After a completely sold out debut, 51st State Festival surpassed what many festivals are still trying to achieve way into their maturity. The new and exciting site alongside a tenaciously cohesive line-up has all contributed to successfully distinguishing FOUND’s newest festival as one that’s here to stay for at least a few more years.
Trent Park seems to be now North London’s hidden gem and although it boasts an equivalent size to Regents Park, it was the restriction of the festival site to a about half a mile which still gave it that rare untouched intimate feel. The smallish site did present some teething problems when trying to fit in the full capacity inside however steady moving queues denied nothing upon entry. It was almost a fitting homage to the ‘rave’ days that formerly united house lovers around London’s cultural orbital since the very early nineties. A throwback surely accredited by the attendees.
51st state truly felt like a celebration of modern ‘black’ music with each stage opening offering deeper exploration into the origins of House’s transatlantic journey. Purposefully picked stages showcased dance music’s evolution from Chicago and New York’s most tucked away clubs and warehouses to London’s underground and commercial charts (and back again). With headliners such as Masters At Work, Todd Terry, Dennis Ferrer, DJ Sneak and Barbra Tucker’s cameo on the main stage it was uplifting vibes that carried the festival so well into sunset. Other stages such as Groove Odyssey played host to the likes of David Morales, UK veterans Bobby & Steve with Joey Negro, and US legend Tony Humphries all mixing up modern pleasers with soul dance floor infected classics. The We Love Soul stage, an established brand now synonymous with the disparities of soul also showcased a plethora of tributes from Omar Live to Norman Jay MBE and even fitting in radio UK house old-timer Paul Trouble Anderson. The nostalgia was felt in the tent for sure.
However asides from the Sunday Ravers the Friday nighters were also more than catered for. The Back To 95 Stage blasted garage classics with stomping UK house to really representing the dynamic of how the UK shaped the house sound. The prolific Grant Nelson, DJ Spoony, Matt Jam Lamont and DJ Luck and Neat took to the stage alongside some choice recognisable MC’s to set off what was unquestionably the most energetic crowd. The Hot Wuk Carnival stage stayed true to its name and felt like a pre-carnival warm up with the Heatwave, Mele, Monki, Hutch and Congo Natty all delivering an alternative to the heavy 4×4 sound and finally the VIP lounge had a perfect soundtrack provided by Robert Owens the power vocalist, who we had the pleasure of speaking to last year and Horse Meat Disco spinning rare disco classics.
Not only did 51st State generously fall on one of the hottest day of the year, It was clear that the stature of artists and live acts appealed to a more of a musically mature audience which then both contributed to such a cosy atmosphere. FOUND’s 51st State wasn’t your usual commonly selected electronica merged in between chart toppers (the contentious EDM formula – which seems to be reshaping the festival dynamic to much online debate), and with such an already over-saturated festival calendar its a refreshing late-summer change from the pop headliner vs. DJ formula which never seems to satisfy either party. With humble beginnings without many teething problems it will be interesting to see if 51st State evolves with the ever demanding and fast paced music scene or sticks to its roots and philosophy for the coming years.
Pictures taken by Marc Sethi for FOUND and Sayuri Standing @sayeliz
Words by Warren Cummings