Since it began in 2010 Sundown Festival has grown year on year, from a relatively small shindig at the Norfolk Showground to the behemoth it is today, attracting around 45,000 people, and an impressive line up of artists. This year saw Craig David, Rag'n'Bone Man, Pendulum, You me at Six, Giggs, Skream, Camo & Krooked, Hannah Wants, Noisia, Wiley, Jaguar Skills and Artwork rock their respective stages, amongst a plethora of other artists across the three days.
It is a well organised affair with all you would expect to see at a music festival of this size including not one, but two dedicated huge dance music tents, the big main stage, the eclectic Platform Stage and the new Mystree woodland stage, all hosting an array of genres from indie rock, to grime, drum & bass (plenty of that), dubstep, house, techno and UK garage. And a huge selection of decent fairground rides which put the likes of Reading & Leeds Festival to shame. The camping and car parks are very close to the action too, so no lengthy treks back and forth.
As a photographer my focus was on the people over the weekend, with an occasional snap of the artists. Compared to other festivals the average age of customer is young, with the core demographic between the ages of 14-18. However Sundown still attracts a variety of different people of all ages, so it's not just for the kids. But the team responsible for booking the artists know their main clientele, and the weekend has a primarily urban feel to it.
For example; the hilarious Kurupt FM played the Saturday on the main stage, bringing their brand of comedy to Norwich. They are like a UK Garage version of Steel Panther. And DJ bookings Camelphat, Low Steppa and Solardo kept the kids happy.
But enter Craig David for those who came of age in the 90's. He was the biggest name on show, coming back and displaying his talent after chilling out for several years worth of Sundays. Rag'n'Bone Man too produced a more mature, soulful sound shortly beforehand. He's an artist surfing a well deserved wave of hype and was superb.
Saturday seemed to be the busiest day with some big crowds at the main stage. But the Sunday billing was a hotch potch which left a few people confused. Newcomers Jonas Blue played a decent, poppy set followed by John Newman in a similar vein. The indie rockers You me at Six then played a great set after the sun went down over Sundown. However a sparse crowd told me everything I needed to know; they very much are not a typical booking for this festival, which is a shame as I enjoyed their performance a great deal. The drum & bass super group Pendulum headlined, but again it seemed a strange choice as for me they peaked some years ago. I'd much rather have seen one of the new grime super stars take that slot. Perhaps Giggs who was hidden away on the Friday night and I'm told absolutely slayed the tent he played. I have a feeling the Sundown punters would have flocked to see him.
But the Sunday billing is a small gripe. I would rather focus on what Sundown does brilliantly; the dance tents. This year we were treated to two, as I've already mentioned; The Castle Stage and The Nest Stage. All weekend long they were rammed and hosted very respectable line ups with all genres of dance music represented. The sounds systems were pounding and the lasers and lighting of the highest quality. Both Skream and Artwork, most famous for their time in dubstep super group Magnetic Man, played individual sets to huge crowds (albeit with their new sounds, Skream in particular playing very up front house and techno) , with DJ Zinc representing bass excellently, Deetron representing straight up house, and Metrik, DJ Marky and Fred V & Grafix completing a heavy weight Drum & Bass line up for Hospitality Records. You really cannot fault this part of the festival. And when you take into consideration the campers only parties on the Friday with a mixture of local jocks and world class names smashing things up, including this year The Artful Dodger and Giggs, there is no better place in this part of the UK to hear quality electronic music.
It's also very easy to get to, straight of the A47, with dual carriage links non-stop to London, and good bus connections from the city centre.
If you are considering Sundown next year I wouldn't hesitate. It is the biggest and best festival in this part of the world. You have to travel a fair distance to beat it, with its big brother V-Festival still dominating the younger end of the festival market.
It is a highly enjoyable way to spend a weekend and see some truly top level artists perform. And not too expensive either with full weekend camping tickets an early bird price of £99. Considering nearby Latitude weekend tickets are now well over £200, Sundown is a bargain. I'll be there in 2018 for sure.
Published on 08 September 2017 by Paul M.Jones