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Sundown Festival 2016 review

Ben Jolley shook off the weather to witness a star-encrusted weekender in Norfolk.

Ben Smith

Date published: 6th Sep 2016

Image: Sundown

Returning for its sixth year, Norfolk's answer to V Festival attracts thousands of pop, house and drum 'n' bass lovers for two days of sing-along-ready chart hits - plus a campers-only opening party with Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard behind the decks on Friday night. 

Despite permanent lashings of rain, spirits remain high as pop's biggest names encourage festival-goers to party under the ominous grey clouds looming above Sundown Festival on Saturday. 

Covered in ponchos, glitter and face paint, the crowd - mainly teenagers, middle aged parents with their children on shoulders and groups of lads in neon tracksuits/bright tutus and legwarmers - flock to the main stage soon after lunch time. 

Pop trio M.O prove themselves to be a girl group with Little Mix-size potential: their impressive vocal acrobatics shining during a Destiny's Child cover whilst chart hit 'Who Do You Think Of?' gets the crowd jumping and waving their arms in the air. 

Credit: Alice Howard

Rising talent Espa (above), sporting face-covering shades, applauds the crowd for staying put; "look at you lot with your kagoules on," she says before unleashing her undeniably strong vocal during a Craig David cover and her very own garage single 'Pray For Me'.

Summing it up well, she jokes "we gotta get the rain to fuck right off so we can enjoy the rest of the night," - it's a nice sentiment, but for the next eight or so hours the rain refuses to give in. 

Someone who doesn't seem to care about the impending downpour, though, is Kiko Bun (check him below). Keeping the good times flowing with his easy listening blend of reggae and pop, the instantly-infectious, trumpet-led 'Sticky Situation', 'Sweetie' and new single 'Can't Hold Back' have everyone smiling throughout. 

Credit: Alice Howard

Sundown offers a wealth of female musical talent: unlike some other festivals, the gender gap is far less. Returning after last year, Becky Hill's performance comes packed with hit after hit, crossing genres at every turn.

"This is my favorite fucking festival, I always wanna do Sundown" she says, winning over the crowd after rapturously-received drum and bass favorite 'Afterglow', new tropical house single with Matoma 'False Alarm', MK-produced house banger 'Piece of Me' and garage-leaning 'Back To My Love'. 

Jess Glynne, later, wearing metallic sparkling trousers, looks every bit the classy pop star. 'Don't Be So Hard On Yourself' is handclap-inducing whilst ‘Rather Be' gets a shimmering, cinematic reinterpretation and Route 94-collaboration ‘My Love’ is stripped-back to just emotive piano keys and Glynne’s vocal.

Taking it back to the early 2000's, Ms. Dynamite and Dizzee Rascal (catch him below) deliver effortless greatest hits sets. ‘Dy-Na-Mi-Tee’, ‘What You Talking About?!’, 'Lights On' and 'Gold Dust' are triumphant bangers – it’s not until she bounces onstage that you remember just how many hits she's got.

Rascal, a few hours after, proves his status as the original grime star: 'Jus’ A Rascal' and 'Fix Up, Look Sharp' send the die-hard fans into a rap-along frenzy, though it's his chart-toppers ‘Holiday’ and ‘Bonkers’ that get all the "heroes partying in the rain" bouncing together - there's barely a foot left on the ground. 

Credit: Alice Howard

Kicking off a warmer, drier Sunday is BB Diamond. Encouraging the sun to break through the clouds she bounces onstage to the bass-heavy beat of the Shift K3Y-produced 'Gone Missing'.

She delivers upbeat dance-infused pop tracks like 'Feeling' and 'Instinct' with ease as the security guards have their own fun playing with an inflatable ball. There’s a generally happier mood today, mostly thanks to the nicer weather.

At just 16-years-old Imani Williams quickly becomes the real star of Sundown 2016. Joined by two dancers and a DJ, the Brit School-trained performer raises the energy effortlessly with summery house vibes 'Say You Do' and 'Don't Need No Money'.

After finishing "my two songs" she launches into some well-chosen covers in 'Work From Home', the old school 'Love Don't Cost A Thing' and slow ballad 'Pillowtalk' showcasing her phenomenal pipes. And she’s not done for the day, either… 

Norfolk-born Sigala, aka Bruce Fielder, brings his live show to a massive hometown crowd - one of the weekends biggest, including family members in the audience.

With a Hawaiian tropical theme complete with beach hut, backing dancers, soulful vocalists, bongo drums, guitarists and more, there’s nearly a dozen people onstage throughout the set.

As dance-to-chart crossover acts go this is one of the best: there's a real live band feeling, with 'Easy Love' kicking things off full of energy.

Welcoming back the "young, stunning sensational" Imani for 'Don't Need No Money' and 'Say You Do' she’s given another chance to shine, this time in front of thousands instead of hundreds. Another vocalist who sends shivers down spines is Bryn Christopher, joining the band for the inescapably catchy ‘Sweet Lovin’. 

X Factor star Fleur East, as well as winning the biggest hair of the day award (see her below), works up a large sunset crowd with her infectious, sexually-charged pop hits 'More and More', 'Kitchen' and 'Gold Watch’.

Credit: Alice Howard

Boosted by six impeccably-choreographed dancers, she owns the stage without even thinking about it. Three little kids in neon gold jackets throw their best moves during 'Uptown Funk' before 'Sax' has everyone dancing like its the end of the night…

Diverting to the Big Top for the Ministry of Sound takeover, Redlight is delivering bass-heavy house to the masses - when the DJ/producer drops Mele's tribal banger 'Ambience' it really goes off.

Back at the main stage, Years & Years bring a truckload of sexed-up, synth-pop hits. 'Take Shelter' and 'Shine' have everyone singing along under a sky of confetti as cannons burst open just 10 minutes into their set.

Led by charismatic, glitter-covered frontman Olly Alexander (see him in action below), he teases "I'm not gonna take my top off but I think he will" of oncoming headliner Jason Derulo... 

Credit: Alice Howard

After an introduction of movie trailer hype and ten minutes of DJing from Joe Murphy, it's "showtime". A Jason Derulo show is everything you’d expect; lots of career-spanning video footage on the big screens, scantily clad dancing, gradual undressing and a hefty amount of chart favorites.

Dressed in a long black and white coat, standing at the back of the stage in front of a wintery backdrop, Derulo wins everyone's hearts from opener 'Trumpets'.

“The biggest party in the world right now,” proclaims his DJ; “this is a Jason Derulo party after all". Derulo’s falsettos during ‘Whatcha Say’ and ‘Ridin’ Solo’ are unmatchable: there’s no questioning the American star’s skill as a showman.

Find your perfect festival - there's still time to squeeze another one in. 

Like this? Read our V Festival 2016 review 

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