I’ve been lucky enough to attend Reading Festival on seven different weekends. Over the years seeing many of my favourite festival performances in Little John’s Farm on Readings Richard Avenue. Kendrick Lamar 2015, Eminem 2017 and now up there with the greats, Travis Scott’s 2018 set.
After a summer full of heatwaves and scorching sun, it was due to come to an end. That end was moments before Scott took to the main stage Friday night. The heavens opened, drenching the crowd but the crowd didn’t thin. Stood in the icy rain fans filled up the stage ready to see Texas rapper take the mic.
Appearing on stage to an 80’s theme park advert for his latest album ASTROWORLD the 26-year-old kicked off his set with ‘STARGAZING’, following up with ‘CAROUSEL’ and ‘SICKO MODE’. Proving himself in clubs, theatres and arenas he’s now showing his worth to some of the largest crowds the world has to offer as he had the ocean of fans jumping in waves.
Scott is known as an auto-tuned rapper, something that is easily picked apart by critics. His auto-tune during his Reading performance was a perfect balance between altered pitch and his true self. It was a chance to really hear his vocals coming through. Something that unfortunately doesn’t transfer well from any recordings of the evening.
With Scott’s latest album ASTROWORLD snatching the number one spot on the Billboard 200 charts for two weeks, up against a very angry Nicki Minaj, everyone was expecting a show, and he delivered. More than anyone expected.
With an ever-growing catalogue of hits, it’s only a matter of time before Scott headlines the Main Stage and he’ll tackle the challenge painlessly. If you weren’t there, watch his set online. If you were there you’ll know that the recording doesn’t even come close to how incredible the set really was to watch live.
British summertime always picks its moments for a torrential downpour. This time it was minutes before Skepta’s headline performance of Lovebox Festival’s opening night. Crowds scattered to find shelter during the stage changeover from Diplo to the evening’s headliner. The moment the lights turned up and Boy Better Know’s DJ Maximum spun the first beat, the crowd flooded back braving the rain for a chance to see Skepta doing what he does best.
Opening his set with his recent hit “Pure Water” the crowd began moving in waves jumping along to its catchy chorus and didn’t stop moving until the set was done. Reminding us of his vast work catalog he drops his highly familiar “Interlude” from Drakes More Life before transforming us back to 2012 with his hit “Ace Hood Flow” from the Blacklisted album.
The majority of the 35-year-olds set came from his Mercury Prize 2016 album Konnichiwa. Smashing through track after track the fans barely had time to breath trying to keep up with spraying his lyrics back.
It wouldn’t be a Skepta performance without binging some of the Boy Better Know family out. The main stage turned into a BBK takeover as guests on guests took to the mic. Lethal Bizzle, Shorty, Frisco, Jammer and D Double E were amongst the grime collective that took to the stage.
Performances of “What’s Going On“, “Detox” and BBK’s latest track “Athletes” kept the crowds on their toes as rainwater turned to steam rising from the mosh pits. With the best selling grime album of all time under his belt, the Tottenham-raised MC joked as he realised his set was full of “bare bangers”. The days highlight set finished on Skeptas recent feature on A$AP Rocky’s flute filled track “Praise The Lord (Da Shine)”.
Lovebox was previously a dance-orientated festival but it started to adjust itself to match the growing popularity within rap, hip-hop and now grime. Giving Skepta the headline slot on a previous dance stage could have been a risk, but the risk paid off as he proved himself more than worthy of his place. A London born sound performed back to the city.
Performing in England for his first time since 2015, Childish Gambino headlined and closed Londons Lovebox Festival Saturday, July 14th, 2018. Gambino’s unrefined spirit filled the stage in West London’s Gunnersbury Park, the festivals new location after its usual Hackney spot.
Surfacing to the crowd under bright white lights the 34-year-old opened his set with the leading track “Me and Your Mama” from his latest album Awaken, My Love!. Skipping, strutting and spinning his way around the stage before throwing himself to the floor, you realised what kind of set you were about to witness.
Interweaving between old and new, he performed tracks from two of his three studio albums (soon to become four), his Kauai mixtape, as well as just-released tracks from his Summer Pack. Both Summertime Magic and Feels Like Summer felt like they were written for innocent moments like these. A hot summer night surrounded by friends swaying along to beats drifting away in the breeze. They both made for truly magical moments within the set, as they gained a deeper meaning compared to first listen to them through phone speakers at home.
Some argued that the multi-talented star would be out of place as a headliner at this years Lovebox due to barely making charts in the UK. This clearly wasn’t the case as every word of his uncharted tracks Sober, V. 3005 and Redbone were belted back by devoted fans.
For the majority of the set Gambino let his music do the talking but he made no attempt to cover up his political views as he told the crowd he was “very proud to see that big ballon” and that the UK “gotta fight for that shit” as he referred to the protests that took place the day before in central London.
The set ended with his biggest hit to date, This Is America. It’s equally shocking but striking message swallowed the crowd as his eerie screams and overstated facial expressions were matched up with dauntless choreography.
Gambino stole the festival. He put out a performance overflowing with passion and character. His lyrics often filled with deep, meaningful messages about violence and black suffering felt powerful, positive and uplifting as his band brought funk-filled beats to accompany his raw and electric energy. His performance was truly captivating as he showed the UK that he wasn’t just a rapper or a singer but a true artist.
Bursting at the seams, the Strawberries & Creem Big Top Tent overflowed with fans eagerly awaiting the 22 year olds rappers performance. Breaking through in late 2017, the French born, South London raised star known as Octavian is already defying public expectations.
His tracks have been described as R&B, Dancehall, Grime, House, and UK Hip-Hop, giving him a sound that everyone wants to hear. This was made obvious by the variety of the crowd that flocked to the stage to catch his mid afternoon performance.
Joined on stage by House of Pharaohs’ Sam Wise, Octavian opened his set with their well known single – 100 Degrees. Accompanied by heavy beats, sharp piano and muffled drums the pairs lyrics were drowned out by fans bellowing back every word.
Throughout his work Octavian follows trends of Pop Rap as he switches from rapping to singing throughout his tracks. This is a formula used by the global hit maker and huge Octavian fan, Drake.
What makes Octavian so unique is his ability to conform to classic trends (such as the ones Drake uses) whilst simultaneously breaking them. Releasing unapologetically experimental tracks such as ‘Hands’ using a traditional trap autotune over heavy beats to create a track that sounds nothing like a trap piece at-all. He’s out there carving his own path within the industry resulting in a neoteric and imperative London sound.
Octavians set was short but by all means sweet. With half an hour on stage he reeled off his singles back to back leaving no time for fillers. The energy in the crowd continued to grow knowing what was about to come. Finishing his set on his huge track that put him on the map – Party Here. Fans chanting the opening lines with increasing volume as the DJ wheeled up the tune multiple times. Finally reaching the catchy chorus he danced around the stage to the sound of his track sung back to him by fans. His breathy and raspy delivery sounded effortless as he adapted to different lyrical conditions throughout the set.
With only a few months in the spotlight, his Strawberries and Creem set proved his skills to be worthy to extend to much bigger platforms. This is only the beginning of the young man’s rise in the industry so if you didn’t manage to catch his set in the fields of Cambridge then you better try to soon before he’s selling out arenas worldwide.
Today is an exciting track of the day for two reasons. One, because the track is banging and it comes from two artists I really really love! Two, I actually get to see one of them perform today!
Today I’m off to Strawberries & Creem festival in the beautiful city of Cambridge! I’m hoping to catch sets from David Rodigan, Ghetts (who I’m super excited to see), Not3s, and of course Octavian who’s track makes my track of the day alongside Mura Masa. The track is called Move Me.
Festival set reviews to follow shortly!