In late August 2019 we all walked away from Lazy Sunday Festival buzzing for the next one. "See you next year", we said as we parted company with old friends and those we'd only met that day. And then COVID happened. But, after several pandemic-related cancellations, what was beginning to feel like it might never happen happened - Lazy Sunday was back - and this time the line-up was off the charts!
As an independent blog we don't mind saying that Lazy Sunday has become something of an essential in the rave calendar; a mecca for old skool enthusiasts and an indispensable release for ravers that just aren't ready to hand in their glow sticks! To say that anticipation was high is an understatement.
The previous event (2019) took place on one of the hottest days of the year, with a terrific line-up, and was always going to be a hard act to follow, however the most oft-repeated feedback online was that the 'Old Skool and Jungle' festival was heavy on old skool but not so much the jungle. Well boy did this year's line-up rectify that... with jungle / drum & bass sets from Jumpin Jack Frost, Randall, Ellis Dee, Ragga Twins and Nicky Blackmarket. Not to mention a headline set from none other than Fabio and Grooverider (but more on that later).
The festival was kicked off with a set by Cosmo & Dibs back to back with Jeff Booz focussing on old skool classics while the early starters streamed in and explored the festival site. Although entry to the site was slightly delayed due to a complication regarding health and safety this was taken with good grace by those already queing outside and spirits were high.
In the build up to the festival the weather forecast fluctuated wildly but on the day a relatively brief thirty minutes of rain got it all out of the system and the rest of the day/night was dry and often bright. However, at 1pm, the Beat Jugglers - the first PA of the day - took the stage against the backdrop of that heavy half hour downpour which makes it all the more impressive when you consider how it played out. Over the course of a set that encompassed original tunes from their Out Out album, newer jungle-tinged tracks (including new single Turn It Up) and a couple of rave-classic covers, the Beat Jugglers managed to draw in the crowds despite the pouring rain and get the party jumping. Bangers like 'Better Days', 'Raves Like This' and 'Turn It Up' generated the necessary party atmosphere and demonstrated once again that Beat Jugglers are an essential festival live act, turning a sodden field in Letchworth into a vibrant and full dancefloor!
Following on we saw our second PA of the day run with the party vibes as Awesome 3 took to the stage, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted; the anthemic and piano-heavy breakdown of 'Don't Go' delivering goosebumps to old skool fans and their young families alike.
One of the unique selling points of Lazy Sunday has always been its family-inclusive atmosphere, and this year was no exception. Witnessing a front row filled with enthusiastic youngsters alongside their 'original raver' parents was a heartwarming sight. It exemplified the festival's power to bring generations together under the same musical umbrella, explaining why Lazy Sunday had been nominated for Best Family Festival three years in a row.
From a food/drink perspective there was good choice in food vendors (local stalwarts Chicken George were a predictable and deserved favourite - I went for the buffalo sauce option!) while the queueing system for drinks was swift and well managed meaning no more jostling for position at the bar.
As previously mentioned, this year's jungle game was strong with a mix of up-front and classic jungle / drum and bass from Randall, Nicky Blackmarket, Jumpin Jack Frost, Barrington and Ellis Dee. Randall was first up and once he lit the fuse the dancefloor didn't let up - the torch merely being passed from one to the next. Nicky Blackmarket's set was a particular stand out switching two-stepping rollers with all out jump-up bangers that consistently elevated an already hyped crowd.
At 7pm, as the sun was beginning to set, 'Fat Controller' Jay Folly (and Lazy Sunday organiser) took to the decks and played a set heavy on breakbeat hardcore classics in the 92-94 era accompanied by an impromptu 'Kevin and Perry' tribute! At this point it's worth giving a big shout out to MC's Strict and Danny Lines for an incredible job of playing host and taking the crowd along for the ride - at one point towering over the crowd atop opposing speaker stacks!
The final PA on the main stage came from the Ragga Twins who performed vocals of their own back catalogue as well as toasting over a deep jungle set. They faced overwhelming demand from the crowd for photos, with both original fans and newcomers recognizing them as the pioneering artists they truly are.
As the night drew to a close, Billy 'Daniel' Bunter took the main stage by storm. His trademark energy radiated through a diverse old skool set, seamlessly transitioning between old skool hardcore, house and rave breaks. Bunter's electrifying connection with the crowd, a hallmark of his performances, kept everyone on their toes. His reputation for engaging with the audience remains unmatched.
Finally, Fabio and Grooverider took to the decks for the final hour of the main stage for a back to back set of old skool classics. Early house blended with classic tunes such as '40 Miles', 'Don't Go' and 'Bombscare' kept the crowd jumping until the very end and served as a reminder that the both started their careers in acid house and hardcore before becoming synonymous with drum and bass.
As the main stage came to a close, for those that opted for the VIP experience, the Epidemik tent played home to Beat Jugglers delivering their second set of the day. An acoustic set of Beat Juggler originals and classic rave covers delivered by Joe Wiggins on keys, Mad Mick on sax and Nikki Neon on vocals served as the perfect denouement to the festival and went down a storm. Coming full circle, and ending what they started, Cosmo & Dibs back to back with Jeff Booz played a final set of the evening of classic house; sending punters home on a high.
The Lazy Sunday Festival is about more than just music; it's a testament to the enduring spirit of rave culture. It has a loyal group of supporters that turn up year after year - a group that is ever expanding with new friendships being forged and precious moments being shared.
As we said our farewells, echoes of "See you next year" lingered in the air, a promise that Lazy Sunday would return once again to remind us that the magic of rave lives on, stronger and more vibrant than ever before.