*REVIEW: SW4 & LED Festivals, London (incl Photos & Videos)*

thejudge2k

Active Member
Last bank holiday weekend I attended two Electronic Dance Music ‘festivals' in London – LED and SW4. Here's my view of how each faired:

Background

LED: A brand new festival staged in Victoria Park in East London and organised by Loudsound, Golden Voice and Cream in conjunction with AEG. Two separate days of action on Friday and Saturday, however, I only attended the Friday from 14:00 to 23:00.

SW4: A well established festival held on Clapham Common on the same weekend every year. Usually boasts a strong line-up, good crowd and gets lucky with the weather. It runs from 12:00 to 21:00 and has previously been a Saturday only event with ‘Get Loaded' filling in on the Sunday. This year the SW4 brand was extended across both days, but as per the last 5 years I attended the Saturday only.

Pre Event Info

LED: 1/5 – intermittent twitter and website updates. Update posted on website 5 days beforehand saying that a whole arena had been cancelled without explanation, including Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and lots more. Not good. Resulting Facebook questions and anger ignored by organisers with little info about how the day would now unfold.

SW4: 4/5 – continuous updates via email and twitter with lots of pre-event content such as interviews and videos. Update on Friday informing people of ‘big-name' DJs scheduled to play early in the afternoon to avoid any disappointment amongst unsuspecting latecomers.

Festival Site: Facilities & Organisation

LED: 4/5 – relatively spacious site given the number of people and stages present. Getting in was a breeze – no queues whatsoever, and there were plenty of bars, food stalls & toilets to cater for the sub-capacity crowd. Unfortunately the lack of info about artists and their set times continued throughout. Some twitter announcements earlier in the day from artists such as Afrojack and Tiga provided some info for revellers, but an incorrect program meant it was very confusing for most.

SW4: 5/5 – the benefit of a mature festival is always tried and tested organisation. The compact site provided sufficient room for relaxation & partying but meant nothing was too far away. A large selection of food stalls, numerous toilets and improved bars meant everything worked sweetly. Entry was also a breeze with plenty of staff on hand and efficient ticket scanning and searching. The pre-event email (see above) and correct £5 program meant you could negotiate your way around with ease.

Line-up

LED: 3/5 – Despite the fact an arena & two thirds of the Swedish House Mafia had been canned, there were still some notable appearances. He may not be to everybody's tastes, but David Guetta is the biggest name in dance at the moment and this was a rare London outing. Also on the bill were Soulwax, Tiga, Afrojack and a DJ set from Calvin Harris.

SW4: 4/5 – An impressive selection of DJs across several genres and stages. Guests included Armin van Buuren, Pete Tong, Sasha, Sander van Doorn and many many more. For a one-day, central London event priced at sub £50 that's not bad at all!

Artists Performances

LED: 4/5 – We arrived just in time to catch the end of the Audio Bullys on the main stage, who were less than spectacular. We then took a walk round the site before heading back to where we began to see Afrojack. He played a very commercial set – Daft Punk, Robin S & Swedish House Mafia all present, but really rocked it for mid-afternoon in the sun – perfect music for drinking cider and putting a smile on your face.

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Calvin Harris followed with his DJ set, including the usual big reactions for his own tunes – more happy, fun music. Next up was some tent time for Bloody Beetroots (I think) who were decent. As the sun began to fall we headed to the front of the main stage for a cracking live performance from Soulwax. Their set was littered with all their hits and definitely adding something extra to the day.

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Last but not least was the big man himself – Guetta! After a distinct lack of production on the relatively small main stage during all the previous sets of the day, the Frenchman rolled out an impressive setup. Large LED screens fronted the stage with him perched on an elevated DJ booth behind. Two hours of fun followed with his chart-topping hits interweaved with other commercial party tunes. There was plenty of crowd interaction, with the crowd asked to put their phones in the air as per the 2000's equivalent of the cigarette lighter (video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvBPv1Xq1hk). The sound & light extravaganza was also enhanced by the now-obligatory ticker tape and not one, but two incarnations of Kryoman.

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Whilst the cancellation of the third arena did reduce the choice of DJs on offer, it did mean there were few clashes and some longer sets than typical for such an event. This meant you could really get into the sets on offer rather than worrying about leaving half way through to rush to another stage or missing a quarter of a set because you/your mates needed to add or remove some more beverages from their body.

SW4: 4/5 – a lot of really good performances, but no really game-changing sets. At Global Gathering recently (review here http://www.spotlight-forums.com/showthread.php?t=67898) there were some stonking sets that stood out above all the rest, but not here. Don't get me wrong, all DJs played really well and got the crowd going. Jerome Isma-ae got things going nicely from 13:00 with some quality classic trance in the Gallery tent although it's always difficult with a thin crowd. Next up was Gareth Emery who really did push it and ended up being one of the best acts all day (video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM5i1ucJIhk).

Next up was Funkagenda in the Toolroom Knights tent who played a cool set for mid-afternoon – sure his residency on the sunset terrace at Space has served him well for such efforts. He was followed by a somewhat bizarre set from Joachim Garraud who combined solos on a handheld electronic keyboard with the usual two decks and a mixer. This included a rendition of Coldplay no less!

Then it was back to Gallery for an excellent, and rare, back to back set from Marco V and Sander Van Doorn. I think it's always great to see DJs playing back to back because they're usually good friends and means they have a ball behind the decks (such as Carola et al at Timewarp Mannheim – review here http://www.ibiza-spotlight.com/night/reviews/2010/timewarp_mannheim_review_2010_i.htm). These two were no different and really get the momentum up through their entire 2 hour set.

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We ventured out to the main stage to see Sasha who was playing his usual blend of floaty house. The atmosphere wasn't great, especially when a short, sharp downpour broke the otherwise unrelenting sunshine. We caught a bit and witnessed an awesome rainbow before heading for some drinks in preparation of Armin.

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Great crowd but still plenty of room to dance at the main stage. Sun gave way to sunset and eventually darkness as Armin played a quality, if not banging set. The visuals and lasers helped to really to build things up ready for the climax – yes – you've guessed it – One by Swedish House Mafia! Definitively the tune of the Summer, although was still surprised to hear it from Armin!

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Atmosphere/Crowd

LED: 4/5 – appeared a relatively younger crowd clearly attracted by Guetta and the SHM. Atmosphere generally good with people up for partying and knowing a lot of the tunes, but turned a bit sour a couple of times, including some ridiculous mosh-pitting during some of Guetta's set.

SW4: 5/5 – an up-for-it crowd of dance music lovers with very few ‘idiots' and a quality vibe throughout. Some amusing dance-offs, fancy dress and general chat, and some great hands in the air moments.

Overall

LED: 4/5 – cancellations and lack of info really tainted the initial experience, but in the end it was a really fun night out for £43 with some really good sets from Soulwax, David Guetta et al. It was certainly more commercial than SW4 with tracks from Daft Punk, Robin S, SHM & even Example played a number of times, but think it's only good for electronic dance music if more new people are being attracted to the scene. Although, clearly more work is required if the organisers choose to repeat the event next year, especially given the bad reputation and taste 2010 will leave with some.

SW4: 4.5/5 – another excellent year for a great value day out in the sun. Top DJs, great crowd, good transport links and top-notch organisation make it the one to beat. Could just do with getting some DJs next year who are willing to push things that little bit further!

Summary

Bank holiday in London is as good as ever! There's nothing like hearing the biggest dance tunes of the summer on massive sound systems out in the middle of a field/common/park. LED and SW4 certainly made that possible. There's also so much else going on, including another instalment of ‘Reclaim the Beach' which filled in nicely after SW4 (see Facebook for more details).

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