The August bank holiday weekend is one of the most anticipated in the events calendar, clubbers being spoiled for choice with parties and festivals taking place across the country. South West Four was our destination, the dance music festival that takes its name from its London postcode returning to Clapham Common with an incredible line-up of talent spread across five stages. The two-day festival has become a ritual for us in recent years and when the stages were announced we weren't going to break with tradition. The Amnesia stage on the Sunday prompted the most interest with the leading figures of the greatest parties on Ibiza playing on the same stage together for the first time at a UK festival. Another artist that we were excited to see perform was Deadmau5, back in London for the first time in three years with a brand new album and stunning production levels guaranteed.
Arriving at Clapham North we were greeted by the rare London sunshine, for months we have been hearing that winter is coming but summer arrived this weekend. We made our way up towards the festival and filtered through the entrance where enhanced searches were in place due to the current security climate. Once inside, Elvis Presley’s 'Can't Help Falling in Love' caught our attention from the main stage. An unusual choice for a dance festival but only fools rush in with a closing set in the opening stages.
We headed over to the Gallery Arena, which was returning to Clapham Common following last year’s hiatus for the night’s 22nd birthday celebrations. The arena was already packed, which was no surprise as Paul Oakenfold was the selector on the decks with his high-energy trance working the crowd who responded with their approval. The Amnesia stage was next on the agenda, Berlin-based techno duo Pan-Pot were in control with their ominous sound accompanied with Star Wars visuals. Truly taking the crowd to the dark side and unleashing the full force of their repertoire.
Radio 1 resident B-Traits, responsible for delivering sounds of the future, had curated a fascinating selection of forward-thinking artists on her stage. We headed over to experience Carl Craig presents Versus Synthesizer Ensemble, with the Detroit native being joined by five musicians to convert his album into a captivating live performance. ‘Darkness’ with its brass fanfare sounded epic, with its impending tone bearing down on us like an alien invasion. After our close encounter we headed to the main stage area to watch Example + DJ Wire with their high-octane set fusing together various club anthems.
Sven Väth was next on the Amnesia stage, the German techno heavyweight with a career spanning three decades performing to a capacity arena. With oscillating tones and driving tech basslines, Papa Sven continues to be a pioneer and innovator of the scene. I enjoyed hearing Metodi Hristov’s ‘Helicopter’ being played, dancing with vigour to the break-neck pace of the track. The Following stage was our next destination, Eric Morello performing a sophisticated set with lush sounds combined with escalating vocals.
Afterwards we caught up with some friends before heading back to the Amnesia stage for The Martinez Brothers. The duo have emerged as leaders of the scene with their versatility and ability to guide the crowd. Their set was full of energy, delivering dark, raw grooves and stripped down techno. Headlining the stage was Marco Carola, known for his marathon sets and Music On parties which are hugely popular on the White Isle. The revered producer and label owner lives and breathes the night, with his uncompromising brand of techno being an education in underground music for those gathered on Clapham Common. The bank holiday Sunday finished with Deadmau5 returning to the mainstage with his Cube 2.1 setup which is an incredible feat of creativity and engineering. Deadmau5 (real name Joel Zimmerman) was visible above the LED structure with the stage synchronised to compliment the artists setlist. ‘Mau5 Dance’ displayed animation featuring Deadmau5’s trademark mouse head, whilst ‘No Problem’ was played with visuals from the Rocket League video game. Deamau5 closed with ‘Strobe’ with its hypnotising, slow-building melody seamlessly interacting with the Cube 2.1 visuals for a memorable finale.
Photos courtesy of Graham Joy