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Secret Garden Party, Abbots Ripton Huntingdonshire

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Away from the mainstage Disclosure rocked a full house at The Drop stage with a well received DJ set as Secret Garden Party has been welcoming the brothers Lawrence for a few years now, way before they became the in demand chart toppers they are today. Their set was laden with that classic house infused Disclosure sound with the boys sliding in several of their own tracks from the new album including ‘White Noise’ and ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ much to the appreciation of the crowd. Whilst their performance was quite as energetic as their acclaimed live performances it was nice to see the boys back behind the decks enjoying themselves in the sunshine. The evolution of dubstep originator Skream continued with a typically measured journey through disco and house and the man from Croydon certainly got the crowd bubbling with the occasional nod to his bass heavy past.

Slightly disappointing was the performance of house maverick Seth Troxler who had clearly had to much of a good time early on to be able to deliver the high standards now expected of him when he steps up to the decks but more than assured performances were given by several other artists such as the Futureboogie DJ’s and Crosstown Rebel boss Damian Lazarus out on the floating Pagoda stage. Simian Mobile Disco were another highlight as the pairing delivered another flawless set full of a heady concoction of techno influences via their signature approach to off-kilter melodies, and a certain indefinable quality that allows them to be ahead of trends and traverse across genres with ease. Their performance was a veritable white-knuckle ride through SMD’s sprawling back-catalogue re-arranged in real time and it will live long in the memory.

Now onto the ‘secret guests’. Speaking to one of the festival organizers he was telling me there is often no plan to the festivals much fabled impromptu guest artists and that most of them had simply ‘come to SGP on a jolly because they want to be there’ which if that isn’t an endorsement enough I don’t know what would be.  Unannounced sets from Basement Jaxx, Chase and Status  and Jarvis Cocker quickly found themselves announced via word of mouth going round the festival as fans clamored across to see a last minute performance by one of their favorite artists. Chase and Status did what they do best as was evidenced by their acclaimed performance on the Other stage at Glastonbury a few weeks before, Basement Jaxx ratcheted up the fun levels to new heights Jarvis Cocker was well, Jarvis Cocker.

Outside of my electronic musically induced tunnel vision indie funsters Little Comets appear destined for chart success whilst Bastille didn’t disappoint on the main stage with a fluid set that both soothed and excited over the course of their performance. Meanwhile over on the Where The Wild Things Are Stage London Grammar pulled a large crowd to even their surprise and put on an equally large performance to match with it evident the trio are destined for critical recognition in the near future.

Vibe

In terms of vibe this is what Secret Garden Party is all about. Reasonably priced (by London standards anyway) food and drink from a wide selection of world cuisine, a new second swimming lake in the center an even wider selection of performing arts shows, SGP is about much more than the music and it shows in the programming. You’re just as likely to have a great time seeing your favorite DJ as you are seeing a version of a classic Shakespeare play being performed by inebriated thespians (if you get the chance to see Shitfaced Shakespeare then do, it’s hilarious) or enjoy a seminar delivered by former government drugs tsar Professor Nutt. The crowd and staff are equally friendly and sociable in creating an atmosphere that is unfortunately so often lacking in many modern festivals.  Then there is the firework display. And what a firework display it is, orchestrated by the same team who masterminded the pyrotechnics of the Olympic Games opening ceremony last year in such spectacular fashion it was quite simply amazing. Having grown up in London I have seen plenty of expensively assembled firework displays for various new years eve displays and as yet this is head and shoulders the best display I am yet to witness.  It all ends with the cathartic ‘big burn’ of whatever the years central lake installation is and this year it was the pirate ship that on the lake that would be set ablaze. Quite simply spectacular.  

So as strangers bonded over a paint fight on the final day to the sounds of David Rodigan down by the boating lake the question if you weren’t at this years Secret Garden Party is why not? We’ll certainly be attending next year for more shenanigans in Huntingdonshire.

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