Wild Life Festival @ Shoreham Airport – 11-12 June 2016

Last weekend Wild Life Festival returned to Shoreham Airport for its second year. With a sell-out Saturday and reaching very close to capacity on Sunday, revellers enjoyed performances by a diverse array of artists from Grammy-nominated rapper Busta Rhymes to Brit award-winning singer James Bay, with a healthy dose of hip hop, grime and dance artists thrown in for good measure.

Having threatened to rain all week, miraculously even the weather held up with only a slight drizzle on Sunday. Legendary N.W.A. member Ice Cube performed with his son Doughboy against a backdrop created by Lancing College and an army of workers ensured the runways were clear again by Monday morning.

Boasting an impressive line-up, curated by headliners Disclosure and Rudimental, the bill featured a credible selection of grime and hip hop talent including De La Soul, Stormzy and Skepta, reggae/dancehall champion David Rodigan, drum ‘n’ bass king Andy C, UK garage selector DJ EZ, R&B flavours from Brighton’s own Rag‘n’Bone Man, plus a smattering of indie pop from the likes of Bastille.

Saturday saw De La Soul perform in the Big Top tent, playing hip hop classics such as ‘Me, Myself And I’, but bizarrely not ‘The Magic Number’, possibly their most well-known song. Bringing a mix of classic and contemporary reggae vibes to the main stage, David Rodigan showed no sign of slowing down at the ripe old age of 64.

Hip hop giant of the naughties Busta Rhymes, busted out time-honoured tunes, such as ‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’ and got the crowd fist pumping to ‘Gimme Some More’. Annie Mac went on a massive ego trip with huge visuals of her own head before the day’s top billing Disclosure put on an underwhelming set, relying heavily on impressive lighting and production. For the hardcore partiers, Wilkinson and Andy C rinsed out some heavy drum ‘n ‘bass in the Supercharged tent, despite encountering technical problems.

Sunday festivities included acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, Jack Garratt with his one man show and pint-sized rocker James Bay, belting out crowd-pleaser ‘Hold Back the River’. Inside the Big Top, Jamie Woon performed a flawless set, including ‘Lady Luck’ from his first album ‘Mirrorwriting’ and ‘Celebration’ from his new album ‘Making Time’. With the tight band clearly enjoying themselves, fantastic male backing singers/dancers and an appreciative audience, this was a highlight of the weekend.

Back on the main stage, Ice Cube whipped the crowd into a frenzy with hip hop bangers ‘You Can Do It’, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘It Was A Good Day’. Headliners Rudimental absolutely smashed it with a high-energy, visually exciting show. Joined by vocalists Will Heard and Anne-Marie Nicholson, they belted out ‘Never Let You Go’ and ‘I Will for Love’ before things took an edgier turn, sampling Damian Marleys’ ‘Welcome To Jamrock’ and Shy FX’s ‘Original Nuttah’. Closing with a euphoric ‘Waiting All Night’, it’s fair to say these guys really come into their own at a festival.

The festival’s event manager, Steve Walton said, “This year’s Wild Life Festival was a fantastic success for all involved. The feedback from both artists and the public has been amazing and the buzz around Shoreham by Sea all weekend was great to see. It was always going to be hard to top 2015 but we did it!”

Whether it topped last year’s festival is debatable. While issues from the 2015 event, such as bus queues, appeared to have largely been addressed, there were still long queues at the entrance gates and security was a bit of a joke. The festival policy stated “persons aged under 16 must be accompanied by an adult over the age of 18″. However, security didn’t seem to be checking ID and were letting unaccompanied children in, who were clearly younger than 16. There were too many kids in a bad way, some even being stretchered out by paramedics, which isn’t what anyone wants to witness at a festival. Also, charging £7 for a programme, which should be freely available to anyone who bought a ticket, and £6.50 for a vodka and coke, is taking the biscuit. Gripes aside, it was a brilliant weekend.

Also published in the SOURCE




Funk The Format @ Hove Park – 29 May 2016

File 2-06-2016, 9 53 47 PMWith just the right number of people, chilled vibes and enticing food and drink options, entering the small Funk The Format festival at Hove Park on a gloriously sunny Sunday, the overall impression was of relaxation and positive vibrations. Besides the bands playing the main stage and the DJs in the Club Tropicana tent, there was entertainment for the good-natured crowd in every direction, from trapeze artists and hula hoopers to giant flamingos and unicyclists.

Relatively new Tru Thoughts signing J-Felix, aka producer and multi-instrumentalist Joe F Newman, supported by soulful female vocalist Abi Flynn, warmed things up nicely with the P-Funk and boogie sounds which feature heavily in his music. ‘Keep On (We Ain’t Here For Long)’ from his 2015 debut album ‘101 Reasons’ went down particularly well. Having recently supported Hot 8 Brass Band and shared a stage with Roy Ayers, expect to see him at many more festivals this summer.

Next up Normanton Street, a local band gaining a reputation for their live gigs, brought their unique blend of hip hop and soul to proceedings, playing a comprehensive set, including ‘New Dawn’, ‘Take A Walk With Me’ and ‘This Way’, plus new tracks ‘Take Time’ and ‘Angeline’. Having just released ‘Life’s Real’, the latest in a series of EPs, the four-piece will be touring the festival circuit and surely an album must be in the pipeline.

Nubiyan Twist took a while to set up (not surprising given the number of musicians on the small stage) and the uninspiring interval music playing on a loop didn’t help. However, once they got going, the twelve-piece outfit were a revelation, energising the crowd with their fantastic horn section and versatile frontwoman Nubiya Brandon. Possessing an effortless rapping style and a singing voice reminiscent of Andreya Triana, she was quite enchanting. Standout tracks such as ‘Hypnotised’ and ‘Figure Numatic’ fusing afrobeat, jazz, hip hop and dub, will have gleaned a significant number of new fans.

The sun-kissed visitors flocked to the stage (in an extremely civilised manner) for veteran DJ Norman Jay, who played a surprisingly low-key set, which was slightly disappointing, but he reassured us he was “keeping it funky, keeping it jazzy”. Whilst not quite as uplifting as his legendary Notting Hill Carnival Good Times sets, he still got the happy crowd dancing and singing along to tunes like ‘Living For The City’ by Stevie Wonder.

Finally, the headline act everyone was hyped for, Soul II Soul exceeded expectations, putting on a practiced, polished performance. Starting with two female violinists alone on stage, later joined by four gorgeous backing singers complete with choreographed dance routines, one of Britain’s finest soul singers Caron Wheeler then graced the stage, blowing every other singer that day out of the park with the classic 80s hit ‘Keep On Movin’’. The main man Jazzie B joined the others in his signature hat for ‘Jazzie’s Groove’, expounding love for “UK black” music with lyrics like “a happy face, a thumpin’ bass, for a lovin’ race” – how can you argue with that? Other hits from their back catalogue included a moving rendition of ‘I Care’ and of course, when Jazzie asked the audience what they wanted, ‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’ was the song of choice.

Props to festival founder Lucy ‘Elle J’ Small for a very well-organised debut event, from the poor sods topping up the toilet paper to the excellent line-up and entertainment. Taking the stage at the end to thank those involved in creating the festival and more importantly, the festivalgoers themselves, she said it had surpassed her dreams. Most would agree Funk The Format was a consummate success and looks set to be an annual fixture on the festival calendar.

Also published in the SOURCE


Haçienda Classical @ Brighton Dome – 20 May 2016


The Haçienda nightclub in Manchester became famous in the ‘Madchester’ years of the late 80s and early 90s for unlicensed, drug-fuelled raves and the rise of acid house, which married dance beats with a psychedelic, 60s flavour and drew parallels with the hedonism and freedom of the Summer of Love two decades earlier. Recreating the club classics of the ‘Second Summer of Love’ and adding a unique twist, Haçienda Classical fuses a full live orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, with the DJs who shaped The Haçienda’s sound – Mike Pickering and Graeme Park.

With the 70-piece orchestra at the forefront, DJs Pickering and Park on decks above them, vocalists on the left and percussionists to the right, the stage was set at the Brighton Dome for some big sounds. Big sounds that only came intermittently in the event.

A lively crowd of ageing 80s children, wearing fluorescent flower garlands around their necks, created a tangibly upbeat atmosphere inside the Concert Hall. However, the first couple of tunes were barely audible, causing some grumblings around the venue. Thankfully the sound seemed to improve for the classic 90s dancefloor banger ‘Ride On Time’ as you’ve never heard it before. The conductor and musicians were clearly revelling in the music and nostalgia, almost as much as the joyful audience with arms flailing in the air and huge grins on their faces. People in the balconies were up off their seats and the whole place went ‘mad for it’.

The hype man MC Tunes left a lot to be desired, possessing little stage presence and dodgy rapping skills, but the superb vocalists made up for it with their gospel rendition of Joe Smooth’s ‘Promised Land’, sending the congregation into raptures and singing along with every word. Then Peter Hook appeared stage right with his bass guitar to riff out the Happy Mondays’ anthem ‘Step On’, again encountering volume problems to the point that it took a while to recognise what was being played.

However, by the time the ensemble got to Armand Van Helden’s house hit ‘U Don’t Know Me’, the crowd was positively euphoric. There was only one possible signature hit left for the encore and sure enough, a fantastic version of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’ left the jubilant crowd satiated, elated and transported back to a time when summers were full of love.

Also published in the SOURCE

Normanton Street @ Patterns – 15 April 2016

12909637_10156656568175214_4768224252742723807_oFresh from their crowdfunded SxSW Festival slot, local band Normanton Street launched their latest EP Life’s Real downstairs at Patterns, supported by three other Brighton-based outfits: Lebeaux, One Eyed Jacks, and Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn.

This four-piece hip-hop/soul group has garnered a loyal following, reflected by the sizeable crowd they attracted and band members Ned, Nicholson, Phoebe and Nico showed their appreciation by putting on an energetic, jovial performance. Ned on bass guitar was particularly animated, almost headbanging, along with some fancy footwork and very entertaining to watch.

Lead singer, Phoebe Freya effortlessly filled the room with her soulful, bluesy tones, contrasting with Nicholson’s northern twang, spitting personal and often humorous stories, over bassy, laidback beats, while Ned’s smooth spoken words enveloped the audience like a cozy blanket. Playing a selection of tracks from their back catalogue, highlights included New Dawn, Take a Walk With Me and This Way, obviously well known by the faithful crowd, many of whom were singing along to the lyrics. New tracks Take Time and Angeline went down well and show the band are honing their unique sound.

These guys clearly love the stage and chatting after the show, Nicholson said they had a short break from gigging in the autumn and were all suffering withdrawal symptoms, because ‘it’s like an addiction’. With their enthusiasm, passion and talent, life is indeed real for Normanton Street.

Moderat @ Brighton Dome – 7th April 2016

12963595_10154815253923146_5776227692700996986_nFormed in Berlin by electronic music producers Apparat and Modeselektor, the supergroup Moderat has just released their third collaboration, aptly titled III. Following the trajectory of the equally suitably named Moderat and II, their latest album refines the unique combination of Modeselektor’s deep techno and Apparat’s pared back, emotive electro.

A week into their world tour, they were originally due to play at the Corn Exchange and upgraded to the larger capacity Concert Hall, due to high demand. This was a good move, as the standing area was packed out, as well as most of the balcony seating, with excited punters, buzzing with expectation. The sign on the screen warned ‘This is a dark show’ and requested no flash photography.

After a warm up set by Shed, Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary of Modeselektor positioned themselves behind their synthesisers either side of the stage, looking like a couple of bouncers, and the first bassy note filled the room. The lanky, angular presence that is Sascha Ring aka Apparat, then filled the gap in the middle, his pitch-perfect voice coming in for the first track from the new album, Eating Hooks, a slow-burning intro that hinted at deeper, dirtier things to come. The visuals of disembodied arms in symbolic positions, created a slightly sinister atmosphere.

As the tempo gradually increased, an extended version of Running whipped the crowd into a frenzy of flailing arms and nodding heads, as the geometric shapes and Moderat graphics on screen, paired with carefully considered lasers and strobe lights, enhanced the sensory experience. Ring’s vocals on Reminder, reminiscent of Thom Yorke, sent shivers down the spine, while the distorted background baritone, demanding ‘burning bridges light my way’, echoed the elephant trumpeting sound sampled on everyone’s favourite Moderat track Bad Kingdom.

Tracks such as Finder and The Fool, with its shaky keyboard melody vibrating throughout the hall, took things down a notch, before Rusty Nails ramped up the pace again. A glance up to stage right confirmed the audience with seats were on their feet and going just as wild as those below.

These electronic music pioneers know how to work a crowd and came back to perform Bad Kingdom for the encore, giving the people exactly what they wanted. To say this went down an absolute storm would be an understatement. Just when everyone was turning to leave, they came back for a surprise second encore, to mellow us all out with the primal call in Intruder, Apparat planting a seed with the lyrics ‘when I sleep at night’.

With ears left ringing, we wouldn’t be surprised if many of those present had vivid dreams after witnessing this audiovisual display of knob-twiddling genius.

Danke schoen Moderat.

Also published in the SOURCE

Submotion Orchestra @ Concorde 2 – 12th March 2016

Let me start by saying this was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a while. Every member of the band is super talented and played a tight, faultless set. They are one of the rare acts that sound better live than recorded. The absence of lead singer and new mother Ruby Wood was no bad thing, as the three guest vocalists were all excellent and added great variety to the performance.

I came to Submotion late, having missed their first two albums Finest Hour and Fragments. It was only when they released Alium in 2014 that I discovered their eclectic sound spanning electronica, bass, ambient, jazz and dub ‘that sits somewhere on an axis between Bonobo and London Grammar.’ Their latest album Colour Theory goes a step further with meticulously crafted production and fresh, young talent on guest vocals, creating a cohesive album with elegance and finesse.

The five-piece band started aptly with Intro from Fragments, filling the Concorde with powerful, yet delicate music. The first guest vocalist Alyusha was then introduced – a vision in a beautifully embroidered kimono and the face of a geisha – to sing Red Dress, the first track from the new album and she certainly did it justice, sharing the purity of Wood’s voice but with a unique tone, she was utterly mesmerising. She seemed a little nervous to start with, but soon got into her groove with Time Will Wait and Blind Spot from Fragments; the enthusiastic crowd singing along, encouraging her to let rip on that feelgood line ‘so bless us all’ before the spine-tingling drum beat kicks in.

Next up was the brilliantly named Billy Boothroyd, a fellow member of Shlomo’s The Vocal Orchestra and guest vocalist on Colour Theory’s More Than This, which he sang with heart and soul. A self-assured singer with a goosebump-inducing voice, he brought the house down with his rendition of the earth shatteringly bassy In Gold. As third guest vocalist Andrew Ashong pointed out, both he and Alyusha ‘have got some serious pipes’.

Mr Ashong was a pleasant surprise guest, having decided to jump on the train from London to Brighton after enjoying the company of SubMo so much the previous night at Electric Brixton. His track Needs on the new album is one of my favourites, so I was delighted to hear it live from the man himself. Another up and coming homegrown talent, Andrew was full of praise for his fellow musicians and had a calm, understated presence.

After the Japanese influenced Kimono, Alyusha returned to the stage for the crowd-pleasing It’s Not Me It’s You, before the guys showcased their musicianship and synth-twiddling prowess with Thousand Yard Stare; their clear enjoyment and immersion in the music both infectious and impressive. All three singers then collaborated on Worries, their voices complementing each other respectfully.

Back for an encore after much applause and foot-stomping, Billy covered Hymn For Him, hitting the high notes effortlessly, before the last song of the night: All Yours from their first album, sung with a big smile by Alyusha and a gorgeous trumpet solo from Bobby Beddoe. As my sister put it, this is ‘make you feel alive music’.

Also published on Earlybird Media


Daughter @ Brighton Dome – 17th January 2016

DaughterDaughter appeared on my radar when I heard their track Youth on the advert for the Tour de France, which prompted me to check out their debut album If You Leave. To my ear most of the songs, although understated and elegant, sound quite similar, using the same low-key indie folk formula with frontwoman Elena Tonra’s breathy, high-pitched vocals singing melancholy lyrics of love and loss.

The three-piece band, supported by a female keyboardist, guitarist and backing singer, are currently on tour having recently released their follow-up album Not To Disappear, which to all intents and purposes offers more of the same. Their set at the Dome was a mixture of old and new, their strange lack of physical presence on stage made more interesting by the moody lighting and somewhat excessive smoke. Unfortunately, there was a lot of reverb noise from the wall behind us, which was distracting and not great for a venue of such repute!

After playing new track Doing the Right Thing, a touching song about dementia, Tonra admitted that she’d headbutted the mic, which was ‘quite painful and not very cool’. Oblivious to this, we chuckled at the refreshingly down-to-earth comment. Hers and guitarist Igor Haefeli’s rather awkward banter between songs only endeared the audience further. Alone/With You was another poignant song exploring another epidemic of our age: loneliness. However, the standout tracks for me, such as the angrier Human with its persistent guitar riff and the slowly building Winter were from the first album and I still think there’s more light and shade on this album, but maybe the second one requires further listening.