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Wigflex City Festival's First Year Was Banging: Review and Pictures

12 May 19 words: Oliver Payne and Eileen Pegg
photos: Chris Middleton, Andy Mitchell, Tom Morley and Sam Kirby

When Wigflex announced it was going to host a city-wide music and arts festival, we didn't really know what to expect. Here’s what happened at the inaugural party...

Image credit: Sam Kirby

Notts is no stranger to inner-city festivals, but rather than being run by a large company, this is essentially a one (or two) man band throwing themselves in the deep end. And for the electronic music scene here, something on this scale is a first. Not content with simply booking huge acts for us to get lairy to, they went one step further to produce an inclusive, creative wonderland to be enjoyed by a wide range of punters, throwing a fringe festival the day before the music kicked off and commissioning an art installation at each venue. Whether you’ve been to a Wigflex event before or not, you were most definitely welcome here, and the promoter might see a few new recruits at its next night as a result.

As the dust has finally settled on the Wigflex City Festival weekend, there will undoubtedly be a huge amount of national, positive press popping up - no matter where you place headliners such as Honey Dijon, Young Marco, Midland, Avalon Emerson, Giles Peterson, James Holden and Conducta all on the same line up, it’s an impressive feat. But for us, it’s important to acknowledge too just how special the weekend was for giving Nottingham’s DJs, producers, artists and creatives a platform to showcase how bleddy talented they are, and to highlight how supportive the community is - whether you're from Notts, or have ended up here due to work or studies, there were multiple generations of musical talent represented throughout the weekend. Local nights such as Audiobahn, Discotech, The Waves, Peach Fuzz and Wild Brunch shared the stage with these standout bookings, and the family feeling was strong throughout the 17 venues.

For us, it’s important to acknowledge too just how special the weekend was for giving Nottingham’s DJs, producers, artists and creatives a platform to showcase how bleddy talented they are, and to highlight how supportive the community is.

Our only problem was that there was so much going on, you needed to clone yourself to make your way around it all. But we tried our best, and amongst highlights such as an immersive, sensory den at Fast City Arts, Mimm’s Broad Street takeover, a homage to vintage rave graphics at Box and Giles Peterson’s Street Party in Sneinton, all washed down with special edition Black Iris Brewery Wigflex Wavy Juice, here are just a few of our standout moments…

Image credit: Andy Mitchell

Saturday’s schedule warmed up our minds
With the music taking place on bank holiday Sunday, Saturday was left open for a day of mind-opening exploration. A series of free-to-attend talks were curated at Rough Trade, featuring local names including Moan Zine, Erika Leadbeater, Tusk Wax and Paris Lees, alongside NTS regulars Shannen SP and Jlte and WXMB2 representatives.

Meanwhile, Four Four DJ Academy hosted an independent record fair, tech day and children’s rave, and we even managed to pop into The Carousel where Dizzy Ink helped us create our own branded bunting that would be displayed the next day. A low-key introduction to the festivities that were to follow, the creative juices were overflowing and it offered just the right amount of fun to get us excited for the next day, without blowing us out.

Image credit: Chris Middleton

Honey Dijon had us wobbling on the cobbles
Starting at 6pm on Sunday, Honey was the first headliner to play at the festival and the swarming queues outside The Justice Museum were proof. Playing in The Secret Courtyard, it was a one-off opportunity to see a name of this kind in Notts, and the first chance to experience Four Four DJ Academy’s outside area in an event space setting. Tamer Sallam, who studied here, warmed up the crowd well and by the time Honey stepped up with her high-energy mix of funk-fuelled electronica, the ecstatic feelings were undeniable. This was our first set of the day, and what a way to kick things off…

Local lads Congi got lairy at The Lacehouse
While a VR headset was on hand to lose yourself in upstairs, downstairs at The Lacehouse became the bass-heavy binge location of the festival. Nottingham-based duo Congi performed here early doors, providing the chance to throw out some serious shapes with a blend of trap and old school dubstep shaking the rafters. They didn’t hold back and took the basement’s mega sound system for a rumbling ride, warming things up perfectly for the ruckus caused by Poach, Conducta, Djrum and Jimi Perspective that followed.

Image credit: Sam Kirby

Visual delights were on offer at Nottingham Contemporary
Though predominantly an art gallery, Nottingham Contemporary is no stranger to events, hosting Wigflex’s Craig Richards show in its acoustically-blessed concrete hall last summer. Here, Multimodal provided Strange Attractor, an astonishing light installation that encompassed the room, bending the crowd’s senses even further.

Notts stalwarts Soul Buggin’ spun through their well-stocked record box to kick things off in the earlier hours, while the venue acted as a chance to wind down, sort of, before an exciting schedule of live acts and performances began. One of these came from Yazmin Lacey, who rocked up in an eye-catching red leather trench coat and made the place her own. Singing during the ‘twilight zone’, there was something so soothing and deliciously delicate about the hanging boxes of soft light combined with Yazmin’s heart-melting vocals; a moment of realisation that Wigflex had thought expertly about each aspect of the festival.

Max Cooper performed with mad visuals at Metronome
Ex-Notts student Max Cooper’s live AV set was the definition of a hidden gem. Set in a pitch black room, only eery LED screens provided any source of light, making the 7pm performance feel like something from the early hours. Max had full control of the visuals, which worked their way from microscopic animal-esque scenes to a full view of Earth and the stars. Meanwhile, he cruised through a textured plethora of electronic sounds from his One Hundred Billion Sparks album, accented with cleverly placed glitches amongst the sea of melodic techno. This electronic masterpiece really took Wigflex City punters by surprise, and the dimmed space became a chance to pause at the start of the day and prepare for the rest.

Image credit: Tom Morley

We raved in caves to minimal beats
Nottingham has always been partial to a cave rave. Speak to anyone who has been part of the local nightlife over the years and they’re sure to recollect stories of murky underground parties. It would be rude not to have one at the festival. While many might link cave raving with huge techno chuggers, the festival hosted Sound Picnic and Leftback Records here; crews who favour a more minimal sound. While it’s natural to associate rolling, groovy beats with the open air terraces of Ibiza, the cavenous setting was the perfect, intimate surrounding to just ‘ave it, and feel a bit naughty while yer at it.

Image credit: Sam Kirby

Lukas blew NG-One’s roof off
As we went deeper into the night, there were two venues left open until silly o’clock; Wigflex’s ‘home from home’ The Brickworks, or the recently revamped NG-One. Most Wigflex regulars are no stranger to Sneinton’s Brickworks, so we used the opportunity to see what the latter had to offer, and found ourselves watching Peach at the Huntingdon Street club. She rocketed through a selection of house and straight into a more rav-ey, breakbeat-heavy sound that the crowd welcomed with open arms. After chatting to fatigued punters on the dance floor, Midland wandered into the booth too and ramped things up even more, slamming the place into even harder vibes.

Here, it made sense that festival organiser Lukas brought things to an almighty close, and at 4am he stepped up to the booth. Possibly the biggest headliner in locals’ eyes, we’re sure it was a climactic moment for Lukas, but his well-crafted set was testament to the fact he’s been throwing his parties for over a decade. Chucking in garage, broken-techno jams and electro gurglers left right and centre, he finished his mix to a screaming crowd, which he humbly thanked from the booth.

Image credit: Sam Kirby

If the country needed any other excuse to pay attention to what is going on here in Nottingham, then this was it - and they’ve already got a date in the diary for ‘20. All we can say is, great job. We have no idea how you pulled it off, but y’did it duckeh.

The next Wigflex City Festival will take place on 3 May 2020.
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