He Said/She Said: The Winter Social 2015

Nic Fanciulli’s music festival The Winter Social took over the Kent Life Museum in Maidstone on Saturday, February 28th. A spin-off of The Social held in Mote Park the previous two summers, the Saved Records boss headlined with support including Maya Jane Coles, Hot Since 82, Dusky, Davide Squillace and Matthias Tanzmann. Mike Barnard and Ann McManus give their views on the festival’s sold out debut.

The Socialites loved it, beaming away all afternoon and arms shooting up into the air with accompanying whoops for the big drops.

He Said: “How do you do journalism to this?” a security guard asked us as he ticked our names off the press list. I’m not sure what he meant by “doing journalism” at a festival – I’ve always preferred to get involved in the action, and plenty of action there was to enjoy at The Winter Social. It was a grey day and the muddy path up to the site entrance carried warnings on Facebook that wellies would be advisable. By the time we got to the queue, it was clear The Winter Social’s revellers laughed in the face of the cold and mud: bright white trainers were everywhere and many chose not to even bother with a coat and the bravest opted for vests or hot pants. The Winter Social crowd came ready to party.

The small site was mud-proofed thanks to what can only have been truck-loads of wood chippings making for firm ground around the bar, toilets and food stall, while the two inflatable domes had hard floors and space for all the 3,000-strong crowd to dance. We arrived midway through Rob Cockerton’s set in dome one, the largest stage, and Mark Fanciulli’s first of two sets in dome two. The grey clouds and hints of rain in the afternoon meant you didn’t want to stand or sit exposed to the elements, but this helped usher the early arrivals into the domes for a decent atmosphere during the first sets which can often be woefully under attended at dance music festivals.

When we had armed ourselves with drinks, we made it to the front of dome one to see Davide Squillace go back-to-back with Matthias Tanzmann as two of the Better Lost Than Stupid DJs moved from deep house to tech house. With the dome filling up, a sole shuffler busted out their moves while there was still enough space to flail arms around. Dipping into dome two throughout the day, we caught one of Hot Creations’ newest stars Patrick Topping was a major draw and heard Nick Curly threw in some old skool sounds to the delight of the older ravers.

We spent most of the afternoon in dome one where Dusky kept up the pace set by Squillace and Tanzmann as the summer festival sights of guys whipping their tops off and girls on shoulders (until told to get down by security) started popping up. With the sky now black, the chill in the air became more acceptable and the site lit up nicely to pave way for the final sets from Hot Since 82, Maya Janes Coles and the main man – Nic Fanciulli – who had jetted in from Berlin that morning to play the closing set.

Winter festivals can be tough to get right with the weather against the organisers, but keeping the edition small with low-ceiling domes meant the heat was contained and you were never far from the stage so there was more of a club feel where you could feel a connection with the DJs. The Socialites loved it, beaming away all afternoon and arms shooting up into the air with accompanying whoops for the big drops. This was a very welcome off-season festival and a fun one to “do journalism to”.

I was both alarmed and impressed at the eternal British defiance in accepting our climate.

She Said: On entering Kent Museum of Life’s grounds, my initial impressions of what a day at The Social might hold were mixed. Despite the freezing temperature and rain, there were bottom-displaying hot pants and chaps in vests and swimming shorts in abundance – I was both alarmed and impressed at the eternal British defiance in accepting our climate. Arena one was already in full on party mode and already pretty full with revelers dancing animatedly to Rob Cockerton while Arena two was taking a little time to take off on our initial check in, an unhindered Mark Fanciulli bopping around and spinning some fun, lively house. My first serious hit of this year’s festival euphoria came with David Squillace b2b Matthias Tanzmann, whose set of reliable steady house gradually built up to harder and more distinctive mixes, including a pounding remix of house classic Blaze feat Palmer Brown – “My Beat”.

I had been slightly disappointed by Dusky a couple of months back at Bugged Out Weekender, and wondered whether the years of hyping them up after their fantastic Radio 1 Essential Mix in 2013 had been in vain. I was glad to see them redeem themselves, with a new wave of energy shaking the crowd from the outset as we moved to deeper house with a series of sample effects and skillfully drawn-out vocals. Recent release “Inta” was dropped quite hastily, I thought, having expected a big build up, but regardless the stunning first set of vocals followed by a drop delighted the crowd. Dropping their cute, catchy track “Careless” provided the perfect round up to a set that had explored some of the deeper, darker sides of house music.

Nic Fanciulli was playing attentive host throughout the event, his endless banter giving away no signs of his hard graft over the past couple of days, which included hopping to Berlin for an energetic set at Stadtbad the night before. I was extremely impressed the woodchip distributed throughout the site really did work wonders, keeping the specially-bought white Nike Airs of many revellers pristine despite damp conditions. Overall, a well-thought-through event of quality house music, complemented by a team of highly-conscientious staff throughout. The crowd were all down for a good time, the enthusiasm and happy buzz carrying through late on to the night.

She Said by Ann McManus.

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