Review by Cain Suleyman

On a slightly rainy day in London, the only glimmer of fresh summer vibes came from Victoria Park and All Points East as the first weekend came to a close. But before that time could come, a whole collection of sounds bursted out of the five stages with plenty of exciting artists displaying their work to the masses.

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Up first, Yves Tumor on the North Stage. It’s extremely rare that the first band you see at a festival turns out to be the biggest highlight of the day but this was absolutely the case here. Taking a short while to begin with technical difficulties, Yves began his set slow, with almost a soundcheck song, to then blow everyones minds with a twisted sound that cut extremely deep. ‘Licking An Orchid’ was a stand out tune as he simply focuses on communicating these beautiful sounds to surprisingly few spectators. I’d usually say this is a shame, but it made the experience all the more special and intimate.

When musicians talk to the audience it shows a bit of their personality, whether this is a fake or genuine persona. But it’s an extremely interesting dynamic when there is little or no talking in-between each song. This was the case with Yves Tumor as he powers through his set to share as many songs as possible. This matched his visual persona as well. A bright green wig and leather top couldn’t suit his overall image any better. An unfortunate amount of people think that Rock and Roll is dead. What I witnessed in this set couldn’t falsify this statement enough. It may not look the way it used to, but it has evolved into something ugly and beautiful at the same time. To put this evolution into an act, Yves Tumor and his band held that perfectly. I was fixated for the whole set and not even five minutes has passed before I bought tickets to see his only UK gig two days later. If you haven’t had the pleasure of being graced with these sounds, do yourself a favour and drop whatever you’re doing to check him out. Nothing else can be more important.

Just when I thought I could have a bit of a rest from the intensity of what I’d just seen, I get hit with a wall anarchic bars from the one and only Princess Nokia. Opening with ‘Tomboy’ she bounds onto the stage with two dancers as they dominate the stage without an ounce of effort. But when she cranks up the volume, everyone is witness to someone who’s breaking down stereotypes in an industry that would usually reject someone of her character. It’s not difficult to find evidence that rap is an extremely male dominated genre and it’s extremely difficult to find a female rapper that is worthy of contributing sounds to the genre’s history. Princess Nokia couldn’t be a more perfect example of a woman that deserves to be in the position she’s in.

She’s just a bundle of energy that doesn’t seem to have a stop button. Shaking about and dominating her 45 minutes without a break. It’s ‘Kitana’ that really made me see how important an artist she is for her genre. Yes, this is an industry dominated by the opposite sex, but she doesn’t care. It’s quite apparent that she’s doing exactly what makes her and she will do exactly what she want’s.

Walking around the festival having been blasted in the ears by two incredible artists, I thought it was time to take a little step back and calm the brain waves down. Well what better way to do this than to be witness to a collective that is bringing back a hidden genre to the masses. I was extremely fortunate enough to have the sweet sounds of Jazz in my ears with Kasami Washington. A north stage with no room on it was taken up by two giant towers, holding the same number of drummers, double bass and a giant synth set up backed up the incredible saxophonist who fronted the whole set.

It’s extremely impossible to describe the sounds I heard. Many layers of intricate and complex musicianship layers on top of one another is a beauty that should be appreciated by everyone in earshot. I felt relaxed and chaotic at exactly the same time. The skill that each of these musicians contributed to each song made me wish I could play the same way. The dynamics when listening to their music online are just perfect, but experiencing them in the flesh is a whole high that is indescribable. You feel at one with the music in an incredibly spiritual experience. It is a moment that I didn’t want to end, but sadly had to come to a close for me to reflect on the emotional rollercoaster I was on.

As the end of the day grew closer and closer, I was beginning to feel the blues. So what better way to cure this than to be graced with the presence of Mercury award winner, James Blake. As soon as he started playing there was a silence so pure you could hear a pin drop. All eyes on Blake, all ears towards the stage and tears began to touch the grass beneath our feet. It’s a completely transcending experience to get wrapped up in the contradiction of sounds that come from this genius’ brain. ‘Limit to your Love’ but no limit to our love for this song. Strong sassy piano creates a bed for the sweet and delicate vocals to rest upon, before sudden tremors of bass hit our chests and draw us even closer to the man on stage. At this stage all I can do is close my eyes and feel myself step out of my body to fully appreciate this experience. And what an experience it is.

He begins to wrap up his set by playing a song that so many people can relate to in today’s world. It’s not often that you can say there isn’t a dry eye in immediate sight but during this song, that was absolutely the case. Dealing with vital issues in depression and isolation, ‘Don’t Miss It’ allows us to open ourselves to a vulnerable state of connecting with our inner selves. It’s an emotional song, which is exactly why Blake takes to the mic to tell us to share how we feel. So many artists are doing this in their music, which can only be a good thing for the world.

To finish up the day and weekend Christine and the Queens takes to the stage with her new style and routines to bring a stronger visual to her music. It’s a weird dynamic because it’s something that really does need to be seen in full detail, but the cameras are only able to pick up a certain amount and, at a distance, a lot can be missed. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was dancing and the intentions of the music were well received by those who stuck around to watch. There just felt to be a part of the overall performance that was missed. Whether this was due to technical reasons or the lack of people who stayed for the whole set, it didn’t feel that this was the correct way to close a festival. She was fantastic, with ‘Tilted’ and ‘Girlfriend’ being screamed by everyone in the area, but headlining material? I’m not 100% sure.

The festival was fantastic. There was a perfect array of artists and plenty of spectators experiencing the festival’s second year in business. I think we will be seeing a lot more from this festival.

Photography provided by Outside Org

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