Whether it’s by playing Kerri Chandler’s “Rain” as the heavens open or Mr Fingers’ “The Sun Can’t Compare” as the clouds fade...
Celebrating dance music’s relationship to the open air
The connection between a DJ and a crowd is a special thing at any time, but when you add the ever-changing, unpredictable and deeply affecting elements of the great outdoors to the mix, it becomes a whole different story. The way a DJ can harness the power of nature, and bring the weather, light or heat into their relationship with the crowd, separates the good festival DJs from the great ones. Whether it’s by playing Kerri Chandler’s “Rain” as the heavens open or Mr Fingers’ “The Sun Can’t Compare” as the clouds fade, these moments are made all the more special by that which is out of our control.
After five years of programming the GALA timetables, we can pretty well guess how the mood in the Pleasure Dome is going to be at any given time. But for the open air stages, we’re at the mercy of the weather gods. It adds an extra dimension which keeps us, you and the DJs on their toes.
Where else to start but the sun? Sunshine and good tunes go together like bed and breakfast. Case in point: GALA 2018. Maurice Fulton played under the 28° sun and good-times tunes like David Morales’ mix of “Space Cowboy” sounded better than ever. As a DJ, you can liberally deploy some guilty pleasure classics and get away with it ‘cos life’s good. Plus, the world looks better in sunglasses and feels better when your hoodie is tied round your waist. The dehydration can wait until tomorrow.
Sure, if you’re unprepared, rain sucks, but if you live in the UK there’s no excuse. And there’s something magical about dancing in the rain, swaying in your poncho as your beer gets gradually more watery. It brings a sense of comradery to the dance floor, and often pushes the DJs to more pumping tunes to keep spirits high. Admittedly, the best part of the rain is when it ends and the vibe changes again. Drop some Roy Ayers and smile.
Maybe the worst of the elements for a festival is the wind. There’s not much you can do about a gale, as our friends at Houghton unfortunately found out, and even a strong wind causes problems for the sound. There is something romantic about rolling a smoke under your friends jumper, but that’s about it.
Then there’s the sunset. Forever associated with balearic bliss and uplifting moments. It’s the hallowed set at a festival, the slot which transitions the day of smiling faces into the moody final stretch. What tune you draw for as the final moments of daylight fade out will likely leave some of the day’s strongest lasting memories.
Weather aside, there’s something special about playing, hearing and dancing to music in the outdoors. The uneven terrain, the trees, smells and fresh air, or distant sounds of the city. We feel the music in a different way outdoors and it makes the experience more special. After 18 months of, at best, dancing to livestreams in friends’ living rooms, the sound and sight of an outdoor festival stage couldn’t excite us more, come rain or shine.