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Live review – My Chemical Romance: Stadium MK, Milton Keynes 21/05/22

Emo dons finally play rescheduled MK dates

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Live review – Tool: London 02 Arena 09/05/22

Our writer witnesses the long overdue rerun of prog doomsters Tool

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Lady of the House Cultural Exhibition @ Lost Horizons, Bristol – full event report

Women’s pivotal role in dance music celebrated with three days of panels, workshops and – natch – a serious closing knees up

(L-R) Laila McKenzie, Silvana Kill (onscreen), George Fleming, Ed Jenkins (onscreen), Sam Parsley, Nikki McNeill
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Live Review: SC&P x Posh Isolation @ London Electrowerkz 12/03/22

Croatian Amor and more work the ‘Werkz

Croatian Amor
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Live Review – Turnstile at London Roundhouse, 01/02/22

The big news from Baltimore blows into town

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Dean Blunt’s World Music label takeover, London Corsica Studios with Klein, Vegyn, John Glacier, Bar Italia & CBT

Queues round the block as the enigmatic Dean Blunt’s World Music crew takes Corsica Studios

Dean Blunt at Corsica Studios

Something is astir in South London. It’s only been a few months since Dean Blunt’s Black Metal 2 dropped, and he’s now back with a new video, ‘urban hymns’, after DJing a non-mix of trap as Lean Hunt at NTS’ last event on Friday. 

Our spidey-senses would suggest that this signals a new collaborative music project. The video, for example, contains fellow singer-scenesters Poison Anna, Klein and Nina Cristante in tow with Blunt, confidently strutting up to cash machines and strumming away at guitars in a blacked-out car.

But our strongest evidence for a new project is as follows: over the weekend, the Twitter account @evilarrow1997 – self-described as “not dean blunts personal account” – shared details of an exclusive, on-the-door event at London’s Corsica Studios, where Dean’s World Music label would be showcasing some of South London’s finest, most elusive talents. 

Testament to Blunt’s ability to cause entire art-school armadas to form with single social media posts – the tweet has now been deleted – all of South London’s music scene might as well have joined the queue on Wednesday night. 

Corsica Studios being only a 200-odd capacity venue, we would estimate that the bouncers had to turn away at least double that amount of people at the door. The queue probably stretched back to the best part of half a mile. Even guestlist-ees were given a thorough quizzing – it was clear this wasn’t going to be an easy night to get into.

The very last entrants could just about catch the end of Bar Italia, Nina Cristante’s doomy indie grunge project that saw her first LP under the name, ‘Quarrel’, released on World Music last year. Backed by a three-piece band, her performance was a slow nod, and proof of this night would be more than just a DJ’s free-for-all. Exiting to the tune of ‘Skylinny’, a lull followed, wherein this reviewer managed to edge forward, taking in the gloomily backlit room, tinged with a Marijuana-green light.

Many rumours enshrouded the identity of the next act, C.B.T. Some thought it to be Dean Blunt himself – but their hopes were quickly dashed by a request from a voice (not Dean’s) for the lighting guy to “dim the lights”, perhaps since they didn’t want their faces to be revealed. Fortunately for us, this mission of self-concealment didn’t work, and the residual light revealed C.B.T. to be none other than Coby Sey and Tirzah. In a long, slow-burning set of instrumental dub, both artists freestyled angelically, duetting in both round and freeform vocalsstyles. “I’ll always be your baby, your delight”, Tirzah sung-murmured, head down into the layer of mist covering the stage.

After a quick changeover and smoke-break, we were back inside for London rapper John Glacier, backed by Vegyn on DJ duties. Dressed impeccably in a sculptural, geometric stripy dress, Glacier casually took stage left, performing each of her best tunes – ‘Trelawny Waters’, ‘Green Elephants Freestyle’ and ‘If Anything’ included’ – after many CDJ spinbacks. Her music caused some of the most relaxed moshpits we’ve ever witnessed, her beats spanning the opposite ends of trap intensity and cool-headedness.

Towards the end, Klein took the stage for a deconstructed set of ratchet bangers. Liberal with the CDJ’s cue button – rap acapellas sifting in and out of glass shattering sound effects – her set revealed a playful musical mind, with destroyed dancehall remixes of popular songs (take 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’) resounding like meteor impacts.

Dean Blunt

Those patient enough to stay were soon blessed with an appearance from their hero Dean Blunt, despite word he wouldn’t be playing. Bestriding the stage and grabbing the mic, thick glasses and leather jacket over his lean figure, he played one song only: the scammer’s anthem ‘Mugu’. Exiting curtly by dropping the mic, we were soon left in the company of a headline set from Vegyn, whose clippy and energetic DJ set covered everything from rapper-fugitive Tay-K to his own mentor Frank Ocean.

Last night being one of the edgier nights in Corsica’s programme, it’s incredible to witness the hype around Dean Blunt and company. Undeniably, these artists – in cahoots with each other and feeding off each other’s humble mystery – are the pioneers of UK net tricksterism, lo-fi videos, and ‘effortless’ Twitter marketing. 

But that effortlessness pervaded the night itself, and we were left wondering, does all this live up to the hype? Perhaps not. Of course, there was plenty of word about people growing disgruntled with the chaos and leaving early. We have to agree somewhat – but not for the most part. As ever with Dean Blunt, smoke and mirrors blurred the line between ‘lacklustre’ and ‘intentionally low-key’, and we left bemused at best. The word ‘absurd’ still repeats in our heads.

Jude Iago James

Order your vinyl copy of Black Metal 2 here

Check the two new dubs of the Dean Blunt track ‘Stoozy’ here and here

Black Country New Road – London Camden Electric Ballroom, 14/09/21

South London’s finest continue to dominate 2021

It almost feels like Black Country, New Road play a show in London every other week. They had their socially distanced residency in the Islington Assembly Hall at the beginning of summer, while this past month they made appearances at both the We Out Here festival, and closer to home (actually in London), the successful newcomer Wide Awake.

If that wasn’t enough, their surprise intimate gig in the Lexington last week sold out in approximately ten minutes. The band have essentially given folk ample opportunity to catch them live throughout 2021, but for some, tonight’s performance in the Electric Ballroom is of utmost importance, marking the group’s biggest hometown headline show to date.

It’s a merging of worlds in some respects, what with die-hard Windmill, Brixton alum who’ve been avidly devouring each subsequent live bootleg, standing shoulder to shoulder with new fans only recently exposed to the new wave of UK post-punk.

Originally set to open the proceedings was collaborator and close friend Ethan P. Flynn, who unfortunately had to cancel last minute due to illness. Stepping in to save the day, the criminally underrated Famous, who made waves with their staggering rooftop performance last year.

A trio comprised of vocals, bass, drums and a myriad of backing tracks; their sound blends angst-riddled, emotive meanderings with sporadic dance-punk fusion. It all very much comes off as sonic catharsis, with unpredictable shifts in mood that echo the often-unhinged vocal delivery and rambling lyrical sentiment.

While newer cuts are given their due, highlights from their acclaimed ‘England’ EP receive the greatest response, with quasi-anthem ‘The Beatles’ casting a net of awe over the enamoured, intrigued and disinterested alike. Once their captivating and humbled performance comes to an end, the real anticipation sets in.

Black Country, New Road have a penchant for absurdity and a taste for modern pop, both simultaneously showcased by having ‘Happier Than Ever’, the title track from the new Billie Eilish album played during their walk-on, while a black and white school-like drawing is projected with a snot-nosed BC on one side and an NR on the other.

The fitting choice to open with their delicate, dour rendition of MGMT’s ‘Time To Pretend’ speaks volumes; the bittersweet sarcastic musings on success in the music world and the perceived destructive nature of our (every) generation, is lent massive credence with regard to how far the group have come in such a short period, and how much farther they have to go.

Reimagining the euphoric synth-pop gem as a slow-burn folk ode just works on so many levels, and has understandably become somewhat of a staple in the hearts of many fans. From here on, it’s a balancing act between delivering highlights from their Mercury Prize nominated debut, For The First Time, and testing newer, less familiar material.

The start/stop math inflections of ‘Athens, France’ are chanted directly back at the stage with wondrous unison, like a post-punk Fratellis show come to life. Elsewhere the mammoth crescendos of ‘Science Fair’ and the opus-like ‘Opus’ whip the crowd into frenzy, with mosh pits that encompass an atmosphere far removed from the socially distanced performances of just a few mere months prior.

Offsetting the fan service, the newer cuts breathe with decidedly different hues. ‘Bread Song’ twinkles and swells while never fully abandoning its lush confines of acoustic melancholic dread. The minimalist post-folk of ‘Snowglobes’ is another standout, with jazzed out smatters of drum fills climbing and cascading throughout.

‘The Place Where He Inserted The Blade’ feels destined to become another mainstay of future sets, and also seems to be rather indicative of the more sullen, post-punk math-folk direction LP2 is bound to take. There’s assured nods to early Arcade Fire work for sure, but there’s a level of wit, nuance and negation all their own.

While the choir (made up of friends) are sadly drowned out or not well heard for the majority of their time on stage, volume levels are just right for the ever-shifting closer, ‘Basketball Shoes’, which traverses from a Godspeed You! Black Emperor post-rock crawl, before morphing into a Sunny Day Real Estate mash of riffs, finally reaching full scale cinematic emo abandon in its final minutes (the track is nearly a quarter of an hour long).

The ethereal, haunting notes of the choir elevate the proceedings to epic levels of spectacle while frontman Isaac Wood shrieks and wails with a tortured, frenetic quality seemingly reserved for this precise piece. While another track that’s been around almost as long as the band has, it seems very apparent that the future studio version will be arguably the centrepiece of their next project.

A night for newbies and super fans alike, that can’t help but feel like a victory lap success story chronicling the short but important journey from the Windmill to the Ballroom. Black Country, New Road double down on both the fan service with a thorough run through of all the favourites (apart from ‘Sunglasses’, their own ‘Creep’), and a deep insight into their as of yet untitled, unannounced second full-length.

If the newer material and crowd reaction are anything to go by, we can expect a rather depressive, expansive and unique sophomore effort, hopefully within the next year.

Words: Zack Buggy

Pictures: Greg Ullyart.

Festival Review – Wide Awake, Brockwell Park, Brixton, 03/09/21

Shame, Idles, and many more at wokefest Wide Awake

Our reviewer quickly worked out how to jump the queue at the hot dog stall

This year’s festival season has evoked more complicated feelings than most years. Besides the post-COVID clamour – in which the voids of isolation and social distancing were quickly displaced by hugging, shoulder-butting and crowd-surfing – there’s also been a coming of age feeling to many of the events that have taken place. And that’s not surprising, because many of this season’s star performers being incredibly young (some are pushing 18-19 years old), everyone knows that most growing up happens after periods of adversity and hardship. 

What kind of music best sums up this coming-of-age melodrama and post-teen angst? That’s right: twanging indie music. Such was the focus of Wide Awake, which occupied London’s Brockwell Park last Friday, and formed the first in a trio of day festivals (the others being the poppy Mighty Hoopla and the jazz-swinging Cross The Tracks) taking place over one enormous weekend. On entry, we were met with the distinct feeling that this did not feel like Brockwell Park. The green’s regular feeling of being at one with the city – embedded in the twin locales of Herne Hill and Brixton – was completely displaced by the giant metal wall erected around the event. Once we were in, we knew: this wasn’t the park we knew. This was a temporary Neverland, filled with forbidden indulgences that would disappear as quickly as they had materialised, like a phantom island for mullet-rockers.

Reigning in our excitement, we begun with a trip to the porta-loos, which (this being a day festival) were very clean. Five stars! 

Shortly afterwards, though, we embarked on a completely earnest quest for new music discovery. It dawned on us that each stage was occupied by a different cornerstone venue or promoter from the London indie scene – all titanic institutions, these included the MOTH Club, Snap Crackle & Pop, and Bad Vibrations stages. None other than Brixton favourite The Windmill reigned supreme over the main stage. 

Our very first musical absorption, however, took place at So Young, where the up and coming Manchester three-piece Mandy, Indiana – formerly Gary, Indiana – kicked off the day with their brand of minimal punk and dubious vocalisations in French. Their ominous synthpunk had enough potential energy in it to keep us up and moving for the rest of the day. Later, we caught our personal favourites Pozi deliver a notably tight and energetic performance. Their drummer, Toby Burroughs, was such a performative powerhouse that there wasn’t a hint of lost energy at any moment in his performance, straddling shouty punk vocals and bordering-on-thrash-metal drumming – that’s not to mention the gnarly bass and deft violin playing from bandmates Tom Jones and Rosa Brook.

Ambling through the festival site led us to catch only brief glimpses of some acts. Lynks delivered a post name change dance-pop return, flanked on either side by his ambulatory pals and donning a full body, spiky-headed alien costume. Flabbergasted, we continued to the remote Bad Vibrations stage, where long-haired Japanese psych outfit Kikagaku Moyo were neck deep in their time-signaturey prog freakouts. Both performances were good examples of the festival’s championing of ensemble over solo acts, a trend we’ve noticed has cropped up on the band circuit in recent years. Besides actual music, the festival was replete with workshops, talks, and – not least – great food. At midday, we stopped by for a talk about gentrification in Brixton, then proceeded to devour a giant hot dog.

The electronic and DJ corner was less prevalent than the indie selection, but still held its ground. Next to a small but flourescently lit forested area was The Gun, a temporarily erected bandstand occupied all day by DJs. Said selectors tended towards playlists filled with funky chug and Balearic, with Debonair leading the charge with almost overpowering, oscillatory bass (the soundsystem was cranked). The Snap, Crackle & Pop tent was similarly DJ-focused, with our highlight being the darkened, smoggy, gargantuan experience that was Minimal Violence’s live wonky techno set.

Our best experiences, though, centred on The Windmill’s main stage. The long standing creative force behind the venue, Tim Perry’s incredible cultural influence saw to a scenester’s dream lineup, with appearances from Idles, Shame, Squid, Goat Girl, Black Country New Road and Black Midi.

Squid’s crossrhythmic droners and voice-strains, courtesy of bandleader Ollie Judge, set a terrifyingly strong precedent for the day. Later, witnessing Goat Girl and BCNR play felt like watching puzzle pieces fit together. The latter band, especially, delivered a much more sprawling and extensive performance than their appearance at We Out Here two weeks prior, which made sense given that they were ‘at home’, playing to their own crowd. Their day – or day one at least.

Jude Iago James

Live Review – Junction 2 at Tobacco Dock, London 28/08/21

Junction 2 plays host to some of dance music’s biggest names

Kris Humphreys (c) www.krishumphreysphotography.com

As the summer of reuniting continues, we headed down to the inner-city edition of the Junction 2 Festival to check out some of the biggest names in dance music today. 

Huge line-ups and eye-catching stage designs is what the Junction 2 organisers are really known for but with the obvious events taking place over the last two years, the team behind the festival moved away from the famous beneath the motorway location of Boston Manor Park this year and scaled things down to central London’s Tobacco Dock for a weekend of pioneering electronic artists. 

Kris Humphreys (c) www.krishumphreysphotography.com

With the bank holiday in full swing, London Bridge seemed like the epicentre of travel for festival goers, with other events such as Lost Village Creamfields, Reading, All Points East and far more (with of course the sadly cancelled Notting Hill Carnival) all taking place. Junction 2 felt like the home for the weekend of some of the biggest names in techno and once again it was all done in a big, bold and beautiful fashion. Set across 6 stages, varying from big room techno battle rooms, small intimate selector stages and live stream set ups, Tobacco dock felt like a suitable location for this year’s edition and gave an almost techno conference feel through the grey carpets and sound reducing curtains set across each stage, which although may sound unusual, faded behind the extreme displays of lighting and sound throughout the venue. 

Kicking things off in the largest of the stages, Cici graced The Great Gallery with a selection of rhythmic pulsations and thumping groovers, then handing over to the likes of Sama’ Abdulhadi, Anna and techno queen Amelie Lens, all taking the crowd through a journey of industrial esc selections, which thrived through the heavy on the low end sound systems installed by the Junction 2 team. Even though large in any scale, The Great Gallery felt like an intimate setting to see some of the big room techno’s top names, who are usually spotted in stadium esc events across Europe during the festival season.

Kris Humphreys (c) www.krishumphreysphotography.com

 The real highlight of the day came from The Cavern stage, with its low ceilings and damp red brick pillars, felt as close to the dark dingy industrial basements which electronic music formed from. Afrodeutsche opened things up with her classic selection of Drexciyan delights and UK electro pulsations. DJ Boring was up next and the Australian born artist came through with a real distinct sound of 2000’s 8 bit infused electro house cuts, with the track’s breakdowns having pure elements of that Nintendo 64 sound design and dropping into the classic French house sound of the Justice era. Eris Drew was up next and as always she did not disappoint, with a selection of elegant house piano records such as Metropolis “Hyporeel” and some rare speed garage cuts the crowd were frantically trying to Shazam (with sadly no luck). Chatting to Eris before, it was only her second time in the UK since the pandemic and the excitement felt as real as it comes. Production wizard Jon Hopkins closed off The Cavern with a cohesive selection of aggressive groovers and edits of his own tunes such as “Everything Connected” which felt like they had been purposely reworked specifically for festivals such as Junction 2. 

Like a lot of these major line-up day festivals taking place, it’s hard to be able to catch and settle into the sets across the day and the other stages held the likes of Maceo Plex, Dixon, Ok Williams, Juno favourite Subb-an and so many more and to be able to catch them all one must somehow disperse into multiple entities for a short period of time, but from the crowds reactions echoing through the central hangout spot, it seemed like all artists were continuing in bringing their a game and that is not even mentioning what took place on the Sunday. 

As the night came to a close and people wondered of into the darkness of E1 across the road or the official Junction 2 afterparty at Fabric, London was truly back into the swing of things and as the Uber surge rose, so did the atmosphere across the capital. 

Words – Jack Carr Miles

Photography Credit Kris Humphreys

Rudimental – London Camden Jazz Cafe 25/08/21

A rare chance to catch the Hackney heroes in a tiny, 400 capacity venue

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Festival Review – We Out Here 2021

Festival’s second year at Abbotts Ripton, Cambridgeshire, with Gillles Peterson at the helm

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Every good festival needs a seasoned curator at its helm. And for the task of lining up a shindig dedicated to the cross-section of jazz, dance, indie music and soundsystem culture, who better than Gilles Peterson to do so?

Think Houghton melded with Brainchild: that’s We Out Here. This is its second year running, taking place once again last weekend in the middle of a hot yet drizzly August 2021, at the former site of the Secret Garden Party in Abbotts Ripton, Cambridgeshire. 

Naturally enough, there’s rather a large slice of Peterson’s Brownswood continuum condensed into festival form here. With a roughly (or, what felt like a) 50/50 split between live acts and DJ sets, it had a bit of everything for everyone, neither neglecting its dance heads nor alienating its jazz highfaluters: a reconciliation only a few curators, bar good old Gilles (as he came to be known among festival attendees), can claim to achieve.

It worked like a charm. While nobody could help but laugh at its ‘down with the kids’ name, WOH had an easy-going spirit, and did justice to the chants of “we out here!” that would occasionally erupt from an MC’s call and response, or a campsite rallying cry.

Before its 2021 edition, Peterson emphasised WOH’s national focus, stating his pride at “(supporting) this majority UK-based line up.” With this pride came a routine honouring of the festival’s supporting youth jazz organisations – including Tomorrow’s Warriors, Brownswood Bubblers and Total Refreshment Centre – through which many of the performing acts achieved their fame. 

Without them, “this would not have been possible,” announced Femi Koleoso, drummer and bandleader of the party jazz quintet Ezra Collective on Saturday. As a unit, the band burst onto the stage with swaggering drip, brazen playing and esoteric visuals. Delivering a stunning set of their trademark afrobeat and jazz, the atmosphere was intense, as Koleoso would intermittently grab the mic, urging the crowd to seize the day, and the next. We did indeed: bowled over, it was no great task to wander over to the Hennessy tent, in which cocktails flowed and Neue Grafik smashed their house and jazz infused live set.

Ezra Collective

A rapacious cabal of live acts followed, all from the UK. Zenel proved their standing as one of the UK’s most exciting electronically-effected jazz units, while A Certain Ratio demolished the main stage, abandoning their post-industrial Factoryscapes for a smoother, funkier instrumental performance. Preceding ACR were Kokoroko and Moses Boyd – both brought varying moods of upbeat, upper-echelon ensemble jazz, calmly shadowed by the hill which valleyed and overlooked the stage. Meanwhile, an indie curveball, Black Country New Road, delivered their short but sweet – but no less loved – post-COVID festival debut, with ‘Track X’ causing the biggest stir. The slew of UK acts on Sunday made a nice contrast to Friday’s US show-stealer Thundercat, whose noodly bass experiements opened preceded the festival’s later allout party atmos.

Gilles Peterson (right) in conversation

As for DJs, it would be criminal to not mention cool cat Sherelle as our highlight. Her set, from start to finish, tore up the Lush Life stage, and was the main bastion of the festival’s surprisingly strong jungle niche (close contenders were Junior Ricketts’ rave closer on the Sunday, and DJ Flight’s transition from drill into jungle – don’t ask us how she did it). A stroll through the site found us neck-deep in The Forest, where we caught dark garage legend El-B. He made sure only the best 2-step groovers hit the treebound soundsystem (the area was filled with tree-clinging lights and lasers), before a wacky house set from Josey Rebelle stole the conch. Mainstage titans included Joy Orbison and Floating Points – both of whom played their favourite go-tos from blissed out hip-hop, disco and soul, and rave piano. Joy O even played an unreleased drill edit of ‘Hyph Mngo’!

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Thundercat

On the Gilles-worthy front, we were smitten with Love Dancing tent in the day, which operated on a mainly funk, disco, highlife and soul tip. Charlie Dark, who played at least twice, was its favourite, while others included Mr Scruff, Patrick Forge and Gilles himself. Our favourite tent, however, had to be the itsy-bitsy Lemon Lounge, which saw a surprising number of people crammed in for the headsier attendees’ favourite DJs, such as Tia Cousins and Felix Hall. The best set to grace it was by Maximum Haze of London’s Bubble Chamber crew; comically bespectacled and donning a pink cowboy hat with a completely earnest look on his face, this quizzical character delivered a rare hardcore techno and rave moment, interspersed with amusingly obvious UK funky hits.

Amenities and daytime attractions were plentiful, with most punters’ morning walks taken up either by watching film screenings (Sisters With Transistors, Summer Of Soul, and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s CODA were all showing), meditating at the guided yoga gazebo, swimming in both the big and small lakes, and even taking a ‘gong bath’. Gongs have the power to emit spiralling layers of healing frequencies, apparently – especially so when they’re struck next to your hungover noggin! There was even a convertible roller disco, which provided wheely fun in the day; at night, it became a full-on dub soundsystem, occupied at various points by reggae legends Iration Steppas and Channel One. It’s a shame the human body’s physical limitations meant we couldn’t rollerskate and skank at the same time…

For those seeking a chilled out family friendly festival, it was suitably equipped – still, though, the ideal WOH family would have at least one 21-year-old in it! In terms of its pacing, 2021’s edition was a well-balanced and relaxed, yet no less fun and exciting weekend. Not too intense (unlike its 24-hour party contemporary Houghton, the music ends at 5am) we found ourselves not wishing a single moment could have passed by more quickly. We even cried out loudly to Gilles for another day, as he stood beside the main stage taking selfies with fans. 

And above all else – there were hot showers at the campsite. What a dealmaker.

Jude Iago James

Festival review – Brainchild 2021

No sun – but lots of fun at Brainchild 2021

The not-for-profit art organisation returned for its 2021 edition with a feeling of relief, gratitude and euphoria.

Taking place on the fields off The Bentley Wildflow and Motor Museum in the depths of East Sussex, the 2500 cap festival returned, despite the odds, for a three day exploration of emerging artists, scene staples, bold ideas and DIY culture. Funded by the PRS foundation, the 2021 edition felt like a true moment of freedom from the tough times endured in the last years and the DJ’s and artists utilised this vibe with a no-holding back attitude on the stages. 

Friday night saw the likes of Jack Hello, Worldwide FM’s Coco Maria and many more opening things up with an eclectic display of latin-funk, pulsating breakbeat, driving disco and classic house selects to get the crowd going for the evening’s events. Taking the realms on the main stage, Overmono shelled out their well practiced live set, with a masterclass in how to combine quick cut breaks with detuned synth riffs and driving low end. Opening up with ‘So U Kno’ their latest release on XL Recordings, the Welsh brothers took the ecstatic crowd through a journey of their back catalogue. Releases such as their remix of the Irish band For Those I Love and their 2020 ‘Everything U Need’ combined a balance between melancholy and club functionality to highlight why the duo had such a successful 2020 and what is to come in 2021/2022, with an album in the works.

Other highlights came from two of the most exciting DJ’s in the UK scene today, OK Williams and Lil C. Williams cast her spell with a seamless display of UKG, breakbeat, techno, hardcore, rave and beyond, which felt as fresh as it did classic to the UK dance scene. Lil C took over and gave a lesson in contemporary dancehall, R&B refixes and all things bashment, raising the energy to full throttle.

Saturday morning brought the torrential rain but in true UK style the ravers returned to the stages sodden and ready for their masterclass in voguing (to improve those post-pandemic rusty moves) from the QPOC + LGBTQ+.activist and Ballroom master Jay Jay Revlon. Energy restored, people sachyed to Duke’s classic ‘So In Love With You’ and the mood was beginning to hit its peak.

As the rain eased and the mud congealed, the femme culture honcho and Technicolour signee Elkka graced the Shack stage with her live set. Dreamy synths glistened over sequenced rhythm perfection for one of the weekends biggest high points in a truly beautiful woodland setting.

Chatting to the artist afterwards, Elkka elatedly stated  “Having not played live for 2 years Brainchild seemed like the perfect place to re-connect with an audience who just want to be surrounded by good people and good music. That’s exactly what it felt like for me. It was a really special show that really moved me and reminded me so much of what we all have been missing for so long. The crowd was perfect, the rain – mostly- stayed away and I couldn’t have asked for anymore.”

Sound system highlights came from the Lemon Lounges’ bespoke four stacked system, which was put to test through a special two hour dub set from South London’s jazz wizard Joe Armon Jones and introduced the threat of tinnitus to new ravers and reinstated the importance of ear plugs to the older crowd.

Overall the sun failed to show up, but the musicians came through in full energy focused style to form what was an excellent return to what felt like a relatable yet fresh party in a muddy field.

Jack Carr-Miles

Check out our ‘heard at Brainchild’ DJ chart here

Photography credit – Jake Denton

Live review: Gorillaz – London, 02 Arena, 10/08/21

Everyone’s favourite animated band play host to the staff of the NHS with a free headline show at London’s O2


A humble thank you and tribute to the frontline workers, as well as a means of dusting off the cobwebs (this was the band’s first live show since last December), Gorillaz took the packed-out crowd on an immense, 32-song, career spanning adventure, complete with a slew of guests and dazzling stage production.

While you had your standard screens on either side of the stage focusing on the action, a third, much larger one, engulfed the background, bouncing hallucinatory visuals and re-workings of their iconic animated music videos directly at the audience. Shrouded in a veneer of darkness; the impressive live band, complete with two percussionists and approximately eight backing singers, conjured up expansive, tight-knit grooves, with a worldly, global trajectory.

Now, while Albarn and co have garnered quite a reputation for their collaborative projects and performances, tonight seemed epic even by their own standards. When you make the bold decision to bring out Robert Smith of The Cure for only the second song of the night (‘Strange Timez’), you’ve clearly got a number of aces up your proverbial sleeve.



Dropping several cuts from their latest project, ‘Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez’, helped to provide ample room for a bevvy of dynamic guests such as Slowthai (‘Momentary Bliss’), Peter Hook (‘Aries’), Leee John (‘The Lost Chord’) and EARTHGANG (‘Opium’), to name but a few.

Elsewhere, three new songs were played consecutively: ‘Meanwhile’ featuring Jelani Blackman, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ featuring AJ Tracey and ‘De Ja Vu’ with Alicai Harvey.

Deeper cuts from the initial trilogy of albums, the self-titled debut, Demon Days and Plastic Beach, all received attention, with fan favourites such as ‘Last Living Souls’, ‘Kids With Guns’, ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’, ‘Every Planet We Reach Is Dead’ and ‘Rhinestone Eyes’ all delivered to rapturous reception.

With the big fans down on the floor, jumping and swaying, while the less familiar took to the stalls, a true testament to the lasting power of the most iconic Gorillaz singles came from the universal pandemonium that tracks like ‘On Melancholy Hill’, ‘Dirty Harry’, and ’19-2000’ inspired.

Happy Mondays hero Shaun Ryder appeared for ‘DARE’, which was its own danceathon, EARTHGANG returned for ‘Stylo’ (complete with Bruce Willis visuals), Posdnuos of De La Soul showed up for ‘Feel Good Inc.’, and arguably the highlight of the night, Little Simz who joined the proceedings earlier in the night for ‘Garage Palace’, made a return to switch out the absent Del The Funky Homosapien, with her own fire verses on ‘Clint Eastwood’.

The mammoth, nearly three-hour set was finally brought to a close with ‘Don’t Get Lost In Heaven’ into ‘Demon Days’, just how their seminal sophomore accomplishment winds down on record.

A night for superfans and the unfamiliar alike, Damon Albarn and his cohorts truly used the Gorillaz project and his impressive array of networking contacts, to deliver a surreal dose of positive spectacle and escapism, as his way of saying thank you to those who deserve it most.

Zach Buggy

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