Following a successful sell-out event back at the end of April, the team behind the house and bass haven Forbidden Forest return to their secluded home at Donnington Park to close an epic festival season, uniting party enthusiasts for one last rave in the woodland, free from the stresses of day to day life.
The day gets off to a risky start thanks to the typical British weather casting a shadow over the festival site, but after a couple of windy showers earlier on in the afternoon it remained dry, not that it would have dampened anyone’s spirits as people arrived in droves from the get go prepared with colourful rain coats and wellies ready for an afternoon and evening of great music and vibes.
The site itself was a lot smaller than expected, decorated intricately with vibrant embellishments of multi-coloured umbrellas and butterflies that hung from the branches sheltering the stages, as well as impressive laser and visual displays and crystal clear sound systems that were set up across all 4 of the arenas.
The Derbyshire-based promoters really went all out to create a raver’s paradise that allowed you to lose yourself in a carefree atmosphere and explore the forest, embarking on a mini musical adventure to discover the wide variety of music and attractions that were on offer.
Along with all of these important details that really heighten a festival experience, the line up throughout the day was staggering, with some of the biggest names in dance music at the moment making the trek to Donnington Park to provide the soundtrack to the day.
Heading over to the main ‘Novum’ stage, accessorised with pink and blue décor that draped over the open space and accompanied with an impressive neon-lit infrastructure over the staged area, Monki delivered an upbeat set focusing on funky house and tribal influences that warmed up the crowd as the sun started to peek through the grey clouds.
De La Swing and Jacky continued with this theme later on in the afternoon as the arena continued to fill, with an enthusiastic and versatile back to back set that featured a mixture of both contemporary and nostalgic house sounds that kept the good vibes flowing, including tracks like Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ causing a wave of arms in the air, the crowd all smiling and shuffling through the straw-laden forest to this catchy classic.
Darius Syrossian also delved into the origins of dance music, dropping a techno-infused remix of Underworld’s iconic ‘Born Slippy’, updating the original sounds of the rave scene for a modern day crowd throughout the duration of his set.
The ‘Kooky’ stage towards the main entrance of the festival site was home to all things heavy and was where award-winning artist and MC Bugzy Malone won over the crowd with his charismatic stage presence and a high-octane performance that had everyone moving synonymously to the rhythm contained in his lyrics. His ability and tale to freestyle became evident as the wordsmith crafted lyrics over Ten Wall’s ‘Walking with Elephants’ as the audience went wild, jumping frantically and hanging on to every word.
Low Steppa and Taiki Nulight teamed up later on in the evening, sharing entertainment responsibilities over a 2 hour period that contained a back to back set in the middle, fusing together the sounds of garage, bass and house, dropping remixes of well-known tracks including Florence and the Machine’s ‘You’ve Got the Love’ that encouraged the audience to participate by singing along in appreciation.
For all things bass heavy this was the place to be, with the arena buzzing with energy late into the night as Birmingham-based DJ and musician Preditah closed the stage with not only a remarkable garage and grime based set but a dramatic visual display involving giant confetti cannons where the remnants glistened as they soared through the moonlit sky.
Tucked away just behind the Novum stage was the Bunker, a brand created by owners and resident DJs Ashley Fearn and Guy Shipley, who have been responsible for a number of years for bringing underground house music to Derby. The vibes remained deep and minimal throughout the day, making it the perfect place to take a slight break from the more upbeat stages, allowing you to discover some amazing new talent on the scene whilst grabbing refreshment from one of the many bars scattered across the site.
But the brand new addition to this instalment of Forbidden Forest that captured the attention of many was the UKF stage, who across the day and night showcased some of the finest current drum and bass artists. Manchester trio North Base ramped up the pace in the early afternoon, attracting a huge crowd all working up a sweat and taking in the energetic atmosphere in order to continue the momentum into the early hours.
Logistics, paired with the mega-talented MC Visionobi, brought it down a notch later on with the uplifting melodies of liquid drum and bass, soothing the souls of even the most hardcore heavy drum and bass fans, before 1991 took the music down a very dark route with lots of sinister-sounding riffs and heavy drum loops as well as experimental, atmospheric samples that added texture and depth to an impressive set, with the inclusion of ‘VHS’ from his brand new EP receiving high praise from an ecstatic audience.
Calyx and Teebee are famous for their ferocious performances as well as their onstage chemistry, and they certainly didn’t disappoint fans with a very edgy and unique set filled with unusual melodies and scattered, menacing samples, with elements of old skool jungle and reggae woven in between.
But the icing on the metaphorical cake from the entirety of the day had to be the set from the multi-genre tastemaker Subfocus, who was absolutely mesmerising from start to finish, mixing in timeless hits including ‘Timewarp’, with some classic drum and bass tracks, that twisted into a garage feel as the performance reached its peak.
His brand new collaboration with Rudimental ‘Trouble’, featuring vocals from Chronixx and Maverick Sabre was met with roars of excitement from the audience as the CO2 cannons refreshed the sweat-infested air and encouraged ravers to keep on dancing through the whole performance. You wouldn’t expect anything less than perfection from such an established and talented producer, and that was certainly what was delivered.
As we made our way over the fields back to reality, frantically trying to flag down some sort of transportation to make our way home, the realisation set in of how incredible a day it had been. The masterminds behind Forbidden Forest recaptured the essence of the old skool rave without the pretention that can sometimes coincide with modern day dance music events.
The smaller, 1-day music festivals are becoming increasingly popular amongst dance music lovers, and Forbidden Forest is leading the way with the quality of artists, production and attention to detail, creating a retreat for ravers old and young where you can be completely free from the stresses of daily life. With people like the fans and organisers of Forbidden Forest, the true meaning of rave culture will never die.
Tickets for the first Forbidden Forest event of 2018 are available now from the boxes below.