Successfully cementing its place in the festival calendar, Wild Life, in its third year, fortuitously flourished in the best weather since its inception, as hometown-legend Fatboy Slim played his biggest crowd in Brighton for over five years. Diversity amongst the music mirrored the diversity of age, as revellers from as young 10 (accompanied by parents of course) up to their late 40's danced around Shoreham Airport to pop, grime, R&B, house, techno, drum & bass and reggae - though it was Fatboy Slim's headline set on Friday night that managed to bring everyone together for a truly impressive show.
Moving the festival from a Saturday/Sunday to a Friday/Saturday seemed to be a more logical idea and hopefully will be the case perpetually. Friday had its fair share of genres on show, with the Wild Life main stage hosting pop stars George Ezra, Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne, whilst the Tropical stage went grime with Wiley and JME. The Elrow and WHP stages hosted many worthy acts of electronica, including Pete Tong, Gorgon City, Hannah Wants, Jackmaster, Martinez Brothers and Fatboy Slim.
Naturally festival co-curators Disclosure and Rudimental sneaked in on the line-up, taking a break from headlining the two previous years and crept in on the line-up performing DJ sets on the WHP stage.
For the grime artists of Friday, they all had the Tropical stage near enough filled to the maximum as the crowd varied from 15-30 year old's. Needless to say, it was the older end of that spectrum that would have left most disappointed. For Wiley, been around long enough to be called a veteran by some, played a very commercial set that was poignantly aimed at the adolescents, leaving the mature fans disgusted, arms folded at the back. Thankfully though JME's headline slot brought a sense of that reality back to the grime fans who remember its breakthrough and why it's called grime.
Any fans who arrived after work on Friday they would've already missed Pete Tong and maybe caught the tale end to Gorgon City who were both on early. The WHP stage had had a complete makeover from previous years, giving it a much needed upgrade. The stage was twice as big, the lighting and production far more alluring and contemporary, and the sound, well, the sound was the best quality over the entire festival, which is an impressive feat for an outside stage too. Even as the time pressed towards its 1am closing, the sound seemed as punchy and vibrant as it did all night.
Rudimental's DJ set was the warm up for Fatboy Slim. By the time the Brighton legend had entered the DJ booth, the WHP stage had the biggest crowd of the weekend. With all ages and all walks of life in attendance Norman Cook mixed through the classics like 'Praise You', 90's hit 'Renegade Master' and his latest tune 'Eat Sleep Rave Repeat'. Despite some rather cringe moments where he was miming to the cameras he had awkwardly placed around his decks, the show was well received and probably the best of the weekend.
The Elrow stage was a new addition to Wild Life, bringing its highly immersive and decorative touch to the festival. With Palm trees and other exotic vegetation covering the tent and stage, the DJ's were almost impossible to see. Add a lot of dancers in animal costumes mooching through the dancefloor, tonnes of confetti and large inflatable balls being tossed around the crowd all added to the crazy carnival atmosphere Elrow try and create; which kicked off big time, especially on the Friday night.
The Wild Life main stage had a complete different vibe on the Saturday, as Ran n Bone Man, Damian Marley, Stormzy and Dizzee Rascal were all on stage.
Damian Marley, who very rarely plays in this country was the biggest let down of the weekend. Playing with a very heavy band behind him, the sound seemed distorted and almost lost some of the clarity in his voice that conventionally is what makes the son of Bob Marley so good.
Stormzy followed going through his new album as expected, also playing his remix of Ed Sheeran's 'Shape of You' as the crowd seemed to augment in size and become more and more adolescent in age.
At 9.30pm on Saturday evening, there was a four-way set clash as Dizzee Rascal, Andy C, Eric Prydz and Joris Voorn all took to the stage at near enough the exact same time. Dizzee Rascal and drum & bass legend Andy C packed out their stages and played the familiar solid sets, thought it was Joris Voorn who took the hit, as the headline act of Elrow deserved a far better crowd. Eric Prydz finished 30 minutes later than everyone else and played his headline slot before Disclosure went back to back with Armand van Helden to close the festival. Despite the WHP stage being smaller than Eric Prydz is use to, the excellent sound quality meant his highly progressive style of house still came through superbly, finishing with 'Opus'.
With teething problems seemingly now sorted, Wild Life now needs to start attracting the caliber of artists its sister festival Parklife attracts in Manchester. So much diversity in music is fantastic in bringing all walks of life and ages to the festival, however, the lineup needs more quality or more numbers or maybe both if it wants to push on and become a big player in the UK festival market. The airport is large enough to do so, so let's see what co-curators Rudimental and Disclosure can come up with next year.
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