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8 DJs tell us their festival horror stories

They're not always what you wish for

  • Dave Turner
  • 26 March 2018

The anticipation of festival season is up there with Christmas, a World Cup year and the latest Yeezy drop you'll probably never wear. It seems like it takes forever to arrive, keeping you waiting, eager to neck warm lager, sway from atop your mate's shoulders and maybe, just maybe, get to sing along to some absolute festival classics.

You can't really blame anyone for getting into a fizz, to be honest. The UK festival scene, even without Glastonbury in 2018, is coming in stronger than ever, there's loads of bonkers locations hosting multi-day parties and stunning places across the world to dive into.

What we don't always admit, though, is that it's OK to have a shit time at a festival. Shit happens and it happens quite a lot. That's why we asked a bunch of DJs that spend summer year on year playing at festivals all over to tell us their festival horror stories.

Like this? Check out six DJs' Ibiza horror stories, too

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Digital News Editor, follow him on Twitter

Gorgon City

"A few years ago me, my manager and our mate rented an old VW campervan to use at Glastonbury. We got it from some dodgy place in Somerset about an hour away from the site. We were so excited we just got on the road straight away without checking the van. I drove and suddenly realised I couldn’t change gear properly, realising it was left-hand drive. We ended up breaking down on the way a few times, but finally got there and parked in Shangri-La with the rest of our gang.

"After the second night, three of us were sleeping in the van, it got to about 9am and I swear someone was cooking fried breakfast. My manager woke me shouting, “Matt the van is on fire!!!!” I was in a Glasto haze so I couldn’t care less and went back to sleep. I think the fire went out. A few hours later we properly woke up and realised how close we were to being blown up. A cable from the ignition had burned all the way through the van but luckily went out before reaching the fuel tank. We left the broken van in the field and told the owner to do one."

Gorgon City's 'Motorola' is out now

T. Williams

"I've had one hell of a ride at some festivals but a horror story that really stands out was when I was heavily touring and ended up having to catch a train, plane and coach to a particular festival. It was a total of about 18 hours on the road just to get to another European city.

"When I arrived I decided to set aside a few minutes to put my bags down and have a quick bite to eat before my transfer to the festival site, as I my first set was on the same day I arrived. I decide to order a pizza but at the time I didn't realise I was lactose intolerant. As my pizza arrives it starts pouring down with rain outside which was a major problem as my footwear wasn't suitable. Anyway, cue stomach pains, stress levels being high and needing to sleep.

"I jumped in my transfer to site which was already 20 minutes late. Once we'd got halfway down the road into the site, the minibus got stuck in the mud. The driver then proceeded to ask me to get out and push. Pouring rain, no boots and stomach pains. Ended up walking to my stage at the festival covered in mud and 30 minutes late. Anyone that knows me will know I'm usually in good spirits but on this day there was no saving how pissed off I was."

Davide Squillace

"Quite a while ago, back when I was still living in Naples, we were doing this event right outside of the city. It was in a classic South Italy countryside town. I remember it being a little chilly and it was an open-air party. I don't know why but everyone was wearing proper winter jackets, not really South Italy's style but anyhow, Danilo Vigorito was playing. He is quite a tall and robust guy, difficult to argue with him.

"At a certain point this guy stormed into the booth and tried to yell at him and push him away from the decks. Obviously there was no chance and we got him kicked out. We thought he wouldn't come back for more, but to our surprise after 30 minutes the guy pulled some Bruce Lee-type move and managed to kick not only Danilo out of the booth but also jumped on the desk, pulled some more karate moves on the rest of the equipment which fell off the stage and caused a noisy and hissing sound amplified by 20000kW.

It didn't end there; he opened his arms like Jesus outstretched on the cross and shouted "I have a huge announcement to make. Everybody listen carefully!" Everyone in the crowd had their mouths wide open. Those were obviously his last words as a bunch of my friends came and finally got him out of the booth. They managed to get his dad on the phone to pick up their delusional son."

Davide Squillace's album 'Once Upon A Time In Napoli' is out soon

Art Alfie

"I was out on a little festival-hopping tour and I was heading to my last gig in Oslo before going home. I started to feel a little weird in my belly upon arriving but I still went down town to meet up with some friends, thinking it would go away. Boy was I wrong. Not only did it not go away, it got worse and by the time I arrived at the festival I could barely stand up and was an inch from turning into a human vulcano. The bathroom facility was just one portaloo.

"The absolute worst thing about the situation was the warm-up 'act' they had cut my set time shorter to squeeze in. It was called Hardware Mega Jam and I didn't know what it was before I got there. It turned out the festival did a competition before the festival where participants competed to perform live at the festival. That sounds fair enough, except that it was 20 winners all bringing their little Euroracks and what not. Together they managed to improvise the most unlistenable wall of sound I have ever heard. Just imagine 20 dudes that have never met before hooking their gear up to a huge soundsystem and then try to outsound each other. I doubt they were even synced.

"I was too sick to even get away from it. Eventually I got up on stage and at that point I had managed to keep everything in. I started my set, kept it together for a few tracks but then I dropped my song 'Flaunting' and the bass tipped me over the edge. I ran off stage, threw up in the portaloo and finished my set around 30 minutes in."

Josh Butler

"As my two-week Australia tour was coming to a close I finished playing in Geelong on the Saturday and headed straight to Melbourne on zero sleep to play my last set in Queenstown, New Zealand. The wheels of the plane were two feet from the runway before the pilot announced that the winds were too strong for us to land and that we were diverting to Christchurch! Although this may look close on the map, it’s a six-hour drive away! I was far from impressed by my lack of pre-gig nap, bath and cuppa tea. I began franticly messaging the promoter as we desperately tried to figure out a way to get me to the club. The clock was ticking! That’s when I bumped into Detlef. Silver linings, eh?

"After a mini brainstorm, we figured we had two options: retire to bed or blitz it down the highway in a rental car. We decided the party couldn't stop here so we downed a load off coffee and set off. There wasn’t a chance we were going to entertain an Air New Zealand replacement coach. 45 minutes in, the inner boy racers in us started to come out. We were boosting through the beautiful countryside and the next thing we knew there were flashing lights in our rear-view mirror and the bobbies [police] catching us up. We pulled over and gave our best puppy dog eyes, Detlef’s Greek accent becoming thicker as he said 'Over the speed limit, sir?'.

"$140 lighter we continued the drive, belting out a duet to every Smooth FM banger that came on the radio. Finally, we made it with barely a minute to spare, but the sleep deprivation was soon forgotten as the energy in the place was wild! Unfortunately Ejeca didn't make it, but it meant Detlef and I played back-to-back for four hours and it was worth every second of the travel nightmare!"


"About 10 years ago, I found myself at a festival in Scotland. It was one of those weird, bohemian sorts of festivals for the eccentric, free-spirited types where everyone was clearly off their chops, but there were kids running around everywhere. Quite bizarre really.

"I was backstage at the breakbeat tent when this little kid wondered past me. He couldn’t have been older than three. He looked fairly bewildered, most likely a bit taken aback by what was going on around him. Luckily, I was coherent enough to notice that he was alone and thought it was probably best to deliver him to the lost property tent.

"I guess his parents mustn’t have realised they lost him because when they were found (eventually), they were jabbering wrecks. They couldn’t even string a sentence together. I suspected they were in the depths of a K-hole, but who was I to judge. Anyway, the kid got returned to his parents and I felt like I’d done my good deed for the day. Poor little chap. In hindsight we probably should’ve just left him backstage, he looked like he was having a better time!"

Boxia's 'Ethereal Education' EP is out now on Drumcode

Andy C

"I'll go for Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. I think it was 2016. I got there to do the show, everyone was buzzing, it was all vibes. Once I was on stage, it was about the second or third tune in and some pyrotechnic lit up one of the stage structures and everything caught on fire. One of the guys had to run under the stage to turn off the propane tanks, everyone had to disperse, you had fire engines coming along. Initially the crowd was a bit unaware. I was looking up thinking that's not right. Then it was like a parting of the sea. It could have been a very hairy situation.

"It's quite a disconcerting feeling: one minute you've got 10,000 people in front of you, the next minute it's like a desolate wasteland with a couple of glow sticks floating around. I had a 12-hour flight, had to drive three hours in traffic and I got to play three tunes.

"Once it had all been put out they said 'Andy, just play a couple of records before the next act goes on.' They let everyone come back to the stage and my tune for the five minutes I was allowed on was 'Keep The Fire Burning' by The House Crew.

Sub Focus

"Probably around 10 years ago I played a big drum 'n' bass festival in Ekaterinburg, the fourth biggest city in Russia. Getting there involved taking a connecting flight from Moscow that was more like a military plane than a commercial flight. It had a metal interior rather than the regular furnished plane interior we're all used to. I met a Mongolian woman on the flight wearing traditional dress who didn’t speak much English so we decided to communicate via writing on paper. She proceeded to ask me questions like ‘Do you like the Beatles?’ and ‘Are you married?’ So far, so enjoyably random.

"I got to the gig with a couple of other international DJs I knew from my travels and was looking forward to the show. Despite being a wicked party it was boiling hot inside, probably due to the many fire dancers sharing the stage with us. About 20 minutes after my set I was hanging out onstage when everyone was abruptly ushered out of the room as it transpired the venue had caught fire. One of the other DJ's jacket was even left to perish in the blaze. I still remember leaving the warehouse we were in and seeing huge plumes of smoke billowing out of the metal shutter doors. No one was hurt but apparently the venue eventually burnt to the ground!"

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