Our Hackney verdict: Dance, trance and Jay-Z. All for free

The Hackney Weekend. Pic: Victoria Bennett-Grant

More than 100,000 people attended the BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend over the last two days, the biggest music festival ever held in East London.

The free event climaxed with Rihanna telling the fans: “Hackney, they told me you lot are crazy but I did not expect it to be like this. You guys rock!”

The Barbadian star, who reunited with mentor Jay-Z to perform three songs  told the audience: “This is history in the making, Hackney!.”

Other stars who appeared over the weekend included Kanye West, Jessie J, Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Ray, Jack White and Tinie Tempah.

The rain did not deter music fans, however and despite warnings of travel delays and bad weather, the weekend passed without trouble.

ELL reporters were out and about during the Hackney Weekend and here, Sean Lindholm delivers his verdict on Saturday’s line-up of music:

Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend kicked off on Saturday with hints of sunshine and an all-star lineup featuring UK and international artists.

Leona Lewis. Pic: HackneyToday/Hannah Jones&Gary Manhine

Leona Lewis opened the Main Stage, Deadmau5 fired up the Dance Arena, Jessie Ware started the show for In New Music We Trust, and when a tie-dyed Dappy in trademark wooly hat got the 1Xtra crowd bouncing for more, we knew it was going to be a great day of music, but one with an undeniably urban tang where electronic music and hip-hop would rule the roost.

DJ’s such as Rob da Bank, Benji B, and Tim Westwood, spun tunes on the small outside DJ stage, but it was the Dance Arena that banged the loudest.

Nero staged an epic crowd-pleasing set, mixing the blistering sounds of electro and drum and bass, with splashes of house, and climatic tornados of dubstep to incite erratic raving. Perched on a Tron inspired neon stage set, they treated the crowd to favourites such as Crush on You, and new remixes including Daft Punk’s Technologic.

The Dance Arena closed with Swedish House Mafia – who earlier in the day announced they will split at the end of August. The Swedish superstars treated the crowd to a show of lasers and fiery explosions akin to their Pacha extravaganza at the Ibiza closing party last year.

Their progressive house classics provoked ample laser reaching and even a sing-along during the intro to a Knife Party remix of their number one, Save the World, which exploded into electro perfection.

The Dance Arena. Pic: Mattia Pozzoni

On the In New Music We Trust Stage, Jack White rocked-out an exceptional performance with his new band including a stand up bassist, an array of musicians on keys, and a violinist. Looking straight out of a 1920’s Chicago speakeasy, they jammed flawlessly, White covering his eyes with a trilby hat and treating us to his usual riffs and stomping genius.

Jay-Z closed the party on Saturday with a headline set featuring guest appearances from Rihanna, M.I.A and Kanye West. The hip-hop mega-star made an anxious crowd wait in the pouring rain, but didn’t fail to please when he appeared immersed in a saintly white spotlight alongside Rihanna to open with Run This Town before thundering through his biggest hits, including 99 Problems, Dead Presidents, and Girls, Girls, Girls.

M.I.A was the next surprise guest, but her appearance was plagued with microphone failure during Paper Planes.

Finishing with ‘Empire State of Mind’, Jay-Z left the stage behind a vast American flag, which descended leaving a somewhat bewildered crowd. Boos replaced cries for an encore, though regardless of taunts the patriotic rap mogul finally reemerged this time striking a pose with Kanye West and the sodden audience soon forgave the backdrop blunder as the two worked through tracks from their collaboration album.

Despite the onset of ‘cray cray’ rain, the happy revelers sloshed their way home satisfied and content after a great day of free live music from a some of the world’s best performers.

Pic: HackneyToday/Hannah Jones&Gary Manhine

Louisa Plumstead reports on the music on Sunday:

On Sunday, spirits were high and the sun was shining for a great day packed full of an eclectic mix of high profile music – and to top that we were all there for free!

The line-up for the climax of Hackney Weekend was undeniably impressive, with headliners that included Rihanna, Nas, Chase and Status and David Guetta.

I found myself unexpectedly drawn to the 1Xtra Stage, not usually my kind of music at all, but it seemed like great opportunity to see acts like Azealia Banks, Nas and Sway whom I would never normally buy tickets to see.

Knowing only one Azealia Banks song, the very explicit ‘212’, I was sceptical about how long she’d be able to hold my attention, but she proved a great performer with a very entertaining set.

At the pop/rock end of the spectrum,  Florence and the Machine were as good as ever with Florence herself looking fabulous as she twirled around the stage in a beautiful dress of cascading gold fabric and her cover of Candy Staton’s ‘You’ve Got The Love’ still being a highlight. But didn’t this feel like an almost identical set to the one she has been performing at festivals for the past few years?

The Outdoor Dance Stage had a great atmosphere as people happily danced under the unexpected sunshine. Scream & Benga and Tolda T were personal favourites as they got spirits high with their upbeat sets and began preparing the crowd for the headliners.

The line up was clearly too tempting to resist for Radio 1 DJ Gemma Cairney who was spotted bomping along to Nas’ set surrounded by her friends,  all of whom seemed to having a great time.

I was surprised how under-promoted Nas seemed to be. Whether you’re into Hip Hop or not, he is a legendary act, but appeared on the 1Xtra stage in a fairly small tent which was surprisingly not very full. However the crowd  rapped along to every word.

Rhianna was the final act on the Main Stage and feeling  the need to tick this R&B goddess off the list, I popped along to the last half of her set. To be honest, it was little disappointing and my attention began to wane when she got into the ballads – although my interest definitely perked up again at the appearance of Jay Z!

For such a small festival it was great that there were five stages as there was an excellent choice of an interesting mixture of music all day. The small site and close proximity of stages, together with local housing, meant the sounds suffered slightly and the Main Stage in particular wasn’t loud enough.

But Radio 1 achieved a incredible festival with a fantastic line up and most impressively, it was all for free. How are they going to beat it next year?

ELL’s young reporter Ufuoma Essi also went on Sunday:

The day started out with a somewhat bleak rainy forecast, which really only meant one-thing lots of mud, which equalled good old festival wellies and rain.

My one goal for the day was to see Harlem rapper Azealia Banks, meant standing in front of the 1Xtra stage for up to nine hours!

The first artist onstage was local Hackney boy, Labrinth who played some of his biggest hits including, ‘Earthquake’, a stripped down version of ‘Let The Sun Shine’ and feel good hit ‘Express Yourself’.

Over at the ‘In New Music We Trust’, Lana Del Rey’s breathy vocals mesmerized the crowd by given a pitch perfect rendition of her enthralling hit Video Games.

Back at the 1Xtra stage I caught Maverick Sabre performing a captivating twenty-minute set before a seemingly endless half hour wait for Banks. By this time the tent was soon filling up with eager fans. Banks started her set off with an impromptus performance of ‘Van vogue’ and ending with viral smash hit ‘212 to’.

The two festival headliners Rihanna and Nas started their sets at the same time, Rihanna headling the main stage and Nas the 1Xtra stage. Deciding who to watch was easy: chosing substance over style I caught a dynamic performance by Nas reeling off some of his greatest hits including ‘Life’s A B***H’, ‘NY State Of Mind’ and ‘Daughters’ which had the crowd going crazy for the hip hop legend.

After Nas’s epic performance I headed back out to catch Rihanna being joined by another hip hop legend, Jay Z. Despite my initial doubts, the global superstar did not disappoint. After she wrapped up her set with hit single ‘We Found Love’ Hackney became engulfed in a extraordinary display of fireworks and sea of screaming fans.

Finally, ELL reporter Anja McLoughlin spoke to fans about the the event and organisation.

Bindz Patel. Pic: Anja Mcloughlin

Bindz Patel, aged 25, a campaigns Coordinator from Bow said: “This is my first festival. It being held so close to home did help encourage me to participate. I’m not sure if the festival will regenerate Hackney on it’s own, it’s more the combination of various events over the next year or two that will contribute to building up the community.”

Ryan Wain. Pic: Anja Mcloughlin

Ryan Wain; 24, from London Bridge, said it was  a ‘’really unique and brilliant opportunity’’ to bring worldwide music to people that perhaps have never been to a festival. ‘’The acts staged are acts Hackney people might aspire to and allowing people to see these artists at no cost is brilliant. It’s a great way of bringing people together.”

Abi Orebigi. Pic: Anja McLoughlin

Many local people helped organize the festival. One local volunteer Abi Orebigi, 35, said “I wanted to give something back to the community. From what I’ve heard from people I’ve spoken to, the weekend has really helped raise the spirits of local people. It’s been a huge success.”

One Response

  1. jon June 27, 2012

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