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Wide Awake Festival: A Kaleidoscopic Kickoff to Summer

Wide Awake Festival: A Kaleidoscopic Kickoff to Summer

Wide Awake Festival 2024, Brockwell Park

It’s 5 am and the big lights have rudely hit your eyes, the first time they’ve been exposed to anything other than lasers, causing you to scurry to the closest exit to sleep off the feeling of regret. Wait, what?

Somehow it’s actually two o’clock in the afternoon, but the people of Wide Awake festival are ready to be exactly that.

Everyone has that one pivotal point of the year that they declare marks the start of summer; for many, it’s Wide Awake festival. For me personally, it’s whenever it gets above 17 degrees and I can take my top off, but I can see how Wide Awake works.

It’s usually great weather (this year was certainly no exception), you can have pints before 12 and no one would judge, it’s the first big festival in London, and there’s an energy that comes out like everyone’s collectively celebrating their birthday—or the emergence from their bedroom. Same same.

We kick things off with Babe Rainbow, the psychedelic ‘happy’ band flown over from Aus, where people are holding sick in. I’m gonna say it was purely from excitement, but I was skeptical about what we would experience. Although only over from Aus, I wouldn’t correct anyone who said Babe Rainbow was from some mystic land behind a wardrobe; I’m sure they wouldn’t argue either. Their colourful outfits and dancing fit the gentlest voice of the day, oversubscribed maracas, and floaty guitars.

Babe Rainbow at Wide Awake Festival – Photo by Joshua Atkins

I didn’t travel as far as Babe Rainbow—or any of the bands on the lineup for that matter (bar Dry Cleaning). I only live up the road from Brockwell Park; it’s crazy to see the transformation from ‘yummy daddy’ park to ‘careless youth’ that takes place.

The lineup this year afforded you some time to stroll around and find those happy accidents. The ones that you had no idea would raise the hairs on your neck. Just two seconds before you didn’t even recognize their name on the lineup and now they’ve stopped you in your tracks.

For us, this was Crumb, also racking up impressive air miles from the US but completing the UK leg of their European tour. Not quite the unknown band, but they definitely exceeded expectations. It was a performance that takes the laidback, dreamy studio version you’re used to hearing and ruffles it up with a few punches before hitting the stage. Less melancholy, more aggressive. The thunderous drums and all-encompassing instrumentals wrapped you in an unbreakable focus toward the main KEXP stage. Wow. And it’s only 3 pm.

Bodega brings the HEAT. So much so that you’ll catch various patches of the crowd applying the factor 50 to their necks throughout the show. It’s a wake-up from the shoegazey, dream music that has graced the park until now.

Throughout the rest of the day, it’s a whirlwind of genres. For something that you can so easily categorise as an ‘indie rock festival’ from the outside, it’s far from it once you’re within the walls of the beast.

Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Popul are prime examples of this. The rhythmically adventurous duo are wildly different in style yet perfectly appointed. It’s what provides the essential twists and turns of energy required for a successful festival.

Speaking of twists and turns, I think I broke my back at Young Fathers. The ferocious Scottish trio beat the sun back down below the horizon as it was time for the after-dark antics. We had them on in the kitchen as we were getting ready; it might have been too intense. Y’know, that end part to “Rice.” Well, that same intensity opened up the senses of the air on your skin, the awareness of the joy around you. Magic.

Young Fathers at Wide Awake Festival – Photo by Luke Dyson

I’m battered at this point. In a good way, like after a heavy gym session. But then the trainer surprises you with a brutal finisher. That finisher went by the name of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard.

An hour-and-a-half assault of wild guitar solos, incredible light shows, and no rest period. For the full one hour thirty. I’m Rocky in the corner, about to get my second wind. It’s fight or die.

It’s what many people have been training months for, with dedicated meetups set up for fans of the group on the Woov app (the festival’s official app for lineup and all other information, was ace!).

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King Gizz took no mercy, with Joey Walker shredding his guitar so rigorously that you could almost see the sparks. The drone doing low flyovers of the crowd showed the scale of the effect that their musical wizardry casts with it stretching far up the hill.

There’s a burst fire hydrant of energy from the fans at the front, wrestling out the last of it knowing that this great day is approaching the finale. We’re aware of its ending too, so we meander over to the Desert Daze Stage.

The screaming, fuzzy guitars and clatter of lightspeed drums slowly fade out and crossover into a slapdash collection of Talking Heads and David Byrne’s covers as we approach the Byrne’s Night Collective with special features from various acts that performed throughout the day; Bodega and Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Popul to name but a few.

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard at Wide Awake Festival – Photo by S Huddleston

For me, it was the perfect end to Wide Awake festival.

Sure, they started almost thirty minutes late. Yes, all the singers held the lyrics in their hands and tripped up over them as they performed. I know the sound crew had to cut them short, but all of this just made the day so real.

Although the sound had been cut off halfway through the song, the show still continued with the spectators having to carry the load of the singing now. The distant acoustic clashing of the drums could be heard and the collective all jumped on stage to tie it up.

It was the community-driven creation that hits deep in the soul. The feeling that drove people to create festivals in the first place.

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