We are FSTVL is a brand new one-day, no camping, over 18’s only, 15,000 capacity event that is essentially Ibiza in a field – in Essex. It comes with slightly less than Mediterranean temperatures.
With 14 arenas hosted by a collaboration between the Balearic kings and club-land promoters such as Kehakuma, Crosstown Rebels, MistaJam, Secret Sundaze, Defected and Mulletover – together with a line up boasting acts such as of Sven Vath, Rudimental, Terry Farley and Kerri Chandler plus The Martinez Brothers, Guy Gerber, Copyright and a whole heap more, We Are is a full on house, tech and bass-fest with no let up from kick off till close, and then some for the after party die-hards.
For my partner and I, it was our first field trip of the summer and as it’s only a one-dayer, we thought it would be a nice way to ease our way back into the festival season. You can probably relate to the fact that we’d had 5-6 months worth of festival withdrawals, so we were chomping at the bit and a dance-fest seemed like just the fix we were after to satisfy our craving for some festival fun. The fact it was just off the M25 added to the old school field party appeal and as soon as the event was announced we were all over it like a fat kid on chips.
Being the chivalrous, generous gent that I am, I’d booked us into a Premier Inn in Rainham, Essex – about 3 miles from the venue. We arrived the night before and had a bite to eat and a bottle of wine or two before we decided to check in. When we were standing at the desk it transpired that I’d actually booked rooms in the Rainham Kent Premier Inn by mistake, and with us being pretty well-oiled by that point we had no way of getting to anywhere else. Not that we could because every hotel, BnB and ramshackle doss house within a 5-mile radius was booked to the hilt. Book your digs early folks and check your Rainhams! Luckily for us someone from another party had dropped out and we snapped up their cancellation quicker than you could say “No room at the inn”.
We woke the next day with a bit of a hangover and a drama or two already under our belts, so we were well in the festival spirit. We took a taxi to the venue which felt a little strange, but I have to admit this was a nice change from driving yourself and burning your clutch out whilst wheel-spinning in the mud. There was a 10 minute walk to wristbands, then a quick fumble with security and a wet one in the groin from the obligatory Cocker Spaniel sniffer-dog and it was straight to the on-site elixir dispensary to load up for the day on little white round things – beer tokens. They were £2.50 a piece and by the time we’d finished deliberating the connotations of these little white discs, we’d already been suckered into handing over 4 of them for 2 bottles of Tuborg. Oh well, it was the first event of the season and we were there to have a good time.
We had a quick march around the venue to get our bearings and did our usual ritual of agreeing on a base at which to meet, in the unlikely event that either of got so inebriated we lost the other. There wasn’t much in the way of art installations, but the venues themselves were pretty creative with futuristic inflatable tents, Polynesian paradises, beach bar arenas, hidden raves in crop circles and an ice-cream van that played the funkiest chimes this side of Southend.
Next stop was the portaloos which looked busy, so we headed on to the VIP village which was even worse as we waited for the wags to put their war-paint on. People were taking their chances at relieving themselves against the fence, but security were all over them, much to the amusement of the literally less cocky who kept to the safety of the urinals.
Once the necessities were sorted, we found somewhere to put our bums in and started enjoying a bevy, a Benson and the variety of beats on offer around us. The music at We Are is basically techno, deep, soulful and tech or as I like to call it, House.
I’m not going to claim to know who half of the acts who featured at We Are. I’ve never been one for train-spotting, and I usually leave the time consuming and laborious task of remembering all the track names, labels and acts to the people who get paid to – the DJs. This combined with the fact that I’m always too busy enjoying myself to care, and there were over 80 acts, makes it a tall order to remember any of them, but I’ll try.
First up was the Defected inflatable cube tent, where Sam Divine was playing a nice selection of soulful, uplifting house.
It was pretty rammed in there so we hovered on the peripherals for a bit, before heading off to check out the Mulletover stage in the secret crop-circle where Geddes was spinning some deep techy house numbers.
Time was getting on and we were feeling a tad malnourished. It’s not a festival until you’ve had your jerk chicken, so we headed off to grab some ethnic tucker and refuelled for the remainder of the day.
Rudimental was on Mistajam’s Speakerbox arena and we’d both been gagging for some dirty drum and bass for a while, so we decide to check him out. We’d been listening to him play live on the radio the night before on the way down, and thought how nice it would be to get our heads in the speakers for some stomach curdling bass lines.
The trumpet player gave it a nice live twist, and the host was hyping the crowd up good and proper, encouraging everyone to sit on each others shoulders. Unfortunately, even though we had our heads in the speakers, it was all drums and no bass, so we after catching a couple of numbers, we then headed back over to the Mulletover stage to see Kerri Chandler.
A bit of dancing in the crowd later, and we headed to the main stage to catch Sven Vath playing to a rapidly burgeoning crowd of ravers. The jerk chicken was weighing us down a bit by now so it was time to find a seat and chill. Everything we were after was provided by a nice tent that came complete with sofas, where a live percussionist was supporting the DJ. We supported ourselves on a couch and soon made friends with some similarly weighed down people looking for somewhere to gouch.
First up were two guys who were best of friends, but one was complaining that the other didn’t show enough open displays of affection. Maybe we looked like we needed propping up or they were just being friendly, but thanks anyway guys for supplying us with the additional pillows. Next up was a girl who was still on it from the night before. She’d been to a house party the previous night and had been asked to leave, but wouldn’t so everyone else in the party had left – bless. Then it was an original crazy raver, who kept us entertained while we sat looking over at the main stage and the first festival sunset of 2013. It was a beautiful sight and we thought how we should really get up and make the effort to go and see Copyright or someone soon, but just couldn’t peel ourselves away from the comfort of our current residence. We Are Sofa!
Time flew by as we joked with our new found friends and as the sun went down, flames shot from the main stage into the night sky and LED displays lit up the various stages and venues, providing more than ample visual stimulation. Freshly inspired, we got our acts together and went to find some harder, darker beats.
We’d been in the Kehakuma tent, another giant white inflatable venue, earlier in the day, and were pleased by the tunes and vibe, so we headed back there. By now it was rammed and the Martinez Brothers were playing some seriously fucked up techno. The whole place was up on its feet and the music was dark, heavy, twisted and fucking fab! So were the people and as we looked up at the LED light shows in-between those head-down, lost in the sound moments, the music took the crowd higher and higher.
We stepped out for a breather and noticed that all the outside venues had shut down. It was bloody brass monkeys. Ibiza this was not. I’m not sure what time it was but we’d had a pretty good fill for the day so decided to head back to the warmth and comfort of our Premier Inn abode.
The queue for taxis was ridiculous, so still full of life and riding high on the day’s events, we decided to walk it. On route we bumped into a nice couple who managed to flag down a black cab for us to share. We made it back to the right hotel this time and when we arrived we bumped into the nice lady who managed to squeeze us in the night before. We said our good nights, poured a glass of Merlot and flaked.
If you’re looking for a deep, meaningful, independent, bohemian-style festival experience, then you probably won’t find it here. There are no hippies, no art and we only spotted one crustifari and he was working the bar. If, however, your goal is simply to get bang on it and do the headless-chicken-running-man dance for 14 hours straight then We Are FSTVL is for you. What you’ve got is essentially a daytime rave with some of the finest beats and house music of the now. From the moment the gates open to the point you drop, this event provides the perfect vehicle you to offload all that pent up party frustration that’s been building up over the winter months in one glorious fast paced day and night of white light explosion.
For more on this festival, see our We Are FSTVL Guide.
Images: Paul Underhill Photography