cosmic tunes 'Heartbreaker' and 'Like a Fool' simultaneously setting the sun and stage ready for Sister Sledge. Crazy P(ianist) musician, Matt Klos,e bashed away at his piano whilst he played out their thumping tunes, with Danielle Moore providing electric vocals and swooping around the stage, they certainly hyped up the already euphoric crowd.
Nightmares On Wax was the most chilled headline set we’ve ever seen, a live band situated behind and the singers reclined on brown Barca Loungers - drinking champagne - and only getting up to smash out their solos. We were pleased they harked back to their pioneering album, Carboot Soul. George Evelyn lighting a huge bunch of incense to “show gratitude” as they played out their most recent number one ‘You Wish’ (sampled from Judy Clay and William Bell's soul duet ‘Private Number’, from the legendary 60s Stax Records era).
Main stage headliners and icons of disco, Sister Sledge, played every classic you would expect, bringing their sons over from LA to lead the performance. This made the legendary 'We Are Family’ all the more sentimental. The bassist for Sister Sledge slapped like there was no tomorrow and the drummer (dressed as a pharaoh) was beating out the rhythm and keeping the energy up. 'Lost in Music' was finally played around the band in every conceivable fashion.
It’s not only the variety of music which makes El Dorado special, as the organisers nailed the activities across the weekend. As we ventured through the festival we bumped into in a choir of festival-goers, grown men and women alike, belting Frozen's 'Let It Go' at Disney Karaoke.
There was also the Cirque Du Soul – the funky Weaver Bros and Shy FX by night, Bingo Lingo by day...a tent full of intoxicated humans playing Bingo was a dazzling and hilarious spectacle to witness. You could hear the hushed silence of a hangover around the tent as the crowd willed themselves to concentrate on the game - "Shake your tits, it’s 66!"
The El Dorado festival team stated that "not a minute went by, from our end, without someone mentioning how great the crowd were" – this could not be more accurate. Being a small festival in size, the intimacy and welcoming family-like atmosphere was the cherry on top. El Dorado is growing every year so expect a musical kaleidoscope of a line-up in 2019, we'll see you for Cirque Du Soul's fourth installment next year...