Review: South West Four Festival

By Carly Hacon

During the late August bank holiday weekend there’s a multitude of different festivals you can attend – if you didn’t turn up this year then don’t worry because I’m here to tell you why SW4 should be your pick next summer.

During the late August bank holiday weekend there’s a multitude of different festivals you can attend – if you didn’t turn up this year then don’t worry because I’m here to tell you why SW4 should be your pick next summer.

The London festival is situated in the historic grounds of Clapham Common and every year the capital’s party people roll out in their thousands to attend, with no idea how the unpredictable British weather will go. But, what they do know for sure is, that they are guaranteed a belter of a time.

On my way to the festival, it is clear to see that the party started way before entering the site as Clapham high street is filled with plenty of tinnies, neon accessories and a tonne of glitter. Unlike last year, the sun was on the city’s side and dance music fans flooded into the site as a sea of electric colours and smiling faces.

As an avid festival fan, SW4 has always been one of the smoothest running with staff and fellow ravers working together, bringing community spirit to the heart of London. In its 16th year, the festival shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon as the headliners build an unrivalled line-up which makes it difficult for any dance music fan to turn down. To rival the colossal main stage’s killer set list there were four tents to flit between with an abundance of food vans and bars to cater to any taste and dietary requirement.

The Saturday line-up was full of EDM artists with a strong US and European dance scene influence, bringing the likes of Martin Garrix, Tchami, Armand Van Helden and Jauz. On this scorching Saturday, the crowds mimicked that of mass Las Vegas’ Electronic Daisy Carnival where shufflers and sequins were out in full force.

The highlight of the day for me was Idris Elba’s set at the Ministry of Sound Stage – the atmosphere included an incredible use of strobe and general lighting effects and flame throwers to get the crowd going. In the true spirit of weird and wonderful British festivals, the crowd were passing around inflatable pineapples which I think Idris seemed to find amusing.

Alongside this, meeting American DJ and EDM producer, Jauz, before his b2b set with Holy Goof, was also a memorable moment. Headlining the Together x BITE THIS stage, he was very excited and raring to get behind the decks for his third time playing at SW4.

Commenting on the day, Jauz said: ”What is so special about this festival is it’s in the centre of London, not like other festivals which are in the middle of nowhere. It’s my third time, it’s always sunny so the vibe is good, and you can go out for a bite to eat after or go to a bar and it’s all just right there.

“I’ve got a lot of memories here, last year it was raining and chucking it down but this year the sun’s out and people are in good spirits. It’s great to see such big names here and share the festival with so many other great artists.”

At the main stage, Martin Garrix closed the day with an astonishing set with amazing displays of fireworks which shot up during his opener.

Overall, I thought it was a well-run and light-hearted day which felt easy going in comparison to the Sunday where everyone brought their bass faces. Personally, I treated the Saturday as a kind of warm up act for the following day which featured a line-up which could have been sprung from one of my dreams, including drum and bass pioneers Pendulum, Andy C, Wilkinson and Chase and Status and Shy FX all creating carnage.

The first act I saw was Shy Fx, who brought delight to a full crowd of mainstage admirers, with special guest appearances from Lily Allen and Original Nuttah legend, Abdul Wahab Lafta. The crowd erupted both times as the unannounced legends graced the stage to perform their collaborations.

Also here to play for “about the tenth time” was Andy C, who has many times been hailed the king of dnb – and I’m definitely not one to disagree with this statement. Sitting backstage with the man himself, he explained to me why SW4 is a crucial component for his summer festival schedule. He said: “For me it’s home, I know so many people that are coming down today and they do South West Four every year.

“I treat it a little bit differently because it’s London so the tune selection is a bit different. Obviously the vibe today in the sun will be amazing – I hope everyone has drunk enough water because it’s going to get a bit rowdy.”

And rowdy it was – Andy C ramped up the main stage hitting the crowds with high energy straight away with tracks Heartbeat Loud and Back and Forth. Mid-set, best pal and MC Tonn Piper was able to hydrate the die-hard fans in the front row by kindly chucking out water bottles. Just as you thought you were getting a breather, he brought out his mix of Urban Dawn’s Come Together which erupted the crowd once again. I don’t know what was more surreal, watching one of my fave acts minutes after interviewing them or realising there was a Storm Trooper bopping next to me (a guy dressed as one anyway)…

To contrast this, I then went to see Congo Natty who opened their set with Bob Marley’s – Don’t Worry Be Happy. This instantly lifted everyone’s mood and left the crowd grinning from ear to ear with the arms wrapped around their neighbour. The air was thick with communal spirit and the warm haze of the crowd rose up and out of the tent, flowing alongside the vibrations of steel drums which drew in passers-by who were having a mid-fest rest.

The day also consisted of a rare live performance from Wilksinon showcasing his latest album, which featured vocals Karen Harding and old favourites such as After glow and Take You Higher. I left this set with a euphoric feeling and a week on I still keep reminiscing the moments where I looked back out to the beautiful scene of the sun setting and a besotted crowd. It was definitely a musical moment to keep in the locker.

After this, I needed a well-earned breather to truly absorb the post-set elation – so we headed over to the VIP area to the cocktail van. We enjoyed these on boujee seating in a beautiful marquee which looked like something from Aladdin.

As darkness approached and the day drew closer to an end, there was one last performance left which everyone was eagerly awaiting – Pendulum (Trinity Live). Not only did this performance end SW4 for another fabulous year, but it topped it off better than I’d even imagined. Having seen a Pendulum DJ set the year before at We are Fstvl, I thought I knew what to expect but with live vocals from Rob Swire, it was a whole new level of wow. The best song of the set for me had to be my fave – Witchcraft. Pendulum introduced it very slowly and gradually built up to the drop – in these moments phone lights illuminated the grounds in the hope of fans catching the moment of madness on camera where the main drop took over.

You know you had a good time when you’re trundling home discussing your favourite moments and already agreeing to save the date again for next year. So, I would like to say thanks South West Four for giving me the most memorable day of the summer. I will one hundred percent be returning in 2020, because after all who can really say no to drum and bass on their door step?

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