In 2015, South West Four had, for the first time ever, an extra stage with a line up that promised so much that adding another stage seemed a no brainer. While Saturday’s offering would later gain mixed reviews about sound quality, Sunday was a well honed affair with all the usual suspects turning in polished sets to hundreds of bass hungry ravers.
The balance in House, Techno and Drum ‘n’ Bass is what makes SW4 better value for money than Groove Armada’s Lovebox – which, this year, seemed to have become unsure whether it wants to embrace a more commercial approach with its nail art stalls and La Di Da Cupcakes, or stick to its Dance music origins. Its growing appeal and attendance numbers put it at risk of going the Wireless route, so for now we’ve not written it off – it’s just on suicide watch.
Late afternoon saw Basement Jaxx take to the main outdoor stage, they are multi talented instrumentalists that produced some of the best loved dance/commercial crossover hits of the 90s and 00s. And they were on home turf for Carnival weekend. They brought the stage show, a kind of eccentric performance that baffled some in the crowd.
The ballerinas, the head dresses, the costumes and extended intro to “Where’s Your Head At” had a few walking off to find something they could better understand, as they were obviously not getting the carnival vibe. But hearing them perform “Bingo Bango” to a packed crowd on a day that was meant to be pouring rain is how we imagine all Bank Holidays to be. Keeping the balance between old and new, they flitted from greatest hits to current catalogue with Never Say Never also getting immaculate vocal treatment.
Andy C was on point as always guiding a bunch of excitable bass fiends through an expertly curated set, he is to D’n’B what EZ is becoming – that reliable kind of no nonsense DJ that draws crowds time and time again because they always deliver. These are DJs that can take you from ‘not really feeling this’ to ‘oh s**t I love this song’ in about 2 or 3 hand picked tunes.
Joined by Sigma, it was the kind of upfront, rude-boy blend that makes you wonder what’s going on at Innovation In the Sun these days. Despite being called upon to sprinkle riddims on everyone from Paloma Faith to Ella Henderson since their crossover hit with Ella Eyre, they proved they still know what the festival crowd want – a well paced, bass heavy set that makes Drum’n’Bass ravers so much fun to bubble with.
SW4’s only misstep on Sunday was underestimating the size of DJ EZ’s following, some how they overlooked the fact that he is a DJ that can command an entire rave on his own as he did back in May last year during a stonking 8 hour offering in London’s Indigo O2. Now, although the sound couldn’t be faulted, the ‘Together’ tent in which he played was the wrong place for EZ. He could easily have filled the equally busy RAM tent, so enjoying DJ EZ on Sunday basically meant going to a Notting Hill Carnival Simulation arena.
It meant people choosing your dancing room for their pathway, it meant sweaty topless men, it meant that backpack hitting you in the side again. Once the crowd had thinned out a bit following EZ, Mistajam took to the decks followed by Example, but it wasn’t until Oliver Heldens took to the decks that the evening party was well and truly in full swing – with some of his latest tracks, Heldens had the ‘Together’ tent properly jumping.
There isn’t enough room here for me to go into the other great sets Sunday had on offer but honourable mentions have to go to Dense & Pika, Deetron and Sub Focus. SW4 remains one of the best ways to close Festival season in London, before the inevitable winter runs of The Warehouse Project and Bristol’s In:Motion. So the countdown is on until next year. Sign up for South West Four 2016 here.
Words by Akua Ofei