LeeFest: The Neverland day two – Circa Waves, Roots Manuva, Oscar and Little Simz
After a Thursday night which saw Ghostpoet and Everything Everything begin LeeFest with a bang, Friday had a lot to live up to. The firepower was there, as established acts like Roots Manuva and Circa Waves were ably supported by Oscar, Little Simz and the wonderfully talented Corey Fox-Fardell. What to make of it all then?
Despite the early start of 2:30pm, a sizeable crowd turned up to watch the soft hums and melodies of Corey Fox-Fardell. Described as a love child of Ed Sheeran and Paolo Nutini, much has been said about this young man. A student of the Brit school of music, and winner of the Sony ATV song writing competition, there’s considerable expectation upon his young shoulders. Animals is a stunning composition in its own right, and shows everything that makes Corey such an exciting young act, with pop folk acoustic guitar interspersed with drum machines and loops to add an extraordinary amount of depth. Considering it’s just him and his drummer, the sound is full and rich – hardly an easy task. Without a doubt one to keep an eye on.
Shortly after appears north London’s Little Simz, tipped by many to be a potential global rap icon. Those who have listened to her debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons would quickly agree, with the record garnering significant critical acclaim. Her intense and provocative lyrics are backed up by impressive production, the kind of which superstars like Jay Z and Rihanna would be more than proud to call their own. Considering her career is barely off the ground, it’s unsurprising to see her supported by simply a DJ, although it is mildly disappointing. The opening few tracks struggle to bring the magic of the record to life, and for a moment it feels like the show could have been something of a disaster, with Simz being drowned out almost entirely by the backing track supposedly supporting her. She brushes it off in superlative fashion though, as album favourites Wings and Gratitude quickly bring the performance back to life. Marching around the stage like a lion stalking its own enclosure, her youthful and angelic looks clearly hide significant anger and emotion. God Bless Mary is the highlight of the set, an anthem dedicated to her neighbour who had to listen to Simz playing deafeningly loud music at all times of day. If she can live up to the hype that surrounds her, it will probably have all been worth it.
The effervescent lo-fi of Oscar is up next, bringing his muddy muffled chords to the Tootles Circus stage. Drifting lazily around the stage, one arm lifted casually in the air as he bobs along to his own melodies, he instantly strikes out as being something of a cool dude. That’s the point though, as Oscar draws on the influence of the post-punk sound of 1980s and 90s America, where the style is almost as important as the substance. The substance is there in spades, as Oscar pulls song after song from his debut long player, Cut and Paste. It’s a remarkable record, and it’s delivered with style live. Singles Beautiful Words and Daffodil Days are almost draped on the audience, with the sanguine lyrical style of Oscar himself sounding almost like a lullaby. He can change the pace too though, with Breaking My Phone showing a splash of grungy grit.
Grunge isn’t a word you would use to describe Roots Manuva, but grit certainly is. The south-London rapper may be approaching 43, but his beats are still some of the freshest at LeeFest. Decked out in a camouflage poncho that makes him look like a slightly collapsed tent, he storms around the stage dropping songs off his new album Bleeds. Don’t Breathe Out is a popular choice, with many in the crowd trying, and ultimately failing, to rap along. One Thing is a darker, more melancholy lament, underpinned by a thudding bass that draws in those looking for something heavier to boogie along to. He finishes with fan favourite Witness the Fitness, before apologising for not being able to play longer. “I think I shouted a bit too much,” he literally squeaks before thanking the audience and making his way backstage.
Roots’ disappearance makes way for tonight’s headliners, pop rockers Circa Waves. Still touring their most recent album, 2015’s Young Chasers, frontman Kieran Shudall and co easily delighted the many fans that came to see them. Openers Get Away and Good for Me quickly excite the audience, although there is a sense from the band that due to the age of those two songs, they prefer to get them out of the way quickly so they can show off some of their newer cuts. It’s a frantically quick set, with no song taking longer than three minutes. It’s reminiscent of the old indie pop hey days of the early noughties, with young kids leaping about like fresh salmon down at the front. There’s no doubt the influences bands like the Libertines and the Strokes have had on Circa Waves, and fans of those bands will certainly have enjoyed last night. There can be a temptation to try and emulate your inspirations too much, and Circa Waves certainly sail fairly close to the wind in that regard, but there is enough song-writing prowess on show to prove that they are more than their own band. Fossils is the perfect indie jump along song, and the crowd duly oblige, eating up the fast paced chords of the verse before howling along with the chorus. Circa Waves provided the spark that the rest of the evening needed, and those who were looking for further adventure were suitably inspired.
For those who were lamenting the lack of something a bit heavier, Dinosaur Pile-Up were on hand to allay any fears. Playing the more than intimate Hooks Rock stage, it didn’t take long for the first mosh pits of the weekend to appear. Their brand of eminently digestible thrash rock was more than well received, as for the first time all weekend, it was standing room only to watch. Hits like Mona Lisa and the more recent 11:11 seemed to last forever; an endless cacophony of power chords saturated with more distortion than anyone can ever deem safe. Surely a few of those present up front will need to have their hearing checked, but for the time being they were more than happy in the moment, thrashing along with every blood busting riff.
The live music may have finished there, but with dance arenas open across the site until 4am, there was plenty to do, and much revelry to be had. The movers and shakers descended into the forest, yet again content with a music festival that, despite its ten year history, is in its inaugural year as a big time player. Considering the past two days, a successful formula has been struck, and Saturday should prove to be as enthralling as its predecessors…
Photos: James Fisher
Check back tomorrow for an update of Saturday’s live music, including Submotion Orchestra, Shura and Lianne La Havas.