[review]

It’s been a long-time-coming, but 2016’s festival season has officially kicked off. Yesterday saw the likes of Common People and Radio 1’s Big Weekend open their gates, however it was Upminster’s We Are FSTVL that dealt the cards firmly for the house-heads out there.

Whilst hedonism isn’t We Are FSTVL’s main focus (that’s left to the likes of Glastonbury, Bestival and Secret Garden), it’s safe to say that organisers have worked hard to make sure that catering for the masses was high-up on the agenda; not once did it seem like you were sharing parkland with over 15,000 others – a complete relief versus other similar events where space can feel so cramped you feel like giving up almost an hour in.

Though still in its infancy (2016 marked We Are FSTVL’s fourth year), that hasn’t stopped the teams there attracting some of the biggest names in the specialist scene. Additionally, unlike its more pop-focused contemporaries, a festival with house, bass and dance at its core need not worry about siloing acts from A-list to C-list… fans of these genres are fairly agnostic, to the point that “if ye plays good music, ye will come”, and yesterday’s opening party sure seemed that way. Every stage and tent was packed, yet the crowds helped to drive the carnival atmosphere across the parkland.

However, whilst the likes of the UKF tent (which saw some stellar sets from Cause and Affect, My Nu Leng, Shy FX and more) did up the temperature to a sweaty mosh, it was the VIP area which really became the saving-grace (well worth the minimal upgrade fee in our minds). The Glitterbox Defected stage, led by the label’s founder Simon Dunmore, delivered 80s and 90s house grooves to attendees spanning 18 to 45; as camp as it was chic, the stage was a further reminder of how the genre found its soul in 1970s NYC, and how its importance is still as prevalent today as it’s ever been.

There were of course some ‘predictable’ sets – Sigma for one didn’t seem to carry the same sparkle as some of the early-in-their-career shows from a couple of years back; however the saving grace certainly came from headliner Fatboy Slim, who delivered a show reminding fans of how stellar his whole discography has been. Less angry than other DJs out there (*cough* Calvin Harris *cough*), Norman Cook’s set was, simply put, exciting and invigorating. He may no longer be the leader of the pack amongst the genre, but he certainly became the hero of the day (though it wasn’t like anything needed saving) – a consummate closer of a day that contained minimal, if any, issues.

Just like Bestival is seen as the final hurdle for the annual festival season, we should probably start considering We Are FSTVL as the ‘other’ bookend.

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