Review + Photography by Michael Sibbons

Spread over the Saturday and Sunday of the August bank holiday South West Four (SW4) sees some of the biggest DJs and dance acts descend onto London’s Clapham Common.

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The best way to describe the festival is a massive organised nightclub or rave with a generous five stages but taking place during the afternoon (excluding the various after parties at some of London’s biggest clubs). Now if you don’t like dance music and preferall your music to be played live over DJ sets, SW4 won’t be for you. However if you enjoy the music and if an ideal night involves ending up in a nightclub till the early hours, this festival will be perfect for you.

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Like any festival attendee… choosing who to see is hard, with many good and famous acts spread over the multiple stages I tried to catch and photograph as many as possible, especially the live acts.

Opening the festival for me was Dizzee Rascal, the afternoon headliner of the main stage. He’s always entertaining to watch and I think everyone should see him at least once. Playing all the hits you’d know before ending on ‘Bonkers’ and ‘You’ve got the Dirtee Love’.

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Other acts I was lucky to catch over the day were; Jax Jones combining live elements and DJ-ing, Example and Nadia Rose. Then big name DJs including MK, Armand Van Helden, Martin Solveig and for some reason Idris Elba. Yes. The man tipped to be the next James Bond. He’s actually had a music career for over fifteen years!

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Sadly Sigma were a bit disappointing. I was really hoping for them to perform live, but unfortunately it was a DJ set. But I expect I was always going to find it a tad disappointing. Last year; I got to shoot them at The Royal Albert Hall I just don’t think can be topped. That said they played their own material, it was actually them, they had their own MC and I got better pictures than I had the previous year. Probably shouldn’t complain. They were good to watch, they also have a Sigma flag, they quite literally like to fly, taking it in turns to come to the front of the stage and wave it.

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Closing the Saturday was the DJ; Marshmello, with his Technicolor, marshmallow themed light show. Glasses were handed out to enhance the experience (it was a filter which diffracted the light). Best described by one of the escorts on the Sunday as the ‘best wedding DJ ever’, he would play some big hits, and then play something a bit more cheesy, the biggest crowd reaction coming from the Venga Boys.

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Then on the Sunday the rain came… And stayed… and then left… but came back… It rained A LOT. By the time I arrived the ground had turned to mud. Most people preferred the Sunday lineup (selling out far in advance of Saturday which sold out a few days before), the rain obviously kept people away… but those who came their spirits definitely weren’t dampened. Pun definitely intended.

Come on, it’s England in August, if it doesn’t bucket it down at a festival it’s not the proper festival experience!). That said SW4 is both better and worse geared up for this compared to other festivals I’ve attended. Four out of the five stages are tents. BUT getting between the stages etc.. well, next year if the forecast is rain, I’m bringing wellies!

Opening the Sunday for me was Craig David. I was born in the 90s (I remember Bo’Selecta and the early noughties). The chance to shoot Craig David just couldn’t be passed up. The rain didn’t deter peoples spirits, having a decent sized crowd for a monsoon, not being put out he was full of life DJ-ing, MC-ing and singing (pretty much how you’d imagine a Craig David performance to be). Performing his own hits including Re-Rewind it was easily a highlight of the weekend. In fact it’s hard to join in from the press put when you hear ‘re-rewind when the crowd says Bo (Selecta)’.

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Sunday brought along several more live acts through out the day including; Stef Lon Don, Lethal Bizzle and the highly entertaining Big Narstie.

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Just like Sigma the previous day, Basement Jaxx were a disappointment. I’ve seen them live a couple of times and they’re amazing. This was another DJ set and just wasn’t comparable to the real deal, especially considering their back catalogue. They didn’t even have their sassy singers/MCs; replaced with dancers and at least whilst I was there, there was nothing in the way of crowd interaction. A big shame. That said, if you get the chance to see a proper performance by Basement Jaxx. GO.

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Closing the weekend was Chase & Status and the returning rain. I do love a bit of drum’n’bass, and have seen Chase & Status numerous times. They never disappoint. In fact they were one of the first bands I ever got to shoot. It was so long ago they brought Plan B out before anyone really knew who he was! Playing both old tracks and new, shooting, whilst having a bit of rave in a security pit, in the rain and the mud on a Sunday with a bank holiday the next day. Priceless.

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One difference of this compared to other festivals I’ve attended the artists will happily have a walk round and come to the barrier after their sets to meet fans and pose for selfies. One of the escorts noticed Jax Jones walking around and went and said hello, MK decided to try out my step, I had to ask Example to excuse me so I could get to the pit and Marshmello was happily walking round in his full regalia. I can’t remember this at V Festival (all I did was bump into people from school!)

I think I did this last year (but I’m on the train home writing this with very patchy internet so I can’t check) a special thanks to the lovely media escorts taking us from stage to stage. These guys spent their weekends taking photographers to the various stages. But they were always happy and obliging. Even having a rave during Andy C. They definitely helped make the weekend for me.

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SW4 catered to all dance music fans. There was house, trance, drum’n’bass, djs, live sets, MCs, lasers, pyros, lights, inside, outside, and various other stimuli to suit all persuasions. If you enjoy a dance/rave, spending your Friday nights in your local club, a holiday in Ibiza or just enjoy the music then I highly recommend.

Despite the rain (I’m English I love a moan especially about the weather) was a brilliant weekend with some top acts. I look forward to next year!

See the full photoset from SW4 Festival 2018 here.

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