Reviewed: Secret Garden Rave, Brighton
After over a decade as an established brand, 2019 saw Summer-ized Sessions launch its first-ever tour. Focused in the UK, dates included Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh, Mint Warehouse in Leeds, Gorilla in Manchester, and The Steel Yard in London… and with each of those being wildly successful, it was time to head further south to wrap up an amazing year for the Secret Garden Rave!
Brighton’s The Arch was decked out in the floral decadence that is every bit as much of the Secret Garden Rave brand as fantastic music, incredible vibes, and top-quality talent. With the sound system optimised effectively, and Room 2 being moved from upstairs to the seafront, it was time to open the doors to an already-forming queue.
As every DJ worth their salt knows, warm-up is an essential, finely tuned skill: it can make or break not just a set, but how the rest of the event goes. Here, true professionals were very much working their magic, with the main room initially laying down some underground and forgotten gems to warm the crowd up, and Room 2 kicking things off with an emphatic 3-hour B2B session from Auric and Ross Lewis.
Up next in the main room, things were really start to take off, with Kisch laying down a more vocally-orientated buzz – including his very own ‘Drift’, with singer Syon – gently easing some Tech House grooves into the evening, and the energy in the room really starting to spark. As I took a well-timed opportunity to check up on happenings elsewhere, it became evident that a vast number of people had already entered the venue at this point, and while some were out in the smoking area, the rest of those not shufflin’ out in the main room had got distracted from urges for casual nicotine consumption by the fattening sounds of Auric & Ross Lewis reppin’ solidly in the now bumpin’ second room. Joyous, I pumped chest & shoulders with some of them before heading out for some casual conversation.
Smoking areas often offer up a colourful spectrum of society, with some who have perhaps peaked too early coming out for some respite and ‘fresh’ air, while others are just getting warmed up and are full of conversation. Between bantering friends and mutually dress-adoring strangers, it was lovely to see that Summer-ized Sessions were still attracting a crowd who just wanted to have a good time: be it on their own, meeting others, or with pals. What has always felt to be the spirit of Secret Garden Rave (and indeed all their events) since my first encounter and onward, has been a space devoid of any egos or one-upmanship that is instead focused on sharing in one another’s joy, taking advantage of musical indulgence, and generally having a ruddy good time. It is this essence of inclusion that keeps me – and I’d imagine everyone else – coming back time and time again, gleefully excited to share the dance-floor with like-minded individuals who are otherwise wholly different from myself.
Topped up on interpersonal connections, I decided it was about time I rejoined everyone else, zoned out, and lost myself in my own introspection to the ever-incredible sounds of the main room. The return of resident Donna Love is always a point of note for me since hearing her work early last year and, living up to that hype, she never fails to impress. Smashin’ out some quality bangers to a now packed dance-floor, and featherful burlesque courtesy of the Summer-ized performers up on stage, personal highlights from her set included the Marco Lys rendition of Moby’s ‘Go’, Will Taylor’s ‘Bullets’ as well as the Knober & Sylter Remix of Vlada Asanin’s ‘Gamers’, amongst other choice selections. Upon handing over to headliners OC & Verde – whose bombastic shift in gear cranked the energy up another level, pushing the people harder and longer than before – with tracks like Hot Since 82’s ‘Voices’ as well as their latest ‘Cloak & Dagger’, you can guess how much of a cardio workout I got through.
Checkin’ in on Room 2 again, this time for Karuva, it was great to find that the bleed from each room was working against any sort of sound clash, and both areas were enjoying the luxury of being a self-contained vibe unaffected by the other. Such was the case, that by the time I made it into the thick of the now dense hoard of ravers, it was a sweaty crush of 20-somethings all losing it to a small handful of recent and current crowd-pleasers, intertwined with the likes of Hot Creations, Sola, Defected, and his own work – including latest release ‘Trippin’ on 303Lovers – all in all providing for an electric audience of enthusiastic individuals on their way to have what they intended to be (yet failed at) a break from very much having at it!
Throughout the night, the green room was humble as ever, with warmth and generosity being shared with one another, familiar faces catching up with old friends, and new connections being made along the way. That feeling of community and togetherness is something that has always been a part of Summer-ized Sessions across their varying brands, and having spoken to a lot of the talent at their events, that soulfulness is definitely something that keeps them coming back.
Back in the main room, with the headliners offstage, and Room 2 now closed, it was all about an appropriate signing off – a slot just as important as its opposite. Summer-ized Head Honcho Shane Fernandes, together with resident Kieren Lythgow, took to the decks for an impromptu B2B session, making full use of what energy was left in everyone’s biochemical storage after such an already epic evening. With the former’s trademark style of power-vibes and solid drops (think Ronnie Spiteri’s ‘Riverside’) weaving in and out of the latter’s penchant for more urban sounds – in the form of, but not exclusive to, Martin Ikin’s ‘Rockin Beatz’, and Jojo Angel’s ‘Yeke’ – it was a set that inevitably left the baying crowd hungry for more, and desperate to keep going.
Closing their debut tour with Brighton, Summer-ized’s Secret Garden Rave is a brand that still continues to build, relentlessly growing from strength to strength with every event, and this was the jewel in that crown of achievement.
There have been promising rumours of a follow-up tour in 2020, but for now, with their final show of the year being October’s Halloween party, and returning to (my favourite) London’s The Steel Yard, this will feel like every bit the victory lap they deserve.