More about: Wide Awake
On what felt like the first day of a brand new summer, approximately 25,000 flocked to Brixton’s Brockwell Park for the brand new South London extravaganza: Wide Awake. For the past few years, the ‘South London scene’ has erupted with a newfound taste for post-punk, and Wide Awake was the showcase of showcases for the best and brightest of the scene. With stages sponsored by iconic venues like The Windmill and MOTH Club, faces felt familiar and it was as if everyone who was anyone had finally come together for the event of the year.
The day had an early kick off with positive-mental-health-music-making Tiña setting the tone for the day. The Windmill stage then made a sharp 180 to the raucousness of IDLES, who saw the main stage crowd tightly packed by 1pm, having to go back to Bristol for another set later that evening. After a trek to the other side of the arena, the pure grunge sad-core of Porridge Radio offered a welcome break from the kicking and screaming of IDLES.
The sun fiercely beating down on the crowds in Brockwell Park saw lots of sweat and progressively fewer and fewer clothes worn by festival go-ers. The weather truly fell on the side of music that day, perfectly soundtracked by Squid and the off-kilter beats of their debut album Bright Green Field. It dawned on me that Wide Awake would be the first time many of us had heard new music from these bands live, making the day that more special.
After worming a route through crowds and past many a food truck, the sweet pop notes of Lynks pour out of the So Young stage (which was not much bigger than a teepee). After getting the entire crowd dancing, even the ones uncovered by the tent, Lynks brought out Charlie Steen of Shame to perform their single 'This Is The Hit' together, complete with Lynks’ dance troupe. Kikagaku Moyo were next up on the agenda, bringing totally chill vibes to the Bad Vibrations stage. Complete with a sitar that oddly didn't seem at all out of place, they brought a whole different and unexpected energy to the day. A total breath of fresh air.
As the sun began to set over the trees, Black Country, New Road graced The Windmill Stage as they have at the iconic Brixton venue so many times before. With a crowd stretching as far as the porta-loos, Black Country, New Road showed off a different side to them post- (debut, Mercury Award nominated) album release. It seemed as if most had been there to mosh to sunglasses but were instead treated to a more orchestral performance of the album tracks. Including a personal favorite named 'Basketball Shoes', that had previously been woven around a dream about Charlie XCX but at Wide Awake—and I'm sure every time from now—saw a regrettable change in lyrics.
After a walk up the hill into the sunshine, the deathly drawl of an instrumental Muder Capital tune seeped out of the MOTH Club tent. After starting as they meant to finish, frontman James McGovern ordered for a pit to be opened. The crowd happily obliged as the band beyond to give their hearts away in the form of ‘Don’t Cling To Life’. Alas, the monumental moment was stripped from the fans as the band was cut off for running overtime. After the band persevered with little luck, McGovern threw down the mic throwing and holding two fingers up at what seemed to be ‘the man’. He began to scream endearments and loving sentiments into the crowd before walking off stage. The crowd cohesively let out a sigh of disappointment after being left with no satisfaction.The tent cleared fast though, for there were many more acts to see before the day was to come to an end.
The stars had started to appear by the time that Black Midi appeared on the monumental Windmill Stage, raising the already colossal level of Wide Awake. Bringing their off-kilter and sometimes unsettling energy to the main stage just felt right. The field was filled with people screaming nonsensical lyrics and dancing like they were possessed by the spirit of Geordie Greep himself: Wide Awake was truly the home of the fans. Leaving Black Midi as if it were some sort of mystical dream, Yard Act were a jolt to the system. With the So Young tent positively overflowing, the air was filled by the crowd chanting "Yorkshire, Yorkshire", with frontman James Smith chanting back "London, London", perfectly showcasing the humorous ironic energy of the band. Yard Act were a truly fun band to watch perform: with such a dedicated fan base and humorous energy brought to their performance, they were definitely a personal highlight.
As the first ever Wide Awake came to a close, one and all flocked to The Windmill Stage for the final performance of the day before the night truly began. Shame’s effortless charisma paired with Charlie Steen’s ability to be charmingly unnerving with his unwavering eye-contact truly proved why they were headlining. In a way: this was their festival. Shame were a vital lynchpin in crafting the South London scene into what it is now, and after thanking everyone for coming Steen addressed it: “We all grew up around here, we used to come [to Brockwell Park] as teenagers...” The whole day had been leading up to this, and Shame did not disappoint. All the frustrations of almost post-pandemic life: the heat; having to go back to work on Monday were washed away by Shame's set. With the Lord's Prayer, Our Father being sped through in a gap in March Day, their set truly felt like the closest thing I’ve come to finding enlightenment.
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More about: Wide Awake