It is toasty this Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, as hordes of ravers descend upon Clapham Common for the traditional send-off for another summer season of festival mayhem. SW4 has landed in the capital, and after yesterday’s fun and games were topped off by an increasingly active Pendulum, today it’s the turn of Deadmau5 to bring his unique brand of progressive house to London.
First off, though, there is a pretty stacked support bill, and after a host of DJs take their turns to warm up an already sweating crowd, Sub Focus takes to the main stage to unleash his mash up of trance, house and drum ‘n’ bass. Bringing his always impressive looking, space agey backdrop to the party, it’s a shame that the sunny afternoon slot guts out any chance of a good light show, but when you’ve got jams like "Turn Back Time", "Tidal Wave" and a hugely crowd-pleasing "Could This Be Real" in your back pocket, it really doesn’t matter.
Given that Pendulum look set to be gearing up for a proper album cycle again, it’s hard to say if Knife Party – featuring Pendulum alumni Rob Swire and Garth McGrillen – will get much of a look-in over the coming year, which is a small shame, because they smash the shit out of the main stage today. "Abandon Ship" was a brilliant slab of genre-crossing party dance, and tonight the duo provide the perfect warm-up to SW4’s main event. Bonfire – now over five years old, amazingly – is an absolute anthem that almost steals the weekend, and the giant screen the two DJ’s sit atop of is plastered with cool visuals that make the most of their stabby mascot.
Few things, though, can truly step up to Deadmau5. Launching into "Imaginary Friends" from last year’s outstanding "W:/2016ALBUM/", the man born Joel Zimmerman is initially hidden behind a huge black sheet, building up to that ridiculous first drop before he’s fully revealed, lording over a huge, suspended, LCD cube. Which, by the way, not only projects a ton of amazing effects and visuals throughout his set, but certainly seems to amaze and confuse some of the more…ah…happy punters around us. Shout out the rubix cube effect for really causing a few people to lose their minds, by the way.
His trademark mouse helmet, too, lights up like an overexcited Christmas decoration, adding a layer of surrealness to a set that is absolutely stacked with brilliant songs from across his increasingly prolific arsenal. "Avataria", "Ghosts ‘N’ Stuff" and a heartachingly gorgeous "Strobe" are highlights of a show that rarely dials it back, successfully peppering those big, chorus-y chord segments with enough massive drops to keep Clapham dancing its tits off. Even Zimmerman taking his helmet off for a few tracks in the midst of the set doesn’t spoil the vibe or the illusion – this is what great, live dance music should be all about: good songs, happy people and a big, fuck-off light show.
That more recent tracks such as "Let Go" easily go toe-to-toe with classics like "I Remember" shows that the man is pretty much incapable of putting out duff material, and there genuinely isn’t a dull moment to be found during his 90 minute set. As "Strobe" finishes things off on an emotional keel, the house lights come up and just like that, another festival season is over. To be fair, though: what a fucking way to top it off.
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
festival home page