It was sunnier than usual in the UK over the summer this year, thank fuck, but in July the weather was tempered by some freaky storms. A torrential one was forecast for the weekend of one-day dance shindig Shakedown in Brighton, and a festival at nearby Preston Park was cancelled as a precaution.
There were rumours all day that the electrical apocalypse was soon to strike, but this wasn't apparent when DJ Mag arrived at Shakedown in the gorgeous mid-afternoon sunshine. After three years at Stanmer Park out towards the new Brighton football stadium, Shakedown has moved this year to Waterhall — a sports complex at the edge of the South Downs national park. “Stanmer Park was a beautiful site, but being a nature reserve was not ideal in the long-term for a festival like Shakedown,” Festival Director Steve Jones tells DJ Mag when we see him at the entrance gate.
Situated well away from residential homes and yet just a bus ride up Dyke Road, the Waterhall site unfolds perfectly as DJ Mag strolls across on arrival. The welcoming tones of 'You Got the Love' are the first thing we hear before masked marauder Jaguar Skills — for it is he — quickly mixes it into drum & bass from the festival's main stage. We haven't checked out the site yet, but are captivated by Jag Skills's skillz as he drops Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' and then mixes in a dastardly dubstep take on Darude's 'Sandstorm'. This is quickly followed by fast-cut snippets of SL2's 'On A Ragga Tip', Faithless' 'Insomnia', The Prodigy's 'Omen' and Goldie's 'Inner City Life' — and then a bit of Madness 'One Step Beyond'. It's a genius bit of mashing up that chimes perfectly with the festival crowd's mood — just starting to get mashed up themselves.
Over in the huge marquee nearby, the arena programmed by shit-hot Brighton promotions outfit Supercharged who specialise in bass music nights, B.Traits is playing pretty housey. We vow to return swiftly after walking around the rest of the site, but after bumping into some familiar faces in the VIP — Seamus Haji, former Rhythm Master Steve Mac, Mat Playford, Billy from the Brighton Music Conference (BMC), evergreen drum & bass MC Darrison etc — we end up grooving to 'Pushing On' by Oliver $ and chatting shit in the sunshine. The weather — and Brighton's fabled 'micro-climate' — is a popular topic, and there is no sign of the impending storm.
Zane Lowe has cancelled due to a family matter, and we miss MK, Gorgon City and Riva Starr, but it doesn't really matter. The festival is raging as groups of young ravers (some older people too), dressed up or dressed down, frolic in the sun. We run into Festival Director Steve Jones again for some insight.
“Brighton is such a unique place — especially in the summer, it's like being on holiday — and I think that vibe really translates to Shakedown,” he tells DJ Mag. “You get a great mix of people and a great, electric atmosphere. People in Brighton love a party.”
Groove Armada rock the main stage, playing a perfectly-honed underground house set before finishing with their Game Changer tune 'Superstylin''. Duke Dumont follows Tom and Andy, but his deep house set seems a bit flat — the sound seems to have gone down a bit, too.
Foreign Beggars in the Supercharged tent are way more animated, and their rapid-fire rhymes might well have been more suited to the main stage — a switch could've benefited both acts. It's left to Basement Jaxx to put the icing on the cake for the party crowd — who've clearly all had a whale of a time.
The Jaxx's new album, 'Junto', is disappointing, seemingly disconnected from their street-level carnival house sound, but when you have hits like 'Romeo', 'Red Alert', 'Rendez-Vous' and 'Bingo Bango' in your repertoire, you can't really go wrong.
The predicted storm never arrives, apart from the whirlwind of carnival-esque vibes emitted by the extended Jaxx family onstage, and the headliners send the Shakedown crowd off happy into the sunset, where the music at the after-parties keeps on playing all night...