When Secret Garden Party closed last year it was the end of a massive era. Not so much in terms of years, although knocking up 14 years is an incredible feat, but in terms of impact. From 2004 to 2017 Secret Garden Party became an institution that pushed against institutions, it was bold and brave and brought together likeminded souls who joined together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts.
But it was time to move on, as founder Freddie Fellowes aka the Head Gardener explained in March 2017 before the final fling last July:
“Much has changed since that first Garden Party, when there was nothing else like it in the UK: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter had yet to be invented and no one knew what a boutique festival was, let alone glamping.”
He gave a glimpse of hope that all was not lost by promising the closure was only to “open up for new forms in the future,” and told his hardcore ‘gardeners’ to “watch this space for the phoenix rising from the ashes…”
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Well while we are waiting for the resurrection Freddie’s got involved with a mini-festival just a stone’s throw from SGP’s long-running Cambridgeshire location. The Wild Wood Disco, a one day outdoor party set in woodlands, harks back to the good old days when festival saturation yet to happen.
With 1600 tickets sold out, word has spread about this secret night of revelry and raving. The Head Gardener himself opened up the day at 2pm with a two hour set of fantastical uplifting house that boomeranged us back to Secret Garden Party’s golden years.
For such a small festival the organisers such as Vicky Fenton are clearly well-connected as house music legend Seb Fontaine reminded us of his solid status as a master of dance grooves during the blazing mid afternoon. Mixing John Acquaviva’s 98 version of Fingers Inc 'Can You Feel It' ft with Frankie Knuckles’ timeless classic 'Your Love' sent the crowd loopy.
Jim and Danielle of Crazy P Soundsystem brought their unique brand of shimmering disco and underground electronic punch as the sun shone down its final few rays. The accomplished DJs and producers have earned worldwide recognition with six albums under their belt and have been constantly on tour with their DJ sets and live band shows. Crazy P have been pioneering the ‘little bit house little bit disco’ soulful sunset sounds for almost 20 years and its nice to see they are still enjoying themselves as much now as in the late 90s.
The highlight of the night came from the most high profile figures of the line up, Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay and Andy Cato. The duo smashed their two hour set, returning to their underground roots after climbing the dizzy heights of the mainstream, bringing the community of Gen X and Y ravers together and kept the busiest crowd of the night exhilarated with tune after tune for two solid hours.
Despite the fresh feel to their set they dropped in a couple of old 90s classics - the grungy 'Purple Haze' from their 2002 album 'Lovebox' and an insane mix of Underworld’s 'Born Slippy' into 'Superstylin’, of which they teased in the vocals for a good 15 minutes before the drop was set off with lasers, lit up trees and the echo of several hundred humans stomping.
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Next up the mighty Stanton Warriors launched into their trademark gritty breakbeat, shifting from garage to hip-hop to electro and throwing in surprises such as last year’s hit 'Cola' by UK producers Camelphat and Elderbrook. Plump DJs drew the night to a close but struggled to keep the intensity of Stanton Warriors’ crowd and people started thinning out.
A good few sought solace in the steadier cuts from Dig It Soundsystem who had a stage at the end of a winding path through the trees and kept revellers going until the music got pulled at 2am. Another new stage this year was the Sundown Stage providing ambient sunset shades of disco and house from the local Wonky Disco DJs and sleazier 80s disco classics from DJ Jo Sennitt. The high production values and attention to detail throughout the day was that perfect touch of home grown yet professional set up.
It’s only going to get better but hopefully not too much bigger. To be honest writing this review is a double edged sword; Wild Wood is just one of those parties that you want to keep all to yourself.
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Words: Lisa Higgins
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