The Essential Festival proves to be one of Britain's best; plus Maize, Danny Tenaglia, and Thomas Brinkmann.
In 2001, Essential's trademark "dance and roots" policy once again helped the festival prove itself to be amongst the most discerning Britain has to offer. Essential's essentially cooler crowd arrived in droves, notably even more so on the Roots Day.
The two-day weekend event (July 14-15) -- which was first staged 10 years ago and has suffered licensing problems in recent years -- usually takes place in Brighton (where it drew reported crowds of more than 35,000 last year), but was forced to relocate this year to London's Hackney Marshes due to foot-and-mouth concerns.
Whilst the big name headliners like Public Enemy, Courtney Pine, Sly & Robbie, Stereo MCs, St. Germaine, and De La Soul (the latter drafted to replace Isaac Hayes following the cancellation of his European tour) guaranteed the tents would be bulging at the seams, the more generic performers were warmly received elsewhere throughout the festival.
Certainly the hip-hop contingent were well catered to; Deadly Avenger whipped up a frenzy in the Ek-lec-tic Arena, as did Manchester's Mr. Scruff who drew his set to a close with Madness' 80s classic "One Step Beyond" and had the entire tent pogoing frantically. Must sees on Dance Day included the legendary DJ Krush -- Japan's finest export -- who did not disappoint his legion of fans as he blended whale music, hip-hop, and samba rhythms, manipulating his faders at lightning speed.
Much action was also noted in the Flux/Wax Arena where U.S. pioneers Derrick Carter and DJ Sneak took the decks back-to-back to rapturous applause, and Chicago's DJ Heather (shamefully little known in the U.K.) was deservedly triumphant in her relentless quest to keep the crowds jumping.
On Roots Day, Pussyfoot label owner, Howie B took to the Ek-lec-tic Arena and, surrounded by his banks of equipment, rocked the rafters. In the Hip-Hop Connection Arena, Mark B and Blade (accompanied by infant-son-of Blade, continuing the vogue for artists taking their kids on stage), turned in an energetic show and were joined on stage by Luton-based U.K. rap crew, Phi-Life Cypher.
Notable among the new bloods this year were current industry favorites Stanton Warriors, who mixed up ancient Salt 'n' Pepa vocal snippets with 2-step basslines from behind a bank of samplers in the Experiments Arena. More notable performances came from the superb Plump DJs, French hip-hop heads Le Peuple de L'Herbe, and Brixton duo Mutiny, who played on both days. Others putting in dual performances over the weekend were the Freestylers, Red Snapper, and Roni Size's ever popular Reprazent collective -- which turned in an explosive set as usual, fronted by vocalist Onallee and MC Dynamite.
Organiser Ish Ali said, "It was a complete success, the event was a sell out, there were no problems, no arrests, and the police would like to see us back." He indicated that Essential will now consider staging further events at Hackney Marshes in addition to returning to its smaller Brighton site next year.
Queen and Simple Minds Clear Raven Maize Release
Dave Lee (aka Joey Negro) revives his ancient Raven Maize alias to follow up his massive hit "American Dream," released under the moniker Jakatta.
Admittedly combining samples from Simple Minds and Queen on a 12-inch doesn't sound like a good idea on paper, yet Lee takes samples from "Theme From Great Cities" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," respectively, and splices them recklessly to create a cohesive whole titled "The Real Life." The single is due for U.K. release July 30 on the Ministry of Sound's Rulin' Records imprint.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were originally sample clearance problems with this track, but the parties who stood to gain financially have now agreed to waive their profits in order to facilitate the release of the record, which has been a big hit on dancefloors across the globe for some months. "All the record labels involved have stepped away from making profit," Lee says, "It's been the support of Simple Minds and Queen's management that has allowed it to happen at all."
Tenaglia & Brinkmann Rework Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode's "I Feel Loved" is due to be released July 30 by Muteas the second single from the band's "Exciter" album. Aside from the Danny Tenaglia edits that are currently causing a stir, the remix package will feature reworkings from London breakbeat/electro duo Chamber (Hydrogen Dukebox) and one of Germany's leading techno exponents, Cologne-based Thomas Brinkmann. Brinkmann has been previously acclaimed for his reworking of Richie Hawtin's "Concepts" series.