Review of the We Out Here festival – festive weekend of rowdy dance and cosmic jazz | Music
Jhe musical taste of Gilles Peterson – the broadcaster of BBC Radio 6 Music and curator behind Worldwide FM and Brownswood Recordings – is simply eclectic. We Out Here, the festival he organizes on the August bank holiday weekend in leafy Cambridgeshire, is proof of that. Taking its name from a 2018 Brownswood compilation showcasing London’s fertile jazz scene, the festival sits somewhere between a specialist affair and a more mainstream event, its lineup featuring acts as disparate as jazz legend Pharaoh Sanders, superstar rave duo Overmono, South London rapper Enny, and footwork selector Sherelle.
Now in its third year, We Out Here comes to life on a Gray Thursday, with revelers in cowboy hats and waterproof jackets browsing non-musical attractions like the on-site record store, skating on the ice rink and testing their core strength during a limbo session at Lemon Lounge.
On the tree-lined Lush Life stage, festival-goers tap into the exploratory music of some of Britain’s alternative rising stars. George Riley performs a set of intimate jazz-tinged electronic R&B, Hackney rapper John Glacier showcases his nonchalant rap poetics and Welsh producer Koreless strikes a balance between brain-melting electronics and slow-burning vibes. Not all local newbies go off without a hitch: A set by buzzy techno duo Two Shell on the Rhythm Corner stage halts just a few tracks due to supposed power issues, prompting boos from those keen to kickstart their weekend. end. “The transmission is back,” shouts a robotic voice about 40 minutes later – and then it’s back to business.
Thursday night clashes are enough to break up a group of friends: should we see the famous junglist Tim Reaper or the techno producer Parris? Birmingham coach Jossy Mitsu or Overmono? Fortunately, the powerful New York duo Masters at Work, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Latin dance project Nuyorican Soul, has proven to be a great unifier. Their heartwarming set, set against an idyllic lake as a backdrop, sees children dancing with their parents and friends leaping into each other’s arms.
It’s not the only anniversary celebration this weekend: electronic label Hessle Audio celebrates its 15th anniversary here, while Total Refreshment Centre, the cultural center that has nurtured many jazz artists, celebrates its 10th anniversary with a Friday night Lush Life stage takeover. Other taste-making labels and DJs also have the chance to host small sections of the festival, such as Touching Bass – London’s club night, record label and artist hub – as well as Josey Rebelle, whose takeover Saturday night features an adrenaline-fueled set from speed demon Sherelle. Best of all is grime creator D Double E and artist collective Steam Down reuniting in the cozy Hennessey Tent, a weekend highlight that has attendees talking long after filming has wrapped.
On the festival’s main stage, ’90s R&B legend Eddie Chacon clearly stands out. Running through unreleased material and highlights from his 2020 album Pleasure, Joy and Happiness, Chacon’s enthusiasm is infectious, his shirt printed and his broad smile beaming. Chacon compliments an audience member on his shiny shirt before praising the talents and stamina of his bandmates. Performing the title track from Pleasure, Joy and Happiness, Chacon brings out LA pianist John Carroll Kirby, who helped restore Chacon’s career – yet another marker of the festival’s collaborative spirit.
At its core, We Out Here is a showcase of the brightest talent in British jazz, and they’re here in abundance this weekend. Emma-Jean Thackray, Nala Sinephro and The Comet Is Coming all grace the main stage, with the latter group delivering a suitably cosmic set with frenetic material from their forthcoming album. The Comet Is Coming creates an air of palpable excitement ahead of Underground Resistance, Detroit’s pioneering anti-corporate techno label founded by Mike Banks, Robert Hood and Jeff Mills. The Underground Resistance iteration that adorns We Out Here features a record player, synths and saxophone, and they’re clearly delighted to be here, expressing their admiration for the UK’s love of the sounds of Motor City .
They aren’t the only artists eager to show their love for this festival and its audience: on stage, drum ‘n’ bass veterans Fabio and Grooverider call We Out Here “one of the best”. Barely three years into the festival’s existence, it has cultivated a strong identity that many of its loyal British peers could draw inspiration from.