Side-WOW-der! : Sidewinder Spring Festival 2017

Sidewinder 2017 - 4I’ve often wondered why Sidewinder hasn’t rebranded themselves as MAINwinder, what with being the mother of all UK urban festivals housing the genre’s DnB, Garage and Grime, this festival is no side chick or side salad tackle, it’s a big beat beast that keeps on giving. On second thoughts a change in name isn’t necessary as the title tells us in and of itself it is a festival that wins year after year and this year on Sidewinders 18th, birthday saw no exception to its winning streak.

On Saturday 25th February 2017 Sidewinder spread its wings against the natural elements of storm ‘Doris’ and swooped in upon the city of Manchester coming home to nest at the Bowlers Exhibition centre in Trafford for a 12 hour takeover from 5PM – 5AM. Anybody out there who lasted the 12 hour duration – you need a hot foot spa, a pedicure and a gold medal. What struck me about this 2017 line up was that Sidewinder got the balance spot on between old skool pioneering artists and the new generation of artists who are on the come up, such as Abracadabra and Big Tobz (who I’d bumped into and interviewed earlier on in the week on the Manchester leg of the Bigga Fish tour) and veterans in the game DJ Slimzee, Gods Gift and Riko Dan, creating a mixture of artists on the line up ensuring everyone had something to look forward to whether you were a garage head or Grime Don.

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By the time me and my girls rocked up to the gates of the festival it was coming up to midnight (hair emergencies and gossiping in the kitchen were to blame.) After purchasing our drink tokens and hanging up our jackets, we walked towards the V.I.P area which had a giant purple mushroom inflatable type feature in the middle of it which I felt drawn to touch to test if it was as fluffy as it looked! Before I could put my plan into action to make contact with the unidentified floating object and give it a lil stroke, my girls were pulling me towards the main stage to watch Lady Leshurr (one of only three women on the whole line up, the other two being Radio 1xtra DJ Sian Anderson and So Solid’s first lady Lisa Maffia) Lady Leshurr gave a fun and bubbly performance and her energy was relentless. Her staging was big and hot like fire as she performed ‘Queens’ speech 4’ and chanted the infamous line “Brush your teeth”, jets of fire spurted from the front of the stage in time to the chorus to deliver a blazing and boundless set. It was great to see a female artist perform on sidewinders stage in her own right and I hope Lady Leshurr’s inclusion heralds in a trend of even more female rappers and MC’s gracing the sidewinder stage at future festivals.


Standout performance of the night for me was Cadet, Big Tobz and DJ Russke. This time Big Tobz sported a red man united shirt (as opposed to the white one he was flexin; earlier in the week during my interview) with the words ‘Kool Nuh’ big and bold on the back; which prompted me to turn to my girls and say “He better not wash the white and red together imagine the colour run on that!” Cadet and Big Tobz brought levels to sidewinders’ stage as they performed the fire freestyle ‘Corn’ together. It was a memorable moment to see both artists perform a track which started out as an off the cuff freestyle for fun on such a big stage; their flows complimented each other live which makes me think the Grant and Phil Mitchell of Grime should do a joint EP, or better still an album and then tour it nationwide. Near the end of their set they hit each other with a volley of “Cadet Cadet’s” and “Kool Nuh’s” like competitors on a PS4 fight to the death game. I was shouting along with them so loudly I had to save my voice by downing a bottle of water as my voice was fading fast.


For fear of getting mash up in the mosh pit which had formed during Cadet and Big Tobz set which was akin to a gladiatorial pit in a roman coliseum, my friends retreated to the back of the main arena to avoid the mass of bodies rapidly merging into one. This only caused me to get on a next hype and I took off like a rocket from its launch pad to the front of the stage area to bounce along to the riddims of Oxide and Neutrino accompanied by their frequently featured MC, King L. The last time I saw all 3 perform was at ‘Eskimo dance’ April 2016, I felt that performance was subdued but this time they brought full on energy, booming b-lines and messy madness to their set, which made me do things I thought my body could no longer do. Oxide’s beats were mucky with Neutrino and King L riding the riddims with skill and expert flow which seemed to have us all experiencing uncontrollable contortions of our bodies! We were no longer in control of our own motor functions, they were. The highlight of Oxide and Neutrinos set was ‘Up middle finger’ when the arena of unruly yutes shouted “No no no!” on the hook; the difference being when I was shouting “No no no” at Oxide and Neutrino pressed up against the barriers, my meaning was “No no no … (please don’t let it end)” But as we know all good (in this case great) things must come to an end. After regaining my memory it struck me I hadn’t come to Sidewinder alone but had actually come with friends (That’s how much Oxide’s b-line beat up my brain like a scrambled egg) I reluctantly tore myself away from the last 30 mins of Oxide and Neutrino’s set to check in with my girls when they suggested it was time to go, at which point I caught an acute case of FOMO (Fear of missing out for you non texters), but with a quick check of my glitzy new rose gold watch which I had bought that day while waiting for my make up to be done (NEVER get your make up done in a department store girls you WILL end up on an impromptu shopping spree) I could see that 5 AM was closing in on us and that the festival was about to wind down and it was time to say goodbye.

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As we jumped over mud puddles on the way back to the car we hadn’t even left Bowlers and I was already missing dipping in and out of the 4 arenas, the unidentifiable purple haze mushroom cloud thing hanging from the ceiling and paying for drinks with paper raffle tickets! (Storm) Doris tried to have her way with Sidewinder Festival and Bowlers Exhibition centre this year but she’ll have to try another day, because Sidewinder and Bowlers made a super fighting, bass slinging duo to keep her at bay, to give us an extravaganza of a festival. Altogether now join hands and sing “The Storm is over, the storm is over nooowww-owww…” Until next time sayonara Sidewinder and Bye bye Bowlers you made the North go off its nut once more.

Cammy Thomas

All images courtesy of Sidewinder Facebook and Twitter

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