I’ve done a lot of exciting things this year, but the build-up to the 2011 South West 4 Festival had got me excited for weeks beforehand. And it didn’t disappoint.
[Disclaimer – this blog is full of swearing, sweat and drug-references. Do not read on if this offends you… actually… if this offends you then you wouldn’t read any of my fucking blogs.]
I left the island on the 8.47 catamaran from Ryde Pier after my lovely mum dropped me down there. The train from Portsmouth departed almost straight away and I spent most of the journey Tweeting or messaging my friend, DJC-Kay – a guy who’d supplied me with many, many mixes for my radio show. As thanks, I bought him a ticket for the Sunday of SW4.
Waterloo is where I meet him (ironically passing Clapham Junction which is where SW4 is nearby) and we enter Somerfield to buy some whiskey, where the 29 year old C-Kay gets asked for ID!
No one asked me all fucking weekend.
Quickly into a pub (I forget it’s name, but a mad man with carrier bags sits behind me shouting ‘I’m from Peckham!’ constantly) and we down a couple of drinks before a quick smoke, and then we’re on the tube and heading toward our destination.
We chat the whole way, swapping our favourite tracks while I dig into C-Kay’s past to try and figure out what makes him tick musically (an interview with him will follow in the next few weeks) and we swig whiskey and coke on the train like a couple of alcoholics. Life is good.
We hit Clapham Common and find the festival surrounded by metal fences, huge boardings, and big, burly security guards. These guards would become the bane of my weekend.
I get stopped and searched, and as soon as I pull out my spare boxer shorts adorned in bio-hazard symbols (seriously) the man laughs and sends me through. So, lesson learnt – flash your pants and you’re good to go… something I’ll try to adhere to for the rest of my life.
‘Inside’ the festival we see all the usual Indy Cindy girls and shirtless guys with straw hats and cans of beer, but you can tell there is a string of hardcore dance fans milling around – the kind of guys I grew up with as our musical influences were moulded by guys like Colin Dale, Sasha, DJ SS, John Digweed, et al.
Around us are various big top tents housing different kinds of music. There are the Last FM Arena, We Love Arena, Drumcode Arena and, of course, the main stage. C-Kay and I flit from tent to tent, grabbing vodkas in between, we try and figure out which tent is playing the best music when we come across a crowd that is jumping, beer that is flying, and inflatables that are being smashed into the air by revellers.
The reason – Alan Fitzpatrick. His beats were big and the tent was rocking. This is what we came for.
I apologise for being completely unable to tell you which tent and which DJ we saw afterwards, but we bumped into some guys who were throwing Mandy around (those that know will understand the reference) and pretty soon I was more mashed than a pot full of potatoes. Strangely… well, I say strangely, but wherever I go I’m asked if I have any drugs. It’s happened on the high street of my home town, it’s happened to me in other countries. You won’t believe how many fucking times it happened at SW4.
It actually got worse. C-Kay and I were stood on our own in the middle of a mud-patch, in the rain, having a real heart to heart when a small Turkish security guard stepped up and asked C-Kay if I was ‘serving up’ to him! What made it even worse was that I thought he said ‘seven up’… which confused shit even more. This bugged me for ages, as apparently a white guy and a black guy can’t be seen talking together in the middle of a field without it involving drugs. In fairness, I was completely space cadet, but what the fuck?
Back to the music and pretty soon we’re both bouncing around inside different tents, holding each other up, getting muddy and covered in vodka while talking complete bollocks to everyone around us.
It’s a great day. One of the best I’ve had in ages… but it only gets better.
But not before C-Kay pulls his Mr Elusiveness’ act. He goes to the loo, I wait outside the toilets… I’m still stood there 20 minutes later. I find him eventually, but this all happens again a couple of hours later. Now, I don’t know what the hell he gets up to, but after I’ve found him we head for the We Love tent to check out the main reason I came to SW4 – Sasha. He’s as good live as I imagined, and soon the pair of us are bouncing, and holding each other up like a pair of alcoholics at a free wine tasting party.
After we’ve seen God for a good long while we head to the main stage where we settle in for a Magnetic Man and Pendulum finale. Neither disappoint and the singalong with Magnetic Man is one of my SW4 highlights.
I first saw Pendulum when they were starting out in a shitty little club on the Isle of Wight called The Balcony. Oh, how they’ve come a long, long way since then…
Before Pendulum start a small group of Aussies and Brits rush up to C-Kay like he’s a long lost friend before asking me if I was his ‘friend that had disappeared’! It turns out C-Kay met these guys while looking for me while I was looking for him!
We stick with Alastair, Dan, Leticia, and Andy and we’re all bouncing like idiots as Pendulum take off. We’re all in a mess, and loving every minute…
Until C-Kay pulls off the mother of all vanishing acts. We lose him completely. I’ve got his wallet and his phone and Andy and I scour the grounds to try and find him, but it’s like… well, it’s like trying to find a black guy in London.
I start to fret, wondering what’s happened to my friend when the Festival finishes and the guys explain to me that I’ve got very little hope of finding C-Kay and that he’ll probably meet us at the Ministry of Sound, as luckily I gave him that ticket and he (hopefully) still had it on him.
“Ok, that’ll work,” I say. “Let’s hit the MOS.”
“Er… it doesn’t open for another three hours…” Andy tells me.
By a massive stroke of luck the gang inform me that their flat is in Clapham and that I’m more than welcome to stay with them until the MOS opens… as they’re all going as well!
So, Jode’s now sat in a strange flat in London with people he doesn’t know, having lost his friend in the middle of Clapham Common, flaked out on a sofa with a bunch of people as monky-ed as himself. Standard night for me, then.
We hit the MOS just after midnight after a taxi ride where the taxi driver doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s up to. That’s the second numbnut taxi driver I’ve encountered today… and I thought they all just worked for us back home!
I get searched on the door of the MOS. Twice. And they take my arthritis tablets off me. Oh, and flashing my underwear doesn’t work at all this time. But, we’re in, and we’re dancing after having paid £9 for a vodka and lemonade, but, when in London…
Richie Hawtin – aka ‘Techno God’ – is the star of tonight’s show, but the DJ before him tears it up as well… although I am shit and can’t remember if it’s Marc Houle, Barem, Ambivalent… or all three! Did anyone else who went know?
Before we start throwing shapes at the start of an epic 6 hour dance-a-thon for myself and
Dan, we hit the other room to check out the music… and Dan finds C-Kay cutting some rug by the entrance! Lots of hugging and wiping of relieved brows later and the gang is back together!
But not for long…
Andy is bounced by the bouncers for having a chat with Mandy, and Leticia goes with him as he can’t get himself back in, which leave Dan, C-Kay and I stood outside, smoking, watching them leave.
“Well, we didn’t get kicked out…” Dan says in his Aussie lint and we head back inside.
The place is bouncing and Richie Hawtin is showing us how it’s done. We dance, and C-Kay tells us he’s going to go and get us some drinks.
We don’t see the Elusive C-Kay for another FOUR HOURS. This time we only briefly search, as he now has previous, and we know he’ll show up.
Dan and I don’t stop dancing until 6am. Well, I don’t. Dan stops intermittently to shove his tongue down some girls throat who’s been hanging off of him since we arrived. The boy is smooth, and his accent seems to win everyone over. The bloody convict.
The lights are about to go up, and Dan ‘C-Kay Finder Extraordinaire’ Formosa finds our mysterious buddy again. We leave, jump in a taxi, hit Leticia and Andy’s flat and spend the next couple of hours talking about C-Kay’s mixes, scouring dance videos on YouTube, and generally getting more spannered.
Alas, soon it’s time for me to leave, and with hugs and handshakes all around, C-Kay and I grab another cab back to Waterloo where we both embrace and say goodbye. It’s been emotional, stressful, brilliant, funny, and more than anything – spectacular. We agree to meet up next year with our new friends… but next year we’ll know what to expect.
But I’m not sure SW4 will be ready for our new Super Group – The SW4 Gang. I’ve already got people on the island saying they want to come following my Facebook statuses and messages.
And to Dan, Andy, Alastair and Leticia – C-Kay and I will see you next year for our yearly meet. I got a feeling it’s gonna be even messier next time around…
Oh, and when my mum picked me up off of the boat (that I narrowly caught after having fallen asleep on the train) she told me off for the fucking state I was in. And then banned me from drinking at my sisters’ forthcoming wedding.