SynthFest UK 2019 was the UK electronic music event's biggest and best yet. For one day, Saturday October 5th, fans and practitioners of analogue and digital electronic music, alongside many of the key manufacturers whose equipment made the genre possible, and including staff and contributors from Sound On Sound, which is a key supporter of the show, gathered at the Octagon Centre in the UK's 'Synth City', Sheffield, for a celebration of this still-evolving art form.
This was the fourth Sheffield-based SynthFest, which has become an annual event at the end of the city's cultural Sensoria festival, and it was the biggest yet, with over 1100 visitors on the day, among them pioneering artists like Phil Oakey of The Human League (above) and Graham Massey of 808 State.
There was a fascinating seminar programme including talks on how to assemble a modular synth system from SOS's own Robin Vincent, and a very popular discussion of the 40-year history of the groundbreaking Fairlight digital sampling workstation with enthusiast and Fairlight restorer Rob Puricelli and producer Steve Levine (above), who made the use of the instrument central to his early successes with Culture Club in the 1980s. The day's discussions finished with an extremely well-attended talk from acid house innovator Gerald Simpson, also known as A Guy Called Gerald, covering his history and how he currently uses Reason to create his music, which was both informative and very entertaining (below).
And of course, there were the synths themselves. Analogue, digital, modular and hybrid manufacturers were present in force, and several new products made their UK exhibition debut during the day, including the incredible all-analogue £30,000 Colossus from Analogue Solutions and ASM's innovative wavetable-based Hydrasynth, which was demoed courtesy of London's Source Distribution. The big Japanese names in synth manufacture, Yamaha, Korg and Roland were all showing their latest wares in the basement (with Yamaha also celebrating the 45th anniversary of their synth division with various fascinating landmark instruments including an original CS80 polysynth). Meanwhile, upstairs, a huge variety of weird and wonderful devices from homegrown Eurorack designs to deep digital synths and associated speaker, stand and interface manufacturers proved enough to keep the average SOS reader interested for far longer than the event lasted. To see some of the equipment and people at the show, check out SOS's video coverage playlist via the link below.
Following the success of SynthFest UK 2019, early plans are already being sketched for an even larger event in October 2020. Rest assured that we'll keep you abreast of developments from early next year!