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Sunfall's problems can't ruin its ambition

15 August 2017, 12:46

Sunfall is a tale of two-parts, the contrast shown throughout the programming; between the bright, love-filled sounds of disco, hip hop and house - and the dark, hypnotic techno rhythms.

As a nation the British are obsessed with the weather, and this obsession kicks into overdrive throughout the festival season. In the week running up to Sunfall I am no different. I am constantly checking my phone to see if my long-serving emergency poncho needs resurrecting from the back of my wardrobe. Luckily, there is no need, the sun gods are smiling down on London as I head to Brockwell Park, south London.

The first stop as we head into the site is to see one of Detroit’s underground pioneers, Theo Parrish. Parrish’s skills as a DJ are well documented, with his name being whispered for decades throughout dance music folklore. Parrish is the only DJ given a four-hour slot throughout the day, a clear sign of the respect that he has garnered throughout his career. He takes the crowd through a wide variety of his influences; from jazz, house, techno, disco and other rare oddities. As we walk into the tent in the early afternoon, Parrish is taking no prisoners, and he is an absolute joy to watch. He is constantly dancing, smiling and laughing with members of the crowd. His love of the music radiates into the audience, keeping the dancers’ feet constantly moving.

As we walk out into the sunlight towards the main stage, another legend graces the stage. Roy Ayers walks out and begins with his classic track “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”. There couldn’t be a more perfect soundtrack. He may be getting a bit long-in-the-tooth these days, but he shows no signs of slowing down. His set is littered with the distinctive sound of his iconic vibraphone. His band are a troop of tight musicians, bringing some much-needed funk and soul to proceedings – not forgetting some seriously groovy basslines.

The funk and soul love-in continues as Motor City Drum Ensemble follows Ayers with a set filled with rare disco. Another selector known for his crate digging and curation expertise, he is a global fan favourite, with musos across the world mining his sets for hidden gems. He blends from disco into more heavy-hitting house, but loses the crowd slightly – the joyful dancing turning into sedate head-nodding – only to turn it back around with another track laden with horns and euphoric strings.

With so many great artists clashing on several stages in the final few hours of the day, I find myself flitting between tents and tactical toilet visits. I quickly dive into one of the tents to see the technical wizardry of Ben UFO. After recently leaving the Dekmantel crowd picking their jaws off the floor with his recent closing set, I thought it only right to check out his daring, innovative style. Then it was on to see the The Black Madonna [pictured above]. After carving her herself a reputation over the past few years as being at the forefront of house and techno, the tent is packed with revellers ready to be blown away. For me though, the sound was slightly lost in such a large venue, possibly because of strict noise restrictions – a constant thorn in the side of every inner-city event.

Whilst running around the festival I sadly miss Floating Points on the main stage. Apparently taking a rare dive into his back catalogue, Sam Shepherd played his game-changing anthem “Vacuum Boogie” live, alongside favourites from his Shadows EP.

Last but not least was Chicago house icon, Larry Heard aka Mr Fingers. Billed as his first appearance in London for 20 years, this was an unmissable performance. Previewing new music from his upcoming album, you couldn’t help but have a smile on your face as he showcased his trademark, classic house sound. Heard took electronic music back to its roots, and brought south London along for the ride.

It must be said that Sunfall didn’t go ahead without its problems, with numbers of complaints across social media due to huge queues to get into the festival, sound restrictions, and buzz-killing waiting times to get a drink. Sunfall is a festival in its infancy, with 2017 only its second roll of the dice. If they can iron out their problems and keep attracting the DJs and artists they have been doing, Sunfall could have a home in London for years to come.

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