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We Out Here Festival Review 2022

Gilles Peterson’s – We Out Here Festival – Delivers The Goods Once Again

Having been to every iteration of the We Out Here festival, including the inaugural We Out Here album launch in 2018 that inspired the festival, I was a little sceptical about the 2022 edition for a few reasons. 

Firstly, We Out Here festival 2021 was one of my favourite festivals that I’ve ever been to, especially as we’d just come out of lockdown. It created a very special moment in time, you could feel the electricity in the air, people were hyped and the festival, which was sold out, had a ton of acts itching to demonstrate their skills. It seemed like everyone was ready to let loose and party like it was, well, the end of lockdown. 

 

 

I also discovered new genres of music such as footwork and juke alongside rekindling my love of DnB and ‘the rave’, but also discovered new DJ’s such as Sherelle, Shy One and EVM128. 

But it wasn’t just the music, the festival revellers were my tribe, my people, my long lost friends I’d yet to meet. Everyone was on the same vibe, the same rhythm, which created a beautiful coming together of minds under one groove in an almost spiritual way.

So when 2022 was announced, I wondered if the festival could deliver on the same level. A slight date change threw up a few problems, there were festivals clashes and also the mighty Notting Hill Carnival was back after a two year hiatus. But last minute I decided to step once again into the magnificent musical mind of Gilles Peterson, the main man behind We Out Here, and see if the festival could live up to the hype it’d created the year before.

At first glance, the line-up was a little underwhelming, it seemed very similar to the previous year and heavily lent on Gilles’ Brownwood Recordings and Worldwide FM roster. That was to be expected, but with some DJs appearing up to five times across the festival, it seemed a little lazy on the programming side.

I was excited to see Master at Work celebrating 25th years of Nuyorican Soul, Overmono playing live and also Tim Reaper the junglist man of the moment, but unfortunately they were all scheduled to play on the Thursday evening, at exactly the same time. This baffled me considering they’d been headlining festivals to capacity crowds all summer, but now would be playing when a lot of people were still at home packing. 

 

 

But when I finally arrived in the Cambridge countryside on Friday afternoon, my scepticism faded away within seconds; security was a breeze, camping was spacious, facilities spot-on, queuing was minimal and the same friendly, happy people where there smiling and dancing together like they hadn’t left from the year before. Love was in the air and the magic of music was ready to do its thing once again. 

First up, I managed to catch NTS’s LDLDN playing the Ace & Tate Sanctuary, dropping Liquid’s – Sweet Harmony mixed into General Levy’s – Incredible, which prompted one reveller to jump into the lake fully clothed. Leo Zero was warming things up nicely at the Two Tribes Campfire with Attend by DJ Gregory, before Fabio & Grooverider & The Outlook Orchestra took us on a chronological journey through DnB classics on the mainstage playing hits such as Pulp Fiction by Alex Reece.

I was keen to see Vels Trio at Lush Life as it was their penultimate gig before splitting up, but after the DnB rinse out I was keen for something a little more uptempo and headed to the Lemon Lounge. This is a small stage with a big sound system that delivers a party atmosphere to an up for it crowd. If in doubt and you’ve switched to party mode you can’t go wrong with heading there at anytime, day or night! 

 

 

One of the main acts I was interested in was the much lauded Yung Singh who played The Big Top. Yung Singh has been playing his raucous sets of bass heavy, Punjab inspired, garage, jungle, breaks to huge crowds, but as he started it was soon obvious that the tent was too small for his energy and I exited quickly as there was little room to dance as more and more people piled in. So I headed up to the main ‘rave-zone’ of The Forest / Woodland, where I danced in the dark to Hagan and Alexander Nut bringing the evening to a close with an eclectic assortment of rhythms.

Saturday was a slow starter as I reenergised by taking a dip in the lake, soaking up the sun, having a mooch around the shops, rifling through the vinyl at the Near Mint record store and generally easing into the day by catching a bit of Channel One, the legendary British-Jamaican dub reggae Sound System. Immediately after El-B came on and smashed the Rhythm Corner stage to bits, getting the party pumping with his new-garage flavour, a genre I’ve been digging the last year and something I’d like to have heard more of at WOH simply for it’s pure energy.

Manchester band Secret Night Gang pulled a big crowd to the main stage, before I headed over to the Lemon Lounge to watch the master in the making, EVM 128. Taking the broken beat sound to the next level, with high energy, quick mixing, and pure rowdiness, EVM 128’s set was one of my favourites of the festival, featuring bombs such as Caracas by TC4 and plenty of his own unreleased basslined dubs. Bradley Zero, head honcho of Rhythm Section who played a great deep house set later in the evening, could also be seen right down the front shocking out. 

The undisputed Detroit Techno legends Underground Resistance – who have previously featured Robert Hood and Jeff Mills in their ranks alongside lynchpin Mike Banks – really impressed with their selection of semi-live classics with everything from Jackson Fives – Can You Feel It, to their seminal Timeline and to finish off DJ Rolando’s – Nights of The Jaguar which brought the main stage to a magnificent close. 

 

 

In the Forest, Luke Una took the crowd on a cosmic journey into sound and space as he mesmerised us with some sonic transcendental deepness. I finished the night off with Sherelle at the Rhythm Corner, but she was too hard for me as she ventured into nose bleed techno territory, so I called it a night and stumble off to collapse in a euphoric stupor.

The final day I started off with an hour of meditation to realign my chi in the Wellness area, a part of the festival which seems to go from strength to strength each year. I also enjoyed the Sucking Dicks and Licking Clits discussion in the talks tent, which pulled a big crowd that spilled out into the surrounding field. It’s good to see the festival growing outside of the musical roots and into something that caters for all tastes and persuasions, hopefully this is something that’ll grow year on year. 

The rest of the day was spent wandering around meeting old friends, making new ones and spending some time in the Movement tent busting out some moves to Murder He Wrote and Alex Phountzi, which made me reminisce about the legendary club night Co-Op that resided at Plastic People on Sundays for many a year. I finished the festival off dancing to Gilles’ right-hand man on Worldwide FM – Trish Tian, who laid down some deep house grooves before a final 30 minutes stuffed with classics from the likes of Soul II Soul and Bob Marley.

We Out Here festival 2022 was another major triumph for Gilles and his team. Creating a unique experience that crosses left of centre genres and music tastes with ease; resulting in one of the best festival crowds I’ve ever experienced. Hopefully the 2023 edition won’t rest too much on its laurels and will add a little more variety to the bill, with some more international artists alongside the homegrown heroes that Gilles loves to champion. I’ll certainly be making the pilgrimage back next year, mainly to see my friends, old and new, listen to some amazing music, no matter who’s playing it, and to experience the collective love and admiration for this very special festival.

 

For more info on We Out Here Festival visit www.weoutherefestival.com

 

By Woody Anderson

Photography by Rob Jones

 

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