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Sunfall Festival 2017: Four acts you should see this year

In its second year, the day program in Brockwell Park offers some enticing back-to-back sets not to be missed

Thomas Goulding
Wednesday 09 August 2017 14:07 BST
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“Nobody’s ever going to go to a festival in the centre of London and hear a sound system like Berghain,” said Andy Peyton, head of the Columbo Group in an interview with Resident Advisor last year. Peyton co-runs Sunfall Festival in Brockwell Park, this coming Saturday 12 August, and while this is undoubtedly true, Sunfall is quickly staking a claim to be one of the next best outdoor experiences for electronic music in the capital.

While Junction 2 or Percolate might have something to say about that, Sunfall has a rare day and night set up designed to give attendees a multi-layered experience over 18 hours. Set up last year by Columbo, who run XOYO and Phonox amongst other venues, as well as the team behind Dimensions and Outlook festivals, the festival has 10 hours of day programming across four stages in the park sandwiched between Herne Hill and Brixton Hill, and a night program in any one of nine clubs across the city. This affords ravers ample ability to enjoy the diversity of music on offer, both in the outdoors and in the cavernous basements of the city.

London is not a place where it's easy to host electronic events with high-quality, beefy sound outside. But, for all the criticisms to make of XOYO and Phonox, a fairly unrivalled house and techno booking record and meticulous care over sound are two undoubted achievements. And while there are reports of Sunfall’s main stage last year not being the most overwhelming sound experience, there seemed to be no problems with the three other tents’ sounds.

With a capacity of 10,000 last year and broadly similar this year, the organisers have said they have taken on board the bottleneck queues experienced at various stations, one of the few problems reported with the event in its first year, now increasing the numbers of toilets and bars this time round according to organiser Peyton.

With such a dense line-up, you’re unlikely to go wrong wherever you go. Motor City Drum Ensemble or Ben UFO? Peggy Gou or Theo Parrish? You hardly need advice to attend the likes of soul guru Roy Ayers or house legend Larry Heard’s first performance in London for twenty years, so here are some other artists you should make sure to see:

Palms Trax b2b Antal

Palms Trax and Antal have had extremely strong recent years. It’s hard to believe that the former, Jay Donaldson, didn’t play any festivals abroad before 2015, as since then, he has delivered some unforgettable sets that have stuck in many fans’ memories. Two Boiler Room x Dekmantel performances last year, one in Sao Paulo and one in Amsterdam, were packed full of shazam-clutching goodness, including plenty of old Brazilian classics in amongst them.

Antal Heitlager co-founded the much-loved Rush Hour label in Amsterdam and can often be found playing with fellow Dutchman Hunee, spanning soul and disco of the past fifty years, as well as Brazilian and international house and techno. I witnessed the two of them both bring people to tears by the end of respective sets last weekend, Antal (with Hunee) closing the main stage at Dekmantel with Marlena Shaw’s heartbreaking “Touch Me In The Morning”, and Palms Trax (with Midland) closing a five-hour set at Radion with Arthur Russell’s “That’s Us / Wild Combination”. The 3.30pm slot may be too early for tears on Saturday, though you wouldn’t put much past them.

Black Madonna b2b HAAi

Closing the South Stage are two women who have both been residents at Columbo Group clubs this summer (XOYO and Phonox respectively), and who have had extraordinarily successful previous 18 month periods.

Marea Vierge-Noire (Black Madonna) has been selecting her multi-genre blend for over a decade, before on certain measures blowing up in the past few years, as explored in the excellent Resident Advisor ‘Between the Beats’ documentary profile. The piece explores her battles within an industry that can be notoriously hostile to women, with impressive subtlety for an under-30 minute piece, and is one of the magazine’s best films.

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Teneil Throssell (HAAi) is also an eclectic selector, and has brought Auntie Flo, Chaos in the CBD and Daniel Avery amongst others to play with her on Saturday nights in Brixton through this summer. Putting the two of them together is well worth your time if you want an unpredictable, heart-stomping journey.

Princess Nokia

There is plenty of house and techno at Sunfall, where you’ll also get plenty of disco, Italo and electro. You won’t get anyone quite like Princess Nokia however, the Puerto Rican rapper from New York, who has been one of the most impactful young icons in hip-hop of the past few years.

Government name Destiny Frasqueri, she has an intense, religiously-committed core following, though how many of those will be at electronic-dominated Sunfall remains to be seen. Her mesmeric hits such as Tomboy (with incessant refrain “With my little titties and my fat belly”) and G.O.A.T, Frasqueri is on for an hour in the penultimate slot, allowing plenty of time to return to HAAi and Black Madonna after if you so wish.

She reportedly jumped into the crowd thirty seconds into a performance at the Cambridge University Charity Fashion Show earlier this year, to throw a drink over and punch a white dude who was harassing her, according to the newspaper the Cambridge Student.

“That’s what you do when a white boy disrespects you” she then reportedly said. Any legends from nearby Clapham better be on their best behaviour.

Shanti Celeste

Shanti Celeste is a product of parochial Britain – starting going to raves in the Lake District and DJ-ing in Falmouth from the age of 17 - and has been producing melodic house and techno from Bristol for a while now. She has steadily risen over the past few years, with plenty of slots on Radio 1 and NTS, as well as mixes on RA, FACT mag, Boiler Room and Dekmantel bringing her more and more attention.

She took the 3pm slot in the sunshine last Sunday on the main stage at Dekmantel and by all accounts played one of the sets of the afternoon, from metallic Hessle sounds to 80s ballads. Seeing her at 2.30pm on Saturday will be a good choice.

Tickets are still available for Sunfall Festival, on Saturday 12 August, at residentadvisor.com.

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