Three Mills Island
29 July

You can just imagine the promoters turning up to Three Mills Island and falling in love straight away. The aerial shots Percolate used to promote their open air party show a patch of land encircled perfectly, looking like a slick logo for an East London bakery, coffee roaster or digital marketing company. From the ground, tucked in a meander of River Lea, trees lining the waterside against the metallic backdrop of Stratford and Bow, it feels, basically, perfect.

To match the spot, the line-up here was a considered step up, befitting Percolate’s biggest party to date but avoiding a showiness that would have undermined the holistic vibe of the nomadic promoter’s parties. The later addition of Ryan Elliot, Leon Vynehall and Evan Baggs, plus DEBONAIR and Paranoid London, all playing before 7pm, avoided the familiar trappings of a thinly attended afternoon. To the event and the punters’ credit, the atmosphere was that of a commitment to party from the off.

Now is probably a good time to mention that it rained. A lot. All day. There’s something about the British dedication to partying in the face of relentless gloom that you just can’t help but admire. The Percolate/Hollywood sign on the hill looked a little sad, and the skyline dotted with steel spires didn’t so much sparkle as loom ominously, so it fell it the crowd to bring that sense of summer. That they did – uncaringly ridiculous in translucent purple ponchos, defiantly raising hands to the falling sky.

Percolate Open Air was deliberately labelled a party and not a festival, shunning as it did any frills that can clutter. Just the bare bones then: food, booze and the rest of the focus on unique sound and staging. The sound was my main bone of contention. At The Face, the party’s bigger stage, it was beautifully tuned: really loud with zero discomfort. The Unit was a different story. Unless stood no more than four people from the stage, the sound from The Face way was clearly audible, to the point of distraction. It seemed baffling that the stages were directly opposite each other with only a couple of vans in between. Saoirse’s excellent set, full of insatiably physical acid and techno like Ghetto Brothers’ Bass Manoeuvers, was marred by this, frustratingly dispelling the sense of connection.

The staging though was top-notch. For the first half of Sonja Moonear’s set, I watched her spin an intricate web of deep cuts as laser beams hazily bisected the swirl of smoke and droplets, framed by shiny green boxes that shuddered to her concussive march. For the final hour, I watched DJ Koze manning the decks encased in the overbearing monolith of The Face, surrounded by screens and searchlights illuminating totemic umbrellas and enraptured faces. Kosi’s set was typically playful, spinning tracks like Radio Slave’s Feel the Same and his own, now classic, remix of Låpsley’s Operator.

Percolate say their aim with this party was to create something original and worthwhile, and for the most part they did: they stripped it back to the essentials, eschewed branding it from head to toe and built a setting that looked and felt great. Given the rain and the infancy, there were a few teething problems but, in filling the bill with such solid selectors and absolutely no filler – I haven’t even mentioned Objekt or Moxie – a statement of intent was made. There’s no reason this won’t become a mainstay of the calendar.

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