So Trip Hop Is Still A Thing
As is breaks, jazz-house, and ‘swampy-Manchester-melancholic-party-vibes’ (according to Chunky, who played exactly that on the beach stage). Soundwave began life as a student-heavy festival - and whilst the crowd has evolved into a wider, mostly later-twenties outfit, the theme for the incredibly diverse line-up would appear to be “house-party-fodder”. Guess what? It worked. Spectacularly. Mouse Outfit’s Two-MC, DJ, Two-Brass outfit went down an utter storm on their boat party, Chunky and Jonny Dub both killed daytime and night with sets that varied from driving house through to bizarre electronica, Eliphino kept it moody, Mr Thing took it deep into foreign, hip-hop territory. At a distance the whole affair looked convoluted, unplanned. But down there, down on the stages, on the beach floor with its glitter ball bouncing light onto a pitch dark ocean, or up on the main stage in the dead centre of the campsite at midnight, or at the afterparties at Barbarella’s discotheque, the whole thing was like a drunken anecdote. Bizarre, but actually, very, very good.
The Festival Didn’t Have One Trajectory - And That Kind Of Worked
Liker a wider counterpart to set-times per night as a whole, most festivals have a steady build and peak, with people planning their night/budget/boozing/template-apology-texts around that. With such a diverse range of kicks, snares, vocals, hi-hats, clicks and vibes, Soundwave didn’t have the same sense of a one-directional trajectory. As it turned out, compared to sister-festival The Garden, this meant the festival site was more busy most of the time, as there was a general strategy of pitching up around lunchtime, buying a few beers and ‘just going to explore, see what’s on’. The trade of may be there was never a single moment of Yes!, one particular afterparty, one mad boat party, but it also meant which ever time, or area of the festival you visited, there was always a consistently good vibe - something which even massive, huge-name festivals struggle often to achieve on day one, or at lunchtime on day two.
The Afterparties were still completely insane
Don’t get us wrong. In case you were thinking that this all sounds a bit laid back for the average festival goer, another thing we learned about Soundwave is that - if an event self-consciously reinforces a general house-party vibe, the crowd are going to get general-houseparty-drunk. Skinny dipping during the midday beach stage sessions. Girls just walking around generally topless. Asking around, no one ever seems to remember what the hell happened at Barbarella’s Discotheque afterparty the night before (Each time we went, we arrived, were given a load of tequila shots by someone in a feather cap, were pounced on by a girl in a sailor’s hat, and the rest is quite literally a blur....). This may also in part be owing to the fact this seemed to be a booze-heavy, rather than a drug-heavy festival. Either way, amongst a lot of very chilled music, were a lot of people getting their drink on in a very big way.
Impromptu Parties Are By Far The Best
We love big, multi-stage, hundreds-of-DJs, massive-budget festivals as much as the other several million of you that go to them every summer, but so much of Soundwave’s magic was just the impromptu nature of so much of it. Mouse Outfit’s unplanned rap-session on the boat, Jonny Dub’s been-drinking uber-eclectic set midnight on the Beach Stage, or, best of all, Riot Jazz’s reaction to their mainstage set being cancelled owing to rain: doing the entire 4-brass-one-drummer-act live, in the kitchen of the local restaurant. Incredible.
Original Festivals = The Best
Soundwave’s line-up is nothing if not leftfield. As is its combo student, yuppy, lost traveller and generally totally-uncategorisable crowd. It’s a UK-centric festival thats mid-July timing puts it directly in the firing line of several other UK festivals. It has no peak, per say. It’s leading genre is....maybe breaksy garage, or sort of, ‘live-electronic-brass-house’? Yet it works. Incredibly well, as it turns out. “We’ve been here since 2009. Every year has got....kinda...busier” says a visibly bemused Johnny Dub, discussing the unintelligible strategy behind the whole place in an interview. Ultimately, the entire festival can be summed up by Riot Jazz’s decision to play their full set in a restaurant kitchen. In many ways it defied logic. But then, that’s what makes the whole thing so brilliant. Other festivals take note: sometimes a general policy of “kind of seeing what happens” really, really works.