Party At The Races pushed the definition of a festival somewhat, being more of an all-day and all-night clubbing event. Holding it at the beginning of October was always going to be a bit risky and unfortunately the heavens opened at the beginning of the day. However, since most of the music was under cover, this didn’t affect things too adversely. When the weather cleared up there was a fairly sizeable crowd milling about in time to spot a rainbow on the horizon while looking out at the spectacular views of Brighton and the glittering sea below.
Upon arrival, it was hard to know where to begin. The SOURCE stage outside on the terrace hosted several local bands, kicking off with bluesman Joe Corbin and indie hopefuls Mantras. Around the corner, the main stage stood between the racing track and the grandstand, where the seating tiers would normally be used for race day punters.
Inside at the Mambo and Space stages (each with understaffed, busy bars selling overpriced, tokened drinks), it’s fair to say the older raving contingent were out in force; the dated décor and carpets giving the place an air of a day out at Butlins on acid. While upstairs in the VIP room, it felt a bit like gatecrashing someone else’s wedding party and when we tried to return later, the jobsworth on the door told us it was the VVIP room and wouldn’t let us in.
A few food stalls on the other side served the usual fare and a swing fair ride plonked at the far end almost seemed like an afterthought. It took a while to wander around and take in everything that was going on, and even then it still didn’t make much sense. The Urban Arts Academy provided great entertainment for onlookers, with their shows of flips, bar work, handstands, breakdance and martial arts, despite a couple of inebriated patrons trying to muscle in on the action with their less than impressive displays of dexterity.
The SOURCE stage suffered a bit from being outside on a limb, with most visitors opting to stay warm inside. However, the bands played with verve and passion. After Croox had charmed onlookers with some tuneful R’n’B, stray dance fans found a reprieve from the DJ beats on offer elsewhere with Of Empire’s US rock stylings and anthemic vocal reverb.
Due to a schedule switch, the SOURCE stage also hosted a fine set from an ebullient Youngr, whose live band gave his already-upbeat grooves an extra dose of energy. This meant Modern Strangers were the last band on the bill, but if the two brothers who front the group were aware they were competing with the festival headliners, they didn’t show it. Undeterred, they rounded things off with a slick set of falsetto pop hooks and unexpectedly funky basslines.
As night fell, the Basement Jaxx DJs, with their scantily-clad female dancers either side of the decks, had the whole grandstand singing and dancing along to well-known tracks such as ‘Where’s Your Head At’ and ‘Romeo’. Although there were bright visuals on the screen beside the stage, it would have been a lot more exciting to see the full band play live. That said, the atmosphere was buzzing and the whole bizarre set-up made for an interesting, if confounding, experience.