Wild Life’s Hidden Gem

Listen up, Wild Life festival has got a hidden gem and I want to tell you all about it. But bear with me while I set the scene…

With exams all finished for Sussex students, the sight of a lecture theatre long forgotten until September and the weather forecast predicting sun all weekend, Wild Life festival couldn’t have landed at a much better time of year.

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View of the main stage and Elrow tent (taken from Wild Life’s Facebook page)

The festival, spread over Friday and Saturday, had an interesting lineup, with plenty of big names, and as Brighton’s only major multi-day festival I was looking forward to seeing what it had to offer. After nowhere near enough sleep on the Thursday night (staying up watching the election results is addictive), I dragged myself out of bed, put on some shorts and quickly made my way on the train to a pub in Shoreham for a cold, crisp pint of Guinness (the best way to start any day).

The first thing I noticed, and probably one of the biggest downfalls about the festival as a whole, was the number of kids. Shoreham town centre was heaving with 14 to 17-year-old teenagers, which shocked me to start with as I didn’t actually know that Wild Life was an under 18 festival. I guess, with a lineup consisting mainly of word class electronic dance music DJs, I assumed it would be 18+ only.

Wristbands collected and swiftly through the security at the VIP entrance, we went straight to see Pete Tong at the Terminal Stage. Unfortunately, the under 18s had grown in strength here as well, and I was finding it hard to spot anyone much older than myself (22). Instead I was faced with crowds of intoxicated teenagers, passing cigarettes around between groups of eight because only ‘Big Bill’ looks old enough to get served at the local corner shop with fake ID and Kerry had all the supplies her sister bought in her bum bag but it got confiscated by security. I overheard a couple of them bickering: “Oi!! You’ve had two tokes I’ve only had one!”

I know it already seems like I’m getting quite caught up on this, but to me it was a really noticeable factor throughout the two days. Don’t stop reading now though because then you’ll miss the real message I’m trying to portray here…

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Pete Tong playing at the Terminal stage on Friday afternoon

Nevertheless, Pete Tong did not disappoint with 90 minutes of grooving house music under a bright blue sky on what was a perfect sunny day. The sound system at the Terminal stage was great, and I loved the vast surface area of visual screens (pictured above), which had been, as I found out later, arranged to represent the shape of the Brighton City Airport’s terminal building (a nice idea). With the tunes rolling, a cold pint in hand and standing a bit further away at the back of the crowd, the thought of the youngsters quite quickly moved to the back of my mind.

De La Swing, Jackmaster and The Martinez Brothers were all playing one after each other in the Elrow tent on the Friday afternoon. If you haven’t heard of Elrow before, they champion a unique concept which focusses on bringing their venues to life with extensive psychedelic jungle themed decorations, and tons and tons of confetti and blow-ups which they throw out into the crowd at regular intervals. Elrow started out as a weekly party in Ibiza and has recently become a worldwide club night with hugely popular sell out events all over the UK and Europe. The stage featured an underground lineup on both days and I was expecting it would attract some of the older student (20 to 30-year-old) crowd.

How wrong I was.

The tent was stuffed with youngsters, even more so than where we had been before. At the back of the tent, the sound was tinny and poor, but moving any further into the crowd meant lack of oxygen, constant pushing and shoving from all angles and the risk of getting smacked in the face by the swinging jaw of jack-the-lad standing next to you. Trying to get away from it was difficult, each way you turned another wide eyed Tarsier-like creature would come running towards you like something out of a horror movie.

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The closest I could get to the Elrow stage without feeling uncomfortable

Okay… I’m over exaggerating, but it was pretty bad, just take a look at this video which shows a large group of people ‘moshing’ to Yousef on the Saturday (definitely not my kind of thing).

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That being said, the decoration was awesome as always, and I enjoyed getting covered in confetti a couple of times, but after an hour or so in there, and with a young girl behind me being seen to by a large group of paramedics after collapsing, the atmosphere was ruined and my internal irritation meter had reached its maximum capacity, so we decided to head off. In fact, although the lineup for Elrow was great all weekend, I never actually stepped foot back into the tent.

Let me tell you why…

I was planning to meet up with some friends from university and this seemed like a good time to go and find them. They said were hanging out the Urban Forest stage which I hadn’t yet come across, so we went for a little search, which proved harder than expected now the sun had pretty much disappeared, and we had to get a site map up on my phone to figure out exactly where it was. The stage, run by Kopparberg, was tucked away in the corner of the festival. As we approached it, we were asked by security for some identification.

HURRAY!!!

I’ve probably never been so happy to be asked to flash my driving license in my life, as this meant I was about to enter essentially a safe space for over 18s. It got even better once we were in. The Black Madonna was tearing the place up, and there was plenty of space to fully get my groove on, whilst still being close enough to the stage to really feel like I was a part of the party. The sound system was crisp and the crowd were all on the same vibe. Not only that, but there were two bars on either side of the small enclosed (but outdoor) stage with plenty of staff and minimal queues which made getting yourself a drink a breeze.

It was so great I stayed there all night. Heidi followed after The Black Madonna and played an excellent closing set. I left when it closed, my eyes slightly wobbly from the strobe lights, but fully energized and excited for what day two was going to bring.

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Heidi closing the Urban Forest stage on Friday night

Saturday was an earlier start. Henry J, a friend from the radio station and fellow student at Sussex, was opening the Urban Forest stage after winning the Wild Life DJ competition and I was keen to support him and watch his set. The sun was shining even brighter than the previous day, so I joined a bunch of other Sussex students and got through the gates at just gone 2pm.

Straight to the Urban Forest stage and I was met by a friendly member of the Kopperberg team who offered me a generous free taster of their new ‘Fruit Lager’, which was absolutely divine in the sunshine (I’m not being paid to say this, it was actually really nice and I went straight to the bar to purchase a full bottle). Henry was spinning some really nice chilled house music which set the scene for the day perfectly.

It was great to see him enjoying himself and everyone there was loving the music he was playing. The stage was actually quite busy bearing in mind the gates had only opened less than half an hour before hand. In fact, it was busier than the Terminal stage for most of the afternoon. Maybe people were beginning to catch on to how great this stage really was.

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Henry J opening the Urban Forest stage on Saturday

A quick trip to the ‘Sounds Of The Near Future’ tent to catch Romare and Joe Goddard was mostly disappointing and only further strengthened my love for the Urban Forest. The sound system was really crackly, and constantly sounded like was peaking and distorting which was a shame as Joe Goddard put on a decent performance. We returned to a now much busier Uban Forest stage to see Horse Meat Disco, Gerd Janson, and Denis Sultra B2B Artwork which was one of my absolute highlights of the festival. The vibe was so brilliant and intimate, with everyone getting fully involved with the party, and Artwork even got the crowd to separate down the middle and have a bit of a dance off half way through his set (see video below).

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Horse Meat Disco playing at the Urban Forest stage

As the sun began to set, Artwork played this funky track by Ditongo while making it his own with his Pioneer remix station which got the whole crowd moving in sync, it was a real feel good moment and a great memory to take away from Wild Life!

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Artwork starting a dance off at the Urban Forest

We finished the weekend at the Terminal stage for Eric Prydz and Disclosure B2B Armand Van Heldon. I have to say, I was absolutely blown away by the visuals for Eric Prydz’s set. The entire front of the stage was used to it’s full potential, with outstanding visual displays throughout the 90 minutes he played for which were perfectly in sync with the tracks he was playing. He started just before sunset and continued on as Brighton City Airport was plunged into the darkness of night. It was definitely another highlight of my weekend. Armand Van Heldon and Disclosure also did a brilliant job of closing and I left the festival in a great mood with Heldon’s Edit of ‘Professional Widow’ stuck on repeat in my head.

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Sunset over the Terminal stage at the start of Eric Prydz’s set

All in all, the festival exceeded my expectations, and although I didn’t visit the main stage (as I was there more for the dance music), there seemed to be something for everyone. It was a shame about the crowds of teenagers in certain areas which had a tendency to ruin the atmosphere, but the over 18 area made this much more bearable. If you didn’t visit the Urban Forest, in my opinion you really missed out! Hopefully the festival returns next year as I would love to re-live the experience in 2018.

Fin Evans

IMG_4987A quick picture of the crew while Artwork and Denis Sultra were playing