South West Four (SW4) Festival, London – Sunday 27 August 2017

Posted by Gig Junkies on Sunday Aug 27, 2017 Under Dance, Festivals

Review and photography by Michael Sibbons.

The weather was glorious as us Gig Junkies headed into the Big Smoke to South West Four (or SW4). Named after the postcode of the South West of London that Clapham sits in, a two day festival, a stones throw from central London on Clapham Common, with some of the biggest names in dance music.  I was lucky enough to head on down for the Sunday.

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Now in its fourteenth year, over the last few years SW4 has welcomed the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Eric Prydz, Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx and Skrillex. This year had a stellar lineup with the likes of Deadmau5, Sigma and Pendulum’s first UK live set in several years.

Less of a festival and more of a nightclub in a field. With the various rooms you’d expect from a top nightclub to be their own independent stage. Even the tent names are reminiscent of this; Ministry of Sound, Amnesia, The Gallery and B-Traits (named after two London clubs, an Ibiza club and a DJ).

B-Traits

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As you’d expect from a ‘nightclub in a field’ the lineup was pretty much solely DJs, with some of the bigger live acts reserved for the main stages, giving us the likes of Redlight, Martin Solveig and Knife Party. There were a few live acts scattered amongst them, but they were few and far between.

The first proper live act of the day was Example performing alongside DJ Wire. Bounding onto the stage, full of life wearing a pair of mirrored shades before performing his lineup of hits to the crowd. A welcome break from the steady tide of DJs before him.

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Sub Focus also performed live. But I wouldn’t call it live in the traditional sense. Sitting in the middle of his own rig. With a hype man bouncing about working on the crowd. It was a bit disappointing to be their early to shoot it, the sun was starting to set but it was still bright not giving us at the time the full effect of rig. But later on when the sun had started to disappear, the full effect of the lighting rig could be experienced.

Sub Focus

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Then we come to the main act. The reason I’m guessing most of the crowd were there. Deadmau5. Starting his set behind a black curtain performing atop a giant glowing cube, doubling as a screen, the light and sound is exactly what you would have expected from a massive international dance act. After the first few songs we were introduced to version 2.0 of Deadmau5. The giant mouse ears came off, to be replaced by a gigantic 3D virtual version broadcast on his cube.

Deadmau5

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Now the problem with reviewing a festival like this is the many DJs on the various stages ended up rolling into on. This is why I pretty much stuck with the main stage. I ventured to the other stages, saw the pretty light shows, took some pictures and headed out. On a police style lineup for the most I would honestly struggle to identify which act was which, either by their photo or a soundbite. If you can successfully distinguish between the different varieties of House, then each tent may be different to you, otherwise unless you recognised the name of a particular DJ you wanted to see, it felt like you could choose a tent and stay there for the day.

Yotto

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There is definitely one exception to this rule though. I give you Carl Craig Versus Synthesiser Ensemble Live. I stumbled upon them by accident whilst grabbing some lunch (goat curry, no festival for me would be complete without it). Carl Craig is an American music producer/DJ considered one of the most important names in the ‘Detroit second generation of techno musicians’.

Carl Craig Presents

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Bringing his latest project, ‘Versus’ to the stage, aiming to create a hybrid combining electronic, Techno elements with a live, classical orchestra. Performing with five musicians, one on a baby grand, the other four on synthesizers the beat the sound gradually built and intensified. No vocals. No stopping. Sadly I had a prior engagement at the main stage meaning I had to leave shortly after they started. But after finishing, I returned for the rest of their set, successfully dragging several photographers back with me. I strongly suggest searching for them on Youtube. It’s really hard to describe the sound and really worth a listen. They were by far my favourite act of the day.

Laidback Luke

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During one of the acts in the tent we noticed a guy enthusiastically dancing to himself. Usually you would think, hey, it’s a guy having a good time. But then people started coming up to him. Turns out this guy is Bradley Gunn. The sober raver. An Asperger’s sufferer who turned to raving to boost his confidence. In his own words he likes to spread happiness by posting his videos on social media. It works! His moves will probably inspire you and make you envious! Check him out and put a smile on your face.

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Taking up a large chunk of London’s Clapham common, the festival site feels really compact, taking only a few minutes to walk from one side to another, but it somehow fits a main stage, four tents, various bars, eateries and all the other associated rides and stands you’d expect at a music festival. Something I did find interesting and nicer than the other festivals I’ve frequented though, the eateries were not the main pile it high cheap catering vans you expect at outdoor events like this. One food stall was even selling homemade quiche!

Being in central London meant it gave excellent transport links, with two tube stops right outside. Also being London, the fact that there was a festival taking up the majority of the park didn’t phase anyone, the locals just kept calm and carried on. Whilst inside was a rave, the park outside the was being utilised by people carrying out their usual summer Sundays; walking their dogs, enjoying the sun, even playing some basketball right outside the backstage entrance!

Come the end of the evening the party didn’t when the festival finished though. There were various after parties (aptly named South West More) at some of London’s biggest clubs and featured DJ sets of some of the live acts of the weekend. No doubt going on until the small hours.

If a Friday night for you involves dressing up, doing your hair and makeup, hitting the town, then probably stumbling home in the small hours via the kebab shop, this is definitely the festival for you. If  you prefer a festival to be a bit more varied, maybe a chance to discover some new music, see some classics or actually have artists performing live rather than sitting on the decks then perhaps House of Common; a one day festival (hosted by Madness) the following day would be more you cup of tea. Personally, I loved SW4. I even got a kebab (sober) on the way home, I’m looking forward to next year and hope to go back!

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Check out more great photos from SW4 in our Flickr album

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