Celebrating its fifth birthday this year, We Are FSTVL set its sights even higher for its ambitious 2017 edition.
Bigger stages, offering camping for the first time and packing more than 200 massive names into an immense line-up spread across nine main stages helped step the festival up a few gears.
Having upped the capacity to more than 30,000 - thanks to record-breaking ticket sales - this year’s weekender on the grassy fields of Damyns Hall Aerodrome felt much bigger and busier; despite competing with at least a handful of other festivals also taking place over the May bank holiday.
Whilst the site itself hadn’t really changed shape, the addition of a campsite for those daring enough to brave the uncontrollable British weather seemed to go down well. With numerous activities for campers; including a ball pit, yoga and a silent disco with Max Chapman, Steve Lawler and Detlef DJing on the opening Friday night, there was plenty to keep those in tents entertained.
Another new feature this year was the Terminal stage - a gigantic, towering structure that seemed to stretch back for miles, and remained rammed all weekend - especially when Jamie Jones’ Paradise party hosted proceedings on Sunday, welcoming FSTVL favourites Skream, Hot Since 82 and Patrick Topping.
The overall production, as well, was cleverly thought out and constantly impressive: flashing purple/orange strobe lighting and multiple mini-screens showing a palm tree scene gave something for the eyes whilst tech-house satisfied the ears.
Another aspect that couldn't be faulted across the whole festival was the clarity and quality of each sound-system. Whilst smaller tents benefited from the intimacy of feel-good sets from residents with rising promoters London Rave Network and Cutting Edge, the bass-heavy sound inside the more cavernous areas like Skiddle's favourite, Terminal 3 - which hosted Loco Dice’s Used + Abused and Sven Vath’s Cocoon - was clear and pounding whether next to the speaker up front or right at the back.
Shaped like an aircraft hangar, it remained one of the busiest stages all weekend thanks to hours of punishing techno from the likes of Art Department and Dixon. Ilario Alicante, in particular, delivered one of the most impressive sets of the weekend: 90 minutes of tough yet textured Drumcode-style techno.
It was Solardo though who, despite playing at just after midday, attracted one of the weekend's biggest crowds - and rightfully so. The tech-house pairing, sporting typically loud shirts, are unstoppable right now: something that became clear from their last selection, ‘Tribesmen’, which had everyone chanting the infectious vocal hook from just two seconds in. It's inescapable and looks set to continue its reign as a summer festival anthem.
Unlike some areas of the country, the sun beamed for the majority of FSTVL - requiring Skiddle to get the sun cream out on a few occasions - until Sunday afternoon when the glitter-covered crowd in shorts and summery outfits sprinted to the nearest undercover stage to shelter from a 20 minute downpour that left the grass abandoned and quickly covered in slippery mud.
Once again, We Are FSTVL’s line-up itself should be commended, for being so diverse and covering pretty much every musical genre. Whilst Ibiza mainstays Circoloco and Defected kept a spherical open air stage (partially covered by a UFO shaped dome) busy, Bassjam, Hospitality and UKF catered for the drum 'n' bass, grime and pop lovers in the crowd: offering everyone from Bugzy Malone to Camo & Krooked, Giggs to Gerd Janson, Kurupt FM to Carl Cox, Craig David to Roger Sanchez and pretty much everyone in-between.
Remaining a much-anticipated fixture in the UK calendar, We Are FSTVL kicked off the festival season brilliantly.