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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Getting the Festival Vibe @ Love Supreme

(Report/photos by Debra M)

I am not a camper. I was put off many years ago by my family’s first and last camping holiday near Craster on the Northumberland coast, undertaken with 3 small children and not enough kit. It was a beautiful spot, but all I remember is feeling tired and cold.  However, times have moved on, and we were lured by Love Supreme and the prospect of a weekend full of jazz in the lush Sussex countryside, and by glamping.

The festival site included an outdoor Main Stage and two large marquees - The Big Top & The Arena, as well as several smaller performance spaces, hosting a wide selection of live jazz and soul, as well as DJ sets, spoken word & dance events.  Early on Friday evening, our first stop was the Jazz Lounge to watch Abi Lewis’s Geordie Jazz Man.  It is a beautifully constructed narrative that captures the essence of Keith Crombie  and entwines his story with evocative shots of Newcastle from the 1960s onwards. The audience included a handful of Tynesiders who had known him personally, 1 or 2 of whom were brought to tears.
Later on, GoGo Penguin really got things going, with a vibrant, enthusiastic crowd in the Big Top. This was to be the main venue for much of the contemporary jazz, the Main Stage hosting predominantly soul music. Back in the Jazz Lounge on Saturday afternoon, Michael League gave an engaging pre-gig interview, and not surprisingly, the packed room contained a disproportionately large number of bass players. Snarky Puppy’s highly anticipated set went down a storm, despite initial technical hitches, however, the gig of the weekend was Chick Corea’s Spanish Heart band.  Wonderful music, delivered with joy and passion, to a rapturous audience.

Yet, there’s so much more to a festival weekend. It’s an all-embracing 24-hour experience, an escape from the daily routine.   All we had to think about was coordinating our selected gigs, and then just hang, eat & drink.  The music programme didn’t get started until late morning, but salsa classes were available for energetic early risers.  

Opting instead for a vocal workout, in sessions with the Love Supreme Chorus and Brighton Swing Choir, I strolled through the near-deserted festival site, empty apart from the aforementioned salsa dancers, a few staff clearing  up  and the sound of piano tuners at work.   
Part of the point of attending a music festival is to try something unfamiliar.  One of the highlights from this approach was SEED Ensemble, a ten-piece band from London, led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi.  They’ve had a lot of great press and I was curious to see if they lived up to the hype.  They certainly did. The varied set and a superb horn section transfixed the highly appreciative audience, many of whom had only wandered in to avoid the Sunday morning rain showers.  
Later in the day, perhaps surprisingly given their mainstream appeal,  Madeleine Peyroux and Jamie Cullum were scheduled to clash with overlapping set times. Up to this point I had been musically indifferent to both performers but thought that a late Sunday afternoon on a summer’s day may be just the right time to appreciate the languorous chanteuse. So, we stretched out at the back of the marquee (best acoustics are by the sound desk), ready to listen and be charmed, but then I dozed off.  Thus underwhelmed, we roused ourselves and headed off instead to Jamie Cullum.  With full band, including horn section and backing singers, this was a totally different affair. The largely original set traversed pop, rock, swing, Latin and funk genres. Cullum is an accomplished musical magpie, an energetic and charismatic performer, and his band was seriously funky. 

Our final musical fix on Sunday night was a recommendation from one of the musos on the Rough Trade stand. The intense synchronicity of the Makaya McCraven Band was another unexpected highlight, and a great way to finish the weekend.  Meanwhile, many of the more youthful contingent headed off to party into the early hours, and their cheers and some stonking soul classics were clearly heard across the campsite, whilst we drifted off to sleep, dreaming of home comforts.
Debra M

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