London clubbers are treated to a wealth of their favourite acts when South West Four hits Clapham Common every August Bank Holiday. It remains a firm fixture on the city’s festival calendar despite the increasing competition from urban dance events and acts from the trance, EDM, house and techno scenes played on the Saturday when Mike Barnard and Ann McManus were. Here are their views from either side of the gender divide.
Better Lost Than Stupid actually had their own party kicking off on stage behind the decks.
He Said: I’m going to tell it to you straight: I used to love trance music. Down at superclub Slinky on the south coast I used to have a ball. I’m not sure exactly when my taste changed to 4/4 beats with hardly a breakdown to be heard, but now anyone labeling a tune epic will have to produce more than a few pithy lines about flying up into the sky or opening my eyes to witness a new dawn. No thanks. It never paid off. My life never became infinitely better. My attentions turned elsewhere and trance evolved into the super-spectacles now on offer from acts such as Above & Beyond, Alesso, W&W and the New World Punx of Ferry Corsten and Markus Schultz. Visually it’s impressive to watch and the crowds at the main stage of SW4 and in The Gallery tent were having an absolute ball – I may not be a fan anymore, but I won’t begrudge anyone for loving a style of music that used to get me on the dancefloor even if it does seem to have shrugged off the need for a consistent melody when EDM came along, a vague as that term is.
There were two tents serving up all the music I wanted to hear. Guy Gerber went a little too deep with his melodic house set struggling to make an impact on the soundsystem, and, while Booka Shade produced a live show stacked with hits from second album Movements which still pack a punch, alongside the far weaker new material it proved they’ve lost their mojo in the same way as I’ve fallen out with trance music. Shame, but perhaps they can find a fresh zest to pull themselves out of a dour tech house quagmire.
Luckily SW4 is stacked with some of the biggests DJs from across the clubbing spectrum so there’s always plenty to enjoy, and in the DJ Magazine Arena we jumped on the party vibes caused by the teaming up of Martin Buttrich, Davide Squillace, Matthias Tanzmann as Better Lost Than Stupid followed by Tiga and Audion going back-to-back following a couple of hot productions. Better Lost Than Stupid actually had their own party kicking off on stage behind the decks while Tiga and Audion stood stoically behind their laptops but blasted out electro-tinged house to at least put smiles on our faces. Bravo! Following that up with a Paul Kalkbrenner set was a treat too, the Berlin Calling star perhaps still riding that soundtrack’s wave of popularity – he looked like he was loving every minute. It was during Kalkbrenner’s set when he played his remix of “Mad World” with all its lovely vocals that I had a flashback to my trance years and I thought I probably would have enjoyed this during my trance years too. Thanks for the reminder SW4, that was fun.
Classic Guy: turning up his typically deep melodic prog-techno into a lighter-hearted set that got everyone fist-pumping.
She Said: For those who enjoy partying and have a limited/general interest in music, SW4 is an opportunity to earn kudos for going to a “festival” with well-respected names without having to camp. For those well-versed in electronic music, SW4 is a mystery – how do they manage to secure such an impressive line-up year after year given music nerds hold the event in such contempt?! I say it provides the perfect opportunity for festival virgins to be sold into the world of quality electronic music and festivals in the comfort of central London.
A sunny Saturday put us off to a welcoming start, turning up just in time to pick up an Ibiza Ice (my new favourite festival drink: swankily bottled mildly-sweet “healthy” wine cocktail) and catch Guy Gerber. Classic Guy: turning up his typically deep melodic prog-techno into a lighter-hearted set that got everyone fist-pumping. He definitely earned points with the crowd filming them all enjoying his final track. Better Lost Than Stupid followed by Tiga b2b Audion were each a treat, the DJ Magazine tent drawing an enthusiastic international crowd. As with any London event, promising an opportunity to go off-the-wall to electro means mass appeal to Italians (a night to fabric wouldn’t be a night to fabric without over-hyped Italians!).
After years of attendees moaning about the soundsystem allowing one to ditch their ear-plugs and replacing it with a hearing aid, I feel the sound level has reached a happy medium at SW4. I could enjoy (slight exaggeration in the case of W&W’s set/race against time to play every well-known EDM track employing smoke machines to distract from the resultant chaos of sounds) the music without leaving and worrying whether tomorrow would be tetanus-time. Excellent, I thought, fresh ears to inevitably take to spoil at the hands of the explosive volume stemming from the soundsystems at Notting Hill Carnival…
She Said by Ann McManus