What a difference a week makes! Last weekend I was ankle deep in mud at Leeds Festival whilst enjoying performances by the likes of Green Day and System Of A Down. One week later and it’s glorious sunshine with not a drop of rain in sight. The musical genres on offer also differ greatly. Instead of Green Day and System Of A Down, I’m witnessing shows by JLS, and Rita Ora; from one extreme to the other both musically and in weather conditions.
So, where am I this weekend, what region of our marvellous country has been graced by such glorious sunshine in September? Where I am is the Royal Norfolk Showground for the third annual Sundown Festival. The Sundown Festival, presented by Norfolk Spectacular, has made this weekend it’s home and for the past three years has delivered to East Anglia some of the biggest chart topping pop acts.
The crowds this weekend, approximately 45,000 over the two days, are treated to sets from the likes of DJ Fresh, Wiley, James Arthur, and headliners Example, and Jessie J. The crowd itself is a mix of young families and groups of teenagers. For this festival could be dubbed both a family favourite and a hipster heaven.
There is plenty on offer for both groups. Once in the arena there are a number of fun fair rides and arcades. There is a good selection of stalls as well, all of which offer more than just music for the Sundown attendees. There are two large bars and a wide variety of food on offer, all at the usual festival prices. One food stall that stands out is a van that sells Nando’s style chicken, the name of this stall, why Vando’s of course, what else.
The infrastructure and layout of the festival are well organised and make for a free flowing festival experience. The toilets in particular are some of the best I’ve seen at a festival. This is in no small part due to the existing Norfolk Showground toilet facilities being accessible to festival goers. Add to these the usual portaloos and urinals plus the VIPee’s luxury loos, the usual festival toilet experience is made a lot easier.
A lot of the tickets sold to this event are day tickets, however there is weekend camping, both your bog standard camping and the more luxurious glamping experiences are on offer. Extra entertainment is laid on for the happy campers in a large warehouse. DJ’s including Hed Kandi keep the party going late into the night.
As for the music on offer inside the arena, both days have two stages operating. The large outdoor main stage and a smaller undercover stage simply called Stage 2. Not the biggest amount of stages but just right for this festival, after all most people are clearly here for the big names on the main stage.
The Saturday is aimed more at the hipsters and it’s the groups of teenagers that dominate the audience. The main stage is home to around 11-13 acts per day with relatively quick turnarounds. Two DJ’s keep the crowd active in between the acts. Early on Saturday the main stage is graced by names such as Amplify Dot, Little Nikki, Ria Ritchie, Angel, and Jaguar Skills who warm the crowd up for the top acts.
X-Factor winner James Arthur pulls a large crowd and the women and young girls in the crowd particularly lap up every song including his hit single ‘Impossible’. Arthur is followed by DJ Fresh Live who delights the audience with a hit packed set. One of the biggest names on the bill is that of Rita Ora. Backed by a stunning light show, Ora delivers a crowd pleasing performance with huge single ‘RIP’ the exclamation point at the end.
Next on the main stage is English rapper/MC Example, who having played the inaugural festival three years ago returns as Saturday's headline act. Example proceeds to prove himself a worthy headliner with a confidant performance. From opening track ‘Kickstarts’ onwards the crowd clearly love every minute of a set made up of new songs and hit singles.
The Sunday of Sundown is certainly the more family friendly day and there are a greater number of young families in attendance. Despite being more overcast, the temperature is still warm enough early on for shorts and t-shirts, and the ice cream vans do good business.
There are slightly more acts on the main stage today and the likes of Amelia Lily are on offer early on. After The Vandals are finished butchering classics by The Undertones and The Killers Naughty Boy takes the stage. Naughty Boy (who thankfully loses out on the number one spot to Avenged Sevenfold today) keeps the crowd moving as they await today’s star acts.
Wiley, who has made a name for himself this summer by dropping out of and walking out of festivals unfortunately turns up and performs next. One piece of good news however is that boy band JLS are splitting up. Sadly however I have to endure their mind numbing awfulness next as I feel the masculinity (what’s left of it) draining from my body. In the interest of fairness, the crowd clearly love their performance and no doubt they have been the highlight for most young girls in attendance today.
Headlining the Sunday night is English singer and former The Voice judge Jessie J. Her stage set up is easily the most impressive of the weekend and her musical offerings are probably the best of the day. Hits like ‘Price Tag’ instigate huge sing-a-longs from the young crowd and her performance will live long in the memories of the Sundown Festival audience.
After two days of music, the Sundown Festival organisers have delivered a very good festival for their capture audience. Festival goers shouldn’t have anything to complain about and will surely be back next year for more of the same. Personally I’m more James Hetfield (Metallica singer for those that don’t know) than James Arthur, so I’ll set my sights to the start of next festival season and Download Festival. Who knows, perhaps the Showground might one day welcome such acts at its own rock festival!
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
festival home page