Photo Credit: Ismael Quintanilla III / Nicolita Bradley / Miranda McDonald / Quinn Tucker /…
Photo Credit: Ryan Dinham
elrow returned to London once again to produce a mystical journey through the depths of house and techno, transporting its visitors to an other-worldly town filled with magic and music.
This highly anticipated day festival opened the gates to the mysterious land of elrow a little after 12, awaited by a crowd that was thirsting to re-visit this site of the heart-breaking cancellation last year. Dagenham’s Parsloes Park provided the majestically decorated setting for a beaming and gleaming day of thumping elation, guiding its visitors through the town’s fantastic and fantasied homes of house and techno veneration.
As you walk past the immensely imposing archway of elrow, you immediately catch sight and sound of the music that was already fired up by the opening acts. The ‘Kaos Garden’ and ‘Nowmads’ stages were hidden under two large blue tents that respectively accommodated Florentina B2B with Amedeo Picone and Viviana Casanova. Both sets began the day’s work and play with booming mixes of house and techno, building up multi-layered sets that seamlessly grooved across different genres and tracks. Their sounds were reminiscent of old-school blends of techno, pumping through loud and enthralling percussion alongside vocal and synth progressions to set the wheels of elrow in motion. In the furthest corner of the town, the main ‘Psychrowdelic Trip’ stage provided the backdrop for one of the most flamboyant and eclectic venue designs that you can dream of. The elrow mainstay George Privatti was situated in an elevated booth that was surrounded by varying shapes of fractal and whirling patterns that drew from psychedelic mythology and imagination to present a bewitching visual aesthetic that left visitors in awe. Privatti was the first act to grace this grandiose construction, entertaining the early ravers with a tasteful and modern mix that resonated across the entire town. The last stage, Pink Cathedral, was by far the smallest, nesting itself within a pink inflatable tent that created the most intimate dancing space in town. However, this home was the first to be fully packed, as Oscar Kingsley’s B2B performance with Rory Cordz rocked the music church into ecstasy with niche, yet timeless, disco and funk records. This juicy throwback set perfectly complemented the modern house and techno that was being heard elsewhere, providing a searingly funky atmosphere that got everybody shaking in the early afternoon.
These four stages hosted 29 performances in total across the entire day, providing visitors with a wide-ranging and never-ending appreciation of house and techno. Given that the town’s stages were in close proximity to each other, one was easily able to move between them depending on what you wanted to hear. If you wanted to have a taste of some crunchy and crispy house/techno, then you would pay a visit to Riva Starr, Edetto, Syreeta, or Andrés Campo. If you felt like the tempo had to be raised a bit, then you looked for solace in Dom Dolla, Paco Osuna, or Vintage Culture. Every time you did eagerly travel between the massive blue tents, you were always drawn to and enticed by the main stage where Fleur Shore, Joseph Capriati, and Archie Hamilton were blasting blockbuster sets that transported you into another world once more. This was the movement of sound that you were a part of, picking and choosing your place as you like. However, the ‘Pink Cathedral’ was the undeniable hotspot, as the smaller room and consistently disco-oriented sound allowed visitors to indulge in funkier basslines, jazzier chords, and classic party anthems. A special moment was created when Bustin Loose dropped an impeccably timed remix of ABBA’s ‘Voulez-vous’, followed by a dazzling disco-house rendition of Boney M’s ‘Sunny’ recording. Further credit has to go to all other the DJ’s who performed at this stage, they thoroughly engrossed the steaming crowd with all-day funk and disco bangers. Another outstanding highlight was Skream’s set at the main stage, as the electronic music veteran showcased his skill in putting together a creatively executed set that paid more homage to his UK roots, exemplified by more usage of breaks and off-beat cuts.
Nonetheless, this day festival especially stood out due to the obvious care, creativity, and love that went into the artistic and visual design of the town. Peculiar avatar-esque creatures, forms, and figures were colorfully hung from the ceilings of the blue tents, as well as towering next to the performing DJs. Furthermore, the crowd was regularly surprised and accompanied by lofty figures of mesmerizing animals and humans that moved among the visitors, convincingly immersing ravers within the thematic idea of a trans-earthly experience. This resulted in a holistically warm and welcoming spirit across the town, as visitors wandered in absolute wonderment at this new universe that unfolded and interacted with them. This was even more heightened and intensified as the night fell, with the scintillating light show of the stages coming to life and resolutely emphasizing the remarkable character of the town. It was as if we had been taken on a trip to the stars and back, reveling in the other-worldly journey. This was best illustrated during Tini Gessler’s closing set at the main stage, as the town’s biggest attraction swirled and sparkled to her throbbing and pulsating set.
Moreover, the amenities were well-kept and well-organized, keeping visitors hydrated and fed during a jam-packed day. The rest of the town was filled with various community activities that provided a source of fun when attention was not directed towards the music, exemplified by a mega-sized darts board that anyone could throw tennis balls at and life-sized board games. One could also come across unexpected pop-up DJ sets that emerged within hidden areas of the town, offering personal yet energetic spaces where you could sing and dance at the same time. This offered a sense of scale that further enhanced the image of a separate world filled with many secrets and joys, experiences that you had to look for to discover. elrow town opened its doors once again to London and delivered as promised, sculpting a universe filled with love, spontaneity, and music.
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