Word started reaching us a few years ago about a very nice event up near Stockport called Moovin’. After a couple of false starts we finally managed to make it 2019, *spoiler alert* we were not let down. It would be easy to say that the blazing hot bank holiday weekend was the biggest factor, but the reasons go much deeper that.
The first and most obvious aspect is the musical selections, the previous couple of years had excellent line ups including Roni Size, Roy Ayers, Gentleman’s Dub Club, De La Soul, Groove Armada & Eek A Mouse. The bill is designed for a crowd who know top quality counter culture music, styles cover all the food groups; Reggae, Dub, Jungle, Disco, House, Hip Hop and Soul. The bills include classic recording stars from the 70s and 80s through to some of the finest UK and International dance artists, and a large proportion of new and upcoming talent. But the common thread of the artists is that they’re still working and producing fresh cutting edge music. The artists on the line up, like the festival, look in both directions.
The Funkdub crew arrived on the Friday afternoon, and camped up in the very pleasant environs of Etherow Country Park, and that gets to the second reason for the quality of the event, the setting and the site. Moovin is in a farm in said Country Park near Marple, and the area is quite stunning. The walk to the site takes you via a beautiful lake, where Canadian Geese, Coots, Ducks, Swans abound, then past an even more beautiful waterfall. The campsite is relatively compact, but if you’re prepared to slog up a short sharp hill there was ample space and a great view. The music area is just the right size as well, only 5 minutes between the main stages at either end of the site with a selection of food stalls and shops, and the culinary offerings were pretty outstanding, the Tibetan and Portuguese food in particular a massive highlight. The main “Barn Stage” itself was a thing of wonder – and difficult to encapsulate, essentially the stage is built into the side of a farm building, that faces another open Barn building that houses a huge bar with hay bale seating, and a skanking area in between. There is no corporate sponsorship to be seen and there are quirky touches all around (catapulting radishes at Donald Trump’s face, a bicycle umbrella etc). The booze selection in the main bars is quite different from the usual festival fare, and there’s dedicated real ale tent. (if there was to be minor complaint it was that the queues at some of the bars were a little long at times, but it is a *very* minor complaint). Perhaps best of all the site was kept as clean as a whistle all weekend long.
The music itself was the major highlight, well illustrated by the fact the Funkdub crew ventured out for a mooch on Friday afternoon, and ended up staying out all night. The “Mini Moo” Stage had great DJs on all weekend, Friday teatime we were richly entertained by Scott Wheeler and BreaksJunky. The first live act we caught were AK/DK, who style themselves as “Synths + Drums + Noise + Space” and that about sums it up, 2 guys, pulsing electronic synths and 2 drum kits. As a live show they put the writer in mind of Vessels, and they got our crew and an excitable early evening crowd dancing a treat. We caught the tail end of some well appreciated electronic afro-funk from the excellent Ibibio Sound Machine. The remainder of the evening was split between local junglists Defiance & Woodstar, playing some righteously nasty technical beats and a stomping headline set from 2ManyDJs. Particular highlights from the 2ManyDJs set included a transition between Hercules & Love Affair and Blur as well as the excellent recent Soulwax remix of Marie Davidson.
Saturday was a very big line up indeed, with Funkdub favourites from the afternoon till the close. We’d seen Hebden Bridge powerhouses Drum Machine at the marvellous Beatherder a few years back, they delivered a bracing tonic to any clearing hangovers. The next act put on one of the best sets of the weekend, The Drop are one the UK’s best modern roots reggae bands, and they bought the A game to the festival, “Takeover” being a notable high point. Following from that we saw the second half of a powerful afrofunk hip hop set from Afro Cluster, frontman Skunkadelic has chops and charisma to burn. The Dub Pistols were next up, and the Dub Pistols NEVER disappoint – true to form they knocked it out of the park – the session started at teatime and they had the whole place bouncing, skanking and participating. Anytime any place, they always bring the party.
As the evening kicked in we caught some of the legend that is Sister Nancy & Legal Shot, still in terrific voice, speaking truths about the importance of education and dropping a fresh version of Originality. George Evelyn aka Nightmares on Wax is a production master, but also a real craftsman behind the decks (as his Boiler Room & DJ Kicks mixes amply demonstrate), DJ E.A.S.E didn’t disappoint here. There’s nothing that can capture the essence of a Lee “Scratch” Perry live show; suffice to say he donned headgear replete with bananas and incense sticks, as well as a riding hat helpfully provided by the crowd – the riddims were tight & he stamped his personality on the evening. In fact he also stamped his personality on the next set, briefly interrupting Big Daddy Kane’s superb flow to make an unscheduled, but entirely welcomed appearance. The night closed out with some classic jungle from Tru Playaz legend DJ Hype, and team Funkdub were well and truly sated.
The final day also had more mouth watering sets in the offing, and saw a continuation of so many of the conversations we all had with staff and fellow festival goers. That is perhaps the third and most important dimension to the Moovin festival, the people and the chat. The staff were uniformly friendly and helpful, always willing to give advice, or just generally have a natter. The same was true of all the people there, one of the very friendliest festivals, I don’t think i’ve ever had so many stop and chats with new people over one weekend. On the last day I had a chat with someone who thought there was too much disco and not enough jungle, the night before i’d had the exact opposite conversation with someone mildy bemoaning the shortage of disco! The crowd know what they like and are more than happy to yap about it.
Sunday afternoon saw Mr Wilson’s Second Liners get the “Udder One” stage jumping – with full brass versions of a plethora of rave classics. The Last Resort stage had a cornucopia of strange entertainment washing over the Sunday loungers on the hill. Kermit & The Super Weird Soundsystem niced things up on “Mini Moo” and we made our way over to the Barn for past Funkdub guests Dreadzone. Their dub infused dance floor fillers still delivering, and they’re not afraid to roll out the classics, as well as choice cuts from their brand new collection. Probably the highlight of Sunday was a block rockin session from UK breaks master Krafty Kuts and the redoubtable Chali2Na. Their new long player “Adventures Of A Reluctant Superhero” is party lesson, and for 2 hours Chali held the crowd in the palm of his hand, while Krafty Kuts kept our feet in constant motion. Yellowman with the excellent Sagittarius band gave the crowd some deep roots and dancehall, Fabio & Grooverider rinsed out classic & fresh drum n bass, and on the main stage Soul II Soul closed things off to a wave of deep UK vibes.
This is a review that we almost hesitate to write, the history of festivals has a familiar trajectory, an intimate gathering with a friendly & knowledgable crowd, but then people start to find out, the event inevitably gets bigger and, unavoidably, loses the very thing that made it magical in the first place. But right now the Moovin’ festival has that certain alchemy that the larger festivals just aren’t able to replicate and long may that continue. Like so many cyborgs from 2029, we’ll be back.