Brockwell Park, London
As underground dance music continues to bleed into the mainstream, with Maya Jane Coles samples on Rihanna mega-tracks and vacationing American tourists beelining for Berghain, a host of promoters have attempted to get in on the act. You’ll find an event every weekend to attend if you want this summer, especially in London. But booking a big name (and pricey) line-up doesn’t guarantee a good party. So many other factors are needed: the crowd, the sound system, the programming, basic logistics like enough places to piss and sit down. In a crowded and competitive dance music landscape, it’s hard to stand out. And that’s before you factor in the often-draconian council regulations surrounding sound levels and kicking-out times.
In pre-festival interviews the team behind Sunfall acknowledged the pressure they faced in putting an entirely new festival proposition before jaded London festival-goers. Run by the teams behind Croatian festivals Outlook and Dimensions and clubs Phonox, The Nest and XOYO, Sunfall promised a new approach. Equal attention would be dedicated to day and night programming, with tickets for the day-time festival being sold alongside curated evening sessions. The approach largely paid off: while there were a few minor issues, Sunfall’s inaugural edition was a mostly a total triumph.
Heading in, I head straight for much-loved house and disco stalwart Hunee who – despite the blistering heat inside the tent – delivers a rollicking, disco-heavy set.
Next up, Ryan Elliott on the West Stage. The Berghain resident delivers exactly what everyone expected: a stripped-back hour of pounding techno. The programming here was on-point if, like me, you’re a techno fan, but I drag myself to check out the Main Stage and Moodymann’s set. Well, I attempt to see his set.
See, a word about the toilet queues: they are l-o-n-g. I miss most of Moodymann, arriving back just in time to hear him take to the mic to insist on his right to be able to pour shots for the crowd. On the plus side, all that time spent waiting in the loo queue means more time to bond with your new festival mates. The people at Sunfall are sound: maybe it’s just the fact we’ve finally got a sunny afternoon in this god-awful summer to enjoy, but it was easily the best crowd of any day festival I’ve been to in the UK this year.
Back to the techno tent I go. Mind Against were a crashing, distorted wall of sound in the best possible sense of the term — there’s always a real sense of drama to their sets and the lighting was used to best possible effect. Shout out to the sound guys: much was made of Sunfall’s sound policy pre-event, and you can tell. By the time Ben Klock came on I’d wormed myself to the front of the crowd and although it’s impossible to achieve Funktion-1 perfection in a tent, they came pretty close. Close your eyes and you could almost imagine you’re back at Dimensions Festival in Croatia, watching Klock close up the Moat Stage.
As I stumble out of Klock’s set, nearly tripping over the couple face-eating in the grass outside (who knew techno was such an aphrodisiac?) it’s weird to think that there’s still a whole other party to go to. I dance my exhausted legs away until four at the Dimensions-curated event at Peckham’s Bussey Building. As I leave, the crowd’s cheering Joy Orbison as he drops ‘90s classic Cape Fear. While throwing a new event in London must seem like a daunting proposition, the Sunfall team had nothing to fear: they pulled it out of the bag on this one, and I look forward to going next year.