“I don’t make one type of music, so thank you for staying on this journey with me,” says Eva Lazarus as she entertains the crowd between tracks on the Hennessy Stage. It’s a quote that’s not only indicative of the vocalist’s discography but We Out Here as a whole. Gilles Peterson’s four-day weekender is as eclectic as it comes, revelling in disparity, and for its third instalment, homing legends like Underground Resistance and new-wave soulstress’ like Ojerime. Over 12 stages of other-worldly musical goodness, the Worldwide FM founder curates a line-up of 150 acts to satisfy music hipsters – who descend on Abbots Ripton for their fix of unheard and largely undiscovered sounds.
But We Out Here doesn’t just accommodate the country’s community of vinyl-collecting, coffee and craft ale drinkers. A focus on cosmic club music, jazz and hip hop attract a crowd as universal as the music that’s played there. As the festival’s gates open on Thursday, revellers of all ages and demographics stumble through the rain and quickly pitch up their tents. Unlike many festivals, We Out Here’s Thursday programme is as good, if not better, than the other days.
O’Flynn’s globetrotting selection of electronica kickstarts many people’s weekend at Rhythm Corner. Meanwhile, through a patch of neighbouring trees, John Glacier’s slurry delivery and narcotic beats are booming from Lush Life’s intimate settings. George Riley then picks up the tempo, sending shockwaves through the crowd with her spiritual fusions of RnB, jazz and broken beat. Whilst Lush Life continues to introduce punters to Britain’s most promising performers, Rhythm Corner maintains a dedicated crowd craving the dystopian four-to-the-floor selections of Two Shell, Jossy Mitsu and Overmono. Despite some early technical issues, ravers are royally treated on Thursday night, and with new-wave junglist Tim Reaper and producer Parris scrapping for attention in the woods, clashes quickly become a headache, but a pleasant one nonetheless.
On Friday, We Out Here awakes to bright skies and Gilles Peterson’s peaceful grooves. The DJ opens up the main stage with a set in ode to his illustrious record collection, shuffling from technic to technic and charming the crowd to their feet as the selections gather pace. Lemon Lounge’s three-sixty soundsystem and open decks showcase is blessed in the early afternoon with a girls-only lineup of DJs, who batter the brain-rattling rig with their club blends. Unwilling to be defined by genre, all the selectors leave their sets to rapturous applauds; you could stay at Lemon Lounge all day, and many do, but with Fabio and Grooverider taking to the mainstage, DnB heads rush across the grasslands for some faster tempos. Powering through a chronological set of jungle classics, the pioneers, with help from the Outlook Orchestra, provide an unorthodox drum and bass lesson for old and new fans alike.
Several takeovers and anniversary celebrations happen at We Out Here across the weekend. Hessle Audio (Ben UFO, Pearson Sound and Pangaea) honour their fifteen-year-existence by going back-to-back on Rhythm Corner’s blistering soundsystem, but its Touching Bass’s ‘Forest’ takeover that gets the headlines on Friday night. Jamz Supernova’s root rattling selections warm up the proceedings before Hagan takes to the 1s and 2s for a coalescence of ama piano and tribal bass music.
Brimming with sets from some of the country’s most subversive artists, Saturday shows no signs of the energy easing up. One of the site's more inconspicuous spots, The Love Dancin’ stage, turns into a ballroom of happy ravers, who freely and freakishly cut shapes to Nabihah Iqbal and Mr Scruff’s blends of balearic. Over on the Hennessey Stage, grime and jazz heads are packed like sardines, awaiting Steam Down’s collaborative performance with legendary wordsmith D Double E. Hearing the rapper’s idiosyncratic adlibs and unmistakable punchlines over the band’s polyrhythms instantly become a highlight and embodies the festival’s collaborative spirit.
Pharaoh Sanders’ spirituality casts a spell over the festival on Sunday. The 81-year-old, ethereal jazz figure headlines the mainstage after an afternoon dedicated exclusively to musical improvisation and exploration. A sunny evening also invites a radiant set from dub legend Jah Sheka, whose positive vibes seize a crowd of dub-thirsty revellers. Meanwhile, Mancunian songster [KSR] serenades the sleepier population with his soul-filling croons over at Lush Life. Later, IG Culture takes to the same stage for a heavy-weight mix of old and new school Bruk, proving the genre is still alive and well in his safe and capable hands.
Defiant and daring, We Out Here’s trust in eclecticism is a trait its peers should pay attention to. Still in its infancy, the festival’s swashbuckling lineup comes at the expense of any major décor or extravagant set designs, but where else can you roller disco to ama piano or have an early morning limbo disco session (shout out to the Lemon Lounge!)? We Out Here’s become a serious player on the U.K. festival circuit, and with only three years under its belt, we are excited to see where Peterson and Co take it next.