Hospitality In The Woods was a welcome return of the South London drum & bass event that premiered in 2021, and dubbed “the summer reunion”. Laura Jones was there in the sylvan setting of Beckenham Place Park on Saturday 19th August.
The rolling hills, where stood the now legendary Hospitality letters and trees, beckoned ravers beyond.
The site map was refreshed, and the Let It Roll stage greeted ravers first. The behemoth Czech Republic event’s presence was not diminished by its smaller set up this year that still brought with it huge energy. The famous robots were replaced by a more mystical, witchy cyborg, but still those piercing laser eyes kept watch over the crowd. Harriet Jaxxon’s early afternoon energy was infectious and ensured we were primed and ready to check the rest of the fest after hearing her drop Metrik’s “Hackers” and with Connec MC hyping the crowd. The rolling hills, where stood the now legendary Hospitality letters and trees, beckoned ravers beyond.
Next stop was Bristol takeover Run x Invicta Audio at the stage known last time as The Bunker, one of two areas in pockets of the wood, where DJs shelled it from cabins. When we arrived, Sub Zero B2B Critical Impact B2B Amplify were on the decks, with Harry Shotta and Y-Zer hosting. It was to be the first example of many guests sharing B2B slots and showed how expertly matching artists creates a maximum impact. Y-Zer’s performance had been a highlight of the last Hospitality at Printworks earlier in the year, and showed why she is an award winning artist with one of the tunes of the summer, "Saviour", with P Money and Whiney.
Onwards to the Friends and Family stage, curating under canvas a line-up of DJ’s DJs, producers and MCs, such as Rupture label’s Mantra B2B Djinn B2B Double O with Chickaboo on the mic. The acts here today would give a masterclass in how its done, from many originators of the scene including LTJ Bukem and Calibre too.
The weather gods love drum & bass because not a drop of rain fell the whole day.
The Hospitality stage was calling, with a line up that would make it difficult to stray from the rest of the day, and a huge part of that was Dynamite MC hosting for not one but two acts. An artist synonymous with the label, he turned up the hype on every beat of Metrik and Grafix’s selections. Never known for staying in one lane, he mixes hip hop flows with a UK flavour and clearly enjoys riding rockier riffs.
Weaving in esoteric genres is something the scene is awash with currently on a tide of bootlegs. The Maduk remix of Linkin Park's "Numb" that I heard dropped at the Printworks show encouraged a huge, hands in the air sing-along. Hospital fans are a broad church and so moments like these feel less bandwagon and more genuine. A surprise Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" sample had me losing it as it dropped into "Mr Happy", the D*Minds and DJ Hazard classic, and a masterclass in mash up culture. Coming out from behind the decks, Dynamite summed it up when he said these guys weren’t DJs, they were rockstars, but together had been a true triple threat.
It was a good reminder that it pays to shake things up every now and again to keep things interesting. The stage benefitted from its new position at the heart of the park to draw a bigger crowd that covered the grassy slopes. Gone was the big top tent to allow for huge visuals on the LED screens behind. It was a move that must have felt like the wrong one at points in such a wet summer, but the weather gods love drum & bass because not a drop of rain fell the whole day.
It was great to think any one of these DJs at the start of their careers might be appearing again thanks to the support of Hospitality.
I had just enough time before 4pm to reach the furthest stage, the Après Arena, and catch the last half hour of the Hospital Records Women in D + B open decks. I grabbed a refreshing elderflower Jubel beer whilst watching, and it was great to think any one of these DJs at the start of their careers might be appearing again thanks to the support of Hospitality.
It was then time to complete checking out all stages by visiting 30 Years of V. Label co-founder Bryan Gee was on the decks, and Moose on the mic, in the forest glade that, with camouflage netting that dressed the stage, looked fitting for the proper jungle rave.
With each stage generously given its own adjacent bar, there are times when you don’t have to move, and that’s exactly what many ravers thought as when I tried to return for Dillinja, it had become one-in-one-out. Unsurprising, when his set had been a must-see from the last time in the same spot.
The forest glade that, with camouflage netting that dressed the stage, looked fitting for the jungle rave.
Splitting my hour I wanted to catch Hospital artist Makoto at Friends and Family. An artist whose output over the past twenty years has been some of the most soulful and heartfelt drum & bass, his set last time was really special. But a few minutes after arriving, a stage stop was activated when a raver was taken ill. Using the time to recharge in the sunshine outside, and with no signs of it restarting soon I sadly missed more, but it showed the organiser’s commitment to the safety and welfare of the crowd.
Flava D always plays a set that leaves me excited for the future of drum & bass.
Then it was time for main man, Hospital (co) head honcho, the legendary Tony Coleman, looking every inch the rockstar himself as he pogoed and air guitared around the stage having dropped jazzy hued label classics such as “Billion Dollar Gravy”. I ducked out briefly to find out who the secret guest was, and the curious were rewarded by a sunset mix by Hospital’s Unglued.
With the sun still shining, I headed back for High Contrast and another blast of Dynamite, energy levels still on lock, to take us through to nightfall. His selections were a tour through Hospital past, present and future. From the relentless amen jungle breaks that incited some call and response of “Wicked, Wicked”/”Jungle is massive” we were then treated to many lush own productions, such as “Hometown Glory”, “If We Ever”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Remind Me” as well as a Robin S bootleg of “Show Me Love”.
Crew flooded the stage, hugs all round from founders and artists. It was clear that the success of today meant so much to so many, not least of all the ravers.
With time going too fast, it was already last act Netsky taking to the stage as the lights pierced the night. In command of the huge crowd, he dropped the Camo & Krooked & Mefjus remix of High Contrast’s “Return Of Forever” which set the tone for a history of Hospital Records. At the end, crew flooded the stage, hugs all round from founders and artists. It was clear that the success of today meant so much to so many, not least of all the ravers who’d had a huge day, and with heavy feet walked up and over the grassy banks into the night.
The only thing missing had been DJ Marky, and we wish him well, eagerly awaiting the time we can do it all over again in the woods next year. To sign up to be the first to know about it, head to the Hospitality In The Woods site for more info.
Image credits: 1, 8 by Sarah Ginn; 2-5, 9, 11 by Khali Photography; 6 by Daniele Cicenaite; 10 by Edward Datson.