Sundown 2021: Festival-goers unite in long-awaited return to live music
Clare Butler and Ben Jolley
- Credit: Sundown
Norfolk’s biggest music festival Sundown was back with a bang – celebrating some of the UK’s brightest artists and DJs in an epic countryside setting.
If getting to meet up with mates and have in a drink in the sun wasn’t enough, then Sundown 2021 brought the stuff of dreams for thousands of youngsters eager to shake off the last 18 months.
The festival – that boasts four stages – returned for its ninth edition after it was cancelled in 2020.
The weekend kicked off with a campers-only party on Friday night, featuring a crowd-pleasing set from Nathan Dawe dropping the likes of ‘Don’t Play’, ‘Lighter’ and ‘No Time For Tears’ – all hitting the charts over the past year in collaborations with Anne-Marie, KSI and Little Mix.
Next up was BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Tiffany Calver, who made light work of her set, although it was played to a criminally small crowd – especially considering she opened for Drake on his last UK tour.
Chart-rap bangers were aplenty when Yung T & Bugsey took to the stage, who despite being plagued by technical issues, gave an impressive light show for their hits ‘Strike a Pose’ and Tik Tok smash ‘Don’t Rush’.
Saturday was all about “spreading the love” in the words of former Radio 1 DJ Charlie Sloth.
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The self-proclaimed “best rap DJ on the planet” came on stage moments after London rappers The Manor had fearlessly attempted to jump into the crowds – so energy levels were high.
Sloth encouraged everyone to put their arm around the person stood next to them to the soundtrack of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ – and with human contact having been discouraged for more than a year, it was quite a poignant sight.
Nobody could accuse him of lacking versatility as a DJ, as he finished his set with Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ and “one for the mums and dads” Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’.
As Geordie Shore reality star-turned-DJ Joel Corry took over, a sea of bucket hat wearing twenty-somethings dressed in vintage sports labels flooded the main stage area.
‘Out Out’ (currently sitting at number six in the charts) sees ravers clamber up on to their friends' shoulders to enjoy the atmosphere above the crowds.
Elsewhere, Defected host a takeover in The Castle, with Jess Bays, Ferreck Dawn and Sam Divine pumping out house grooves, while the Mystree stage in the woods acts as a showcase for the next generation of UK garage artists.
Sammy Virji proved why he’s such an exciting name right now, dishing out high-energy tunes while bouncing around behind the decks like a kid at Christmas.
After late-noughties rapper Example delivers a set full of throwbacks on the main stage, it was time for pop royalty Becky Hill to dazzle the crowds.
“My name is Becky Hill, let’s have it” she says, wearing a sparkling glittery top and opening with a drum'n’bass number.
“This is one of my favourite festivals to do of all time and this is the reason why,” she proclaims.
It quickly becomes clear just how many massive hits she has. And with four vocalists and a full live band onstage with her, Hill’s never-ending cannon of hits sound bigger than ever.
Few popstars can truly sing live like she can - especially to still get the reaction she did to number one hit from 2014 ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’.
On Sunday the festival welcomed singer-songwriter Raye – fresh from her split with record label Polydor.
She fired up the crowds with hits ‘Love Me Again’ and ‘Bed’ before headliners Rudimental brought out surprise guest Anne-Marie.
The 30-year-old joined Rudimental to perform their latest single, Come Over, as well as some of their earlier hits.
Overall, Sundown 2021 successfully navigated Covid policies while managing to give festival-goers exactly what they wanted – a chance to reunite and rediscover the sounds of summer over an exhilarating three-day event.