Monday, 2 July 2012

RocNation In The Wild - BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekender (Event Review)



As the literal world is now aware, BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra put on the London Borough of Hackney's biggest ever event on the 23rd and 24th June.

100 Artists and DJs performed for 100,000 people across both days, at an especially adapted festival site hitherto only graced by football and cricket teams on 6 of their 89 green pitches of, well, mud...

A complete festival novice (I saw the Jimi Hendrix Story once and there was a Woodstock scene...but that's really about it); my sole preparation consisted of heavy duty Snow boots in lieu of Wellingtons I have not owned since I was about 3. Multiple layers to combat the cold I do not do; copious amounts of tissues and antibacterial hand gel (rows upon rows of portaloos - 600+ I do believe - need I say more?!).

Arriving just after 9AM, with a 4-hour wait across each of the 5 queue points from the box office to final security check, my goal of the day was to survive until headliner Jay Z; sustaining my musical appetite on vocal delights from the likes of Leona Lewis, Delilah, Jessie Ware and a little bit of Rita Ora. I was even willing to endure a certain dark-hued, (currently) blonde 'Barb' for one Drassick DIGITAL, since the sojourn was for his birthday treat, after all.


One can only assume the BBC felt justified in charging £7 per programme because the event tickets were free + postage (which also relied on your receiving your tickets in the post, which I did not). Unfortunately for them, very few people agreed and the broadcasters opened themselves up to the obvious - attendees taking pictures of the programme on their phones / cameras and using those to navigate between the line ups on all six stages.

Having missed Jessie (Ware) and Rita by the time we were fed and watered; Leona was already underway, having opened on the main stage. I will say Bless the Beeb for the big screens because without them, you were purely looking at moving dots on stages big enough to have been mistaken for small cities (Amazing design feats; if you can get to view the story of the build please do, as the team who erected them all deserve a huge amount of recognition). It wasn't until Leona was halfway through 'Bleeding Love' that my naked eye actually caught sight of her flapping wrap in the wind...




To the 'In New Music We Trust' stage for a double next - top of the BBC's 'Sound of 2012' list, Michael Kiwanuka, followed by one of my personal list toppers, Delilah. A very mellow and soothing set, Kiwanuka made me long for a bath with candles, rose petals and wine. It wasn't hard to see why he will be filling many a venue for some time to come.




My first time seeing Delilah live, I was ecstatic that her vocals proved even better than recordings (don't you love it when that happens? It's the mark of a true Artist, in my opinion). The gorgeous temptress lived up to her name, heating the freezing tent right up with her fashion. The only thing missing was a touch of Deer Oh Deer Ltd. from our Carnivale line (note to self - get in touch)! Sultry down to the super-sexy, skyscraper boots we heard tell of before she took the stage, Delilah's stage presence was mesmerising, while still managing to emote a down-to-earth air. She impressed me further by repeatedly making direct eye contact and smiling, as if she were chatting with an old friend, not performing for a few thousand people, not to mention the millions watching at home. Engaging from start to finish, as a pure acoustic performerDelilah delivered my favourite set of the day...




Off to the '1Xtra' stage for Mr. 'Steal Your Girl', it was at this point that the long set changes started to get a tad painful. The delay at the start of Trey Songz' set was irritating because it took two days and our favourite DJ Ronnie Herel's Monday Night Specialist Surgery; for the reason to come to light. Apparently a massive PA system failure occurred twice; but a fairly obvious risk management scenario didn't seem to occur to the organising team: what will we do if the sound system goes down and we get a tent full of a good few thousand overheated females, pushing, shoving and ready to scratch out eyeballs to get ONE inch closer to the stage. I saw a number lose the ability to stand before Songz even came on. Instead, there was a problem and the staff wrongly said nothing. This was the first of a few of these incidents throughout the day and it was unfortunate that all were handled in the same fashion - by saying nothing. But we'll revisit what the organisers should take away from this later...

So back to Trey who performed a very good vocal set if you ignored the trademark "Yeauhs" (I'm sorry - to each her own, it just didn't cut it for me). A good tracklist despite containing few of the tracks I actually like him for ('Hatin Love', 'In The Middle' to name a few); vocally, I thought he delivered very well. The only other annoyance was the knowledge that Nicki Minaj was on the grounds, but did not join him for their collaborative track 'Bottoms Up'.


Not being one to lose my mind for no good reason; I wasn't just in the non-swooning minority, I was an outright hostile alien apparently - a lesson learned when I was nearly trampled to death over Songz' t-shirt, freshly torn from his sweaty body (that I  highly suspected of being doused with extra glitter shine), and lobbed into the middle section of senseless females, absolutely nowhere near the illogical ones surrounding me...




Exiting stage right, you only understood the frenzy left behind in the tented arena, when you got outside of it and experienced the immediate temperature drop. Seriously Ladies, CALM DOWN around the man! If I were in the path of a herd of stampeding bulls, I would have been in less danger...

Escaping to the much safer main stage for Ed Sheeran, he was well underway because the Trey set ran so far behind. A bit far out, I waited until the end of his always brilliant set to try to get in a bit closer to the stage, but already, it was overpacked in the vast expanse set aside. The only thing missing from his performance for me, was the mindblowing Lil' Kim mash up that I saw him do during a set last November. Beyond that, we all know that Ed's delivery is Grade A, with a few Platinum +'s...




Nicki Minaj next, the wait after the set build seemed interminable, which I blamed on 'Barb's' personal primping and preening...until I checked the setlist again and realised just how ridiculous the changeover times were! It was clear that those setting the schedule really weren't thinking about the people who came from the start. Obviously adequate build times need to be alloted; as an event organiser, I fully understand and appreciate the need to ensure precision and safety. However from 6:15 when Ed finished, to Minaj's scheduled time of 6:45 (it was almost another 15 minutes before she took the stage); the additional increments until the full ONE HOUR wait for Jay Z even began, were just far too tedious.

Her set was as expected and I will not deny my willingness (nor active Prayer) to meet a trampled end when 'Starships' came on; but my irritation was only exacerbated when she ran through her verse on Trey Songz' 'Bottoms Up', not too long after we saw backstage footage of him, a few feet from her, in the Entertainer's Village. Earlier, I assumed that maybe Minaj hadn't arrived yet for his set or was still getting ready, but knowing they were both stage ready and in the same place? It made absolutely NO sense as to why that didn't happen...



Over 50 minutes from Nicki's set close, Kasabian took their turn. Completely unfamiliar with more than their name, I enjoyed their set and their singalong camaraderie with their audience:





Now pouring with rain in a grave 'Frère Jacques' understatement; there was nothing to be done but grit your teeth and bear the rain. Also later much than his 9:50 stage time, even moany I could not deny the sheer electricity that went through the entire festival site when the doors opened and Jigga and the unexpected RiRi took the stage. You actually felt the air change...


Later surprise guests included MIA - who took over 5 minutes to realise that there was (thankfully) no sound coming through her mic and Kanye West who (regretfully), suffered the same ill on more than one occasion. I did not pretend to hide my amusement at the complaint overheard, from someone who's overly meaty arm left me bruises that have yet to go down...Speaking of Kanye's 30-minute appearance for a condensed 'Watch The Throne' set; he cried "I paid Sixty f**king quid for this!" to his equally annoyed friends...


They all recovered quickly however when, courtesy of JayZ I accidentally ended up as pâté; slap bang in the middle of my first (and only...EVER...) mosh pit. Thanks for that, Jigga. For The Record: mine wasn't nearly as fun as the one his Mrs was in with the Rizzle Kicks, up front. Now I know what you're thinking...what did you think was going to happen when he said "Form a circle"?! My answer is simple - please refer to the beginning, where I stated my complete and total festival inexperience. I had NO idea what I was in for but I'll tell you all this; next time I hear those words, they will forever translate in my mind to 'Exit Stage Left - NOW'...


Apart from the assault and battery (by MIA's vocals as well as the 'moshers'), JayZ's set was absolutely a+mazing. From 'Watch The Throne' to many of my early favourites going back to the 'Reasonable Doubt' days - which I personally prefer, those 68 minutes are officially cemented as a Once in a Lifetime experience



Once Jay and Kanye left the stage, I have to say that I was very shocked at the handling and direction of transport services away from the site - and I really don't live that far away. Again, the lack of proper preparation and communication from the BBC, Hackney Council and the Met Police, meant that I ended up as one of far too many, stranded and trying to get home, until just before 3AM. Bear in mind the event finished shortly after 11PM. The majority of the so-called Security staff in the shuttle bus / pre-booked pick up / cab point, spent the entire time doing little more than herding cattle in the rain, until they themselves ALL piled into people carriers and left a very long queue stretching out of the carpark, to fend for themselves a good hour before I managed to get on my way. I found that part of the whole experience quite scary and disturbing and would never expect those kind of circumstances at an event connected with the BBC.


If you attended either day, let me know your thoughts on the Hackney Weekender in the comments box below - particularly if you were one of my strandees!


See you soon folx!
ES ;)