Last year's event saw a reasonably small(ish) GALA festival, with a big enough crowd but small enough to bump into some of the same groovers across the day, like a big limby disco community, so we were expecting another DJ festival where you could slide from stage to stage - boy did GALA up their game this year.
Immediately on entering it was clear that the festival had increased in size but, after exploring around the site, GALA appeared to have more than tripled the scope of both stage areas and audience - this made it feel like other larger festivals such as Love Supreme Jazz Festival. (Buy tickets to Love Supreme here.)
People had played it safe for the first few hours to avoid the forecasted all-day thunderstorms. However, once the disco lovers realised that it was turning into a lovely sunny day a lot of the crowd arrived at around the same time - meaning longer queues for the groovers than expected. No one knew how the weather was going to play out but there wasn’t a spot of rain amongst the holiday level sunshine. A huge lightning cloud in the far distance over the city of London made Derrick Carter’s set feel euphorically dystopian but we’ll get to the legend’s headliner slot later.
On arrival we admired Adrienn Peterffy’s decor across the Pleasure Dome, Rhythm Section and Main Stage - there’s something about floral hangings, disco balls, and neon lights that always works a treat. The Pleasure Dome was a glorious spherical tent hosted by Horse Meat Disco all day, with the likes of Honey Dijon jumping behind the decks - a mixture of disco house and Glitterbox type sets.
Next door you had the Rhythm Section stage which blended disco with house and techno, we’re not always lovers of techno but here everything felt seamless and varied - the sets kept us boogying, with particular highlights coming from Mr Scruff playing the likes of Sylvester’s classic ‘Over and Over’ and an obscure disco funk cover of George Gershwin’s song ‘Summertime’ (I think it was the Society of Seven version, but any other suggestions would be welcomed?).
We spent a large chunk of our day partying at the main stage where Greg Wilson (one of my favourite all-time DJs) played his usual mixture of latin psychedelic disco and funk laden classic rock. The legendary DJ played a cosmic disco remix of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’, Average White Band’s classic ‘Pick Up The Pieces’, and somehow mixed Lou Rawls ‘You’ll Never Find A Love Like Mine’ into ‘King Kunta’ by Kendrick Lamar - these two very different songs mixed in surprisingly well. This is why I adore Greg Wilson, he can throw some real curveballs into a set and keep the crowd on side throughout.
Crazy P took to the Main Stage on both the decks and vocals with their soundsystem, blasting their cosmic disco across the field of booty shakers - Danielle Moore’s ethereal singing style is always flawless and mesmerising. I will never tire of hearing ‘Like A Fool’ pumping out of the speakers, especially when boozing and basking in the sunshine at a festival, the track always perfectly fits such a setting.
The drinks and food at GALA were standard festival prices but there could be a few more options. However, free water was gladly provided due to the heat (more festivals should take a note out of GALA’s floral glittery book, yes people enjoy drugs but stopping any free water provisions simply to counteract a drug-taking culture is dangerous territory). The pizza was damn good as well - smoked mozarella and pancetta, fucking delicious.
GALA Festival had a great atmosphere across the entire day but the crowd went mad for Derrick Carter Does Disco, the legendary DJ is renowned for his contribution to the house music scene, regarded as one of the pioneers of Chicago house. However, the DJ (who found fame in the 90s) is now touring around the world with a disco set, featuring classic old school disco, groovy techno, contemporary funky house, and everything in-between. A troupe of semi-naked dancers joined him on stage, throwing shapes to tracks like Donna Summer’s ‘On The Radio’. Carter also slipped in a sample of Martin Luther King, whose words feel worryingly relevant over 50 years later.
The liberal disco loving crowd tend to be a much friendlier audience who are supportive of equality, which is unsurprising when ‘Love Is The Message’ represents the root of disco nightlife (and current Defected in the House record label Glitterbox). Race, gender, sexuality and age are irrelevant at a disco event, people get down on the dancefloor with anyone else who is enjoying themselves - the power of music is delightfully progressive in the world of groove.
The liberal attitudes of disco lovers is a topic of conversation for a whole other article in itself but it’s great to see such a range of people indulging in some outside dancefloor euphoria together. The entire crowd chanted along to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as Derrick Carter closed off a glorious day of music and dancing - we already can’t wait to see what’s in store for GALA Festival 2019.
Checkout the GALA Festival 2018 playlist on Spotify.
Photo Credits: Steve Stills, Luke Baker, Ryan Taylor