Yh M8, it calls itself the biggest Drum and Bass festival in the world and yeah, it really fucking lives up to that namesake. Some of the sets I witnessed over the three days were truly astonishing. Special mentions have to go to A.M.C, Rockwell, QZB, LSB, Hybrid Minds, Aphrodite etc. I could go on but I would probably run out of pay per click advertising. The sound systems are wicked and due to the calibre of the event, every DJ did not fuck around. They know the crowd is 99.8% DnB purists so they haven’t got the opportunity to ham anything up…not with them scary Czech security guards around anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I did witness 1 or 2 sets that were weaker than I anticipated, but that’s part and parcel to any fest, and the remaining 30 odd that we caught fucking banged. Needless to say the phrase ‘I lost my shit’ was thrown around an almost comical number of times!
To carry on from my point about the music, I would consider myself the kind of man who will happily eat breakfast on a Monday morning with a Noisia set playing in the background, but even I was slightly apprehensive about 3 solid days of DnB! Luckily however, they ordered the stage takeovers and sets incredibly well…every hour was like a breath of fresh air. For example on the first night we wet our whistles to a bit of dance floor followed by some light rollers, then some minimal, then a side of jump up before having a night cap to some heavy neuro. Let It Roll knocked it out of the park in that respect, you would never have thought just how refreshing those little change ups could be.
If there is one thing that will stay with me after I’ve lost my hearing when it all goes Pete Tong, it will be the stages at Let It Roll, they were all great. The main stage is unlike anything I have ever seen…this vast robot like structure that dominates the horizon and must make every DJ who plays on it feel like they are addressing the armies of Saruman. And then there is is The Factory Stage, which does what it says on the tin and looks like a big ole’ factory. Faris made the point that it looked uncannily like Sector 6 at Boomtown and he is spot on except he also said Sector 6 was a better stage….now I understand what he meant but he forgot to consider that Sector 6 is essentially in a big dip in the ground, meaning that it only has about a 5 aside football pitch worths’ of flat ground. Visually spectacular though it is, in terms of dancing, The Factory Stage delivers that dank flat mass of concrete. And then there is the Madhouse which everyone unanimously agreed was their fave. Inside an enormous tent with a sinister robot statue overlooking the decks, this stage was sublime and provided the best atmosphere at the festival. My favourite however was the portal stage. Far smaller than the other ones I’ve just mentioned, but full of character. The DJ commands the decks behind a circular (you guessed it) portal, which beams out a complementary vibrant changing backdrop as they play. Ever seen one of those UKF On Air Mixes?! You know the one with A.M.C, the one with Marky and some more with the likes of Randall and Friction?? Well it looked like you are in one of them which made me feel very prestige indeed.
Now this one I reckon we took for granted when we were there but it wasn't until I was leaving that I noticed that every single person we met was sound as fuck! I remember the three years at Outlook festival and how the crowd gradually morphed as the festival began to turn away from the more staple genres (yeah what you gonna do…sue me), but the crowd at Let It Roll is a multi cultural melting pot of absolute DnB warriors from all four corners of the globe, all united under their love of kicks and snares. In my camp alone there were English, Welsh, French, Belgian, Dutch, American, Russian and an enormous number of people from New Zealand….like I don’t know how many people are left in New Zealand after the war of the ring but if that many were there at Let it Roll, then the bars in Wellington must have been dead that weekend. Were there any dickheads? I mean there was one guy who punched Faris in the jaw and then lay on the ground like Paul Gascoigne and then ran off during Marky, as if there wasn't a more inappropriate time for violence, but I suspect with him there was something more sinister to blame…I wonder what though (winks suggestively). Also the crowd were super courteous, see those wank puffins who mosh at jump up raves? Yeah, they got turned around on the runway at Stansted cause there was none of that shit! Everywhere we went you had at least a half metre gap between you and the next raver, so we got to show off our wickedest skanks as Funkee Dee would say (now there’s a reference that will fly over your head), and I was obviously the best as my crown indicates. Reminded me of the first two years I went to Outlook before they got rid of the harbour stage (see you in court). Stephen loved underworld the best, but jump up fans are as jump up fans do I suppose…
You can pick up a ticket for as little as 70 quid and fly there and back for about the same if booked early enough in advance, plus it’s like a quid for a pint, say no more. You’d pay less on a fare dodging fine on South Eastern you naughty swine.
Yeah I know deep right?! What I mean by this is that with the whole world and his dog of DnB playing in one place, it is inevitable that you simply are not going to be able to see everyone that you hoped. It’s a sad truth but one that I came to terms with on the first night. One of the biggest regrets you’ll have is when you hear about a set that popped but that you weren’t at because you were at one that also popped….essentially you just have to convince yourself that yours popped more in order to keep your cool. I would certainly recommend making time to see people you have never seen before but that fits your taste too, for example we went to see QZB instead of catching the second half of Andy C (I am sorry almighty I have failed you, show me no mercy, break my body beneath the weight of your mighty triple drop for I am not worthy) on the Saturday and got treated to a totally unique sound.
Yeah…the big one this is, and I’ll be honest I blame western culture for it. We have a tendency of looking at Eastern European countries as though they are just deserted frozen ex soviet tundras…well I mean in the winter they kind of are but in the summer, places like the Czech Republic get up to the mid to late thirties, way hotter than your mum at least. Now imagine that heat…but from 8am til 7pm every day…and you are on a repurposed airfield where there is no tree line for a mile in every direction. Needless to say, I got very hot at points, and without swimming pools etc, the heat can be quite unrelenting. However, Let It Roll is not the 6th circle of hell that I’m making it out to be in every sense. They open the festival gates at midday so you can find shade and cool in the arenas. One in particular called the freedom music tent had deck chairs, sold cigarettes and had two massive fans on either sides that sprayed water vapour…I shit you not on Friday morning when I was hanging out of my arsehole I thought it was a fucking mirage! They also have a fire truck that comes around and sprays you with all the water they aren't wasting on forest fires which is nice! But yeah, it’s fucking hot…bring some foil to put on your tent, maybe get one of those nice tepees, or if you really are a bitch get an apartment. I did at one point see a red hea…fair ski…a ginger girl physically crying because she couldn't stand the heat…I chuckled.
Basically in the height of summer, it doesn’t really rain much, and in an abandoned soviet airfield, I doubt groundskeeper Willy is up and about making sure the ground is nice and fertile. This makes for ground that is very dry. Now introduce thousands of DnB enthusiasts to this make shift dance floor, and shortly thereafter it isn't just a fuss that is being kicked up. By the last day, the area between the Madhouse and Underground looked like a scene out of post industrial Beijing, only with crisper basslines and far more shit chow mein. I personally have a very sensitive throat so could feel after about 2 days, the gradual build up of air born dust making me lose my voice. However, you could purchase a surgical style mask to keep your mouth un invaded whilst you are out and about. Just remember that you could very well end up temporarily losing more than just your marbles at Let It Roll.
Well here you have it, the first rave review from the Maneki collective, and what a cracker we have to kick it all off, Let It Roll. It’s probably worth mentioning that we had our sights on this festival for a long time….in fact in my case I’m pretty sure every moment since first hearing the bi-polar remix of Hold Your Colour by Pendulum whilst banging out Fifa Street 2 in 2004 has led me to this festival. Did it disappoint? In short, not at all, but that doesn’t mean it was a total knees up, but I will get to that in just a mo’. Yeah, the whole Maneki crew was there, myself, Faris and Stephen, no Aaron, he was probably listening to Medi somewhere and mastering his Dimensions playlist. I won’t bore you with the 9 am to 5 am of every day we spent there, instead, I’ll save you the hassle and give you a neat little bunch of pro’s and con’s that summarise our take on Let It Roll.
Yes yes I know I said variety before as a pro, but this is different! Drum and Bass in terms of its wealth of sub genres is incredibly varied, and for a fan of the scene as a whole, this meant that Let It Roll provided an immensely layered experience. But I have to play devils advocate here and say that I am speaking as one of those fans. To the uninitiated it could seem a touch overwhelming and to that kind of person I would say that if you are willing to overlook this obvious theme for the amazing crowd, incredible lights, reasonable price and space to dance, then do it and you may fall in love with a new genre, but for those who really do love to go and listen to grime one minute, and country the next, you won’t find that kind of glaringly obvious difference at Let it Roll, after all fuck it, it’s Drum and Bass what you gonna do?
So there we are..the pros and cons of Let It Roll, and I couldn't be more clear in saying that the cons do not outweigh the pros as they are all cons that can be prepared for and dealt with. Would I go again, absofuckinglutely yes, but I would bring foil for my tent or maybe consider one of those cool teepees. Let It Roll easily lived up to the title of biggest Drum and Bass festival in the world…see you next year.