Live Report: Jika Jika! Festival 2019
A feature was published in a noteworthy publication a couple of months ago detailing the best clubs in Ireland. It consisted of seven choices, six of which were located in Belfast and Dublin. If anything, it highlighted a lack of real digging into an island that has a very rich and varied soundscape. Smaller cities and villages can often be ignored in the face of what is going on in the capital, and it’s sad. I’m sure this is something that is sometimes felt in Derry.
The Jika Jika crew have been throwing parties since the turn of the millennium and have established themselves as the biggest in the city with a selection of interesting bookings and crowd pleasers that has seen dance music giants such as AVA Festival and Boiler Room to take notice.
The true indication of Jika Jika’s growth is that it now hosts its very own festival. Unlike the South of Ireland, the North does not enjoy a plethora of different dance music festivals to choose from every year. AVA Festival has really put Belfast on the map, globally, in terms of electronic music, yet it is really the only festival concept in Northern Ireland that allows ecstatic ravers to get their sweaty fix, which makes what Jika Jika are doing feel all the more important.
As I arrived in Derry for the first day of the two day festival I was made aware that the Holiday Inn I was staying in was a rather significant location. The basement previously hosted some of the earliest Jika Jika raves, and still holds a place in the hearts of day one heads.
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Walking across the Peace Bridge to Ebrington Square (the location of the festival) I got my first glimpse of the wide eyed raver skipping towards their temporary abode.
Some may wish to comment on the age of the crowd, as most were seemingly quite young, and while this may put off some of the older heads out there I couldn’t help but feel enthused. I wish there was enough exposure to dance music in Ireland when I was eighteen that I could go and see Special Request, Mall Grab and Brame & Hamo as one of my early ‘going out’ experiences. Where I’m from - a very small coastal town in Ireland - our earliest experiences of going out involved a clatter of Jagerbombs and a soundtrack consisting of Swedish House Mafia, Pitbull and LMFAO.
As I arrived Sally C and Brame & Hamo were playing back-to-back with all the chemistry and wholesomeness that you would expect from a trio as close as they are, and playing together as often as they do. The first day whizzed by in flash, with Mall Grab and Special Request showcasing why they are two of the most consistent in the business.
Mall Grab really intrigues me. I remember catching him in The Buntatee in Belfast – a low capacity, low ceilinged venue – just prior to him blowing up. Back then he was playing the type of music that suited the intimate environment – bassy Drake edits and the like – whereas now he finds himself on some of the biggest stages in the world banging out relentless techno.
Some may wonder if this is a result of having to adopt the ‘big room’ approach that festival stages demand, and while it almost certainly is, he still moves with the same passion, skill and energy that made me such a fan of his in the first place.
The set of the day (the entire weekend in fact) came from Nite Fleit. Spanning left of centre leaning electro, breaks and thunderous techno, the Australian born London based artist played the most diverse sequence of the festival, showcasing just why fellow Australian Mall Grab rates her so highly, and why ravers hungry for something as deep as it is heavy should get themselves front left next time she rolls into town.
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Day two took a more commercial turn with Green Velvet, Eats Everything, Layton Giordani, ALISHA and local favourites Opus Klein on the bill. There you go - something for everyone. Rocking his trademark green mohawk, you know what you’re getting when Green Velvet steps up – lots of fun. In fact, he had so much fun that he decided to join Layton Giordani for an impromptu back-to-back at the after party much to the audiences delight.
It was my first time catching Opus Klein and, although they were on very early, I very much enjoyed their low slung grooves and positive vibe – a great warm up.
The beauty of Jika Jika! Festival is in its containment. It’s small enough to maintain a wholesome, intimate affair without being too small that it seems overcrowded. The DSNT crew rolled out an incredible show in terms of production – with the same intensity and sci-fi laser fuelled madness that you would expect at one of their own raves – while the festival team did a wonderful job in ensuring that the site was kept secure, that people were kept hydrated, and that security presence was low, yet fair – a key component in ensuring that the festival experience is a positive one.
I’m sure the goal now is to make it bigger and better, as is only natural, though I feel that would be something of a shame. The community feel is what makes this festival special. You will struggle to find a more welcoming and hospitable team, and that isn’t just because I was writing a review. The evidence was there for all to see, with most of the crew abandoning the backstage to share the experience with the crowd.
So there you have it. There’s more to Ireland than Belfast and Dublin, you know.
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Words: Andrew Moore
Photo Credit: Oliver Grant
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