I won’t lie to you. My tolerance for day festivals has been sorely tested in recent years. And that is partly my own fault for not putting my foot down and saying enough! I cannot handle the queueing to take a shit, the wait to grab a beer, the endless trying to find your mates who I swear were definitely in this section of the crowd a few minutes ago, and so on. I made some poor choices too, purely because other friends who I hadn’t seen for a while were attending and I wanted to catch up with them – even if the music wasn’t entirely up my street. But as an intolerant music snob at heart, putting myself in these precarious scenarios was recipe for frustration. The extreme low points were probably Lovebox at Victoria Park; All Points East at the same location, which I left early because I was so miserable by the end of it; and most disappointly of all the Found Festival at Brockwell Park. The programming was good if not entirely my scene (at the time), but the crowd was pretty unfriendly and the sound quality was terrible, something which I later heard was down to Lambeth Council being quite restrictive. Mood II Swing played out of a ground-level tiny sound system, which was nice in that it felt somewhat small and intimate, but my stereo in the sitting room packs more punch and I just couldn’t get into the vibe at all.
So a pal had been raving to me about Gala in Peckham Rye Park, saying it was amazing, best day ever. Also said that the sound systems were LOUD and clear, questioning how on earth Southwark had given them the green light and whether it would ever be the same. Admittedly I was suspect about the feedback, and if Mixmag says it’s the best thing since craft bread that makes me even more sceptical. The weather in the previous year had also been splitting stones, which makes the memories honey tinted. Someone else said to me that having a couple of pills in the belly always makes the day fun no matter what, but for me that is irrelevant one way or another. You can (I can) still have a shit time or great time either way.
So I rocked up with his crew reasonably early in the day, not having met any of them before, the warmth of the late May sun slightly tinged with menace as grey clouds hovered in the distance. How was it? Well, you may have read some of the reviews online already, here, here, and here for example, so I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say it was glorious. Friendly crowd, not too polished, easy to get around and find your friends, no queues, security polite and discreet yet present in the event of any unpleasantness, sound systems crystal clear and pleasingly deafening (all pointing away from the houses on the eastern side of the common, smart planning), vegan food available from the trucks, great atmosphere of people dancing and whooping – something that is often lacking at London events. The afternoon went by in a blur and the evening even more so, the end coming all too suddenly and leaving me wanting more. We met random people for some “back to mine” (when was the last time I did that??) after a chaotic aftermath unsuccessfully trying to corral everyone into the Four Quarters on Rye Lane, and stayed up drinking and listening to records and talking shit, until my eyelids felt like lead sometime in the small hours, and it was time to walk up the old canal path home. Roll on next year, I will be buying my early bird tickets as soon as they surface, and I’m recommending you do the same.