Walking into Underage Festival greeted me with an air of excitement so palpable that it was stifling. This was an event for 13 – 17 year olds – a day solely for a younger crowd and one that was tailored to fit. It was as if this was all one massive party: no discrimination or exclusivity in terms of taste, just a celebration of all things music.
Proceedings started at the Underage Festival Stage with the promising ‘hip-pop’ duo Rizzle Kicks followed swiftly by CocknBullKid who met early crowds with sunny soul vibes in ‘Yellow’. The best reception for an artist in the early stages of the day was for Giggs and his relentless set upon the Topman CTRL Stage. The SN1 man was undoubtedly the strongest of the grime/road rap set with his now iconic snarls in ‘Monsta Man’ and ‘Talking the Hardest’. Playing to such a crowd of this type had a positive effect: not only did the younger throng respect him, they idolised him. Crowd interaction was strong and frequent and both parties obviously relished the occasion. Others didn’t go down so well – Devlin proved faceless whilst Maverick Sabre and Fugative were both frustratingly weak, offering little substance or entertainment value, although Ms. Dynamite did excite with ‘Wile Out’ and the Magnetic Man produced ‘Fire’.
Crystal Fighters completely shone. It was a pleasant surprise to see such a criminally undervalued band perform so well and to have such a response – they were frequently touted as the best act of the day hours after their set. Their mix of acoustic electronica caused a potent frenzy in the Underage Festival Stage mass – ‘I Love London’ and ‘Swallow’ deservedly received the biggest welcome, the former for its simple yet relevant refrain and the latter for its recurring dubstep wobble. The exhausted swarm left behind at the end of the set were then slightly sedated by Miles Kane’s classically romantic affair – pleasant but by no means the standout act of the day, followed by a flat Baio DJ set. Technically sturdy but with little crowd appreciation, the songs used within his mix were credible and apt for the day (such as Jamie xx’s remix of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’) but all feet stayed firmly put.
Contrary to fashionable opinion I do not hate Viva Brother, but this was still an actively appalling set. Unoriginal, uninspiring and unpolished, their late arrival to the Topman CTRL Stage did them no favours – interest was rapidly lost. The bitter taste left by the Slough group was added to by The Midnight Beast’s awkward set and appearance. Originally gaining attention from their YouTube parody of Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’ and therefore never to be taken seriously as a musical act, this was the moment that the joke was taken too far. The threesome had no place at the festival as a plausible band and the comedic effect of such parodies/original songs was lost in context when performed live.
All was forgotten by the time Bombay Bicycle Club kicked off their headline set. The opener ‘Evening/Morning’ was a looming, static triumph and all new material worked well in a live setting. Jack Steadman proved himself a versatile frontman, demanding full attention whilst both exuberating energy in ‘Magnet’ and appearing distantly self-loathing during ‘Dust on the Ground’ – needless to say that the first album was better received in comparison to the acoustic craft found on ‘Flaws’.
Underage Festival once again demonstrated that a platform of this kind is essential: a strong, varied line-up, welcoming staff/facilities and an ideal location made the day in Victoria Park a success. This event is vital to the sustenance of our youth culture and this in itself needs to be celebrated; long may the party continue.