On 28th May, GALA returned to Brockwell Park for its second edition, for what promised to be an afternoon of brilliant Disco and Funk. Being a fair-weather festival-goer, I had been on the Met Office website daily for the previous fortnight, to see whether by will alone I was able to bring the Sun out on Bank Holiday Sunday. However, the early indicators were not good and, breaking trend from a 30-degree week, it seemed as though it would be a day for anoraks rather than sunglasses.
In the most grimly predictably manner possible, the forecast was proven right when, after a bright start to the day, the heavens opened as soon as the clock struck 3pm. As I watched people fleeing for cover, it struck me how little of it there was. Understandably for a boutique festival of this size, there was only one tent (the Horse Meat Disco Dome) but other than this the only other sheltered areas were the bars, which often resembled your local streetwear shop when the new Yeezy line dropped. Yet, the rain did nothing to dampen spirits, people very much took the view that they cannot control the weather and that they may as well make the best of it.
My first port of call was the main stage where I was keen to catch O’Flynn, an artist who has gone from strength to strength in the previous 18 months or so. O’Flynn is a favourite of Four Tet and you can see why, with his selections every bit as eclectic as they are enjoyable. However, my enjoyment was cut short as another unrivalled bout of torrential rain had me, and seemingly everyone else running for the Horse Meat Disco Dome. This was a real blessing in disguise as I had unwittingly wandered into the middle of Joey Llanos’s set, which was one of the highlights of the day. The Paradise Garage aficionado played a wealth of old-school disco that really got the crowd going, after the weather and technical difficulties had the festival off to a stuttering start.
Next up, I decided to check out the Family Stage, the smallest of the three, tucked away on the far side of the festival site. In all honesty, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Although, the Rhythm Sister DJs were playing some decent tracks, they were doing so to an audience of 15-20 people and despite being kitted out with Funktion 1 speakers, the stage struggled not to be drowned out by music coming from the Horse Meat Disco Dome. We quickly vacated and headed back to the Main Stage, where Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda were just taking to the stage. It was fitting that this was the moment that the Sun plucked up the courage to finally break through the cloud cover. Harvey Sutherland is one of those artists who always puts on a good show, and this was no different. Whilst taking the crowd through a host of futuristic and keyboard led disco, Sutherland and his band provided the ideal sonic accompaniment to the meteorological upturn.
Nicky Siano, followed Harvey Sutherland on the main stage and, overcoming some early technical issues, played a brilliant hybrid set of Disco classics and some lesser known tracks that were received equally well by the Brixton crowd. Siano provided me with one of the highlights of the day, when he dropped ‘Love Sensation’ by Lolleatta Holloway. Having not spent much time in the Horse Meat Disco Dome, we decided to head over to catch the curators themselves. HMD did what they do best, getting the crowd going with a plethora of disco gems and soul-house groovers.
By then, it was time to head back to the Main Stage for the penultimate two acts. First disco-edit king Late Nite Tuff Guy sent the crowd hysterical by dropping his own party edits of well-known tracks. Although he kept the energy up throughout his set, the pinnacle came when he played ‘Do I Believe in God’, his own edit of the late Prince’s Controversy.
Headlining the main stage were Nottingham electro-disco outfit, Crazy P. They were by far the highlight of the festival. The band seemed perfect for closing the main stage, as the Sun slowly dipped behind the London skyline that framed the stage and the sky turned lilac. The headliners drew the biggest crowd reaction of the day when the gentle piano, claps and wandering bassline of the band’s biggest hit, Heartbreaker, was introduced. Danielle, the lead singer, has an unwavering voice that did not falter at all as they band wooed the crowd with their up-beat electro-pop sound that encapsulated the mood of the festival. Crazy P’s set was varied and entertaining and was my personal highlight of the day.
Overall, GALA is a festival that has potential, but is in danger of being lost amongst the plethora of average boutiques day-festivals that are ten-a-penny nowadays. The line-up for the festival was outstanding, as was the music itself. However, the festival was somewhat let down by inconsistent sound, long queues for the bars and technical issues. Despite this, GALA is still in its infancy and the problems could still be attributed to teething issues. If these issues were resolved then GALA could make a name for itself as a well-established boutique day-festival.
Words by @Ollie_Subhedar