After a solid ten minutes into a game of ‘catch the invisible ball’ with a group of strangers in the forest, none of whom had said more than three words to each other, I continue to boogie along to Carista’s disco set. There’s a woman clad head to toe in white faux fur on my left, and a guy on my right who looks like he might be re-enacting the entirety of N*SYNC’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’ dance sequence. Classic festival antics, if you ask me.
If Shambala and Love Supreme had a baby, I imagine it would look something like Cambridgeshire’s brand-new We Out Here festival. With all the promise of a wide-ranging line-up suitable for both your great-gran and your scatty best mate, We Out Here managed to successfully pull off their debut festival drawing in a whopping 10,000 people.
Running for four consecutive days in a muddy field just a 30-minute drive from Cambridge, We Out Here attempted something almost unheard of in these foreign lands where jazz music is an unknown and alien concept. The combination of electronic and jazz coincided, however, and definitely should be taken in to account at more UK festivals. I’m picturing Boomtown being headlined by Coltrane, Creamfields by Ray Charles.
The festival itself felt like a remnant of something that once was: glamming up the skeleton of Secret Garden Party’s previous years inhabiting the grounds (before shutting down some three years ago). All that remains now of its ancestor festival are the shells of each SGP stage, and a few 10-year-old NOS canisters lying about in the woods.
At the beginning of the four-day weekender, the heavens opened in true British festival fashion. Flocks of people herded under any roofed stage they could find, mimicking the sheep that were likely in this very field just two weeks earlier.
Mala & The Outlook Orchestra took to the main stage on Friday night in an enormously monumental show. Pouring rain, strobe lighting, and a dubstep orchestra playing Digital Mystikz ‘Anti War Dub’ could not have made for a better combination. It was the perfect melting-point between instrumental and electronic music that the weekend so desperately craved – seamlessly blending all the confused genres into something logical.
Another breakaway from your typical festival act was Charlotte Adigéry with her genre-bending set. I was mesmerised by the strangeness of it all – un-categorical music complete with brain-tingling synths and a voice that could cut a man down with the raise of an octave. She paced through a hybrid of ethereal sounds, playing her tracks ‘Cursed And Cussed’, and the ridiculously catchy ‘Paténipat’ which I could not, and I repeat could not get out of my head for the rest of the weekend.
As a dedicated Secret Garden Party veteran, I was excited to see how they would cater a little less to the ecstasy-fuelled, man-bag wearing teens that once walked these grounds, and more to the jazz-happy families with wide-eyed kids now taking over the site. We Out Here managed to find the perfect in-between. One minute, I found myself dancing with middle-aged Cambridge hippies in The Big Top (typically a jazz stage), before doing a bit of low-stepping with bucket hat-wearing teenagers at Congi’s dub show.
After the first few days of *slightly* torrential rain, we were finally blessed with a bit of 20-degree sunshine meaning (if you grew up in England, at least) that it was vital to take your t-shirt off and retreat to the nearest source of water. Luckily for us, this festival had just what we needed. Several lakes were sprinkled amongst the rolling hills of the site, one of which teasing sweaty, muddy festival-goers with a very jump-off-able 10-foot pier. It would be rude not to.
As the sun came out on Saturday, so did the ridiculously awful costumes (which, if I remember rightly, used to be a Secret Garden Party tradition). Colourful feather boas, Kermit the Frog onesies, and enormous headdresses all began to make an appearance, parading the last two days in to complete weirdness. I was unsure if I’d missed the memo when spotting group after group wearing gold-themed outfits – chains on necks and metallic hammer pants around their knees. ‘On Saturday’s, we wear gold’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, though.
Gilles Peterson was the mastermind behind all of this magic, a man who can simultaneously play three DJ sets over four days, whilst also holding up an entire festival. As founding father of We Out Here, Peterson started the festival with his only intentions of bringing good music together. During one of his many sets across the weekend, he echoed several songs which I’d already heard from previous days and previous artists, suddenly making the festival feel a hell of a lot smaller.
Wandering in to the forest, which situated itself at the very back of the festival, two separate stages hosted completely different line-ups. The Forest, a larger and slightly more surreal area lit by neon colours and towering trees, saw huge names like Mr Scruff and Theo Parrish, both of which delivered soulful house sets late into the night. Neighbouring this was The Woodland stage, a more secluded area where rooftop treehouse bars overlooked a pop-up pub named ‘The Prize Cock’. Nice one, Gilles.
On the opposite side of the festival site, smaller stages included the Brownswood tent: Peterson’s very own record label, if we couldn’t already get away from him, and the tiniest of them all – the Lemon Lounge: a 15-by-15-foot stage which fit no more than 40 people and a few bottles of wine. A film tent also popped up next to the peculiarly placed Ferris wheel (which ironically played some of the hardest tunes of the weekend), where a range of jazz-centred movies were screened, as well as a couple of children’s films which let parents drop their kids off in exchange for a cheeky pint.
It’s quite difficult to find a festival which is so completely disparate to any other at this point in time, but I think that We Out Here truly does hold its own. There aren’t many other places you can watch a man holding his shoes in the air while reciting Missy Elliott lyrics, or walk 30 seconds from a chill blues set into the inescapable wrath of 160-bpm breaks. Give this festival a few years, and it might just be the next big thing. Watch this space – and watch your back Love Supreme. Gilles is coming for you.
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Words: Gemma Ross