Since its introduction to the festival circuit, South London has enjoyed every bit of Gala’s evolution since its formation in 2016. With the likes of Norman Joy, Nightmares on Wax and Crazy P leading the way as it descended on Brixton’s Brockwell Park, it’s always been evident that Gala’s been a festival for the people, as opposed to some of its money hungry competitors look to monopolise the market, the carefully thought out execution of Gala in both its stage curation and choice of line-up’s has always guaranteed for a great time.
Even with two years out the festival game, the 2021 edition was well worth the wait. As 10,000 revellers flocked to Peckham Park – the event’s home since 2018 – the atmosphere in the air is nothing short of feelgood, with attendees clearly out for a good time, but in a respectful manner. The vibe is just about perfect for our first electronic music weekender in the capital in 18 months.
With negative lateral covid tests assessed upon entry, it’s an assuring way to kick off proceedings and thankfully, the sunny weather for Gala’s third and final day of its all-new triple header sets the tone for an eclectic day of electronic music in all its glory.
Feeling weirdly at home with it all from the get-go, we marvel at the sight of ravers enjoying the unmissable sounds of Leon Vynehall back-to-back with Young Marco on the picturesque Patio stage. As smoke machines repeatedly cover the thick of the crowd making for countless photo opportunities, the duo weave through everything from classic house to garage, taking their time initially before ramping up the tempo and sending the crowd into a wolf-whistling frenzy, dropping in El-B’s ‘Celly’ and Harris & Furr’s Remix of Fun Fun’s ‘Give Me Your Love’ to really set the pace, keeping the crowd in the palm of their trusty hands throughout.
It’s been a genuine pleasure to watch Foundation FM’s evolution over the last few years, having had the come down to the its HQ in nearby Peckham Levels, and seeing their stage takeover of Park Corner was even more of a joy, as those in the tent are engrossed by the bass and garage sounds of regular Helena Star. Dropping in some crowd pleasers in the way of a Cardi B edit of ‘Money’, the atmosphere is one of community, with everyone in singalong mode and smiles for all the eye can see.
As Studio Barnhus boss Kornél Kovács ends things on the main stage with a euphoric singalong of Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Waiting For Tonight’, slowing it down to an almost trippy crescendo, CC:Disco! Wastes no time as she gets the crowd moving with some Amapiano – a welcome moment and a first for us hearing it in a festival or club setting – she keeps the crowd engaged with an assortment of house, electro and world sounds. Definitely one to keep an eye on if she’s on a lineup in the future.
With Gala now taking place in Peckham Rye, it would be rude of us not to check out The Rye stage, with Jamz Supernova - who we’ve seen play many a set in Bussey Building – shelling down the stage with some chuggy Techno and underground jams, it’s the first time we’ve seen her dig so deep, and what a memorable sight it was. The evening’s highlight did however, come from Mr Peckham himself, Bradley Zero, who elected to take no prisoners, digging out pure groovers and peak-time house anthems, with the David Morales Remix of Jaydee’s ‘Plastic Dreams’ just about summing up what was an exceptional and enthralling set from the Rhythm Section head honcho.
Back on the Patio stage, Craig Richards delivered a typical onslaught of supreme tech house, bringing back nothing but great memories from his own festival creation Houghton, and serving as a further reminder that maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel, with live DJ sets just the tonic as a way to both ease any concerts of anxiety, and any reservations we may have held pre-festival as to how good it would be to be back and amongst it.
Closing things off in typically masterful fashion was Danilo Plessow, otherwise known as Motor City Drum Ensemble, who rarely fails to disappoint and years after our last encounter in Barcelona, we’re treated to an onslaught of house in all its soulful glory, as MCDE closes out the weekender in perfect fashion, equally bringing down the curtain on Gala but also cutting the ribbon on what it is a condensed but nevertheless, a festival season many of us never thought would take place.
Taking all into account – Gala was absolutely perfect, a weekender offering something for just about everything, whilst retaining its core fanbase and evidently drawing in new members, in part for its reputation and also for its evident ability to host an undeniably great festival experience. Reminding us that the dancefloor is just as good as you remember, Gala did a wonderful job at showcasing exactly how it’s done, and we can’t wait to enjoy its continued evolution and do it all over again next year.
Check out our playlist of some of our favourite track ID’s captured and in turn, some of Gala’s biggest moments below.
Words by Mikey Corrighan