If you take a broad look at the festival history of the past few years, Outlook and Dimensions are two of the biggest success stories, inextricably tied by their shared production team, location, and careful balance between expertly selected talent and blasting soundsystem madness. On both counts, they have also led the trend of extend their reach beyond the events themselves, hosting launch parties all over Europe, so it makes a certain amount of sense that they would also turn their attention to the park festival circuit.
Enter Sunfall, a brand new X in London’s summer calendar run by the minds behind Outlook and Dimensions, as well as two of South London’s most prominent clubs – XOYO and Phonox. It has a unique, intriguing USP – after the park clears out in the late evening, the headline acts all disperse into the city and curate their own afterparties, keeping the momentum going until 5am instead of staying chained to strict, but understandable curfew regulations. In this way, the daytime activity was almost a warm-up for the night, but what a warm up it was.
Brockwell Park isn’t the largest one in London, far from it, and in my experience park festivals can often suffer issues because they try and cram too much into too small a space, but not with Sunfall. Moving down from the main stage, there were 3 big tops – South, North and West – each one tailored to a particular type of dance music. Elsewhere you had the usual spread of food stalls, and most interestingly, an area dubbed the ‘Knowledge Arena’, where guests could play around with various articles of production hardwire, like if the Apple Store was musically minded and full of glittery fucked people. Later in the day this area played host to a series of Q&As, in similar fashion to the ones hosted at Dimensions during the day.
Even with people slowly trickling in earlier in the day, the vibe was already intoxicating, thanks in no small part to blistering early sets from Shackleton and Fatima Yamaha. For me, though, the most memorable early appearance was made on the main stage by the Yussef Kamaal Trio, a stripped down jazz outfit led by drummer Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams on keys. After that it was back into the tent to hope and pray that Zomby didn’t enact one of this famous noshows, and happily he didn’t, although it could have easily been an imposter under that V for Vendetta mask.
Shortly afterwards came Kamasi Washington, the Kendrick Lamar collaborating saxophonist who blew everyone’s minds with his 2015 album, The Epic. During his set he reminded everyone that in the solid month that him and the rest of his West Coast Get Down compatriots actually records 8 albums, all of them tied to a different band leader. As such, the set acted as a showcase for each member, one by one, and bassist Miles Mosley was the runaway highlight.
As the evening rolled in, the chilled vibe gave way to a thundering, bassy swell of excitement, frontlined by a ridiculous triple threat of back-to-back sets – Mala and Coki, Om Unit and Sam Binga and finally Goldie and dBridge. The atmosphere, combined with the ribcage cracking intensity of the soundsystem in the South tent made it the place to be for most of the rest of the day, especially where Mala and Coki were concerned. Elsewhere Moodymann dominated the main stage with a characteristically funky set, taking the odd minute to explain to the crowd how he had intended to ply them all with vodka and free T-shirts, but logistics wouldn’t allow for it. In the North and West tents, Joy Orbison, Job Jobse, Omar S and Ben Klock all performed as well as you’d expect before the crowd rippled back out into the sunset for the closer – Jamie XX.
What is there left to be said about Jamie XX? His solo debut In Colour was one of the best releases of 2015 and his live sets are varied, meticulous and fascinating. This was no different, as the sun crept below the tree line, he interspersed his own tunes with other classic and obscure beats, keeping the crowd guessing, but in the most relaxed, quietly elated way. Late into it I started bouncing between the South tent and main stage at intervals, spending a blistering 15 minutes in the grip of Goldie and dBridge’s masterful DnB onslaught before coming back up for air to see where Jamie was at. In all, Sunfall’s maiden flight was a hugely successful one, a cannily curated mixture of intimacy and intensity that offered something for everyone.