It's funny how quickly ten years have passed. As familiar a sight as other August bank holiday weekend events like the ubiquitous Notting Hill Carnival, SW4 has established itself as a regular place for music fans to get their fix of prime dance music and 2013 sees it reach a key milestone in the festival's history, giving them an excuse to put in a few more fireworks, smoke jets and pyrotechnics over the stages to celebrate.
However, like many regular events in London, the weather can always be counted on to throw a spanner in the works and this year was no exception. While spared the constant downpour and thunder and lightning of 2012, the rain certainly made its presence known for the opening day, though after so many years it's come to be expected and treated almost like a joke. I think Carl Cox himself put it best, who after dashing to the VIP area announced to everyone with a big grin “welcome to the UK's festival weather!”
But as with so many years before, the weather was never going to let that stop them having any fun, and the tenth SW4 had assembled a great line up, sporting some top names from yesteryear as well as contemporary acts across house, trance and EDM genres. In a smart move, capacity inside the tents had been increased to deal with the number of people seeking some time out of the rain and there was certainly plenty to enjoy.
Some excellent dance and trance was on offer in the Politics of Dancing tent, with Andy Moor and Lange's pumping DJ set a definite highlight of the afternoon. More impressively, this was home to two sets featuring two of Dance music's biggest names playing after each other to finish up the day: Paul Oakenfold, and Paul van Dyk. To have one of these would have been great, but for both to appear together was a real treat (and a coup for the organisers). It's great to see such big names headlining the same tent and both certainly didn't disappoint the crowds – a real treat for the anniversary occasion.
Definitely a hidden gem was the big tent hiding on the opposite end of the site from the main stage, where a lineup of house greats curated by Carl Cox himself held court. The dark tent and trippy stage visuals lead to a cosy and friendly atmosphere, at times with as many people dancing backstage as there were in the main area. DJs Adam Beyer and Marco Carola were more than able to keep things moving throughout the daytime, with a nice mix of different house styles, though it was clear that Cox was the main draw. Playing both a solo set as well as a back to back session with Loco Dice, he delighted the packed tent and more than lived up to his reputation for creating a fun party vibe.
Despite the on and off rain creating the increasingly muddy and slippery dancing conditions, the main stage lived up to its usual lively reputation. Moving through Sander van Doorn, Eddie Halliwell, and Laidback Luke, each put their particular spin on contemporary dance with plenty of catchy tracks and while they fitted well together on the lineup, I didn't feel like there was enough of a difference between the music each DJ played. Great if you like that kind of thing, but perhaps a little too much of a good thing. A brief respite was had Afrojack, who together with his slightly edgier beats and shouts over the microphone from the booth really got things going as the sun began to set. Which leaves the headline artist Armin van Buuren, who I have mixed feelings for. Opening with a number combining Euro trance with strings over a video of dancers, he gave me impressions of pretentiousness, though I was glad to see that this was a little premature as the remainder of his set was thoroughly enjoyable, with plenty laser lights, smoke and fireworks to accompany the trance finish up the evening. A good start to the SW4 weekend to justify braving the weather and plenty of top acts to enjoy across the day, it put expectations at a high for the second day.
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