London – generally speaking – doesn’t have the best reputation for its already countless but still growing roster of festivals. Common complaints are directed toward poor sound-systems, overpriced food and drink, over-the-top security, and a general lack of curatorial attention to detail.
Being a collaborative project from the imperial force of quality-controlled nightlife that is The Colombo Group (XOYO, The Nest, Phonox, Jazz Cafe, Old Queens Head et al…) and NVS who run Outlook and Dimensions, there was a strong possibility that Sunfall, with its mouth-wateringly concise lineup might be a little different…
Upon arrival, the Brilliant Corners VIP zone presented itself with a beautifully composed teepee to house its audiophile sound haven; a tranquil and tastefully decorated hangout with blissful ambient vibes, perfect to ease one into to an intensely hedonistic afternoon.
Entering the sight, the main stage presented itself with a sound rig that was close to being as good as it gets in an outdoor setting; quality audio, thankfully, was in place throughout the site. The formidable New York party duo Mister Saturday Night were on duty at this time blending wonky house, disco-driven R’n’B, with even a couple of titty shakers to pave the way for Kamasi Washington, one of just two cherry-picked live bands on the programme.
The Brainfeeder sax god kicked into a barnstorming rendition of his debut album’s opener ‘Change of the Guard‘ which developed into a lavish brit-funk style jam, dropping the jaws of his audience all round. Washington poignantly introduced his father Ricky to take up flute duties for ‘Henrietta Our Hero‘, and via a hefty Don Cherry’esque jazz-rock session, he ended his triumphant set on the gorgeous ‘Leroy & Lanisha‘. Such a rapturous and gleeful response from the audience proved that Kamasi is seriously on to a great feat, like Robert Glasper and like not many others, in enticing other scenes of music into loving real jazz.
A testament to the programmers’ commitment to spanning as much of dance music’s spectrum of quality as possible, is that after the aforementioned spiritual jazz concert it was time for a spot of dubstep at the South Stage where Digital Mystikz, it’s safe to say were slaying their dancefloor – literally bouncing and shrieking with arms waving – South London style.
This was a short and sweet pit stop though as Moodymann, always impossible to resist, beckoned back at the mainstage. KDJ was up to his usual tricks, with his ‘what up doe’s, complimentary vodka shots, and his usual multi-faceted crate of party tunes. Jesse Gould’s anthemic disco classic ‘Out of Work‘ lead the way to doses of acidic techno, via some silken deep house, and finally paving the way for Benji B with a touch of jazz-funk, which somehow felt completely apt blaring out to a large outdoor arena.
Joy Orbison & Job Jobse delivered a crowd-pleasing set with their backs to an impressive laser-heavy light rig at the North Stage. Highlights included an alternate take of Lil Louis’ ‘French Kiss‘, a remix of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy‘, climaxing with MD Express’ ever eruptive ‘God Made Me Phunky‘.
This paved the way for the almighty Detroitian Omar-S who stated his case notching up the volume several decibels for his headline stretch of soul driven house. ‘Here’s Your Trance Now Dance‘ and ‘Seen Was Set‘ were warmly received but the peak was reached at the drop of Ron Trent’s canonical ‘Altered States‘, which preceded a rather anti-climactic end where the stage management for reasons unknown pulled the plug with still two minutes to go before curfew. Nonetheless this wasn’t to tarnish an excellent day of underground partying in London. This is a London festival ticking far more boxes than most.