Written by: Jonno Coll
There’s an old adage in the restaurant industry that dessert is the most important part of the meal. It’s much the same for gigs too, as the teething problems that come with a festival’s opening are soon forgotten if you end strongly. This was the case for LooseFest’s Town Moor debut, as concerns about a delayed start and truncated timetable were washed away in a sea of vodka, lemonade, and headline performances.
Delays entering the venue on the Saturday meant that Joel Corry was forced to cancel and Patrick Topping performed an hour later than planned. There was some understandable frustration from the crowd at the gates, with Joel and Patrick having been two of the most highly-anticipated DJ sets of the weekend, but once inside the revamped Town Moor venue all was forgiven. Patrick was typically ebullient throughout his hometown performance, with our preview wondering how many new monkey makina tunes he would reach for. We soon lost count, but the answer was several, so the Kaluki tent was soon full to the brim.
It set the tone for a raucous afternoon on the second stage, before Yousef, wAFF and Solardo would close out the Saturday night. It was a typically tight selection of tech-house tunes from start to finish, and the production value in the tent was way ahead of what we’re accustomed to for festivals in the North East. The sound quality and light display does a lot to enhance the atmosphere during sets centred around long builds, hi-hats and bass drops.
The site featured an altogether more striking open-air arena. It hosted a more eclectic mix of DJ sets and live performances, with Paul Woolford predictably providing the finest set of the weekend to a rain-drenched but raucous crowd. The stage was clearly designed with live performances in mind, with Example and Clean Bandit both rattling through a selection of classics as a gorgeous sunset filled the Saturday evening sky.
It was then that the festival really came into its own, and the Black Eyed Peas’ headline set was incredible fun. It was booking that felt like a real coup for the city, and so it proved on the night. They have a huge back catalogue of genuine bangers, and the fireworks that accompanied 'Where Is The Love' were a lovely touch.
Elsewhere across the site, there was an enticing little tunnel of a stage that on the Sunday hosted the Mixtape Marquee. Maybe this is my North East bias kicking in again, but Ultrabeat’s set on the Sunday night was one of the festival’s highlights. That sort of trance and two-step maybe doesn’t get a fair shake throughout the rest of the country, but by the time they’d dropped 'Elysium' the place was going mad.
They were up against some genuine superstars in Mabel and AJ Tracey, but the tent was packed throughout. Speaking of the former, we did manage to dart across in time to hear her perform 'Don’t Call Me Up', which is exactly the sort of radio-friendly pop that you need to revive anyone starting to flag by the Sunday evening.
The relatively compact nature of the site meant it was easy enough to move between stages without missing anything, though the sound from one rarely bled into the other. The Worried About Henry stage on the Sunday hosted solid drum and bass, and by then the Kaluki tent had been taken over by Repopulate Mars. Alan Fitzpatrick and Jamie Jones topped the bill for the latter, with the quality of the Sunday evening headliners making for some difficult clashes.
We made the fortunate decision to catch most of AJ Tracey, one of the most prominent names in grime over the last couple of years, and weren’t disappointed. The combination of a lovely atmosphere, Pyramid Stage quality performance and firework display was again a winning one. By the time he was banging out 'Ladbroke Grove' it was time to reflect on a successful first year for the latest iteration of LooseFest.
There were a few fairly predictable growing pains, but on the whole the festival was more than the sum of its parts. Bars, food options and toilet facilities were broadly what you’d expect, but the production and musical programming across the site transformed the Town Moor into something else entirely. It was difficult to believe that this is the same site which hosts the travelling Hoppings funfair, though both weekends can be spent listening to hardstyle and having a load of fun.