51st Festival (f.k.a. 51st State) is a UK champion for showcasing an eclectic mix of classic and upcoming dance music, and celebrates a diverse combination, matching nostalgia with fresh faces on the scene that appeal to all manner of people, cultures and ages - from the young to the young-at-heart and ready to dance. The variety of 51st festival is astounding, and this year in the new location of Copthall Playing Fields in London, 51st came back in 2023 with a lineup as diverse as the UK weather.
Festival-goers danced, swayed, bounced and raved, regardless of sunshine or mud and rain, to the vast array of music on offer at 51st Festival, 2023. Here’s some of our festival highlights:
We have to applaud the legendary old-school house and garage promoters Backto95 for their stage and collection of artists for the day. This was a tent that kept the crowd on a high throughout the entire festival, and kept me returning to capture photos and great music. Todd Edwards (grammy winner, also known for collaborations with Daft Punk) played a house set that seemed to almost literally bring the sun out from its hiding place beyond the clouds.
Moving through the festival site gave a real sense to the appeal of an event like 51st Festival, I’ve personally not seen such a mix and diversity in many music-related events, but you can see how this mesh of old-school and new-age music comes together across so many different cultures and people, which made for a crowd that not many other festivals would manage to bring together.
The main stage of 51st festival was Groove Odyssey, whose acts included Kings of House NYC (a collaboration of Louie Vega and David Morales’ DJ and production), French icon of club sounds Dimitri From Paris, who kept the crowds going as the rain came down during his set, brightening up the stage with a yellow jumper to replace the sun. The umbrellas opened and pulsed to the beats.
Probably the most interesting of settings for the festival acts was The Dolly Rockers, which featured a giant inflatable mouth for their DJs, producers and stage hosts. Mark Felton was one of the highlights, for both his set and energy, playing to the small tent that couldn’t have been more packed to the brim with beats right up until the last heart-thumping bass note played.
Another incredible performance to witness later in the day on The Dolly Rockers was the iconic Ratpack (a.k.a. DJ Lipmaster Mark and MC Evenson Allen). The legends of house brought a tent-raising set with classic songs, their 35 years of experience working together apparent even before Allen announced it, with clear pride and gratitude for their collective journey.
Omar brought slick soul vibes to the Rampage tent and each new track was met by a roar from the crowd as they proceeded to dance with arms in the air, singing and moving with every beat. Amongst the performances on Rampage one of the most impactful had to be General Levy. The music produced one of the loudest crowds of the festival - with shouts of “Oggy Oggy Oggy” met with a unison of “OI OI OI!” The tent nearly unhitched itself from the noise. Shoulders must have been aching by the time this set finished, as the crowds’ hands all stayed firmly reaching into the roof of the tent through every song. It felt like the majority of the festival-goers had piled in to the tent for this set.
A final commendation must go to Elisabeth Troy who did a live set for adoring fans on the Backto95 stage. With her silky smooth voice the soul put into the performance was palpable. The tent was almost impossible to get through, right up to the pit, and there were plenty of people singing, feeling every moment of Troy’s set.
That’s a wrap for this year on the incredibly diverse 51st Festival 2023, we can’t wait to see the acts who will be playing next year and to witness more of this festival in 2024. One of London’s best for variety, a real pleasure rain or shine to witness the decades of skill and passion packed into one of the UK’s best showcases of dance music.
With the heartwarming nostalgia of classics and the exhilarating energy of new talents, the 51st Festival continues to be a masterpiece, blending the past and the future into an unmissable present. Until next year, we bask in the afterglow of this year's symphony of sound and eagerly await the next crescendo.
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As always, see you at the front!