Now in its fourth year, Sundown festival has played host to many of the biggest names in music, and this year was no exception. Returning as headliners for the second time, Chase & Status closed the Saturday night, while Ellie Goulding closed the festival on Sunday.
But all the fun actually begun on Friday night. After waiting nearly 2 hours in the queue for my friends to get their wristbands, we eventually made it to the campsite, with aching bodies from carrying everything for so long.
We weren’t going to let that stop us though, as the Big Top opening party proved to be one of the highlights of Sundown. New to 2014, the action kicked off at 5pm, but after a few drinking games, we joined the growing crowd of energetic teenage ravers a few hours later. Commercial house tracks and big room EDM bass drops were the soundtrack to the party, consisting of ‘Backstreet’s Back’ being mixed into Martin Garrix ‘Tremor’ – certainly not something you hear every day, a dubious Nirvana remix and some old classics in ‘You’ve Got The Love’. It all made for a great night, with an impressive laser light show shining up the packed tent.
We also checked out some of the stools selling funky sunglasses, hipster shirts, bum-bags galore and the festivals best-seller, judging from all the lads wearing them, – black printed bandanna’s.
The morning after, the campsite looked like a bomb had hit it – especially the far from sanitary toilets located at the bottom of the campsite. But that’s all to be expected, in fairness there was the option to pay an extra £25 to get some brilliantly titled and much cleaner VIPee toilets for the weekend if you wished.
Entering Sundown’s main site just in time to see Disclosure and Tinie Tempah collaborator Sasha Keable perform on the main stage, it was a nice ease back into the party spirit to cure our near-hangovers. Sasha Keable’s sound is mainly synth led electronica with an impressive vocal laid over the top of each track. Performing tracks from her debut ‘Lemongrass and Limeleaves’ E.P, ‘Living Without You’ showcases her powerful vocal range and ‘Sweetest Talk’ takes influence from Jessie Ware’s soulful R&B sound. ‘Careless Over You’ creates the first sing-a-long moment with Sasha’s voice climbing over the rolling drum and synth beats. It’s the collaborations with Zinc and Disclosure which get the biggest cheers and sing-alongs. ‘Only For Tonight’ pumps up the party atmosphere with air-horn sounds just in time for set closer ‘Voices’, with the crowd jumping and singing back every word. Already signed to Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London label, a few more releases and Sasha Keable will soon be a household name.
Also on Tinie’s label are All About She, who perform next. The London based UK garage three-piece are made up of record producers James Tadgell and Jon Clare and singer Vanya Taylor. It’s Vanya who grabs everyone’s attention though, with a similar stylish appearance and voice to Estelle, she wastes no time in showing off her vocals. ‘I Can’t Wait’ is a highlight, while new feel good track ‘Beyond Heaven’ hears Vanya work the crowd singing “Sundown you take me there” before asking “where are all the lovers at, put your hands in the air.” ‘Like That’ sees Vanya dedicate the track to a birthday girl on the front row before the trio end their set with the song everyone’s been waiting for. ‘Higher (Free)’ still sounds as fresh as when it was released last November and reached the top 20 in the UK. Sung a capella for the first chorus, it’s given an emotive re-work before the garage beats kick in which return ‘Higher’ to its original club-ready state.
Before Foxes takes to the stage, there is an unwilling yet entertaining twerk off to Nicki Minaj’s new single ‘Anaconda’ between Kiss FM DJ’s Michael and Tania, who introduce each act and deserve praise for building the hype effortlessly. Foxes bounces onstage, looking ever the pop star, in a dress and massive sunglasses. Aside from the music, Louisa is loved by, females who want to be her, and males who want to be with her. The whole set is a highlight. Performing the main singles from her debut album ‘Glorious’, including ‘Youth’, ‘Let Go For Tonight’ and ‘Holding On To Heaven’, each song receives mass sing-a-longs with fans arms waving in the air. She’s not bothered by the worsening weather either, which she has experienced the worst of after a storm engulfed her set at Nottingham’s Splendour festival in July. Instead she shouts to the crowd, “fuck the rain”, and they oblige, continuing to jump with her. ‘Clarity’, her massive Grammy award winning collaboration with Zedd goes down a treat and proves one of the weekend’s biggest sing-a-longs.
Meanwhile, over at the Big Top tent, house music lovers are being treated to the best in the business, with the whole day hosted by Defected Records! Earlier in the day Copyright and Cristoph have bass heavy sets before Food music label boss Shadow Child. But it was Second City and Mark Kinchen who provided the best sets of the day. Second City aka 27-year-old producer Rowan Harrington took the crowd on a journey of commercial to more underground house hits including a remix of Breach’s ‘Jack’ (who would play the same stage later), his collaboration with Route 94 ‘Freak’ and his own track ‘I Enter’, but sadly his brilliant new collaboration with Ali Love ‘What Can I Do’ doesn’t get played. Ending with his recent number one piano-house smash ‘I Wanna Feel’, everyone’s hands wave while their lungs are given a full workout much to Harrington’s happiness.
Later, Marc Kinchen, whose set is swapped with Sam Devine’s, draws a massive crowd to the tent. Opening with a dub of ‘My Head Is a Jungle’ before recent single ‘Always’, MK is joined by four less than covered dancers waving fans in front of their face, creating the Ibiza atmosphere, when in reality we’re inside a sweaty tent.
Chase and Status, who headlined Sundown festival back in 2011 returned to close proceedings on Saturday night. And what a show it was. An intense laser light show, a number of unexpected special guests and some insanely heavy drum & bass, dubstep and everything in between made it the show-stealer of the weekend. Performing tracks from all three of their albums and some older material, it was a career spanning set with each track sending the crowd absolutely crazy. I’ve actually never seen more mosh pits throughout a set. And it just gets even more out of control when Tempa T pounces onstage to rap his part in ‘Hypest Hype.’ Later, British singer Jacob Banks is welcomed onstage to provide his soulful sing-a-long vocals to ‘Alive’. Moko appears large as life in the background video appearing to jump out of the screen during ‘Count On Me’, similarly with Plan B seeming to smash the screen during ‘End Credits’ and ‘Pieces’. Set closer ‘Smash TV’ from the duo’s 2008 debut album ‘More Than Alot’ made for the perfect end to their genre defying set!
Sunday hosted a far more pop orientated line up on the main stage while well respected drum & bass label Ram Records took over the Big Top. On the main stage, three-piece M.O, who are receiving regular plays on Radio One from the likes of Mistajam, are bringing the 90’s girl band back! They’ve toured with Little Mix and recently signed with Universal in the US – and it’s not hard to understand why. Arriving just in time to catch the last two songs of their set, the first is an impressive cover of Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’, made completely their own. The second is new single ‘Dance On My Own’ with a garage beat which samples Sweet Female Attitudes ‘Flowers’ – one of the biggest UK garage hits from the 90’s.
Ex-The Voice contestant, Becky Hill, bounces onstage in a white crop top and sparkling Aztec skirt, making the most of the British sunshine. She described her sound recently as “leftfield, alternative, cool pop” and that seems fitting. Two Inch Punch-produced opener ‘Caution to the Wind’ is the perfect solo introduction to the world for Becky who I have been a fan of ever since she appeared on The Voice. Since then, she has achieved two number one singles in the form of drum & bass Wilkinson collaboration ‘Afterglow’ and recent house hit with Oliver Heldens ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’ – both of which receive mass sing-a-longs during her set. You can’t help but love how down to earth she is, there are no airs and graces as she admits “my onstage chat is rubbish” after she cracks a joke about the sun being up for Sundown. She later tells the crowd “I’ve got a bottle of vodka in my room so I’m going to the RAM tent to rave it up” – she comes across as a typical partying teenager. Becky’s rise to the top has been stratospheric but she’s still the same loveable singer, as she tells the crowd, “I was recently working in LA and I got a call from my manager and he said, ‘Becky you’re number one”. She proves that she’s a real pop-star in the making during her next disco infused single, the MNEK-produced ‘Losing’ which she says is out in a few weeks. It’s safe to say that she gave the best live vocal performance of the weekend and I’ve already bought tickets to see her again!
Looking like Annie Mac and sounding similar to Katy B, Jess Glynne is the next rising female vocalist to perform. With two backing singers, a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist, Jess performs a set full of catchy pop hits in waiting. She asks the crowd, “did you enjoy my fellow husky, Becky?” much to the crowd’s applause. Jess gets straight into her recent number one with Route 94 in ‘My Love’ before it’s mixed into her second worldwide number one with Clean Bandit ‘Rather Be’, with both attracting mass sing-a-longs and smiling faces. “This is the last festival for us, so let’s go out with a bang”, exclaims Jess. Gorgon City-produced Set closer ‘Right Here’ which reached the top-ten saw the crowd swaying their arms and dancing along to the house beat.
John Newman appears like a young Elvis with slicked back hair and perfected dance routines from the start of his penultimate set of the weekend. Backed by a seven piece band made up including three female singers. The longtime Rudimental collaborator performs the majority of his debut number one album ‘Tribute’, taking the ever-growing crowd on a journey of soulful pop. Each track comes complete with John showcasing his beyond impressive footwork throughout set opener ‘All For You’, ‘Try’, and ‘Cheating’. It’s obvious that he’s a real showman with plenty of onstage confidence, treating the gig like a real show, saying “welcome to this evening’s entertainment”. During ‘Losing Sleep’ he throws himself and the mic around the stage before he pauses the song to shame a member of the crowd. “This guy’s trying to start a fight during my set. We’re not here to start a fight, we’re here to enjoy the music. Let’s put our middle finger up to him” – and everybody does. Back to proceedings and John gushes about his girlfriend, asking, “Did anyone see Ella Eyre earlier? That’s my other half” – of course everybody cheers. Later, John thanks the crowd for getting him where he is now, “We’ve done 38 festivals this season. It all started for me with Rudimental and it’s taught us that we’re ‘Not Givin In’”. The Rudimental collaboration sees John and the backing vocalists sing their heart out with John running along the front row of the audience to the lucky fans delight. Set closer, and number one single, ‘Love Me Again’, sees him fall to his knees at the end. John’s energy and showmanship far exceeded my expectations and I’d definitely recommend anyone to go and see him.
Ending the weekend was Ellie Goulding, who barraged through tracks from both albums ‘Lights’ and ‘Halycon’. Songs like ‘Figure 8’ and recent single ‘Goodness Gracious’ showcase Ellie’s unique breathy vocals. ‘Starry Eyed’ is dedicated to all of Ellie’s fans who have been with her from the beginning. Madeon-produced track ‘Stay Awake’ pushes Ellie’s vocal range to its highest and most impressive point. After a quick costume change, Ellie performs a chilled electronic cover of Alt J’s ‘Tesselate’ before switching to James Blake’s ‘Life Round Here’ – two breathtaking, somewhat haunting renditions. Picking up the guitar for an acoustic version of ‘Guns and Horses’, Ellie shows off her unmistakable vocal capabilities. Laughing she says, “It’s about the time where I like to do some voluntary movements which some people may call dancing” before pop hit ‘Anything Can Happen’. Teasing the crowd she jumps down to run across the front like John Newman did during ‘I Need Your Love’. Then comes the sad news, “This is my last show for quite a while and I’m not sure when I’m going to be back on tour”, Ellie genuinely seems upset but powers on through ‘Lights’ which sees everyone light up their camera phones, creating a special memory for everyone there. Finishing with ‘Burn’, Ellie signs off hinting at a return for the following year.
Ellie certainly won’t be the only one coming back to Sundown festival if this year’s brilliant event is anything to go by!