On Saturday May 31st, 30,000 fresh-faced festival-goers flew into the aptly named "Field of Dreams" at Damyns Hall Aerodrome just outside of London, UK in anticipation of seeing some of the biggest and boldest names in electronic music take to the stage for an unforgettable two day experience. Despite only being in its third year running, FSTVL has grown steadily in size and the expectations of the 2015 edition have been soaring, as it won both Best New Festival UK in 2013 and Best Medium Sized Festival UK in 2014. After the first thirty minutes there, we were absolutely sure that the sky-high hype surrounding this event was justified.
Getting into the festival was very straightforward, helped in part by the amount of space the organizers were able to secure on the aerodrome grounds, easily able to accommodate the thousands showing up throughout the afternoon. Biplanes were on display as the crowds passed through security into the festival and were soon treated to a sprawling, gently sloping field full of tents, hangers and the iconic We Are FSTVL main stage where Monki was getting things kicked off just after noon.
Walking up to the bar to grab a drink was equally as simple, as the staff were fast and efficient and the token system was effective - a small but important feature sometimes overshadowed by the other logistical items at this size of a festival. After grabbing a beverage we headed over to check out the techno aircraft hangar, a one-of-a-kind structure built specifically for the festival where Enzo Siragusa, a institution of the London nightlife scene, was dropping heavy bass-laden tracks well suited to the hangar and the incredible sound system placed inside.
Following Enzo was a live set from Recondite (Lorenz Brunner), a very humble small-town German man who - side note - can sometimes be found wandering into the forests near Berlin to collect samples to use in his tracks. This natural, ephemeral sound is often reflected in his works and Saturday’s show was no exception, moving from Enzo’s harder tracks to a pulsing, rhythmic beat. The crowd became a living, breathing creature and was quickly swept up by the sounds Lorenz was pouring out.
Despite being sucked in by this early afternoon treat, there were other acts that could not be missed. It was business as usual for the now very well known Hot Since 82 back on the main stage, and despite the lack of attendance in the early hours, the VIP stage Toolroom had its share of well-known acts swinging through. Wanklemut, Tube and Berger and eventually the man himself, Mark Knight, made appearances throughout the day. The VIP area was generally busy but the stage remained at half-mast each time we popped in; depending on crowd reception they may want to consider open this stage up to the general public next year.
As the sun began its slow, spirally, lazy descent to signal the end of the day, Solomun began his frantic, obsessed and throbbing musical ascent to signal the beginning of the night. This was one of the best sets of the day and the man from Croatia earned every single word of praise you might read about. You can tell that a set is going well when people in the crowd - complete strangers - look over at one another, make eye contact and smile, point and make the gesture that signals “can you believe what we are listening to right now?” I certainly used those words more than once as Solomun moved from track to track with the precision of a a well-oiled machine, bringing the already energized crowd to a very special place which would last well into the evening for those lucky enough to witness true professionalism in action. Take a listen for yourself.
Choosing between closers Adam Beyer and Carl Cox was not an easy decision, so we tried to sample both and ultimately let the living legend Carl Cox take us through to the fireworks with his set of pure house music in only the way that Carl can. The light show was enthralling, the music was on point and the crowd receptive each time he picked up the microphone. He simply owned the stage. Everyone walked out of there feeling very much like they had their money’s worth, and we’re already looking forward to the next installment of We Are FSTVL 2016.
Photos by Paul Underhill