With the second edition of Warm Up Festival just a few weeks away and the memories of the first still clear in our minds, it feels like the right time to share our photos and a few thoughts of this incredible festival.
Warm Up is a London-based event series lead by their founder Aidan Doherty and hosted in various venues and special locations (both indoor and outdoor) around the city. They specialise in the more emotive shades of house and techno, booking the likes of Lee Burridge, Nick Warren, Guy J, Frankey & Sandrino and many more. However, renowned headliners are often surplus to requirements as resident DJ’s, Jorge Martins, Muther & Aidan himself, are each brilliant artists in their own right and consistently provide uncompromising, captivating sets of the highest quality.
Their debut festival was due to take place in August 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. So after many months of lockdowns, isolation, and uncertainty, their inaugural festival was under way on a sunny Thursday afternoon last August.
We didn't allow ourselves to get properly excited until we were in the car and en-route. Many festivals hadn't survived the instability caused by the pandemic, and with the ever-changing rules and regulations surrounding events and the nightlife industry, we didn't want to get our hopes up. But it actually happened, and it didn't disappoint.
Arriving at the site was a lovely moment. All of those festival memories and feelings came flooding back as we saw the dusty cars with excitable ravers spilling out of them, flags blowing in the wind, and the neat rows of white tepees in the distance.
We were instantly blown away by the level of organisation and production. Yes, it’s intimate, just a few thousand people and two proper stages. But make no mistake, this is a proper festival that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of them. We were greeted by efficient stewards that welcomed us and checked us in very quickly and painlessly - no big queues and no back-breaking hour-long hike. Exploring the site, and discovering both stages and the various art and light installations, it was clear that it was put together with great thought and consideration.
Their attention to detail was apparent in the little touches, such as the disposable ashtrays that were given on arrival (basically a little pouch to stash your old cigerette ends). Having never seen or heard of these before, I thought it was a great idea. They also really considered the sustainability of the event and minimised the impact on the land. A re-usable cup system was in place for all the bars, and laughing gas was strictly prohibited. At no point did we see the ground covered in the usual combination of squashed rubbish, cups, bottles and metal canisters. It was truly refreshing!
After setting up our tent and meeting the lovely people camped next to us, we headed into the woods for some music on the main stage. 'The House' is nestled deep in the trees, just a few minutes walk from the camping ground. It’s an imposing stage, clad in timber and centered around a large roof and balcony that stretches the width of the building. One of the first things we noticed as we entered the woods were the pretty glowing orbs hung from the trees overhead, leading you toward the dance floor. It was an incredible sight and is still one of the most magical environments we've ever had the pleasure of dancing in. Man Power was a last minute addition to the line up, and trusted with one of the opening sets. His left-field house selections pumped out of the perfectly dialled in sound-system with clarity and power.
Over the following few days we were treated to so much good music from a diverse line up of artists, most of which we had never seen before. B.Traits threw down a ridiculous late night set of fast-paced electro and ravey goodness that had most of the crowd literally jumping. Just Her brought unrivalled energy and enthusiasm to the The Annex. Her big, melodic breakdowns and gritty synth lines worked perfectly with the unique, geometric lighting and stage design.
As we approached The House on Saturday night to see Aidan Doherty's set I remember feeling a really special energy. There was a proper buzz in the air. Everyone was seriously in the mood and embracing it all. The outside world was a distant memory. More people were dressed in weird and wonderful things, and everyone was having the time of their lives. I've never been to Burning Man, but I remember drawing a few parallels, and thinking there was definitely some Burner energy that night. Aidan got on the decks and did what he does best. He kept the small army of eager ravers completely engaged, seamlessly transitioning from heady, melodic techno to big-room progressive cuts with poise and control. It was electric.
Jorge Martins Sunday set was full of his trademark chunky grooves and really got everyone in the mood and excited for the final evening of music. Tired? No chance. Everyone was still bang up for it when Max Cooper took to the stage to do the closing set on The House. He followed Franky Wah, who’d been playing banger after banger. I remember wondering how Max Cooper's swirling, organic electronica would be received, but I shouldn't have ever worried.
There was no moody electronica (not till later at least) as Max opened with probably the first bit of Drum and Bass we had heard all weekend. Saying it went down well would be a massive understatement. We all felt like the levels had just stepped up and this was confirmed over the next hour or 2. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a technically gifted DJ switching between tempos and genres so effortlessly. The fact that both Nils Frahm - Says and The Prodigy - Breathe were played in the same set is a testament to that.
That was due to be the final set of the weekend, but it wasn’t. An hour later, Aidan was back on the decks, this time in the Blue Moon Tent. A space intended for rest and relaxation, downtempo music and delicious, healthy food and drink but that doubled up perfectly as the location for the final dance. No big room tunes this time, just intimate, uplifting deep house that flowed beautifully and soothed the souls of everyone lucky enough to be there.
When sharing a recording of that set, Aidan gave his own thoughts on that moment.
“The tent was oozing with love, and there were smiles on everyone's faces, and some tears of joy too. I felt like we were all in a cocoon together, cushioned by the warmth of the music, and feeling euphoric with the afterglow of what had just unfolded over the weekend. Warm Up Festival had finished, and this was our decompression as we wound down and reflected upon the beauty of the weekend”
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Photography by Will You