There seems to be a lot of pent up energy from partygoers to let loose after the last 18 months of lockdown. What is interesting, however, is that this is across all age groups and venturing down to 51st State at Trent Park today proved that.
Trent Park has been home for 51st State for a while now and it's easy to understand why. Location is great, easy to get to and to be able to party in one of London most beautiful and scenic parks is not an opportunity to be missed. We were slightly apprehensive when we got there, there was so much talk online as to whether you had to prove you were covid free to attend, but it was clear that they let the people decide what they should do without enforcing Covid testing to gain entry. By the time we got there in the early afternoon, Cockfosters train station was rammed full of excitable ravers all huddling around meeting mates all ready for the days partying that lay ahead. Entry was swift for the VIP tickets holders who were inside the site swiftly which was a nice touch. Unlike previous years, this years weather was somewhat "Octoberish". With constant rain the night before, the ground was at best, a little "soft". Most were well quipped sporting wellies with rain macs to match, unlike me.
Once in, we wanted to get a drink, so off to the bar we do. In hindsight, this is where I realised my second mistake and wished I'd topped up my wristband before I had left home. The booth for topping up had a queue that stretched for ages, and like myself, it seems a lot of the crowd had forgotten to load up their wristbands beforehand. After nearly an hour we finally made it to the front and loaded up our wristbands. To be fair it did get better as the day got on but just not when we got there mid-afternoon. I do hope that next year this is scrapped and we can just go back to paying by contactless card. People have waited over 18 months to party and then having to wait an hour of valuable raving time queuing isn't going to go down very well.
After our drinks fiasco, we headed over to the main stage to catch Roger Sanchez throwing down an excellent selection of old school house favourites. With the weather holding out, we joined in on the singalong as he dropped Ultra Nate's "free" to a spirited mob who sang every word. It was great to be back, and Mr Sanchez was making it a very warm welcome, dropping classics such as Armand Van Heldens mix of Professional Widow to a rapturous response and "up for it" pack.
Once our Sanzchez fix was over, we decided to venture out and see what else was going on around the festival. We swiftly made it across the mud to the Back To 95 tent that was going off. The ground was starting to get quite soft and sticky at this point, however nothing my Air Max's couldn't handle, or so I thought. The Back to 95 tent is always one of the most popular stages at 51st and this year was no exception. We danced on the fringes to Todd Edwards as he went through the numerous bumpy garage classics with PSG and Rankin accompanying on hosting duties and doing a great job at hyping up the crowd. Todd Edwards mixing style is a little "unique" with him switching from one track to the other quite quickly, sometimes catching the crowd off guard.
One thing about any Back to 95 events, or even 51st state for that matter is that you always seem to bump into familiar faces, and after the calamity of Covid, it was amazing to be back and in the thick of it enjoying music that soundtracked a vibrant clubbing scene for the last three decades. We decided to move from one "Todd" to the other and checked out the "Found" stage which had Todd Terry in full swing to a slightly younger audience. Todd Terry played a belter and laid the way neatly for Hannah Wants one-legged debut at 51st State. Even though she performed on crutches this didn't stop the onslaught as she mixed the old with the new and went full throttle. She clearly showed why she is one of the UK's most in-demand female selectors around.
Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to check out the Acid House Experience as we couldn't stomach the walk over the mud, instead opting to head back over to the main stage as the legendary duo "Masters at Work" were about to bless the crowd. The weather picked up and finally, and we saw a little sun breakthrough just in time for the Masters to work their magic. The 2 hours set from the iconic duo went by quickly as they engaged the crowd with transatlantic bangers but at times got a little "flat", craving for a little injection of energy from the Duo. As much as we adore MAW and for all they have done for House Music, perhaps next year we could see other headliners akin to previous years, like Carl Cox or Kerri Chandler?
For us, it was once again another memorable outing at 51st State. Yes, there could have been things that could have been better, like being able to pay by contactless card for your drinks and maybe better ground preparation to save the countless trainers that lost their lives that day.
But overall 51st State delivered on the music, production and entertainment front, which to us, is what counts. The majority of people we spoke to thoroughly enjoyed it and happily powered through the scattered showers celebrating true house music at its very best. Everyone made the most of the freedom and unity this festival delivers, and we witnessed a lot of happy faces as we made our way back to the station. As they say, onwards and upwards and we can't wait to see what they have in store for next year.