At the start of the week the weather was looking decidedly iffy for Sunfall and as much as plenty of festival goers accept mud as part and parcel of the whole experience, I’m definitely not one of those people and I spent most of the week praying to the sun gods and explaining that much like Roy Ayers (who was playing the main stage) song goes “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” along with the fact the festival was called Sunfall not Rainfall.
The big day was upon us and as much as it was a tad overcast, there was no rain forecast so there was only one thing for it, crack a couple of cold ones and join the hundreds of people streaming out of Brixton Station for the short walk round to the festival itself.
We got to Sunfall around 3pm and unfortunately had just missed Peggy Gou, but did manage to catch Romare playing live on the main stage, who I’d not heard before, but left thinking ‘I’ve gotta check out more of his work’. Then came the obligatory recce round the park to see how it was all set up. Three large tents were entitled the East, West and North stages (what no South, In South London?) all pretty straight forward. There was a small record fair – special mention to the guy I saw dressed head to toe in khaki who was dancing along to Palms Trax with a few records he had bought, who I spotted later dancing alone under some trees sans vinyl – more street food trucks than you can shake a stick at, a Music Creation and Conversation tech area where you could get to grips with midi keyboards, samplers and the like along with sit down talks from artists like IG Culture, Amp Fiddler and even Roy Ayers.
After spending a little time listening to Theo Parrish in the West Stage tent I realised he was on for four and a half hours, which may well have been at Theo’s request, but I couldn’t imagine the vintage football shirt/Palace tee/Patagonia tee crew would have the inclination to bop to anyone for that long at a festival? I know I didn’t, so next was a bit of Shanti Celeste, who immediately got my attention as she was playing SL2’s classic ‘DJ’s Take Control’ from 1991, a track older than the majority of the crowd.
Then it was back to the main stage to catch Roy Ayers, who of course opened up with ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’. I’ve seen Roy play his vibes a few times at Ronnie Scott’s and in that intimate surrounding he was extremely chattier with the audience and in turn, the audience were more into the occasional jazz noodlings that is part of a Roy Ayers set. I couldn’t help but think some of that musicianship was lost on a bigger festival stage?
After Roy we had another wander and caught a slice of Move D who was keeping things bumping with some twisted disco, bouncy techno and some Strictly Rhythm classics. We stayed put in the East Stage tent to catch The Black Madonna who was closing out the tent. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time watching her at XOYO the other month at her residency, where she played back to back with good friend Heidi. Today she was playing back to back with HAAI and was playing a touch tougher than when I had seen her at XOYO.
The closing acts across the four areas were Larry Heard, Black Madonna, Jay Electronica and Jackmaster. That is being genuinely spoilt for choice and I wanted to try and catch a bit of all of them. I had decided to go catch Jay Electronica for a slice of J Dilla beats under Jay’s wise rhymes and got an added bonus catching the end of Princess Nokia’s set. If the rest of her set was like the end, I was gutted I didn’t see more. She left the stage with an empowering, expletive laden chat that boiled down to being comfortable with yourself and “Just Do You”.
I then swung by the main stage once last time for a bit of Larry Heard who was reminding everyone through each song when the tracks were released, cheers for making me feel old Larry. Finally I plumped for a bit of Jackmaster in the North stage tent, who despite an energetic set, couldn’t seem to get the crowd whipped up beyond the occasional hand in the air, which was something I had encountered a lot across the day, which to me personally, wasn’t a reflection on any of the artists.