BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend – Sunday (24/06/2012)

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Set in the heart of Hackney Marshes in north-east London, Hackney Weekend was already looking like it was going to be the festival of the summer from the star-studded line up and it definitely lived up to expectations.

After stringent security checks and several people examining my ticket I entered the site which would be music’s equivalent of heaven for the next 10 hours. 12pm was when the first act kicked off, so I took my place near the front of a surprisingly large crowd for a DJ set by Tim Westwood on the outdoor stage. One thing is for sure, even if you hate Westwood, he got everyone dancing. Playing some of the biggest urban tunes and audience interaction including “Scream if you have real boobies!”, the set went really well, although tailed off towards the end as people ventured over to the In New Music We Trust (INMWT) tent to see Bombay Bicycle Club, and to the 1xtra tent for Labrinth.

I opted for Labrinth which was a good decision as he played a 30 minute set featuring his singles Earthquake, Express Yourself, Let The Sun Shine and Last Time, along with a couple of album tracks. His set went down well, although his unexpected guitar solos were a bit unnecessary.

From here I headed to the INMWT tent for an exciting, but odd set from Santigold. Playing material mainly from her latest album Master Of My Make-Believe many people in the audience were uninterested as most of it was relatively unknown. Highlights of the set included her bringing some awkward looking audience members on stage to dance with her, and a pantomime horse swaying on stage for reasons which still baffle me. Choosing to stay in the tent due to the torrential rain which had started outside, I watched Ben Howard perform a set which went down brilliantly with the audience. Strumming his well known hits such as ‘Only Love’, the tent was packed as emotional teenagers warbled along with him and his instrument-hopping band. Everyone seemed to love his set but I couldn’t help feeling bored as many of the songs sounded the same and he began cliché chants of “love love love”. The only surprise of his set was that he did not play ‘Keep Your Head Up’, although ending on ‘The Wolves’ was an excellent climax.

Heading back to the 1Xtra tent, everyone was pushing their way to the front to witness Azealia Banks strut her stuff. Wearing a skimpy leather number, bracelets and a collar which were connected to each other by silver chains, she uttered every expletive under the sun, despite this being a BBC event. Playing tracks from her recent 1991 EP and her forthcoming Fantasea mixtape, the crowd seemed to lap up the electricity of the set. Closing track ‘212’ sent the whole audience into a fit of craziness as everyone jumped and screamed along with the Harlem-rapper’s hit single. Unfortunately, this set overlapped with Tinie Tempah’s set but I managed to catch the last 30 minutes of his hour long performance, in which he played hits including Wonderman, Miami To Ibiza, Written In The Stars, Pass Out, and his new single, on which he has collaborated with Calvin Harris.

Following these energetic performances, I was seeking something a bit calmer and this was delivered in the form of Lana Del Rey in the INMWT tent. Firstly, she looked amazing. As she sings in track ‘Summertime Sadness’, “Got my red dress on tonight… Do my hair up real big beauty queen style”. Her Priscilla Presley/Nancy Sinatra-style impressed the audience, but her set was equally incredible. Playing tracks from her debut album Born To Die, a serene atmosphere descended upon the tent as everyone listened in awe as she, accompanied by a string quartet, effortlessly glided through hits including ‘Born To Die’, ‘Blue Jeans’ and ‘Video Games’. The end of her set was marked with an emotional rendition of her upcoming single ‘National Anthem’, in which she went down to the barrier and greeted some of her adoring fans.

There was no time to savour the moment however, as I rushed back out to watch Florence & The Machine on the Main Stage. In a delicate, fairy-like dress, she sang a 40 minute set of her most famous songs from both of her albums, with her distinctive voice standing up well throughout the set, with the culmination being the second single from Ceremonials, ‘No Light No Light’. Sadly however, her performance was not as impressive as I was expecting, especially in comparison to Lana Del Rey’s, and Florence insisted on speaking in a strange voice between tracks which made her sound like Michael Jackson… It was a little odd, even for her.

Sacrificing performances by Chase And Status, Wretch 32, Magnetic Man, David Guetta and Nas, I chose instead to start making my way to the front of the crowd at the Main Stage, as 7.30pm was the much-anticipated special guest. As time ticked by, everyone in the crowd muttered that they were convinced it would be Coldplay, but Zane Lowe then announced that, to the surprise of the audience, the special guest was London boy, Dizzee Rascal. A great choice by BBC, a real party atmosphere was felt amongst the crowd as Dizzee made everyone jump so much that it felt like we were in an aerobics class. He began with some of his lesser known tracks, although the crowd quickly picked up the comical lyrics to new track ‘Bassline Junkie’ with a chorus of “I’m a bassline junkie, I’m a bassline junkie, I’m a bassline junkie, and I like it funky”. Later on he played some of his more famous rave-pop tracks including ‘Holiday’ and ‘Bonkers’.

Finally, as the sun began to set, Rihanna took to the stage, for what many people had been waiting for all day. With long black hair and an egyptian themed set, she performed for over an hour in a show that pleased both hardcore fans, and people that only knew her singles. Her provocative dancing seemed to excite lots of people, especially during euphemistic ‘Birthday Cake’, and everyone celebrated the evening sun by waving their umbrellas in the air as Rihanna was joined on stage by Jay-Z for ‘Run This Town’ and ‘Umbrella’. Final track ‘We Found Love’ made the audience erupt in a frenzy of jumping, dancing and screaming along, and as the track came to an end, fireworks blasted into the sky above the stage.

You can watch videos and see photos from the whole of Hackney Weekend on the BBC Radio 1 website.

Saturday’s review can be found here

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