Created to celebrate Britain’s burgeoning alternative music scene, Wide Awake emerged as London’s best new festival when it launched last year. With the live music industry barely recovering from the pandemic, its carefully curated line-up of independent acts had thousands piling into Brockwell Park for a slice of the action.
This summer, it’s back and bigger than ever – with a second day added to celebrate some of the countries finest emerging dance and electronic acts. The pick of the bunch are XL signees Overmono, who draw on breakbeats, dub and garage throughout a thrilling set on the Corica/Small Talk stage.
Often shoehorned into indie line-ups as a result of their crossover appeal, Working Men’s Club feel much more at home on today’s bill. The same goes for Caribou, whose atmospheric soundscapes enrich the main stage with colour and vibrancy. Performing as live bands, both acts flourish in a DJ-dominated environment – their performances undoubtedly win them plenty of new fans.
Arguably the biggest name in British electronic music right now, the booking of Bicep represents a real coup for a festival of this size – and the Northern Irish duo do not disappoint with an epic headline set. Drawing heavily from last year’s LP Isles, their intricate melodies are accompanied by a bombastic light show – with the show culminating in a triumphant reworking of crossover hits ‘Glue’ and ‘Apricots’.
The bands are back in town for Saturday, with up-and-coming indie and alternative acts dominating the bill. Katy J Pearson’s pop sensibilities are displayed with intent through an excellent performance – and later in the day she joins Yard Act on the main stage for a triumphant cover of the Modern Lovers’ classic ‘Roadrunner’, performed alongside Nuha Ruby Ra.
The Leeds punks perform off the back of a successful album release in The Overload, which was just pipped to the number 1 spot by Years & Years in January. Frontman James Smith is in good spirits throughout as they rip through choice cuts from their debut record.
Elsewhere, HighSchool affirm their ones-to-watch status with a fine exhibition of eighties-tinged synth-pop on the Brixton Brewery stage. Nation of Language, who released two albums over the lockdown period, provide something far more anthemic – and act as a reminder that there is just as much talent across the Atlantic as we have back home.
The evening ends with a lung-busting sing-a-long to Primal Scream – who bring out their iconic Screamadelica album in full. While a heritage act at this stage in their career, their influence is visible across so many bands on the lineup – and subsequently the Scots feel like ideal bill-toppers.
Events like this, which put independent artists in front of vast crowds, feel absolutely vital in the current musical landscape. Wide Awake is no flash in the pan – may it come back even stronger in 2023.
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