Music Reviews

Festival Review: Secret Garden Party (Part 1)

Last month was Secret Garden Party, set in the idyllic Cambridgeshire countryside with 20-odd thousand people frothing to get loose as Beetlejuice. The line up was stacked, Mr Sun was smiling, the sweat patches were growing. It was bloody marvellous. Now here’s why…

Each year a theme is set out, this year’s being science fiction (justifying the Beetlejuice simile), an excellent concept on which to base a festival and guide the flow of creativity from the avid revellers. Sci-Fi, as the Head Gardener explained in his amusing and surprisingly eloquent introductory statement, is all about stretching the question of “what if?” to the “possibly infinite limits of imagination” and “not to be confused with space, and the exploration of.”

“The fun to be had at this festival would only be checked by one’s own inhibitions”

From this seed of creative direction bloomed a sense of possibility and a buzz of unrestricted liberty. The fun to be had at this festival would only be checked by one’s own inhibitions. In accordance, the charming landscaped gardens were laboriously adorned with impressive stage designs and general Sci-Finery to create a resplendent space and immersive environment.

However, this inexplicable Sci-Fi fuelled energy translated mainly into people wearing costumes based predominantly on space, and the exploration of. People whole-heartedly embraced the idea of freedom and limitlessness throughout the weekend, getting up to all sorts of weird and wonderful shit.

Shall we get on to the music? I think so. There was lots going on all over the place so, as with many larger festivals, much had to be missed. However at SGP this didn’t feel like such a problem as it was the type of event that lent itself to wandering around a bit and seeing where you ended up.

For some stages in the program such as the Pagoda and Labyrinth, there was no timetable, just a list of acts playing at some point during the weekend so you had to turn up and see who was on. That said a few stand-out names on the bill were given specific times and places so it wasn’t all chaos.


Thursday consisted of a lot of mooching about and finding where everywhere was without much of targeted approach to the music, however standout performances came from Jaspar James’ disco-y set and some late afternoon house from Midland at the Drop, with The Martinez Brothers closing for the tech-house fans.

Friday saw the first headline act, Maribou State, grace the main stage for an atmospheric live set of slow builds and satisfying climaxes, delivering a tight performance and reminding me of a night I spent with your Mum. The stand out track was a cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’.

This was followed by the ‘Bhangra Beats & Bollywood Dance with Fusion Roadshow Feat Sabrynah Ish’ at the Feast of Fools stage, pumping out “bhang-in” (sorry) remixes of pop hits. During the day there was some funky shit to be heard in the Colosillyum from Banoffee Pies and Future Boogie; however, the highlight of the day came from B.Traits’ 5am closing set at the Drop, ushering in the new dawn with some pummelling tech.

“An ominous Darth Vader-esque float drifting on the lake and eventually exploding…”

Saturday followed well with a solid run of performances at the Great Stage from about 7pm, with Milky Chance, Submotion Orchestra and headliners Caribou, who knocked out hit after hit with their characteristically textured ethereal sound to a massive audience.

After this, the crowd forgot about music for a bit and remained gathered by the Great Stage overlooking the lake to view the “Saturday Night Spectacle”, which this year consisted of an impressive fireworks and laser display set to Sci-Fi themed music (Star Man, Flash etc) with an ominous Darth Vader-esque float drifting on the lake and eventually exploding.

There was a secret guest performer, who turned out to be the Detroit legend Richie Hawtin, playing some characteristically minimal but highly danceable techno. Closing the night out until 6am was an assemblage of DJs billed as ‘Jackmaster Presents: Mastermix’ featuring Craig Richards, Skream, Laura Jones, Cinnaman and Peggy Gou, although there were some absentees.

Thomas Ingram

Image courtesy of Angel Ganev via Flickr (CC Search)

Look out for Part 2 of Impact‘s Secret Garden Party review, online tomorrow!

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