On paper, and on previous performance, Sunfall 2017 was assured to be one the most necessary dates in the festival calendar. Showcasing the very best of dance and hip-hop underground, with a real community feel, including the likes of The Black Madonna, Jay Electronica, Move D, and Madlib.
Being at Eastern Electrics festival last weekend, my tolerance for queuing was pushed to its absolute limit with a two-and-a-half-hour wait – this time around, despite myself being granted backstage access, many attendees had the start of their day unacceptably truncated. Alongside receiving texts from the outside stating that queues were approximately three hours long, and getting to quite dangerous safety levels, I found myself facing further serious queues just to buy booze for my friends to soften their pain (and that’s even at the VIP bar).
|Photo from Twitter: @ieattothebeat|
Luckily for them, not much really happened in the opening couple of hours. Romare flirted with his live set, bringing some early smoothed out funk in the sunshine - the set seemingly too neat, and didn’t really get the crowd going too much. Similarly, Roy Ayers seemed rather passionless and going through the motions. On the other hand, an undeniable success was Theo Parrish. Outwardly drunk, either on excitement or booze (who can blame him, his set was 4 hours long), his selection of funk and wacky disco edits oozed confidence and were even heard over on the main stage at many points (e.g. with Outkast – SpottieOttieDopaliscious). Tirelessly and typically, he worked on the EQs like a flair bartender.
It was now (circa 4.30pm) for the first time that Sunfall 2017 was seeming like a proper festival; where the echoes of overcrowding and queueing were beginning to subside. People were enjoying themselves, as the sun came out, as if it all had never happened - despite the constant onslaught to organisers on social media for refunds. Maybe that was down to the dreamy pairing of Palms Trax b2b Antal. Sound systems aside (I was actually disappointed by this stage’s system, considering the praise the festival gets), the effortless nature of the duo brought one of the best reactions to the day – with punters relentlessly dancing throughout. After taking in the sunshine, and checking out the record fair, Motor City Drum Ensemble kicked off in the background. Despite being described as a DJ who never really leaves his comfort zone, his main stage set worked its way through classic disco anthems to acid house back to euphoric cuts, including the likes of Moodymann’s ‘Don’t You Want My Love’.
Highlights elsewhere saw Madlib bring air to some J Dilla cuts alongside his own dusty, ill-defined style, and Princess Nokia break up some monotony with her Foxy Brown-esque flow. Despite only seeing her for a brief time, her set was packed with powerful bars, assured twerks, and farfetched freestyles.
Passing up Ben UFO and The Black Madonna seemed irresponsible at the time. But with the preferred sound at the main stage, it was really a no brainer – the night ended with a live set from Floating Points which boasted nerdy-like confidence, and some new material (shock). And as the sun went down, bodies were warmed by the unforgettable, much-anticipated set from Larry Heard (a.k.a. Mr Fingers). The Chicago producer was joined on stage by Mr White, who was on vocal duties, and the two whizzed through all the classic including Robert Owens’ ‘I’m Strong’ and Heard’s 1999 track ‘Missing You’. It was ‘vibes’ personified. A spiritual trip through the house ages. Theo Parrish was even spotted with his head in his hands at shear disbelief by the monumental quality of the selection of tunes, and at the sound of personal favourite ‘Amnesia’. The human touch can sometimes be lost in dance music in and amongst the machines, however the duo had a unique knack of bringing the two together - thanking the crowd on multiple occasions. And it was now that people really acknowledged the brilliance of Sunfall.
In the hope that the organisers sort out the queuing problems (frankly it's because the size of the site was too small for 10,000 people), then I'm sure Sunfall is a must-go-to event next year - the quality of music just speaks for itself.
Written by // Richard Maver