Review: Mutiny Festival 2015

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Debuting last year as Mutiny in the Park in Portsmouth, 2015 saw Mutiny lose its subtitle as it made a significant upscale to Fontwell Park in nearby Chichester. In only a year since its inception the event has expanded a great deal, outgrowing the day festival format into a three day camping weekender.

Arriving by car, our entrance to Mutiny Festival was hassle-free as the approach to the site was well sign-posted, from the A27. There was also a handy pick-up/drop off bay just beside the site entrance and box office, allowing us to easily pick up wristbands before heading over to the campsite.

We arrived at the festival mid-evening on Friday, by which time party was already well underway, with the site having opened at 12pm and the smaller stages playing out from 5pm for the campers’ party. First on the agenda was to set up tent and fire up a BBQ, before scouting out some of the action.

To start things off there was a silent disco on offer, whilst elsewhere the interior of the racing grandstand had undergone a transformation into a series of fully equipped nightclubs. Unit 1 took up the ground floor, and above in the VIP Sky Bar wAFF was playing out to near identical event space and bar on the second floor, with the added benefit of a long glass fronted balcony with views over main stage.

Saturday began with an early start; with the campsite lying so close to the aforementioned A27, lie-ins weren’t much of an option. Abandoning the previous plan it was time to get up and out to enjoy the good weather. Opening fully at 11am the main arena was now in full operation. Among a myriad of food stands and fairground attractions, the lower half of the main arena was well in keeping with Mutiny’s pirate theme. Ships’ masts and barrels were scattered about a nicely themed ship-wreck bar (serving rum, of course). Across the site the theme was used to good effect with several themed bars and most notably at the Crow’s Nest stage, whose DJ booth resembled the bow of a tall ship, complete with figurehead protruding out into the crowd. Casual uptake of the theme from punters was also nice to see, however a fruitless search for the VIP hot-tubs meant that this pirate was bound to dry land.

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Slated to perform at 2pm, the main stage was rammed for the arrival of Snoop Dogg. The resident DJ Owen B, did a great job of building up the crowd for the hip-hop legend’s arrival, however could only do so much to keep spirits up as time slipped by and Snoop became increasingly late. Strutting onstage shortly after 2:30, Snoop’s eventual arrival was warmly welcomed. Once the broadcasting of his set via Snapchat had subsided, the crowd really started to get into it. The response to “California Gurls” was a peculiar highlight as everyone took energetically to Snoop’s verse before finding themselves uneasily belting out Katy Perry’s chorus, unsure whether or not it was acceptable to know all the words. David Guetta feature “Sweat” felt a bit out of place among Snoop’s own material, and I was surprised that he didn’t use the appearance to showcase some of his latest album “Bush”, not even the laid-back lead single, “California Roll”. None-the-less, Snoop had plenty of classics like “Gin n’ Juice” and “Pimps in the Crib” to call upon that went down a treat, and ended his set on a high with a mass sing along to “Young, Wild & Free”. The timing of the headline set was met with some criticism, but Snoop’s sound was better suited to the sunny afternoon than an evening, and had the added benefit of getting more punters on-site early to add to the atmosphere throughout the afternoon.

Keeping track of the various DJs playing across the smaller stages was an ease thanks to Mutiny’s free mobile app. The festival’s secondary stage, The Big Top hosted by Southampton’s own Warehouse brand, boasted a commendable lineup including Hannah Wants, MK, Gorgon City, and Disciples so using the app to plan excursions to the tent was essential, what with the tent being situated on the opposing side of the large site to the main stage. Whilst the app needed a little tidying up and more prompt updates as details changed, having a dedicated festival app with set-times and stage splits is a simple innovation that makes a real difference, as previously mentioned in our review of Southampton Soundclash.

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The downside to calling out a headline artist like Snoop immediately, was it definitely put the pressure on the following acts to perform in the shadow of his stage-presence. Though Katy B rushed on energetically to perform her Magnetic Man collab ‘Perfect Stranger’, and continued with a slickly choreographed routine of her material, it took a while for the crowd to get behind her. It wasn’t until the Rinse alumni lent her vocals to a cover of ‘Show Me Love’, that Katy truly got the response needed and closed her set with her hits ‘Lights On’ and ‘Katy on a Mission’.

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Mutiny’s mainstage production surpassed my expectations. Three large widescreen LED screens allowed for visual to accompany each act, as well as crowd shots and close ups from camera operators on-stage, making it easy to enjoy artists from amid the heat of the crowd or from afar depending on preference. Flame-throwers, and CO2 canons were used throughout the day to amp up sets, rather than simply being reserved for the last act of the day. It was nice to see the crew could also accommodate for Labrinth’s full live outfit. The singer’s performance marked a nice change of pace, with some more laid back tracks before the multi-instrumentalist launched into crowd pleasers ‘Earthquake’, and ‘Pass Out’.

Of the Knife Party duo, Gareth McGrillen was present to take up Saturday evening’s headline slot. Ironically, the vocals of absentee Rob Swire vocal provided an early highlight in the set with a ‘Ghosts n’ Stuff’ mashup. With the sun set, the main stage’s production value could be seen at its best, as the imposing LED panels silhouetted McGrillen against a dackdrop of dark and gloomy visuals in black, white and red. The early stages to the set proved the most interesting and atmospheric, before suffering the fate that befalls most main stage EDM, ranging from euphoric to repetitive with drop after drop, swiftly following a build-up, as forgettable moments were propped up by Knife Party hits. That said, McGrillen’s performance was one of the better Knife Party sets I’ve heard, perhaps due to the impending release of some fresh material, or that McGrillen is a more entertaining DJ without the perfectionist Swire on hand. The Australian DJ closed the set by debuting a rather average new collaboration with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, before predictable carnage ensued for finale ‘Bonfire’.

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As the crowds poured out of the main arena the race course complex underwent a transformation as the smaller stages filled. The party was able to continue elsewhere on the site like the night before but with some additions like the silent disco taking over the larger Big Top stage. A real treat was the Manor House offering some respite from the onslaught of the mainstage. The columned façade of the Manor House stage was now lit up as revelers partied on its steps, whilst above others soaked up the atmosphere from the terrace behind the main race building. This is just a snapshot of the later offering as Unit 1, The Jolly Rodger and Sky Bar all took on the appearance of small club venues, each with something different to offer.

Sunday began with a fun set from Kito that had the early risers moving and shaking before the arrival of Big Narstie. The Brixton based MC who had just swung in from Croatia knew exactly how to get the crowd hyped, but with the exception of ‘Gas Pipe’, and ‘Don’t Mess Up the Base’, didn’t quite have enough material to follow through on it. Too many pull ups and rewinds effectively gave the set a continual stop start nature that prevented it really reaching its potential.

Later on anticipation was the highest it had been since Snoop Dogg for Stormzy’s arrival. The 21-year old Londoner bounded across the stage, launching straight into the rapid delivery of ‘Not That Deep’. It’s clear to see why the young MC has built up such a devoted following, as Stormzy has a confident and relentless flow. Early on Stormzy’s DJ teased fans with the ‘Shut Up’ loop, whilst the thugged-out hit ‘Know Me From’ had everyone launching themselves in the air and fist-pumping. The set was brief but enjoyable from start to finish, as Stormzy commanded the crowd throughout with the skill of someone that’s been doing all their life; rolling out ‘Shut Up’ later in its entirety the crowd were yelling the words back with fervor.

Arriving with little fanfare, DJ EZ took up the decks swiftly after, capitalizing on the portion of the crowd still present from Stormzy by busting out the likes of ‘That’s Not Me’, and ‘Feed Em to The Lions’. EZ had the crowd clamoring for more as he worked his way into some garage and two step. In the latter half of his set I was surprised to hear, the Totenham rasied DJ mixing in the likes of Jack U, but examples like this only serve to illustrate the DJ’s technical finesse as he rapidly flicked between genres with precision playing to the crowd’s appetite.

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Like Knife Party, Nero tackled their busy international schedule with a divide and conquer approach and, of the two London born producers, we got the one with the hat. Having last seen Nero nearly four years ago at Reading Festival in 2011, just before their single Promises hit UK Number 1, I was keen to see if their sound still had the same impact it did then. Sadly the offering wasn’t as memorable. An early run through of Nero hits opened up the rest of the playtime to be taken in a more interesting direction, but apart from an inspired mashup of ‘Must Be The Feeling’ with Justice’s ‘Genesis’ and a bouncy breakbeat edit of ‘Doomsday’, the best we got was yet another spin of ‘House Every Weekend’, followed by the duo’s lackluster foray into house, ‘2 Minds’.

As in their acclaimed Culture Clash performance, Rebel Sound’s arrival was heralded by a parody news report from ITV’s acclaimed newsreader, Sir Trevor McDonald, with the addition of Mutiny Festival shoutout. David Rodigan took to the stage to the sound of Max Romeo & The Upsetter’s classic ‘Chase the Devil’. As MC Rage, Shy FX and Chase & Status were all brought on in turn to similar fanfare I was worried that the DJs’ talents would be put to waste by parading around the stage whilst tracks played in the background. Thankfully once Shy FX and Chase & Status took to the decks proper, all concerns were banished entirely.

Hearing Chase & Status’ most recent material from Brand New Machine alongside some of the classics that influenced it made me appreciate production of the record a lot more. Undoubtledly the duo’s tracks provided some of the best moments of the set, ‘Eastern Jam’ being a prime example, however, Rebel Sound was far more than just a glorified Chase & Status performance as sceptics may dismiss it.

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The set in its entirety was one of the most engaging of the weekend as Rodigan narrated the journey through Rebel Sound’s heritage, which was kept fresh all the while as contacts were flexed to provide some entertaining Rebel Sound shoutouts across a breadth of dubplates that ranged from a General Levy laying down ‘Rebel Sound is Massive’, on M Beat’s jungle classic ‘Incredible’ to Meridian Dan offering ‘Rebel Sound In a German Whip’. Rodigan’s superior efforts as a hype man, left MC Rage’s input as rather redundant. Overall Rebel Sound’s proved themselves a must see act with a set punctuated with standout moments, one of the best segments being ‘No Problem’ mashed up with ‘Original Nuttah’, followed by a seamless mix into Dimension’s ‘Whip Slap’.

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The festival was closed by a packed Crow’s Nest tent as Preditah captured the sounds of the day with more staple BBK tracks, as well as some dirtier basslines and classic dubstep like ‘Benga & Coki’s Night’. Afterwards Oneman took up the decks, picking up where Preditah left off playing tracks that suited the mood but retained his own distinctive fingerprint, proving again his reputation as faultless selector.

Mutiny had a lot to offer for a festival in only its second year. I was initially a little skeptical as to how the Fontwell Park Racecourse would fare as a site, however the space was very effectively managed and utilized to it maximum potential, allowing numerous different stages to all other something a little different both musically and visually. There really was something happening around every corner. With news that Mutiny returning to Portsmouth for its 2016 outing it will be interesting to see what direction organizers take the festival; hopefully the site change won’t impede its growth.

7.4 Impressive

Mutiny was a real show of force for the Southcoast, bringing some commendable bookings and exceeding expectations.

  • PRE EVENT COMMUNICATION 7
  • AT EVENT COMMUNICATION 8
  • TRAVEL TO THE FESTIVAL 8
  • ARRIVAL AT THE FESTIVAL 8
  • "FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE" 9
  • TOILETS 7
  • SECURITY & CROWD CONTROL 6
  • ALL-WEATHER PLANNING 7
  • CREATIVE CONTENT 7
  • DJ/ARTIST LINE-UP 8
  • DISABLED ACCESS 6
  • FOOD 6
  • BARS & DRINKS 7
  • CLEANLINESS 5
  • SIZE/SCALE 9
  • AFTER-HOURS ENTERTAINMENT 10
  • VALUE FOR MONEY 7
  • TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION 9
  • SOUND QUALITY 7
  • LIGHTING/EFFECTS/PYRO 9
  • EXTRA ATTRACTIONS/ACTIVITIES 7
  • LOCAL SCENE CONNECTION 9
  • GREEN/RECYCLING 5
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