Enjoying a weekend at Sundown Festival: photos and review.
It's September and you're not going back to school. You're packing up your bindle and going to a festival. Will it rain? Will it be muddy? Will you care? No (well, not until you have rain in your pillowcase and your third hangover from hell, but let's focus on the positives here).
Sundown celebrates its 5th year in style with opening parties, after parties, VIP chill out and essentially more than you can cram into a weekend in Norfolk without violating the Geneva Convention.
The make or break of Sundown Festival is whether you camp or you don't camp. You must do the former. Want to be at the Bigtop opening party with Jaguar Skills (and you do) then camp, want to go to the afterparty with DJ EZ (and you really do) - camp - want to embrace the atmosphere and laugh your arse off with your friends? Camp! Those not camping happen to be those complaining about missing out on the Sundown experience: it's called Sundown guys, don’t leave early!
The Carnival and the music start up simultaneously. Of course the highest ride is the one to go for first, we all know this. And it happens to be the perfect way to explore the site. As you’re spun through the air upside down, left to right, from the end of a 20m arm at dusk, you notice the bass of Toyboy & Robin from the Covered tent throwing an almighty party. The music is a constant as the tent blurs by; the party bursting at the seams. The areas that haven't yet been explored look tantalising, as further on from the covered parties lies the the main stage compound, behind this is the VIP Lounge and a warehouse afterparty. You hear about getting high to experience a festival so often, but this brings a whole new meaning to the phrase.
The full festival opened in the morning with James King and the crowd is refreshingly responsive. As the sun is starting to shine, the wind and rain arrive with a wish to decimate the field, me, James and about 2,000 people. No sooner than the smugness of those who brought rain coats emerges, so does the sun and we're back in Summer. James is smiling, the crowd are cheering: that's two fingers up to organisation!
The day gets stronger as saviour Becky Hill steps in for the unfortunately unavailable Jess Glyne who is unable to perform. Hill, wonderful in tone, sounds like she always knew Sundown was on the schedule. Lethal Bizzle makes an entrance on wheels (for anyone interested, those half a Segway things, IO Hawk) its official: walking is dead! Then MNEK, Fuse dog, Sigma, Ella Henderson play and are crowned by Rudimental. There hasn't been as many stars here in Norfolk since Partridge last wheeled up in his Rover 800. A potential clash between Gorgon City and Sigma has us feeling sick to the stomach, however, it is the clever staggering of scheduled sets that enables us to fit in two on different stages without sprinting through the festival like someone has just stolen your phone.
Now for the most important part: there are loads of toilets. Seriously more than you’d ever expect and loads of places to eat. Basically fifty restaurants and cubicles for each attendee: it's like being in an airport.
Behind every wall at Sundown is a hidden area. Some with cake stalls, pizza huts, acoustic stages, DJ’s set up, and at the end of the night is the warehouse afterparty: you need to explore the whole site - it's not a 'hang around in the main arena with a deck chair' type event. A lot of Sundown has VIP written in front of it, this is for you - the people buying tickets - its not all about artists performing. In that way it's both exclusive and inclusive at the same time. You're even invited to the artist lounge, for crying out loud. Could you picture that at Glastonbury?
Sundown manages to keep things epic, acts that fill stadiums, playing sizeable stages but without losing the sense of being small: it felt exclusive.
Written by S P Griffiths.