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Let It Roll 2019: The best one yet?

Photography: Sophie Harbinson

Best one ever! Next level business! Mad one mate! Etc etc…

You know the fizzy hype. You’ve heard it all before. But, after several days of decompression, we still think it’s true: Let It Roll 2019 was a bonafide banger and arguably the best summer festival they’ve held so far.

In many ways it was business as usual. All the important ingredients were still set at maximum flavour: 100% drum & bass line-up of all shades and styles, eye-melting production and that heady sense of chaos that bulldozes you through the weekend at the speed of an A.M.C triple. But there was something else bringing the event together this year. Detail in the devilish aesthetic, madness in the method, just something extra that brought it all together with more oomph than Noisia’s remix of Masochist.

Size matters

At first it seemed like the two main outdoor stages didn’t loom over you quite as dramatically as they had in previous years and potentially lacked that instant signature Let It Roll kick in the kisser. Then they powered up…

Rather than emphasising on the towering structures, this year Let It Roll invested in much more technology to bring the stages to life. The main Mothership stage was comprised almost entirely of screens meaning it never looked the same twice. Stacked with more lasers and explosives than an interstellar dogfight, it was the perfect canvas for this year’s epic opening show.

Meanwhile the Temple stage was an intense puzzle of patterns and faces that felt both archaic and completely out of this planet and melted and morphed fluently throughout the night. Get right up  close to the rail (like the crazy headbangers did for Dirtyphonics) and you’d spot a cheeky little water feature right beside the decks in the form of a relaxing waterfall. The ideal tonic for the murky mischief peddled by the likes of 1991, S.P.Y, Calyx & Teebee, Kove, Culture Shock, Calyx & TeeBee, Macky Gee, Dirtyphonics and Muzzy, all of whom tore the Temple down on the opening night for our full UKF10 takeover.

The Portal stage also experienced a major remix operation. Now about four times bigger than its previous arena size, it had become the centre piece of the action: a gargantuan circular doorway into another universe slap-bang in the centre of the action, home to some of the best line-ups of the event. Meanwhile in the new arena next door, Eve’s Garden created a much lighter, colourful side to Let It Roll with stacks more production and decoration than any arenas the festival had also hosted before. This was much more than a kick in the kisser but pure sensory overload.

The site was also tweaked itself. Less of a flailing roundhouse and more of a one-inch punch, it was easier to navigate than previous years and everything seemed at close reach. This created much more intensity as a result: with a line-up so stacked with the best and most exciting acts in drum & bass, clashes were inevitable, but the closeness of the arenas meant quick dashes between arenas to catch bits of your favourites didn’t turn into long vibe-quashing treks where you’d miss most the music. And boy was there a lot of music…

Stand-out sets

With almost 300 DJs on a line-up that comprises some of the biggest legends and most exciting new acts in drum & bass, it was impossible to catch everything you’d want to see. Andy C, Kings Of The Rollers, InsideInfo and Breakage all clashing straight after the opening show on the Friday night, for example, was an especially emotional decision to make (time spent jumping between Breakage and InsideInfo watching them fill up substantial arenas was an awesome sight to behold) But other moments, like Camo & Krooked’s set on the Saturday night, were no brainers. An absolute wounder session with back-to-back bangers, specials and bootlegs to one of the largest crowds the main stage has ever seen, the Austrian duo were in high spirits as they celebrated Krooked’s birthday and poured their vibes all over us.

Other pinch-yourself moments of WTFness included Akov (who set fire to the Shredder stage with a mix that gave zero-fucks for Let It Roll’s drum & bass policy and scorched through the entire bass tempo range) Current Value (whose CVAV 2.0 update turned both the portal and our heads inside out with unique visuals and a whiplash blend of upcoming bombs from his new albums and a few classics thrown in for good measure), Ant TC1 & DLR’s 360 show (pure naked ID overload) and Bou & T>I who took Let It Roll into its penultimate hour in true wobbling, rolling fashion with a set built from dubs on-top of dubs on-top of dubs.

Other certy heroes of the weekend… Benny L & Shimon (who barged us into the dusk on the Saturday night with an absurd workout of groaners, classics and new teases), Skeptical (who got all physical with some of the most seductive minimal bassline funk we’ve ever heard him play) Kyrist (who blasted Eve’s Garden with the biggest crowd the arena had over the weekend with dark, devastating rollers) Emperor (who damaged The Portal beyond repair on the Thursday night with a brutal blend of demonic funk and that incendiary Fleetwood Mac bootleg of his that’s doing the rounds) and Chase & Status (utter non-stop RTRN II Jungle gully fire) Macky Gee and Muzzy’s sets during our UKF10 takeover were remarkable and heavily energetic experiences; both DJs drawing across the spectrum, pulling for classics and getting the crowd gee’d up on the mic, it seemed like every person in the crowd gave them their undivided attention… Especially during the get down low moments when beers, shoes and various other projectiles were launched on the bounce-up.

One of the nicest feel good stories of the festival, however, came in the form of a surprise set from Rough Tempo head honcho Scoundrel. Covering for London Elektricity, who came down with food poisoning just before his set, Scoundrel was asked to play just 30 minutes before the set, not long after he arrived on site. Not the Hospital bossman’s most obvious sonic stuntman, he flipped all expectations, dug deep into his collection and whizzed up a load of classics in an energetic blender and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Usually best known for bending heads in Storm club at Let It Roll’s infamous afterparties, this was Scoundrel’s biggest set at the event and became one of the coolest stories of the first night.

Just everything

These are just the tip of a massive rave iceberg. We could list every DJ as a highlight because it truly felt like every set we saw, or caught a vibe from, was being played from the heart to a crowd who serious know and love their shit. Galvanising Let It Roll’s Mecca-status for D&B fans, the event remains renowned for next level performances, encouraging artists to not feel like they have to pull out the cheesy anthems to keep people on-side. They can dig as deep into ID or classic or experimental territories as they like… And the crowd will lap every second.

Just as they did with everything else on offer; we’ve not mentioned the well-attended Beats Evolution Conference arena were the likes of London Elektricity, Ant TC1 and Abis were all interviewed and shared advice. We’ve not even discussed the madness of the TOP 100 DNB countdown, the 8-mile style dance-off phenomenon that is the DNB Step contest, or the pretty decent range of food on offer in the food quarter, the D&B pub quiz or the stand-up comedy. Some of these highlights have been a staple at Let It Roll for years, others were brand new additions, but it honestly felt like everything had been considered just that little bit more and the whole festival had been tweaked that little bit closer towards festival perfection, to make the experience smooth, stress-free and super friendly.

There’s a reason why the talk groups online are awash with Let It Roll hype this week with fans campaigning for an extra night of partying and fan showing detailing how affordable the festival is if you buy your flights and tickets early so others can attend next year…. This year’s Let It Roll was a genuinely outstanding event that left us wanting more.

And those of us in the UK don’t have long to wait. October 25, Brixton Academy, London, Let It Roll Opens The Portal. Next level business, mad one mate… The fizzy hype is real.