Gilles Peterson's We Out Here is well on its way to becoming a fixture of the UK summer
An excellent curation of jazz, house, afrobeats and more in its debut year
Gilles Peterson is the figurehead for We Out Here, a new festival that brings together the UK’s burgeoning jazz scene and its age-old love of ‘avin it in a field. Named after the compilation of new jazz talent released on his Brownswood label last year, the line-up for its first edition featured swathes of under-the-radar artists who were a joy to stumble across at the most opportune moments of the weekend.
Friday was We Out Here’s only wet day and as the rains poured we took shelter at the Lemon Lounge, a small domed tent lined with warm, custom-built speakers. Eliza Rose, a newly named XOYO resident, lifted spirits with a mid-afternoon session of soulful UKG. Carefully moving through dubby, percussive rollers and stone-cold bangers, she celebrated getting this corner of the festival going with covert shots of neat tequila. It's in the packed out Lemon Lounge we witness Worldwide FM's Leanne Wright deliver some crisp house and garage - Mr G's 'Transient' and 24 Hour Experience's 'Allnighter' being standouts - before Tenderlonious takes over with jazz and soul-inflected house cuts from Kerri Chandler and Byron The Aquarius.
On the way to see Carista on Sunday evening, we get sidetracked by a rousing set of hard, chunky, instrumental afrobeats. Nigerian artist Ekiti Sound cuts right through the end-of-weekend lag and makes us never want to leave, the Woodland stage creating the perfect setting for loose dance moves and festival silliness, thanks to the lush surrounds and, erm, recreation of an old British boozer.
One of the highlights of the weekend is Love Dancin, the audiophile soundsystem summoned into existence by Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and Daddy Ad. The system is tucked inside a white marquee, complete with wooden dancefloor and large disco ball, giving the whole affair a suitably celebratory feel. The vibe is warm and up-for-it across all four days, with Colleen’s uplifting, sweat-soaked selections and SNO’s long, hard afrobeat session particular highlights. Give Love Dancin a few more years and it’ll be one of those must-see festival stages.
In the age of homogenous festival line-ups it’s refreshing that We Out Here’s curators have put so much trust into rising stars, local heroes and (as yet) unsung talent. Brawnswood, the go-to bar for hangover-curing Bloody Marys, is a hub for this. Worldwide FM's Marina goes back-to-back with jazz vocalist Yazmin Lacey (also a DJ) on Saturday afternoon, bringing a set packed full of soul, broken beat and afrobeats. Hear: Angie Stone 'Wish I Didn't Miss You', Ear Dis 'Hey Girl' and Dave and Burna Boy's 'Location'.
There’s also notable emphasis on the elders – figures such as Theo Parrish, François K, Mr Scruff and Channel One – who are given extended sets in order to impart their musical wisdom. It all feels like a sharp left turn away from the hype of the generic dance music circuit.
But of course the festival offers some wide-screen experiences from its “headliners”. At the far end of We Out Here’s site, past the hangover-busting swimming lake and the landscaped rolling greenery, sits the main stage, playing host to Mala and the Outlook Orchestra, who render the dubstep producer’s cult hits in glorious high definition, soaking this corner of Cambridgeshire in swathes of holy low-end; Tirzah appears in a waterproof jacket and makes us fall in love with her low-key bedroom bangers all over again as the heavens empty; and The Comet Is Coming take their astral jazz to the next level, as their set peaks, troughs and peaks again, higher than anything they’ve committed to record, their improv finale rendered stunning in hefty strobe lighting.
It’s clear this is We Out Here’s first year: some of the site feels sparse and not as immersive as it could be (especially compared with Secret Garden Party, which used to occupy the land) and there aren’t many side attractions, aside from Worldwide FM’s chill-out tent and some rowdy dodgems. But the sound is crisp throughout the festival and the curation excellent, which means We Out Here should go on to evolve and become a fixture of the UK summer. If an emotional end-of-weekend speech by Gilles Peterson is anything to go by, plans for the next edition are already rolling.
Seb Wheeler is Mixmag's Head Of Digital, follow him on Twitter
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