Review: Nation of Gondwana

The lakeside beach was striped with bars of light. Sculptures that had been erected earlier leaned sideways in the sand, like mythical relics. Projections played across the waterside trees. Stray lasers refracted off of the water's surface in glimmering eddies. The people sprawled on the hilly shoreline basked in the light-show’s midnight sun as louche young things twisted in a sandy dance pit below. Spliffs were passed around. People asked each other, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” trying to retrace the steps they'd taken to arrive at this unified state… or maybe I should say, 'unified nation'.

The light show and the people were the two greatest things about Nation of Gondwana. Several images stick in mind: the guy lying next to the fire who managed to sleep on blissfully as a burning stick fell onto his trousers, caught fire and was frantically doused by his friends. Or the offer of a beach-side threesome that was thrown my way as I scoffed salty flammekuchen with a pair of stoners. Or 'Sarah', who danced on top of a fallen sculpture like she was giving psychedelic benediction to the crowd. It was worth the journey just for them.

It had the makings of a great festival but Nation of Gondwana fell short by a main ingredient: music. The main floor was dominated by borderline-schranz techno – which may have staved off the crowd's comedown but lacked the variety to appeal to anybody not on a two-day high. The music at the See Stage was also mismatched to its avant-garde ambience, veering between disco, 80s pop, mainstream funk and house. At times it sounded like someone's I-Pod playlist was playing on 'shuffle'. It was damn cold, too - not Gondwana’s fault - but that, and the so-so music, quickly became tiring.

I first tried to leave Sunday at 2.00 a.m., but was stopped by the door staff who insisted I should "give the festival a chance". They then told me there were no more trains from Nauen to Berlin. I wondered out loud why they had scheduled a free shuttle bus service to the train station at that time, if they knew no trains were running. I just got a shrug in reply.

So I stayed, met some more cool people, and waited. By 7:30 a.m., I was really, really sure that I had had enough and tried to leave again. This time I was told by the staff that I should stay because they had 'no idea' when the shuttle bus service was starting. "Maybe 8.00? 8.30? Or 9.30?" they said casually, shrugging.

In the end I took a chance and made my way to the Grunefeld shuttle bus stop at 9.30 a.m. I was sleep-deprived, hung over and frigid, and had to wait for over an hour for a shuttle bus which was packed with pale, wobbly people. Lesson #1: You cannot make a person enjoy an event by forcing them to stay... so make it easy for them to leave!

So what do you think - was I too harsh on Gondwana? Was your experience better than mine? Post your own opinion in the comments box below! (Spam and drivel will not be approved.)


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