Originally published in The Edge
Friday’s ambience in Victoria Park was extremely youthful and its lineup slightly scattered, contrasting starkly to the meticulous scheduling of Saturday and allowing a far better scope to pick and choose little snippets of the unusual. Rather than risk passing out in Fabric’s felt-lined erection for Kano’s sauna performance with surprise turns from Lethal Bizzle and Giggs, my wanders took me past Shy FX spinning vintage Dizzee Rascal, Joris Voorn playing under the shadow of a disgruntled gorilla at Elrow’s Sambodromo do Brasil, and Temple Funk Collective – a beguiling jazz octet bringing sousaphones to Swedish House Mafia, C+C Music Factory, and The Prodigy – on the quaint bandstand.
Earlier in the day, fleeting glimpses had established things nicely: none sufficiently spectacular to justify the price alone, yet perfectly enjoyable presences on a lovely afternoon of eccentric offerings. Some promised great things. “United Kingdom, much like politicians, we came to fuck shit up. Make some motherfucking noise,” opened the Run The Jewels set, which later moved towards El-P getting his new Reebok shoes dirty as he and Killer Mike rapped about fucking the NSA in some fashion on a track from the imminent RTJ3. Katy B, with more elaborate staging than at Common People in May, drew bafflingly large crowds clearly enamoured with the late-decade dubstep wobbles of ‘Perfect Stranger’ and ‘Katy On A Mission.’ MØ, the charismatic Dane, sounded muffled and slow on the infectious ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Kamikaze’ before missing the obvious and closing with ‘Lean On’ instead of ‘Final Song.’ GoldLink even went a step further away from such expectations, throwing a dash of Nirvana into his otherwise rapped set, triggering mosh pits more hostile than those created by Stormzy, who spent so long creating spaces before ‘Know Me From’ that some hit the deck to do press-ups.
This moderately chaotic approach was exhibited best by Diplo, the day’s centrepiece, who played a late-afternoon set on the secondary Noisey stage before joining up with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, his Major Lazer bandmates, for a far greater multi-sensory assault to headline. At first, he resembled something far closer to his Jack Ü outfit with Skrillex, playing a set that was as much light-hearted and comical as it was deafeningly atonal. For every one of his solo records mashed up with Soulja Boy or Post Malone (“for the hardcore Diplo fans,” he claimed), there was a peculiar surge of something from The Bodyguard, The Lion King, or Lemonade followed by half a dozen flurries of abrasive energy. By the time he was commanding the crowd to do ‘jumping jacks,’ it was time to move in a different fashion.
The Major Lazer spell benefitted from far more rehearsal and structure, weaving such quirks into a more refined Caribbean-infused lilt that they honed with their old lineup (Diplo and London-born Switch) in Notting Hill around the turn of the decade. Ever since, things have become far grander, as demonstrated in their wheeling out of MØ and Fuse ODG for their respective turns on ‘Lean On’ and ‘Light It Up,’ their biggest hits as an ensemble to date, coming a week before the release of ‘Cold Water.’ In the 70 minute set, these were the only two songs to be performed completely, with other noteworthy and influential Major Lazer records (e.g. ‘All My Love,’ ‘Pon De Floor,’ and ‘Watch Out For This (Bumaye)’) being kept to little more than iTunes previews. There was no question of its visual pizazz, with a quartet of scantily-clad dancers and animated backdrop of the Major Lazer character himself waving a sceptre, matching its sheer franticness. With DJ Khaled, Desiigner, Drake, and a couple of Jack Ü tracks mixed in for extra shots of rowdy audience participation, it’s a wonder that anybody could keep track.
They strode out for the top billing drenched in white, though this was merely through the bizarre uniform choice of the trio (only accented at first by the blue piping on Jillionaire’s cricket jumper) that later made way for West Ham football strips. He and Diplo typically manned the decks, letting Walshy Fire act as hype man and coordinator of the dancers’ efforts with CO2 cannons and t-shirt distribution during ‘Too Original,’ though all (and guests) regularly clambered over the tiered staging. This all served to distract from some of the iffier selections, ensuring a robust party experience for the assembled youths. Sure, befalling reggae flavours, boisterous horn riffs from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and more uninspiring crevices from their own crates with harsh, tuneless bass flitted between at an irksome pace may not be the favoured option of certain attendees, but Major Lazer’s ascending rambunctious reputation was far from dampened by such a display.