26th – 29th July 1991: Spiral Tribe at Happy Daze Free Festival, Bala, Wales

UPDATE: The ‘Magic M’ tape, apparently recorded at this event, turns out not to be anything of the sort- it’s a Sven Vath tape! Sorry about that!

Another party I missed out on, but sounds like it was a cracker. Amino Clang, who wrote this, is a dear old friend and fellow veteran of many amazing nights (including the 1992 Happy Daze Free Festival). I think this experience affected him so deeply it made him build his own bowel-shakingly loud soundsystem 🙂

Incidentally if anyone can help out with exact dates that would be great. Enjoy the read!

The first time I heard of a festi (that’s what Teknivals were called before they added the “TEK” bit), the first time I heard of Spiral Tribe and the first time I took acid are all intertwined in the same dreamy weekend – Happy Daze Free Festi in Bala and I still can’t work out if it was 1990 or ’91, but what a weekend!

“Have you heard? The festi has come to Bala this weekend. It’s only down the road, are you comin’?” He asked.

“What’s a festi?” I answered. I was only 15 but I had been a stoner and a mushroom tripper for a while already and I wanted to know more. Anything to do with a festival had to be better than dossing about in my dead-end backwater of a home town for the night… again!

I decided that the best way to find out would be to go and check it out so that night (the Friday I think) I got a lift down there in my mate’s dad’s ancient Landy. When we got there we turned into the dusty field (it was summer) past a single police car with a couple of pissed off looking coppers in it and drove onto the site.

As soon as we were past the “Police Blockade” my mate got up on the roof of the Landy to check out the territory and we drove through a couple of fields of sensible looking vehicles painted in the full spectrum of the psychedelic rainbow, other (less sensible) vehicles, marquees, strung-up tarps, funky backdrops and loads of people – traveller types, raver types, local farmer types, everybody, all ages, all colours (mainly due to the dust!) and all classes just chilling out together and enjoying the evening sun.

We hadn’t been there long before another mate offered me half a “Double-Dipped Purple Ohm” and before long I was coming up and asking for the other half ; )

I spent most of the night on top of the Landy (we had put a mattress on the roof) laughing hysterically listening to the sounds of the festi come at me from all directions (all kinds of music, each coming from a different direction, all combining together to make a beautiful noise before separating out again to be a full surround sound experience) and watching the technicolour night sky go wild before my eyes (acid can do that to you sometimes!)

There are a couple of things that have ingrained themselves in my head, but almost my entire memory of that night is just laughing uncontrollably on top of that Landy.

1. I remember going for a walk about the festi (still giggling uncontrollably) and seeing a fully hippified crusty type sitting cross-legged in a little makeshift tent with a sign advertising “Hash for Cash”. I think we stopped to buy some, but couldn’t really be sure!

2. I remember LOTS of people shouting “Hash for cash”, “acid”, “ecstasy”, “whiz”, etc, etc, etc, but mainly just “Hash for Cash”. Except there was this one couple of geezers walking about shouting “Acid… to my wife the other day…”. I guess they were trying to be discreet. Not surprisingly that just made me laugh some more.

3. I remember one guy trying to stop me from laughing and saying that he would give me a spliff if I could stop laughing for 30 seconds. I struggled, but despite his attempts to scupper me I managed it… and then the fucker backed out of his side of the deal, so I guess I just carried on giggling.

4. I remember one of my friends trying to skin up, but finding it difficult because the tobacco was wriggling about like worms and wouldn’t “Just stay still long enough for me to skin up… pleeeaase?” (more laughter!!)

Eventually the driver was saying that we had to leave because he had to get back so I got back in the Landy and we started to head off. I guess I must have had my head down just listening to the festi go on around me again before we left, but that sound just would not leave me alone. We got dropped back in town and started the walk back to my house (still fully tripping and still hearing the festi like it was right there around me – “Acid… to my wife!” HA HA HA HA, “Acid, Hash for Cash, Ecstacy, you name it we got it!”, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam). Eventually we got home (still hearing the festi) and made it up to my room (still hearing the festi) and got into bed (still hearing the festi). Trying to get to sleep was quite an experience I can tell you, what with that fuckin’ noise going on! However, I think I did experience all of creation from the perspective of both an electron and a universe simultaneously, so every cloud…!

The next day I was still on another planet for most of the day trying to make sense of my mental experience, but eventually I went home and got some sleep.

The next day again (Sunday I guess) I had heard that my brother had been spotted at the festi (he and some mates had come down from Sheffield where he was at Uni) so I thought I would try to get back down there to see him. He was not there, but Spiral Tribe were.

There I was, standing in front of the Spiral Sound System hearing these driving beats come out of the speakers, watching the world go by when somebody walked past selling mushies (I had done these before and knew I liked them) so I bought some, ate some and started to come up (here we go again!).

No adventures into “The Pit of Eternal Laughter” tonight, but I did spend a long time watching the sounds pour out of the speakers, just standing there in a state of complete amazement dying to go up and ask if they had a tape of this amazing music that I could have, but never quite getting it together. It was like some kind of marching beat, but with a really heavy kick to it, so heavy that the ground was literally shaking. The system was so loud that I thought I had to move closer a little bit at a time to let my ears adjust while I was dancing (ah the naivety of youth! I have seen much bigger rigs since then and I generally walk straight up to the front to check it out properly).

It wasn’t just a relentless hard techno sound though – there were plenty of wishy-washy bleepy trippy techy sounds fluttering about above the system too. An altogether driving, up-beat, tranced out, hypnotic sound that just didn’t let up but never made you feel unwelcome. My only regret was that I didn’t find this on the Friday.I love techno and always will and this was my first introduction to a sound that has captivated me ever since.


Ah, Happy Daze!


22 Responses to “26th – 29th July 1991: Spiral Tribe at Happy Daze Free Festival, Bala, Wales”

  1. Greg Says:

    I was there mate!!! ‘Hash Cake’…

  2. sifizion Says:

    i was there too bruther thats whatsmakes us free human beings

  3. sifizion Says:

    peace luv n fantastic people that put tahat stuff 2 gethher which is us

  4. Mark Says:

    Hello Clang!.. I had this set labelled as Magic M from Bala ’91 too but then about a year ago someone online (tuneid.com I think) told me it was a sven vath set from somewhere in Europe which took the wind out my sails somewhat. Im still not sure what/who to believe. To be honest as far as im aware the mixing sounds more spirals than sven.. if that makes sense? Regardless of who or what it is it is still a great set. Great party report too. :O)


  5. Clang Says:

    Hmmm, could go either way on that one too Mark.

    I haven’t listened to it in a while, but from what I can remember the beat matching certainly has something of the mashed up DJ who can’t see the cross-fader or the pitch-controller for all the shiny lights and who’s hands don’t work like they used to… I can’t imagine Sven Vath being so mangled he can’t mix, but you never know.

  6. Mark Says:

    yeah.. good point. The tunes are certainly more ‘manic’ than youd expect from Mr Vath.. Time will tell eh? Hope u well.

  7. Clang Says:

    I asked on the SP23 website and they found 2 links to DL the mix claiming its Magic M at Happy Daze in Bala 1991… no further evidence though I’m afraid. I’m just gonna have to trust the interweb and believe that those were the beats I hard all those years ago!

  8. Clang Says:

    SP23 website has just posted a link to this forum thread…


    Pretty convincing evidence!

  9. Matt and Paula Says:

    I was there, not sure how out of it i was but i found no tekno all weekend. Id just driven down from morton lighthouse to Bala and was there for the duration. I remeber it being the most relaxed chilled fezzy id been to in ages, no spirals no tekno. Then off to llanbister fezzy where we set up a stage.

  10. Clang Says:

    Hi MattAndPaula,

    Sorry you missed the Spirals and the Techno… as I said, I think I found them on the Sunday – not sure what night it was really, but they were deffo there… and it was deffo Bala because I was born not far from there.

    My earlier experiences at Happy Daze Bala (from the first night) were more in line with your comments though (“the most relaxed chilled fezzy”).

    Not sure which was best to be honest – tripping out and listening to allsorts of live/acoustic music while watching the stars swirl about the sky or listening to Spirals stomp it out relentless stylee… both are strong memories 😉

  11. Sandy Cooper Says:

    I was there too …ha ha remember it well….xx

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Does anyone remember the cricket match between Circus Normal & The Mother of All Cafes, on the sunday afternoon??? TOP festy entertainment, as I recall… Happy Daze! :o)

  13. Paula Says:

    I was there all weekend, we had picked up a flyer from Bristol, but mates in the Midlands knew about it too. It was definitely 1991. Spiral Tribe set up late on the Saturday night I think, playing through to Sunday day. It was the first time I had seen a dance rig like that, with their fancy rig, smartly dressed followers and people who owned shiny cars! They seamed to pop up from knowhere amongst the scruffy hippies, crusty travelers and other raggle taggle peeps. Fantastic weather, I think I saw Hawkwind and a Motorhead tribute band over the weekend too!

  14. Assassin Says:

    Isnt this the festie where someone got weighed with a shovel for beating up a girl 10 years before

  15. Anonymous Says:

    i was there! fantastic little festival my boy was there too he was around 3 at the time, I went down in a converted ambulance i remember the ‘shrooms the chocolate sauce and cream crepes someone was selling and watching Nik Turners all stars on stage whilst suitably chemicalized… =;~)

  16. Bob Says:

    circus normal.my first e. changed my life.

  17. Bob Says:

    also.. whats the deal with circus normal and circus warp?????

  18. Anonymous Says:

    i was there 17 trippin my face off. i saw 100 ravers running from 1 tent to another all night. t99 anastasia etc. smashed it bristol crew

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Bedlam & Spiral Tribe = Carnage

  20. Anonymous Says:

    24 hour free party people. DIY. CW. CN & ST

  21. Anonymous Says:

    i do own the flyer i expect its very rare

  22. wsd Says:

    I have got the flyer. 2 smashed hippies sitting under a mushroom irc. triipin my face off blowing at the full moon that night

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