We Are FSTVL: an unexpected diversity of dance music | Review

Over the 28th-29th May bank holiday, We Are FSTVL returned for its third year with its biggest line-up yet. It certainly didn’t disappoint; the 15,000 capacity festival was home to some of the world’s biggest names in electronic dance music hosting over 200 artists across 16 different stages.

Initially what stands out most about We Are FSTVL is the diversity of electronic dance music across the variety of stages; from drum & bass to deep house, it has it all. Added to that, each stage has its own feel; from the Used + Abused warehouse, to the UKF tent and of course the impressive main stage which dominates the Airfield of Dreams at Damyn’s Hall in Upminster.

Saturday’s line-up reflected this diversity; particular highlights across the different stages included Tale of Us’ performance on the Used + Abused stage, Tensnake, Hannah Wants and MK’s headline set in the MK Arena, as well as a classic SHY FX performance in the UKF tent. The climax of the day came as Fatboy Slim took to the main stage. This stage had enjoyed excellent sets all day from a range of artists including Amine Edge & Dance and Claptone; however as soon as Norman Cook appeared, his energy and stage presence was unparalleled. His effortless live mixing took us on a tour de force of house music over the last few decades, from his opening extended version of ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave Repeat’ to his closing rework of ‘Praise You’, his set boasted punchy diversity alongside that Fatboy Slim quirk we know and love.

Following on from Saturday’s display, We Are FSTVL’s second day had something slightly different to offer. Sunday’s sell-out line-up saw each stage far more busy that the previous day as the festival played host to a heavier and more dance-filled range of DJs and producers. This theme started early with the likes of Maya Jane Coles playing to a packed out Paradise tent and Shadow Child’s set at the ‘Defected in the House’ stage. The main stage also offered a heavier line-up with Disciples performing early, followed by Tchami’s mystical set drawing in a significant crowd as the sun set.

My personal highpoint of Sunday came as a surprise. As DJ Snake’s main stage set waned and left a bit to be desired, we wondered into the LoveJuice tent to find Essex DJ Sam Lashmar dominating his home turf. Playing alongside CJ on the live sax and Bongo Ben, the packed tent was filled with people loving his bouncy and summery house tracks. The blend of deep, but also soulful and funky house with live instruments gave the tent an intimate and lively feel – seriously good vibes all round.

Sunday ended with Steve Angello taking to the main stage. The experienced international DJ knew exactly what he was doing as he commanded the crowd of thousands. Classic popular house anthems were accompanied by an abundance of impressive lighting and pyrotechnics; it was everything you could want from a closing headline act at a dance festival.

As the weekend drew to a close, it became clear that We Are FSTVL is just getting started. The festival already offers a range of big names across the electronic dance music scene, and long may that continue over the next few years.

Words by Tom McGivan