Celebrating its fifth birthday, The Social Festival - which expanded into Mexico and Colombia earlier this year - took over a mostly sunny and dry Kent County Showground over the weekend, bringing the summer festival season to a close.
As one of the last outdoor electronic festivals of the season, it was always going to be a big send off. Having hosted dance legend Carl Cox, Ibiza favourites The Martinez Brothers and hometown hero/founder of The Social Nic Fanciulli, on Friday night, this year's weekender gets off to a great start with the finest names in house and techno filling the indoor metal-structured Meadow arena.
With the music wrapping up at midnight, there’s no excuse but to throw ourselves straight into the party come Saturday morning.
With all five stages - the Caravan, Barn, Stables, Meadow and Haystack - open from midday and resident DJs pumping out tech-house come lunchtime, there's no time for those camping onsite to stay sleeping.
Saturday's line-up is unbelievably strong; whilst the forward-thinking team behind London's most iconic club, fabric, host an afternoon and evening of obscure, punishing techno in the dark, industrial warehouse-like Barn, DJ Mag ensure the energy stays high at the Stables.
It wouldn't be a festival without a smattering of rain but, fittingly, the grey clouds start to part as Black Coffee takes charge of the Stables. Keeping to his African roots across a faultless 90 minutes of pure, percussive house, the woodland setting of disco ball covered trees compliments his selections perfectly: Santiago Garcia's 'Monday Morning' and Metamann's 'Two Mad Girls in Nuyork' were just two fine discoveries from his set.
A fitting successor to Black Coffee, Glasgow’s finest, Jackmaster, sets the tone early on thanks to Loletta Holloway’s unmistakeable ‘Hit and Run’ vocal sampled on Jamie 3:26 & Cratebug's brilliant 'Hit It n Quit It'. Flicking through his records and mixing vinyl intricately, Jack really knows how to get a party going, veering between house, acid and vocal-led lo-fi grooves like Steven B.C's immediately infectious 'Slow'. By this point, the crowd stretches as far back as the eye can see, bearing in mind it's not even 6pm. Dropping Denis Sulta's gradually euphoric Numbers-released 'It's Only Real', the Scotsman’s just put the icing on the cake...
Meanwhile, a few yards away, Canadian former Radio 1 resident Heidi pumps out her trademark style of booty-shaking jacking house, creating an entirely new world to get lost in - from inside a colourful caravan, impressively. Dotted with neon paint and boasting flashing strobes on the roof, the crowd quickly fills out between the trees. As the stomping hi-hats and New York vocal kick in, this is the Heidi we know and love...
Later on, while French trio Apollonia draw a massive audience to the indoor Meadow delivering upbeat tech-house, Germany's Helena Hauff makes a strong case for the most interesting, challenging performance of the day. Taking a surprisingly intimate crowd in the Barn on what seems like a 100mph journey of acid and electro stompers, those at the barrier in front of the speakers are in for a real treat. Delving into her record bag for nearly the final time, the lights go pitch black as she mixes in Simon Pattison's 'Thump' near the close of a diverse two hours of intricate, precision-driven mixing.
Nina Kraviz's Icelandic protégé Bjarki follows, with a tumultuous two hours of obscure, ferocious techno. Crouched down and dressed in all black, he's barely visible apart from the red lights on his DJ decks as smoke engulfs the front row and blinding strobes flash - almost immediately, we know it's going to be a proper rave. Strangely melodic yet piercing bleeps set the pace, building on top of a thunderous techno core: it's a challenging listen - made even more ominous by his looming silhouette.
His mentor, the aforementioned Nina Kraviz, steps up next, driving out acid and techno rollers to the close. In terms of sound quality, the Barn is the most impressive area of the festival - with towering speakers stacked either side of the stage beneath a low domed ceiling - the power of the bass takes 'heart-pounding' to a whole new level.
Back at the now-packed Meadow, the legendary pairing of Sasha and John Digweed begin a mammoth three-hour headline set by building in Saha's newly-released emotive epic 'Do The Maff' - which features on Yousef's Circus 15 compilation - and Tiefschwarz & Yawk's future anthem 'South' (out 27th October via fabric) - effortlessly setting the tone for the masterclass that follows.
We wind up back at the Caravan for the final hour of the Social. Soundtracked by Sante back to back with Sidney Charles, the effortlessly charismatic pair shell out tech-house groovers by the dozen, peaking with David Berrie's recent Hot Trax release 'A.D.D' and Kevin Over's seductive remix of John Lagora's 'Deepsoul'.
Bringing the weekend to a close with a real feel-good classic in the form of Paul Johnson's 'Get Get Down', it's the perfect ending to another brilliant Social Festival, and a fine way to end the summer too.