Surrealness and serenity defined Gilles Peterson’s second instalment of We Out Here Festival, which hosted 10,000 happy folk in Huntingdon over the weekend.
BBC Radio DJ, Worldwide FM founder and eclectic sound purveyor Gilles Peterson is simply a music fanatic. One listen of his 3 hour Saturday afternoon slot on 6 music will tell you this. Journeying you through the best in jazz, hiphop and electronic genres, the show not only lectures you on the history of his most beloved artists, but sets you off on an audible adventure into some of the world’s most progressive music scenes.
We Out Here festival is perhaps the curator’s most ambitious of projects. Hidden in Huntingdon’s shrubland, and taking place on the same grounds as Secret Garden Party, the four day weekender boasted one of the most enthralling line ups this year; revelling in the eclecticism hosted in Peterson’s own DJ sets. From the monotones of Lex Amor to the banging breaks of Overmono; and the abrasions of Addison Groove to the syncopations of Steam Down, there were countless names on the bill that we wanted to see, and the experience didn’t disappoint.
After pitching up and cracking open a cold one, we went to the bar to answer our all important question: how much would a pint of Beavertown be? Known as one of the more pricey craft ale brewers, we knew our wallets could be in for a hiding, but, with lost lager’s at £6.00 and gamma rays at £6.50, we managed to justify purchasing a few drinks. The incentive to get pissed on premium pints was also helped by the cup recycling scheme, where punters could trade in their stacks of plastics for stacks of cash; meaning that getting in said ratarsed condition (almost) felt free.
Obviously, it wasn’t the price of drinks, food, or even the vinyl in the ‘near mint record store’ that earmarked our festival experience - any commodity being sold in a muddy British field tends to come with a hefty price tag. We had come here for the music, which commenced properly on the Thursday. Most opening festival days are designed to settle the crowd into their newly found, and beautifully bizarre, surroundings. This, however, was not the case at We Out Here, which provided no maps and little signposting to where any of the stages were. We didn’t find the Labyrinth, which upheld one of the weekend’s best sound systems, until Saturday! Nevertheless, the standard of acts foraying the festival’s stages on Thursday was undeniable. Lex Amor, with her newly equipped live band, kick started our weekend; donning the stage with her adlibs; demanding energy from the crowd, and receiving it in abundance. ‘Mood’ and ‘Odogwu’ went down particularly well, as she initiated call and responses between her band’s instruments and the hundreds of fans.
Greentea Peng, who looked most at home in festival surroundings, watched on with a beaming smile; dancing away with her entourage of friends. Minutes later, she was also performing on Rhythm Corner’s stage; championing a set of psychedelic neo-soul cuts - an aesthetic that defined her debut album ‘MAN MADE’. With Al Wooton christening the Woodland, there was no time to take a breather. We charged through the fields and into one of the areas various forestries, which would later host Shanti Celeste. Both selectors brought their arsenal of rhythms to the entanglement of neon trees, but it was Batu’s set of tentacle-like techno that completely blew us away. Loefah and Zed Bias, who took to Lush Life at the same time, are both worthy of honourable mentions too.
No one has any right to have as much fun on a festival Thursday night as the We Out Here crowd did. And the surreal, post-lockdown party rolled straight into Friday’s proceedings. After seeing Peterson open up the MainStage, in surprisingly sunny weather, we stumbled across the Lemon Lounge, which became our favourite worst kept secret of the entire festival. Sets from Bradley Zero, U.K. Funky legend Crazy Cousinz, and Ahadadream were especially memorable - the latter of whom completely tore the paper maché lemon lanterns from Lemon Lounge’s ceiling with his blends of bongo heavy bass music. The 360 sound system, jolly ravers and incredibly comfy leather sofas created a space that never ceased to disappoint across the weekend.
One of numerous factors that epitomised We Out Here was its spirit of collaboration. The Hennessy tent, which offered free ginger flavoured cognac all weekend, had this in abundance on the Friday. Colliding Steam Down’s jazz with the erosive rhymes of Novelist, and the more syrupy lyricism of Che Lingo, the evening’s headliners brought an unrivalled energy to the festival. ‘Nov wait, stop wait, spin an emcee round the block, wait’ could be heard ringing around the entirety of Abbots Ripton’s grounds - and rightfully so. For an hour, any angst and anguishes possessed by the crowd were completely eroded. We could have gone back to our tent and slept satisfied from the night, but with a Tom Misch featuring Yussef Dayes set around the corner, and Joy Orbison taking to the 1s and 2s afterwards, we knew our time was far from up.
Peter O’Grady, better known as Joy Orbison, released his debut full-length LP a week prior to We Out Here, and so there was a cloud of anticipation hanging over his set. He got everyone grooving with ‘Better’, the most popular track from Still Slipping Vol. 1, before unleashing a U.K. Drill X Hyph Mngo mash up and a Garage edit of Juice Menace’s ‘No Speaking’; illustrating his diverse taste and choice in productions.
Saturday continued the weekend’s vibes, overcoming a few showers and potential for torrential rain. We were sincerely hoping to hear some Ama Piano at We Out Here, and luckily Benji B was on hand to play South Africa’s most celebrated dance genre. Shy One, Josey Rebelle and a 5 hour masterclass from Floating Points were also well worth noting.
Daughter of Neneh Cherry, and sister to Mabel, TYSON drew a significant crowd despite such an early start on the Sunday; forcing fans to trudge from the comfort of their camps to watch her woozy combination of R&B and Trip Hop. She performed completely solo, matching her dulcet tones with maverick-like control over a selection of synthesisers and loop machines. Both Benji B and Gilles Peterson watched on with their partners, meaning you know she’ll be one to keep an eye on over the next few years. Kahn and Neek were next, and they left us completely speechless. I don’t think we have ever had that much fun at a festival DJ set. The notorious dubstep names blended self-made classics with tunes as disparate as Tion Wayne and ArrDee’s ‘Wid It’, whilst providing plenty of dubplates for fans to get emotional over.
After a much needed Neck Oil, it was time for Sunday night headliners Sons of Kemet, who put on a visceral live performance. Seeing Shabaka Hutchings charm the crowd with his saxophone and Theo Cross respond through his tuba was an experience I won’t be forgetting for a while, as the quartet tore through tracks like ‘Thinking Of Home’ and ‘For The Culture’.
Addison Groove, DJ Die and Cambridge’s very own Inja closed off our We Out Here, delivering raw blends of anything between 130-175 BPM. Running around the stage like a weasel after an accidental nibble of speed, both selectors looked mind-blown by each other’s disk jockey dexterity; wheeling up their mixes with little remorse. Inja had to do very little to liven the crowd, but like all professional emcees, he did so any way; looking unfazed by the frequent changes in genre.
It had been two years since we last stepped our air max into a muddy field accompanied by thousands of complete strangers. Our excitement could have easily tainted and desensitised the experience, but We Out Here is clearly a well organised and well curated event for any music fan. With such a cultivated line up, and an array of happy souls to enjoy it, the festival’s formula was flawless, and we felt lucky to be apart of it. As a 30 minute car journey away from our hometown, there is no doubt in my mind we will be back in years to come.