Goa is a weird place. Situated on the south west coast of India, what was once probably a peaceful beach paradise has now inevitably been turned into a sandy version of Camden, in that it is living off of a tourist industry clamouring to take advantage of brusque tourists and ambling trustifarians by offering up the perfect cocktail of faux spirituality and blunt hedonism. In fact Goa is so much like Camden that I'm surprised I didn't have to battle past confused Italian tourists in puffa jackets squinting at Google Maps on their phones before I was allowed to enter.
Saying that, unlike Camden it is still aesthetically pleasing to look at, with sandy beaches simmering off into the the horizon, vibrant green palm trees looming overhead and pink and peach coloured sunsets every evening that you can strike some really great yoga poses in front of for your Instagram followers back home.
So it's no wonder that a place of such natural beauty that already contained such a high level of white people with dreadlocks would need it's own festival, and Goat Festival in Morjim, one of the many small tourist towns along the south coast, laid host to such a jolly up last weekend.
Unfortunately for the organisers, at the time of the festival there were flash elections taking place across a lot of states in India including Goa, which meant police were incredibly strict about licensing laws, limiting alcohol sales and often shutting down clubs and parties without notice. This meant that what was planning to be a stand alone festival site across three stages going on till 6am was curtailed into a one stage event that finished at 10pm at one of the only clubs in the area that would let them operate, the extremely swanky Marbela Beach resort.
It was a shame, because when you looked at some of the musicians that had to be cancelled as a result of the downsizing you could tell that the organisers knew their stuff, and it was a shame to see acts like Hercules and the Love Affair, Yusef Kamaal and Dope St. Jude all getting the chop.
But the event still went ahead with some great acts still kept on, and musically it was hard to fault. Afriquoi was outstanding (gets extra points for bigging up my vintage Arsenal shirt on the mic as soon as I walked on the dancefloor), and repeated sets by Medlar over the three days were consistently good. I'd never heard of him before this festival but every set he played always contained at least one or two songs that made me say 'Fuck what's this what's this somebody Shazam this, somebody SHAZAM THIS'. But the real treat of the three days were the three headliners. James Priestly of Secret Sundaze fame closed the the festival with some great feel good classic house and Giles Peterson as expected drove a well oiled machine made from world music, tribal rhythms flashes of disco, but it was Kiasmos on Friday night that were the best set of the weekend for me. The Scandinavian played an inch perfect tech house set, mixing between their own tunes and artists like Stimming effortlessly with barely any time for the audience to catch their breath, and had me reeling from the weight of consistently pounding basslines that boomed out over the powerful system.
As expected from a place called Marbela the site, or club, was drenched in white leather, but the festival still had a colourful feel to it and considering how last minute the election dates were changed the organisers still managed to make the place have a good atmosphere, especially on the dancefloor which was looked over by an impervious goat effigy. Although the prices for alcohol and food were close to English prices (which is pretty unheard of for India where a huge beer is about 90p), you could always just buy some cheap booze from the local wine shop and sit on the idyllic beach side location surrounding it anyway, and the system was so good you could hear it from a good while away regardless.
The punters predictably were extremely rainbow rhythms, all flower headdresses and glittered faces, but everyone was in good spirits, even if some of the people there were literally just old Russian couples who obviously didn't realise the resort they were staying at was about to play mainly UK garage and Detroit house from 4-5pm that afternoon.
Overall, considering the challenges the festival had to overcome, the weekend was a success. You can't really fault getting mashed and having great DJ's spin to you in a beach paradise, even if Goa in general felt more like paradise lost. I'd like to come back to the festival next year when the elections weren't restricting it because you got the sense that they could make something properly special happen if they had more freedom to operate, so it's definitely one to look out for for all those people who like to escape being in the U.K. for the Monday of the year that is January.
Photographs courtesy of Carys Lavin.