Review: L.E.D. Festival

Photo: Joe Howlett

Live performance giants Cream, Loudsound and Goldenvoice have come together to create one of London’s biggest outdoor electronic festivals, headlined by music legends Leftfield, David Guetta, Goldfrapp and Aphex Twin. Lack of communication and poor transparency led to a rocky start; the cancellation of an entire arena caused fans to lash out at organisers for refunds, but assurances were made that no further acts would be canceled. French electro star David Guetta brought Friday night to an explosive close backed by dancing robots, leaving much to look forward to for day two.

David Guetta (Photo: Joe Howlett)

Saturday went forward as planned with the line-up covering all electronic bases; by late afternoon the weather was fair, beer cans were already piling and screams could be heard from carnival rides as the Annie Mac Presents tent began to fill up with drum and bass artist Shy FX on mixing duties, followed closely by local grime favourites Boy Better Know. Most of the crowd began filing out just before six to weave their way across trash-littered fields towards the main stage, where Friendly Fires opened to a raving crowd with a track off their new album. Lead singer Ed Macfarlane danced and warbled his way through the set as soda bottles and other random garbage was excitedly thrown in the air; their hit single ‘Paris’ was particularly well-received as the guitarist rang out soaring guitar leads held down by rubbery bass lines and catchy 4/4 drum beats.

Near half-past six, Annie Mac was bobbing behind the DJ console as her eponymous tent spilled over with euphoric drunks dancing to Swedish House Mafia’s summer anthem ‘One’, later on swinging heads to some wobbly drum and bass slabs. Despite fervid complaints of a weak sound system, the bass was thunderous and over-powering; her DJ sets could be heard from half-way across the park.

As the clock struck 7:45, Annie played on as ethereal synth act Goldfrapp came on over at the main stage; the field was filled to almost full capacity as lead singer Alison Goldfrapp appeared in a frilly black suit, flanked by a four-piece band decked out in cool silver space suits. The Goldfrapp sound has always had filmatic, dreamy qualities, and their live performance was equally theatric with billowing clouds of smoke, blinding lights and winds that made Alison’s hair flow in beautiful waves.

Photo: Joe Howlett

Her angelic croons – beautiful and at times, haunting – whispered beautiful lyrics of love and emotion as she extended her arms towards the crowd, embracing their roars and screams. The keytar-wielding synth player occasionally switched over to violin, adding to that delicately epic sound during certain songs. Goldfrapp exceeded expectations yet again.

The same can be said for legend Aphex Twin, hailed by many as one of the more influential acts to modern electronic music. Creative, genre-defining and often disturbing, Richard D. James has pioneered his peculiar brand of music he calls ‘Braindance’, influenced by the best elements of ‘all the genres’ – the result is an amalgam of electronic sounds wonderfully distorted and sliced into complex arrangements. His live performance was joined by rap group Die Antwoord, dressed in strange Tellatubby-like outfits spitting out pitch-altered rhymes.

Glinting lasers painted beautiful auroras and clouds into the air as Aphex Twin dished out his trademark tracks, starting off with some euphoric drum and bass-influenced material before sinking into the darker landscapes of experimental ‘braindance’. Large electronic screens displayed distorted, abstract video clips of cities and digital graphics; later on, the screens displayed live footage of the audience in night-vision mode. Filmed in a creepy green hue, Richard James’ face was transplanted onto the faces of the audience in perfect synch with the glitchy, strange tracks amidst seizure-inducing strobe lights – fascinating and exciting.

Most thrilling was Leftfield’s only performance of 2010 – though the other half was missing due to personal commitments, the reformed group put on a crowd-pleasing show with a trademark set of ambient, bass-heavy electronica featuring a full band joined by rappers and a sexy blonde bombshell  who appeared for seminal song ‘Original’. Fans were flying in from across the country to see them live, and the energetic performance makes it easy to see why.

Looking back at the festival as a whole – the fantastic line-up, some PR blunders and a load of canceled acts – much can be improved to make L.E.D. worthy of the title ‘London’s most exciting outdoor electronic music event’. A good start for a first year-run that sets the bar high for next year, and most with the exception of a tiny vocal minority had a great Labour-day weekend.

Leave a Reply