To say it has been a busy year for Hospital Records is a complete understatement. From opening the year with a memorable show at London’s acclaimed Printworks nightclub, to the return of Hospitality In The Dock and the introduction of brand new festivals in Shockout and Hospitality on The Beach - it has well and truly been a year of triumphs for Hospital. But it must not be forgotten where this incredible festival-hosting journey began - Hospitality In The Park. In 2016, the label signalled a message of intent to the world through the introduction of their first one day festival. Taking place in Finsbury Park, the festival represented not only a significant achievement for Hospital itself, but an iconic milestone in the history of drum and bass, as the first DnB label to host a festival of their own.
Now three years deep into its journey as one of London’s beloved annual day time parties, Hospitality In The Park returned to its Finsbury Park home with its most ambitious production yet - featuring a roster of artists replicating the mammoth scale of Hospital’s ventures.
From special b2b sets in Alix Perez & Monty, Mefjus b2b Calyx & Teebee and LSB b2b Spectrasoul, to a phenomenal High Contrast live show and an album launch celebration with Danny Byrd. Hospitality In The Park had it all. Jungle, liquid, jump up, dance floor, rollers, bassline - there was an abundance of musical styles on display.
This year saw a new stage addition in Outlook, alongside familiar returning labels and event brands including Let It Roll, Main Squeeze, and a unique partnership between RUN and Invaderz. The Runvaderz stage, which was colourfully designed with red and yellow ribbons lining the ceiling like a circus tent, drew much attention in the early part of the afternoon with the introduction of a new super, super group (If that even is possible…) as Kings of The Rollers and the Shadow Demon Coalition joined forces to create Kings of The Shadows.
Sounding like some kind of mysterious group arising from Tekken, this set had been talked about for months in advance, and it felt like the whole festival was trying to cram into this tiny tent. Who can blame them when the mix-cutting combination of hard-hitting jump up and gritty rollers were continuously providing devastating bass blows.
Across the way, the dulcet sounds of liquid could be heard trying to battle against the dominating heavy bass stabs, as it seeped through the boarded walkway of the towering Med School Warehouse opposite. Another unique combination was laying down their Hospitality gauntlet.
Image courtesy of Jake Davis
It could only mean one thing - LSB, the man who sent the warehouse into meltdown last year after his set drew a crowd so big it provoked a snaking queue sprawling across the site, where many were left dejected at not being able to gain entry. But this time was different. Not only was he taking part in a dreamy liquid combination with Spectrasoul, the warehouse had also been upgraded to an XL version - a revitalised space accommodating a greater number of people, whilst still embodying the characteristics of a murky, darkened club.
Murky is the best word to describe how LSB and Spectrasoul’s set played out, as the two of them proceeded to tease the crowd by mixing blissful liquid with sudden heavy rollers, prompting raucous appreciation from the audience.
On numerous occasions DRS reiterated - ‘It’s okay to be yourselves Hospitality, it’s a family affair’ - a statement perfectly summing up the underlying ethos of Hospitality - where at every event the crowd feels connected to one another, along with the DJs and the label itself.
I couldn't help but feel like on this occasion everyone was even more connected than usual, as constantly throughout the day familiar faces from Hospitality on The Beach would crop up and mini reunions would ensue. That’s the Hospitality appeal - once you’re hooked you find yourself attending every big event, constantly reconnecting with the same people.
One of the new additions to this year’s festival was a Beach Reunion stage, which was designed like the ocean-side one at Hospitality on The Beach - prompting even more nostalgia through transporting those in the know back to the sun-basked stage in the beautiful Adriatic ocean. However, this was a miserably wet and muddy Finsbury Park… But did anyone care? Definitely not.
The perfect moment summing up the careless spirit of the crowd happened whilst walking past the Outlook stage - with Rozalla’s euphoric ‘Everybody’s Free’ playing as people outside the tent proceeded to skid and slide on their fronts through the sludgy mud with beaming smiles on their faces. With the likes of Dillinja, Foreign Beggars and Goldie taking to the Outlook stage throughout the day, it’s no surprise as to why everyone here seemed so happy.
On the other side of the festival, the familiar rounded structure of the Let It Roll tent returned again this year. And like usual, it was completely packed from start to finish to witness performances from the likes of Black Sun Empire, Circuits and Noisia. But this time the Czech giants had brought an entirely new stage concept with the UK premiere of their Portal Show.
Image courtesy of Jake Davis
With a large circular screen illuminating the back of the stage, the portal was at times mesmerising with various animations popping up on screen, whilst the sound of heavy neuro combined with funky rhythms provided a more than adequate backing track.
The UK launch of the Portal Show was a fitting stage for what was about to come - Ed Rush & Optical celebrating 20 years of Virus and an exclusive b2b between Mefjus and Calyx & Teebee.
With the rain pouring down outside, crowds flooded into the Let It Roll tent for the latter set, as the three DJs went b2b on two different deck setups. It was a very relaxed and rather impromptu DJ set, with both acts letting one another carry on playing when they felt the other was in a good moment of the mix. It just felt natural - how a b2b should be.
Over at the Hospitality tent there was a completely different bustling party atmosphere throughout the entire afternoon with the likes of Logistics, Krakota and S.P.Y taking to stage. But it was Metrik and Dynamite MC who really had the crowd roaring, as Metrik reeled through the Hospital classics. He had the crowd so pumped that at one point of the set a girl ran on stage and proceeded to skank with Dynamite whilst he told her to ‘enjoy this moment’.
One of the stand out moments of the Hospitality tent came from High Contrast’s highly anticipated live show. Last year this tent was blessed by two incredible live performances from the London Elektricity Big Band and Fred V & Grafix, so there were big expectations resting on the shoulders of one of Hospital’s longest serving signees.
Image courtesy of Gary Jones
As an artist who is inundated with classics, it was always going to be a question of which tracks would he pick, not how good would the performance be… Stepping onto stage with a Cheshire Cat-like grin, him and his ensemble produced one of the most energetic and euphoric performances of the festival.
With each track seamlessly blending together like a mix, and classics such as ‘Days Go By’ and ‘If We Ever’ being unleashed on the crowd - where even the Unglued remix of the latter track was surprisingly mixed in - this live performance was one to remember.
It was High Contrast’s goosebump-inducing rendition of the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’ that brought an end to the set and provoked a particularly emotional response from the crowd. There’s something unbelievably magical about hearing live DnB like this.
Whether it was the powerful vocalists blaring harmonies and putting fresh twists on tracks, or the new horn addition to High Contrast’s live show that had the crowd going crazy during his solo on ‘Who’s Loving You’. Everything tied together to create an outstanding musical spectacle.
It was difficult to pull yourself away from the Hospitality tent when the atmosphere and the music were both on such a high level. Even when you did leave, the stage seemed to have its own gravitational pull, luring crowds back in with the sound of feel good melodies and iconic lyrics.
Image courtesy of Jake Davis
This was particularly the case when London Elektricity stepped up next with Degs - a combination that only began at Hospitality Bristol in October 2017, but one that has flourished over the course of a year into a beloved staple of the events brand.
One of the reasons for this is the unique chemistry they ooze on stage, which in turn creates great entertainment for the audience. Whether it was Tony singing to and dancing with a rubber chicken during Inja’s ‘She Just Wanna Dance’, or Tony accidentally pulling the wrong USBs out so Danny Byrd couldn’t start his set on time… It was a hilarious experience throughout.
But despite this, there was a rather emotional message relayed during the set. As Degs’ single ‘Poveglia’ played - the song that has become an internet sensation through videos of babies reacting to the sound of it - the music faded down and Degs relayed an important message to the crowd regarding a friend who recently took his own life, emphasising how everyone needed to look out for those around them. It was a sincere, heartfelt moment - one prompting eruptive appreciation for Degs. Hospitality is a family, one that always stays united in the darkest times.
As the festival drew to a close, the headache of who to see as the closing set ensued… DBridge b2b Nu:Tone & SP:MC in the Med School Warehouse, Danny Byrd on main stage, Noisia closing the Let It Roll Portal Show, Goldie bringing proceedings to an end in Outlook. Each year this festival presents the same amazing, but equally dreaded conclusion…
But there was one particular gem that could not be overlooked - Grooverider performing a unique Blue Note set alongside Cleveland Watkiss in the We Love Jungle tent. This was a special occasion - one taking the crowd back in time to the origins of the genre, where Grooverider first made a name for himself as a pioneer.
Harping back to the 200 capacity Blue Note nightclub in London’s Hoxton Square, which was a former jazz club, Blue Note represents the foundations of Metalheadz, and is considered to be the time when Grooverider was reborn as a DJ - turning up every Sunday with an artillery of fresh dubs. To hear these unleashed last weekend triggered an extremely nostalgic response from the older heads in the crowd, alongside a valuable education for the younger ones. It was a truly iconic moment in the history of Hospitality In the park - one bringing the festival to a close in style.
Despite festival season packing away for another year, it doesn't stop here for Hospitality. Next up are the winter club nights, with the events brand returning to its Bristol home of Motion on October 26th for one of the picks of the calendar.
For more Hospitality events, check out the events listed below!
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