Review: Southampton Soundclash Festival – May 2015

7

With a main stage hosted by Black Butter Records, one of the UK’s most acclaimed independent record labels, and none other than the Space Ibiza team hosting the House Tent, the first ever Southampton Soundclash Festival undeniably boasted the most attention-grabbing lineup Southampton has been able to offer to date. The festival was an ambitious venture, made all the more impressive by the fact that it’s all happening again in just a few months time. But after all the hype, did Southampton Soundclash deliver?

soundclash-entrance

Situated on the outskirts of Southampton, the festival had its own dedicated convoy of buses ferrying ticket holders to the site from key locations around the city. Simple ticket plans saved hassle, and the free shuttle service from Airport Parkway was a bonus for those arriving by public transport. Ticket holders were able to collect their festival wristbands in advance from Orange Rooms throughout the week running up to the event. Evidently thousands of people took advantage of this as, on the day, entry to the site was near instantaneous. We imagine, had the organisers not arranged the pre-collections, then queues would have been disastrous what with the site only having one relatively small entrance.

Upon entering the festival you are overwhelmed by sight and sound — a soundclash well and truly. Confronted by five separate stages (six if you include the VIP tent) all jostling for attention, the sprawl was at first disorientating. However, it didn’t take long to walk a lap of the central Space Ibiza tent to get the lay of the land.

soundclash-dnb-stage

While the festival boasted an impressive roster of internationally acclaimed talent, due praise is also deserved for the local acts, as main stage openers BITR8 & K1R3Y held a solid crowd that a lot of DJs would be envious of. Similarly, On A Mission were commendable hosts as an early visit to the DnB stage proved. In fact, there’s a solid case to be made that one of their veteran MCs put in the most energetic performances ever seen at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon … “When I say drum and you say bass!”

I feel a special mention should go to Foor who turned up for a tour de force, treating their 4pm main stage slot as if it were their own headline gig. The South Coast based group of DJs and producers were playing to a home crowd and rolled out a number of guests during their set showcasing plenty of brand new material from their first EP; it certainly felt like victory lap for these guys who have already achieved a lot since the debut of their rework of Monsta Boy’s “Sorry” last September.

Thanks to an extensive promotional campaign, Southampton Soundclash was admirably packed to the brim from the get-go; creating a lively atmosphere throughout the day at all the different stages. However, it has to be said that the site really was quite cramped. The separate tents did feel as if they were encroaching upon one another, with their audiences merging and spilling over onto the thoroughfares in-between.

soundclash-main-stage-view

Generally the site itself could have done with a little more attention to detail, the boutique festival experience is on the rise and more could have been done to give the festival its own identity. Perhaps this was again the result of limited space — there really wasn’t much room for anything else on the site. That said, stood amid the crowd and looking out upon an expansive sea of party-goers all getting down to the same music, this criticism is quickly forgotten. As many of the photos will attest the view back from main stage was utterly astonishing.

As night began to fall DJ EZ kept the main stage crowd buzzing throughout with a lively run down of garage and anthems new and old. Assisted by Majestic on the mic, EZ worked the crowd into a frenzy which peaked with the drop of “Feed them to the Lions” after an unforgettable crowd sit-down. Even the onset of rain couldn’t match the storm EZ was whipping up at the main stage.

soundclash-main-stage-night

The official Southampton Soundclash app proved to be an invaluable companion on the day. Almost inevitably my initial schedule to maximize on stage splits had fallen to pieces after a few trips to the bar. However, with the trusty app in hand this wasn’t a problem as I could quickly re-plan who I wanted to see and where I could find them, on the fly.

Housed inside a lengthy marquee the VIP area was a very visible presence on the small site. The VIP area had ample space to escape the crowds and direct access to the mainstage. The VIP tent was just as alive as the other areas of the site, if not more so, as special guest DJs played throughout the day on a Void soundsystem and a shameless 80s set in the late afternoon was in danger of stealing the show.

Driven by the thumping back-bone of unstoppable kicks Shiba San’s selection of G-house in the Space Ibiza tent was ensuring that everyone was moving, exactly what you’d expect from the Cuff regular. Unsurprisingly “OKAY” went off to a suitably raucous response. Four lasers casting their beams across the tent and LED displays to accompany the performance, the Space Ibiza tent could easily fool you into thinking it was the festival’s main stage. Later on into the night as Green Velvet stepped up to the plate you could feel the anticipation rife in the crowd. An esteemed champion of the classic sounds of Chicago house, Green Velvet proved his reputation with an effortlessly classy mix.

soundclash-house-tent

The first Southampton Soundclash Festival was, to put it simply, extremely successful. Overall, organisers were faultless with their bookings; commendable collaborations with the likes of Black Butter Records and Space brought in world-class acts. With such a packed site the atmosphere was electric throughout the festival, however each stage needed more room to breathe.

Southampton Soundclash was a resounding success, a brilliant demonstration of what local promoters and artists can achieve. But, going forward the festival needs to tighten up its production and think strategically about its layout, perhaps even sacrifice a few food wagons or scale down the VIP area to provide some more chillout spaces where music can be enjoyed from afar. With a second outing coming up in only a matter of months, uptake will likely be very popular following Soundclash’s initial success, but with a higher capacity it is going to push to the Eastleigh football park grounds to their limits.

Photos by Max Vickery , Liam Simmons, John Gent, and Christian Lawson

7.2 Awesome

Southampton Soundclash was a resounding success, a brilliant demonstration of what local promoters and artists can achieve. But, going forward the festival needs to tighten up its production and think strategically about its layout.

  • Pre Event Communication 9
  • At Event Communication 9
  • Travel to the Festival 7
  • Arrival at the Festival 8
  • "Festival Experience" 7
  • Toilets 7
  • Security & Crowd Control 5
  • All-weather Planning 8
  • Creative Content 4
  • DJ/Artist Line-up 9
  • Disabled Access 7
  • Food 6
  • Bars & Drinks 6
  • Cleanliness 6
  • Size/Scale 5
  • After-hours Entertainment 8
  • Value For Money 10
  • Technical Specification 8
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Lighting/Effects/Pyro 7
  • Extra Attractions/Activities 6
  • Local Scene Connection 10
  • Green/Recycling 6
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