Wide Awake Festival Review at Brockwell Park

Wide Awake Festival Review at Brockwell Park

by GrumpyRaver / May 30, 2024 / 0 comments
Saturday, 25 May 2024

Even amongst the undoubtedly crowded London day festival landscape, Wide Awake has managed to carve out a unique niche over recent years—melding indie, post-punk, electronica, and pop into a lineup that somehow seems utterly effortless and natural. This year’s edition was no exception. I decided to make the most of the glorious weather and get to Brockwell Park early to sample some of the lesser-known acts on the bill, with two grabbing me for long enough to divert my attention away from the many culinary delights on offer. Special Interest’s brand of infectious electronic punk was the perfect fit for those attempting to ease their way into the day’s programming, and despite being beset by the type of poor sound mix which often afflicts acts appearing early at festivals, frontperson Alli Logout’s energy and dynamism more than made up for it. After a wander through a couple of the smaller tents where I caught glimpses of bubblegum pop from Hannah Diamond and the delectable jazz-infused hard rock of YHWH Nailgun, I stumbled upon Babe Rainbow, whose brand of psychedelic surf rock fitted their sunny afternoon slot perfectly.

The arrival of Bodega really kicked the day into gear, though, with their catchy alt-rock catalogue packing a much bigger punch in the live arena than expected. The New York quintet bristled with energy, fun, and charisma in equal measure, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see them return in a more prominent slot in the coming years. Next up on the main stage was Dry Cleaning, offering the exact type of sharp contrast which this festival clearly thrives on. Attracting one of the day’s biggest crowds, they entranced, soothed, and intrigued in equal measure, while exuding bucketloads of charm. Thanks to the masterful clashless programming of the main and mercifully close second stage, I was able to keep up the high band count and catch Fat Dog, whose assured performance of their increasingly solid repertoire was somewhat devalued by some bizarre theatrics which, in my opinion, failed to really land. Which definitely wasn’t the case for Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul, as the acclaimed duo turned in the kind of effortlessly brilliant performance they’re becoming increasingly known for—the magnetic Adigery filling every inch of the sparse stage with charismatic majesty, while Pupul weaved a seamless mix of beats, bleeps, and bass underneath in perfect harmony.

Away from the bands, Wide Awake also featured a ridiculously strong lineup of DJs, which I would have been quite happy to have consigned myself to entirely (if it hadn’t made for a slightly distorted review of the festival). While missing the likes of Ben UFO, David Holmes, and OK Williams, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch one of techno’s biggest stars, Helena Hauff, as I grabbed some dinner. And in so doing, I had the increasingly rare experience as a middle-aged raver of learning an important lesson—no matter how good a DJ is, and how good a set they’re serving up, it will still feel unnervingly bizarre if it’s in broad daylight, you’re almost entirely sober, and you’re shovelling mac and cheese down your throat. Cutting my losses, I dived over to catch Optimo, whose slower, more eclectic brand of dance music was definitely much better suited for those sunny early evening vibes, and provided the perfect gateway to the business end of the day.

And boy, Young Fathers certainly meant business. Seeing a band right at the top of their game as a live force is a truly breathtaking thing, and a treat that is in store for anyone who catches the Mercury Award winners any time soon. Ridiculously tight, anarchic, slick, soulful, measured, raw, and visceral in perfect synchronicity, their set galloped through all the highlights of Heavy Heavy with pit stops at all the other tracks you’d hope to visit along the way. The stage presence of every member was utterly beguiling—the contrasts of each style entirely disparate and unique, but somehow also totally complementary and inextricable. This is a band that has clearly found their place and their voice, so sure of their abilities that they’ll just stand in silence and stare into the crowd between songs, absorbing the energy surging their way before launching into another beautiful audio assault. We’re only at the start of the summer, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was the best festival set I see this year.

Slowdive provided the ideal counterpoint to Young Fathers—their meandering, hypnotic dreamscapes the perfect palate cleanser after such a sensory overload. The shoegaze legends were never ones to really excite, even in their heyday, and their performance here went according to the script, washing over me in the best possible kind of way. Wielding a piercing delicacy that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find, the veterans put on a supremely accomplished show—albeit one that I struggle to recall anything remarkable from.

As the final swells of reverb receded from the second stage, it appeared that absolutely everybody at the festival was being drawn to the main stage in tandem by the howling noise suddenly emanating from it. As the thunderous drums and crunching opening chords of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Planet B echoed across the site, scores of people flocked towards its source like a siren’s call. But, as you may expect from a reviewer with this pseudonym, I was being called elsewhere… to another thunderous beat emanating from the top of the hill, inviting me into its embrace. And once there, the small group of techno devotees who chose to answer Modeselektor’s call were richly rewarded. One of their first DJ sets after a two and a half year break to release and tour another Moderat album, the duo more than made up for lost time by unleashing an unrelenting masterclass in the craft. Expertly demonstrating their impeccable credentials as selectors, they plunged into just the right levels of obscurity and familiarity (a single refrain from Bad Kingdom standing in sharp contrast to the all-too-boring self-playouts that most producers rely on when behind the decks), holding the crowd in the palm of their hand throughout. The perfect end to a really great day. Thank you, Wide Awake—I really don’t know what we’d do without you.

By GrumpyRaver

Rating out of 11: