Sunfall Festival 2017 : What was and what could have been

With music lovers apprehensive to start their weekend watching a diverse line-up of artists – from jazz to drum and bass – their longing for syncopated snares and booming bass lines were faced by even longer queues: Sunfall 2017 sadly kicked off with an introduction to forget. With doors opening at 12, crowds that had already been queuing were left with reported waits up to 4 hours, due to extensive security checks. 

Fans were left dissatisfied with the overcrowding, especially after last year’s festival received similar reports of painstakingly long queues – unfortunately such reports appear to be far more widespread this year. Voicing their concerns to Stewards, a theme of ‘health and security measures’ developed within staff replies to fans. Sunfall soon after reinforced this by communicating via social media, tweeting: ‘For everyone’s health and safety, heightened security/search measures have been put in place. This is causing some delay on entrance.’ 

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Extensive queuing times as a result of enhanced checks has become a prevalent talking point at recent festivals, with Hope and Glory Festival being cancelled in recent weeks due to a rumoured lack of health and safety preparation by festival organisers. Nevertheless, fans would have been more optimistic due to the experience of Sunfall management, having been manned by the super-team experienced in running venues and festivals such as XOYO and Outlook. 

Once the crowd eventually made it through the entry gates at Brockwell Park, they were greeted with four separate stages each featuring a contrasting roster of artists. Intentionally targeting the diverse music choices of inner-city dwellers, Sunfall had a strict music policy that was self-proclaimed as a ‘celebration of the underground’, and that was unarguably evident within it’s line-up. 

Despite the sour atmosphere that had been present for much of the start of the festival, moments of magic soon began to shine through; unsightly dance moves and proclamations of joy took over. Said moments were most notably present throughout Jazz-legend Roy Ayers’ set, whom opened with the fan favourite ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ – conversations of displease halted by funky solo interludes manned by Ayers’ virtuosic backline. The seventy-something vibraphonist went on to prove that the rest of his repertoire is equally as good as the opening hit, which has been made famous by its extensive use as a sample in dance tracks

Just keep sampling: Jazz-funk legend Ayers approves and exclaims his delight in the extensive sampling of his tracks in Sunfall’s ‘Knowledge Arena’.

The delivery of quality sound and use of state-of-the-art audio technology  was highlighted on Sunfall’s Facebook page weeks previous to the festival and indeed it did not fail to impress. This was evident within sets by Ben UFO – who’s DJ set was faultless – and Madlib, whom pushed the sound system to the limit. Despite this, there were certainly limitations in regard to the visual aspect of the various stages, namely the lighting across the three tents was underwhelming in comparison to the pristine sound quality – something in which ravers may have been irked by. 

As the sun began to fall, a perpetually-lively and upbeat crowd readied themselves for deep-house pioneer Larry Heard, whom remedied a problematic introduction to the Festival – which is in it’s second year – with a stunning set. The headliner slot was well received and every aspect of the DJ’s performance contributed to what was a mesmerising show, leaving no sour taste in the mouths of the remaining crowd.  

Sunfall Festival 2017 was regrettably overshadowed with an unfortunate feeling of ‘what could have been’, however the niche assortment of electronic genres and sublime sound equates to a recipe for success and thus there can only be optimism for what the festival can bring next year.

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