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Club Review

Reviewed: Sundown Festival 2018

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As the country’s uncharacteristically long summer heatwave continues, thousands of glitter-covered teenage and twenty-something house, pop and drum ‘n’ bass lovers enjoyed a scorching weekend of partying at Sundown Festival.

While pop mainly ruled the Norwich festival’s main stage – headline performances came from Shawn Mendes and Clean Bandit while Zara Larsson and Sigala delivered crowd-pleasing sets full of chart smashes – there was plenty of room for house heads to get their groove on and for the drum ‘n’ bass ravers to get involved across the weekend.

Cleverly situated at the opposite end of the site, almost hidden within the trees, the Koppaberg Mystree stage (Data Transmission’s favourite) hosted some of the biggest names in house and tech-house. Ensuring the woodland rave space was packed from start to finish, Solardo brought their Solardo Sessions party to life joined by Sola Records favourite SM One on opening duties and then fast-rising producer Mason Maynard whose chunky remix of Crystal Waters’ iconic ‘Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)’ does the trick.

But it’s Radio 1 DJ, Monki, who delivers the best set at that stage: high-energy pumpers like PAX’s ‘Catfish’, Who Da Funk’s ‘Shiny Disco Balls’, Walker & Royce’s ‘Rub Anotha Dub’ and Andre Salmon’s ‘We Stay Forever’ all doing the damage in quick succession; an expertly crafted set. By the time CamelPhat step up even the security guard on the front row is loving it, throwing just as many shapes as the crowd, and there’s hundreds more outside eagerly waiting to get in. Even though the duo’s sound cuts out early on they carry on like professionals, restarting the track. Later it’s left to stage hosts Solardo to headline with an hour and a half of chunky tech-house heaters, a highlight being when they mixed ‘Cola’ into their own massive hit ‘Tribesmen’.

The Castle stage, meanwhile, welcomes major names in the UK bass scene like My Nu Leng and Andy C. But it’s the Nest where Data Transmission spends most of their weekend: with Defected hosting their own showcase on the Saturday, bringing house music’s finest along, including Radio 1 DJ, Danny Howard, who wasted no time in raising the energy with vocal house anthems like Patrick Topping’s ‘Be Sharp, Say Nowt’ and Friend Within & Kideko’s ‘Burnin’ Up’, really giving the two towering speakers at either side of the stage a workout…

Sunday there belongs to Ibiza-based promoter, Together, with another radio DJ favourite, Mistajam, taking charge of the sweatbox big top running through some of the biggest dance classics of the last few decades at breakneck speed while giant balloons with his name fly overhead. Ensuring everyone has their dancing shoes on, he mixes Lipps Inc’s ‘Funky Town’ into Purple Disco Machine’s new disco anthem ‘Dished’ before paying tribute to Michael Jackson with ‘Billie Jean’, Aretha Franklin via ‘Respect’ and then Avicii, getting the packed tent to sing back each world of ‘Wake Me Up’. It’s a feel-good set that travels across the generations and genres and feels genuinely poignant – a real moment to remember; topped off by a mix of Faithless’ ‘Insomnia’ into a bassline remix of T2’s garage classic ‘Heartbroken’…

Of the live performances across the weekend, it’s Kelli-Leigh – the voice behind some of the biggest chart house hits of the last few years, including Duke Dumont’s ‘I Got U’, Secondcity’s ‘I Wanna Feel’ and Low Steppa’s ‘Runnin’ – who impresses most. She gets the crowd dancing at just after lunchtime on Sunday, her faultless vocal and sing-along lyrics combined with infectious bass-heavy beats combining to unite the small but no less enthusiastic crowd. It’s her newest chart-destined single, ‘Can’t Dance’ – released via her own label – that proves why she’s way more than just a features artist.

Later on at the main stage, the crowd has grown massively as Wilkinson brings his euphoric live show, full of lighters in the air moments, to life for a few thousand ravers of all ages: ‘Half Life’ induces a sea of camera phones to light up the arena. ‘Sweet Lies’ has everyone singing along with Shannon’s incredible vocal as the strobes turn the sky neon green…

Back in the Nest big top, Redlight delivers a bass-heavy set leaving headliners Gorgon City to end the night with punchier edits of their own deep-house hits ‘Real’ and ‘Real Life’; the latter leading to one guy climbing one of the metal pillars in the middle of the tent. By the time CamelPhat’s massive anthem ‘Panic Room’ drops and Green Velvet & Eats Everything’s trippy thumper ‘Flash’ drop, there are more people in the tent than at the main stage watching headliners Clean Bandit…

A brilliant way to bring the summer festival season to a close, Sundown continues to stand out for its genre-hopping line-up, easy to navigate site and friendly atmosphere. The great weather is just a bonus!

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