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Festival Review – Waterworks Festival, West London, 25/09/21

As the festival season draws to a close, the teams behind Percolate and Team Love joined together to present Waterworks Festival, for a curation of electronic music programming focusing on the different paths and strands of the UK’s musical dance landscape.

With autumnal clouds drifting across the skies on early Saturday morning, festival goers prepped themselves for one of the final dances of the summer and even though the last, Waterworks had all the elements to be one of the most exciting and inspiring curations. With a lineup that aimed to “bring together the diverse talent that explores the foundation of London’s underground music scene, unconfined by genre or stature.“, the events kicked off in early style and once again there was no holding back from selectors.
Surprisingly (as a boy who grew up round the corner), the festival took place in the parkland of West London’s Gunnersbury Park, a pristine green space usually home to dog walkers and family picnics. Kicking things off the Butterside Up crew Hamish & Toby joined forces with fellow minimal magician Sugar Free to get the early afternoon chuggers rolling at the Cedar stage, with stripped back 4/4 rhythms swinging across what felt like a school playground turned tech house haven for the day.

Gracing the Cedar stage across the day were the likes of Unai Trottie, Jane Fitz and Jade Seattle (with their Night Moves project), Graded head honcho and UK legend Midland and finishing it all of Craig Richards b2b with Nicolas Lutz, which as a pair feels beyond natural. The real highlight came from Midland’s sunset session which took the crowd through a selection of pulsation perfection which highlighted the depth of the Void sound systems installed. Cheech’s energy injecting “Chicago Wild” caused arms to fly through the sky as the sun faded and the Waterworks teams lighting installations could really come into full effect.

Over at one of the most central stages, the Water Tower held a 360 degrees sound system which wrapped itself round the central pavilion of Gunnersbury Park. Juno favourites Dan Beaumont & Wes Baggaley brought the groovers early on but it was Job Jobse who stole the limelight for the day with a killer blend of rave classics and new school euphoric bangers, which echoed across the fields (maybe the stage sound bleed could be one criticism on an excellent day) and this felt like a homage to the free parties the UK/Warehouse scene developed from so strongly in the 90’s. Handing over to the UK staple Josey Rebelle, maybe one of London’s most influential and important selectors, she did what she does best and shelled out a selection of rare and unique weapons.
As always with these festivals, seven stages meant clash galore and rumours echoed across the festival of the phenomenal sets played by all throughout the day causing inevitable musical fomo.

We shuffled across from the Water Tower to catch the last hour of Batu and damm was it a good decision. Maybe the highlight set off the whole day, the Pressure stage gave some of the best clarity in sound and stage design with shipping containers placed around the stage for optimal sound intensity. This was showcased in full effect during the Timedance affiliates set. Stretching from afro beat influenced bass creations to forgotten club weapons such as Serious Danger’s ‘Battle Plate’, the darkness of night gave the space for the light installations to boom and the crowds energy throttled through the roof.

Josey Rebelle (left) and Job Jobse

With a serious range of top notch DJ’s closing out the festival, we headed to the Commune stage to check out two of the biggest up and coming artists in the UK breaks and Jungle scene. NTS host Toshiki Ohta didn’t hold back and played a range of UK hardcore classics mixed in with new fresh sounds, blending between Blame’s ‘Music Takes You’ and new school unreleased gems. Otik was up next to close things off and the South London based producer gave an audio exploration into what can only be conceived as his musical influences. Shelling out his own productions, with a mixture of Hip Hop weapons and recent classics such as Joy Orbison’s ‘layer 6’, Otik showed why he is one to have a close eye on in the forthcoming future and ended what was a day of dance musics stars in full form.

As always with a debut festival things can go so wrong but it really felt like for the Waterworks team that the plans aligned after three years of planning and London has been gifted one of the best new festivals the capital has seen in a long time. You can already sign up for the 2022 edition here

Words: Jack Carr-Miles

Pictures: @jakephilipdavis

Check out our ‘Heard at Waterworks’ chart here

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