Breakdancing Gorillas and Techno
Zoo Project Festival
added: 17 Sep 2012
// gig date: 17 Sep 2012
reviewer: Alasdair Byers
Having just returned from 3 days of breakdancing gorillas, fire breathing acrobats, 11 foot tall girls painted green, fist-pumping zebras, shuffle-stepping lions and a Koala with a megahorn, all held within the confines of a real safari park, It’s a fair assessment to say the Zoo team delivered.
“I think the festivals that really offer something different, something unique, are the ones that will survive.”
So said festival director Oli in an interview shortly before Zoo Project Festival last weekend. Having just returned from 3 days of breakdancing gorillas, fire breathing acrobats, 11 foot tall girls painted green, fist-pumping zebras, shuffle-stepping lions and a koala with a megahorn, all held within the confines of a real safari park, It’s a fair assessment to say the Zoo team delivered.
The UK festival market is a crowded one. For this summer in particular - owing to a combination of competition from European festivals, ever-escalating overheads and industry investors becoming increasingly jittery, anyone looking to step into the ring and join the fight for crowds was going to have their work cut out. Zoo Project Festival opted to hold the festival in mid-September, organisers explaining that this was in part to encourage clubbers now returning from Zoo Project Ibiza to come along as a kind of end-of-summer farewell, and partly because there are less festivals held this month - nail this and yours could become the official ‘End Of Summer’ festival for many.
Nail it they did. Situated just 35 minutes away by train from London, Zoo sold out, with 6500 attending over the weekend, with a combination of camping and day tickets.
Taking their name from the abandoned-zoo location in Ibiza, the UK Festival chapter of Zoo Project was held in Port Lympne - a safari park located by Ashford. The car park / bus drop, campsite and festival ground all lie next to each other - making campsite pre-game a straightforward affair. The grounds allow for 1 litre of spirits and 24 cans of beer per person - enough to kick your weekend into gear at any rate. The festival area itself has the same feel as a city festival - small enough that a discerning clubber (for Zoo, that would pretty much be all of them) can easily hop stage-to-stage between the three arenas to get the most out of the line up. Long bars meant queues were minimal and trailers everywhere did a roaring trade in £5 novelty sunglasses, face paint and animal costumes so no-one had to be The-Guy-That-Forgot.
Brilliantly, access to the safari park is granted as part of your ticket. Roll out of your tent to a woefully bright morning, have the necessary beer-for-breakfast then dissipate a hangover by going to see rhinos, elephants and giraffes. Surreal.
Zoo know how to put on a show. With blue and green butterfly-girls on stilts, breakdancing gorillas, fire breathers, dancers inside gigantic Zorbballs, characters in skull-masks chainsawing showers of sparks and a crowd that consisted of heavy drinking giraffes, banterful bears, techno’d up tigers and, well, penguins, the atmosphere was epic. Best of all was the spontaneous displays - be it a dancer in a Zorbball giving a confused man a head massage, a girl attempting flirtatious conversation with a (static) zebra, unplanned breakdance competitions in the VIP area or just the fact that by around 9pm each night the stage security guards were hands in the air dancing along with the rest of the crowd and high fiving people on the fences gave the experience brilliance.
The crowd hit the right note too: by virtue of doing the bulk of their marketing via forums and social networks run by Zoo Project as well as a couple of very targeted postering campaigns in London, the turn-out were a good mix of seasoned festival goer, Ibiza die-hard and general electronic music lovers. The atmosphere on the campsite and on the ground was friendly and good humoured throughout - with numbers being big enough to give it that liquid anticipation feel unique to festivals but small enough that by Saturday morning a community feel had quickly developed.
The Line Up
Endangered species dancing and pyrotechnics aside Zoo showed its true strengths here with the line up. With 3 stages, hosted by names including DJ Mag, Sasha’s Never Say Never and Cocoon Heroes the promoters stayed true to their brand philosophy of running their own agenda music-wise. Keeping away from many launch festivals habit of playing a super-safe Someone Old, Someone New, Someone Borrowed, Someone Bassy line-up, Zoo Project kept things firmly on forward-looking ground - with Visionquest, Julio Bashmore and Cocoon Heroes stage playing soulful through driving techno: Heidi, James Teej, Eats Everything and DJ Sneak keeping it housey and Sasha, Scuba and Ben Klock pulling out Trance and experimental sets to keep things varied.
Hard to call - each stage brought talent to the table. Friday saw George Fitzgerald and Eats Everything pull together a brilliant opening for the evening chapter of the first night, whilst DJ Sneak kicked Saturday off with a spectacular house set, with Sasha then pushing it further with a performance leaning toward driving tech house. Cocoon Heroes had a consistently strong day; overall however, with a friendly crowd packed into arenas with pounding sound systems, sun setting on what felt like the official end-of-the-summer, the whole event was a winner.
Drinks are reasonable, accessories are cheap, food is not. A ten quid investment in tent-storable food back in London before you hop on the train is well recommended.
Zoo Project’s latest addition to their international brand took a risky date and have played it to their strength. As a festival, it was a resounding success. As a first festival, it was a blinder. It's safe to say this event will rapidly become a major fixture on the festival circuit, positioning itself nicely as many people’s farewell to the festival year.
Music, a safari park and fire-breathers. Winner.
Have Your Say
Click here to win an iPhone5!
> For more Music-News live reviews click here