Festival Review: Wide Awake, Brockwell Park

Wide Awake returned to Brockwell Park this Saturday for its third outing. Sure, it’s another tedious bank holiday weekend, but with a lineup like this, who cares? Boasting some pretty heavy hitting contenders for best live band in the universe, it’s safe to say we were excited. 

Saturday rolls around and brings with it a real conundrum. It looks pretty nice out there, but how nice? Trousers or shorts? Go for trousers and risk getting trapped in an endless mire of crotch sog, or go for shorts and gamble having the whole day ruined by a walk home with slightly chilly legs?

We arrive in Brixton at 3pm and head straight to the Bad Vibrations stage for Los Bitchos. The sun is beating down, the drinks are cold, the crowd’s plentiful and cheery, ideal conditions some would say. Trousers were a mistake. Los Bitchos are the perfect band for the occasion, filling sun soaked London with sun soaked tunes. Latin Cumbia meets Afrobeat meets Surf meets Turkey & the Middle East meets Tequila. It’s all there and it all works. One thing that radiates from the band is that they’re having a fucking great time and it’s pretty much impossible not to join them. 

We spot someone familiar in the crowd, and whilst we can’t quite pinpoint specifically who he is, we know it’s unexpected and interesting enough to give us something to talk about periodically in-between acts for the rest of the day and beyond.

Next up are Molchat Doma. A band we’re not familiar with. In another time or another setting they might be right up our street, but for this time in the afternoon, following the set we’ve just watched, it’s just not quite doing it for us – so we take a walk to grab a beer and look around as we ask ourselves,

“God, who was that guy?…He’s an actor, I’m telling you…it was one of those superhero films…he’s quite short in real life, isn’t he?”

After watching a few people we didn’t know crash down with an impressive velocity at the roller disco, we head to the Moth Club tent for a bit of a different vibe. Jockstrap’s set is at once angelic pop, and dark experimental electro. At one point the crowd are whaling to Georgia Ellery’s whimsical, delicate vocals in ‘Glasgow’ – a definite standout from their acclaimed album ‘I Love You, Jennifer B’ the next we’re all chanting at the top of our lungs to ‘50/50’, which basically involves yelling out the vowels of the alphabet like some kind of angry mass gathering of four year olds. A great time by all accounts.

“…Kumail Nanjiani. That’s who it was.”

Across on the main stage and it’s time for Viagra Boys. They clash with Gilla Band, who we’ve not seen live before and are excited to see, but missing out altogether seems far too tragic so we opt for a half and half experience with a jog across some fields as an intermission. 

It’s worth it, as it always is, for the jarring synths, driving bass, piercing sax and of course, Sebastian Murphy, heavy hipwork, belly rubs and nipple tweaks galore. A band that create carnage in a confined space really showing they have the capacity and setlist to fit the festival surroundings. We forget to leave for Gilla Band. Oops. Ah well, next time. 

Time for a break. Toilets used and bars visited. Wide Awake does both well. No big queues. No terrifying experiences. Good work for the festival organisers here. 9/10. Would recommend. 

Back into the tent for Warmduscher. One thing that has to be noted here was the lack of the warm musk that usually accompanies their shows. Perhaps the late May breeze combined with the virtues of a one-day festival have come together to create something quite special here. Regardless, the show isn’t bereft of any other element you’d expect from the band, A thumping set of grotty sleaze-rock, punk, funk & disco. Disgusting basslines, wild synths and erotic moustaches. Great set. Great band. Great time. 

We divide and conquer for the finale. 

On the main stage, it’s Caroline Polachek for some electric indie-pop joy. Early on in the set she announces that this is her first time headlining the main stage of a festival. My first thought: that’s pretty cool for her, and this should be fun. My second thought: how could this possibly be Caroline Polachek’s first time headlining a festival? She’s been on the scene for years but has recently been taking the scene by storm with her latest albums ‘Pang’ and ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’. What little voice I have left at this point in the day leaves my body for the last time whaling to ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’ with my hands held close to my chest – a noble way to go if you ask me.

Back over on the Bad Vibrations stage for Osees. We are treated to an extra long headline set from the Californians, presumably to fill a TY Segall shaped hole in the line-up. But absolutely nobody is complaining, there’s no rest bite to, no breath to, no need to. There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said before. Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone’s double drums, as furious as they are relentless, are awe-inspiring as ever. Their synchrony is hypnotic. Dwyer, as always, a gurning whirlwind of mania. I’ve never witnessed him swallow a microphone, but I’m always sure today will be the day. Consistently one of the best live bands going and tonight is no exception to that rule. A fitting end to a well-above-mediocre Saturday. 

As we wait for the crowds to disperse and make our way out the jeans really come into their own. Conditions are perfect. We catch the eye of a reveller across the road in shorts, discomfort and jealousy written clearly across their face. Slightly chilly legs. Today really has been win after win after win. 

Article By Sarah Lisgo & Duncan Clark

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Tickets are already on sale for Wide Awake 2024 (link on the site), and we reckon you’d be a bit silly not to buy one. You’ll have quite a nice time. 

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