Review: Junk Department’s Big Top – 03.05.14 – Part 1

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This article is the first of a two-part series reviewing Junk Department‘s Big Top, a one day festival that took place on the 3rd May 2014, headlined by Jamie Jones, Maya Jane Coles, Dyed Soundorom, and many more. The second part of the series will be published in due course. The summary and ratings given at the bottom are derived from calculated averages representative of both authors’ opinions. Comments are welcomed and encouraged, see below.

This Saturday of the May Day bank holiday marked a momentous occasion for Southampton, with Junk Department bringing a fusion of House, Disco, Funk and Electronica to a sunny Stoneham Park, Eastleigh, for their début day festival, Big Top. In December 2013 Junk — the venue — won DJ Mag’s Best Small Club title in their Best of British polls. That accolade now marks the point at which the full transition of the Junk brand into Junk Department was completed. The venue became TRiPP and Junk Department (previously just the external events brand for Junk) was now free to grow and evolve. Junk Department had already taken events to wider audience, with nights in London and Ibiza, but Big Top was an expansion in the literal sense: The day geared up for a mass of the order of 5,000 people with 12 hours of non-stop music.

The morning sun being Southampton’s natural alarm clock for those up at the crack of dawn to apply their festival war paint for the day ahead, the bank holiday weekend curse of wet weather was a mere myth for once. As we made our way out of Airport Parkway, expecting a free shuttle bus (meant to be running every 2 minutes) ready to take day ravers to the festival site, we were met by a large group of beer swilling festival goers and it was clear that, after 20 minutes of hanging around, the shuttle bus did not exist. After hunting down some Big Top stewards, who had seemingly hidden round the corner from the crowd and designated shuttle bus bus stop, we were told that a 20 minute walk to the festival was on the cards. A can in hand and plenty of warm sunshine meant that a relatively quick walk could be forgiven. However hidden stewards letting crowds amass for an imaginary bus wasn’t the best start.

Spirits still high, the walk in the sunshine grew ever more blissful once Big Top’s giant red tent became clearer through the trees and the faint muster of music buzzed through the gates of Stoneham Park. Once inside, Big Top had an essence of fun fair about it, dodgems and a ride mimicking Vortex at Thorpe Park. The Big Top main stage was at the centre of it all, complimented by a couple of sister venues. Future Garden had their own tent with the stage placed at the end of the bar, putting disco and drinking hand in hand. The VIP area also had its own tent complete with disco ball, checkered dancefloor and Persian rug, however you couldn’t help but think that much of this went ignored by most punters who were either on the lookout for the VIP free drinks or a shortcut to the port-a-loos.

Luca Pilato, billed as kicking off the main stage and ending the night there, is one of Southampton’s most familiar DJs. Having been part of the Junk family since 2006, Pilato’s blend of House music beats were just what the doctor had ordered on such a day, and what he was playing was just an introduction to what Big Top’s crowd, surrounded by sunshine, were to look forward to.

Detroit Swindle hailing from the Netherlands were next on to the stage, having been here previously in November to headline Junk, and brought with them their reputation in action, being notorious for their energetic stage presence. Playing Leon Vynehall’s “Its Just (House of Dupree)“, and “Thoughts of She” by the duo themselves, Detroit Swindle’s mellow deep house vibe radiating from the main stage was the perfect way to kick off and greet those getting in for midday.

Home grown Laura Jones was the first lady of the day to grace the main stage at Big Top and went off with a bang. Playing her original “Lose Myself” mix, Jones moves between House and Techno, again lending her melodic grace on the main stage to slot so easily into the overall forte of Big Top. By the end of Jones’ set, the tent the abuzz with daytime drinkers anticipating the next DJs.

Dyed Soundorom, coming across the channel from France, in my opinion gave one of the best sets of the day. Still using an ample base of deep house, his set was a little funkier and faster paced, whether it was the sunshine or the drink, the two mixed together, or the pure artistry of what Dyed Soundorom was giving, the crowd in the main stage were lapping it up.

Maya Jane Coles, a born and bred Londoner has been described by Resident Advisor as something of an ‘enigma’. At only 25 she is well known for taking part in all roles of her music making, production to sleeve covers. I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by Maya Jane Coles set, aside from the fact that when you have such a well-known artist you want to hear their well-known songs, I felt her set lacked the energy and charisma that I was expecting. Possibly it was on-set of sunstroke, high expectations, or the fact that bars had run out of beers an hour or so before her set, I felt that previous DJs that I had seen got more from the crowd.

All in all Jamie Jones was the right person to headline the main stage and let Big Top go off with a bang. Well known for his collaborations with Lee Foss, member of Hot Natured and head of Hot Creations record label, this Welsh DJ knows how to get an air-max-wearing, disco-pant-sporting festival crowd going. Playing tracks from his label, Jones has a niche of chopping up strong catchy lyrics and often adding a funkier build up, getting the crowd excited, his sets often reflect a Chicago/Detroit 90’s house inspired set. Playing his original “Change” and “Lousy Night” by Oliver Huntemann, Jamie Jones was aptly chosen to headline Southampton’s début Big Top, and finished with the crowd on a high.

Overall, Big Top can be deemed a huge success for Junk Department and all those involved. Hiccups such as failure to inform punters of no shuttle bus, or bars running of beer are issues that could have been avoided. However, as a first attempt at a festival and considering the sheer number of people involved, miscommunication is bound to occur. With such a beautiful day gracing the skies of Southampton, a perfectly curated line up that reflected what Junk Department are all about and only happy punters left to be found at the end of the night, I think that this first festival-style event won’t be Junk Department’s last.

Continue To Part 2

 

All photos by Jesse Olu for Only By Nght.

7.8 Good First Attempt

Well curated line-up. Needed more bars and toilets. Friendly, fair, and professional security staff. Bottled water was far too expensive, free tap water would be ideal.

This is a two-part review meaning that the summary and ratings given here are derived from calculated averages representative of both authors' opinions (Scarlett and Joe).

  • Pre Event Communication 5
  • At Event Communication 7
  • General Communication 6.5
  • Travel to the Festival 4
  • Arrival at the Festival 9
  • "Festival Experience" 9
  • Toilets 6.5
  • Security 10
  • Police Presence 7.5
  • Mobile Phone Reception 10
  • All-weather Planning 10
  • Creative Content 9.5
  • DJ/Artist Line-up 9.5
  • Disabled Access 10
  • Food 7
  • Bars & Drinks 5
  • Cleanliness 7.5
  • Size/Scale 9.5
  • After-hours Entertainment 8
  • Value For Money 8.5
  • Sound 6
  • Lighting/Effects/Pyro 8.5
  • Extra Attractions/Activities 6.5
  • Local Scene Connection 9
  • Green/Recycling 7
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