I’m writing this in Brighton station. I’m making the long journey back north after a very inspiring time at the Love Supreme Festival.
Initially, I was wary. It was my first time at this particular festival and I didn’t know what to expect. The demographic was different to WOMAD or How The Light Gets In (my usual festi hangouts). I was struck by the number of aging soul boys and girls – no longer fleet of foot, and now wide of girth – until I realised that I was amongst that number. I also felt a distinct London/southern air to the proceedings. On one occasion, I even heard a teenager comment to his friend, matter of fact like, that his parents had chosen an excellent weekend to go sailing. Sailing! You don’t hear that kind of talk in the mean streets of Sheffield, S.Y.
So let’s get to the performances, for it was they which melted my soul. Mr Gregory Porter. Take a bow. He was deep like his voice. The air seemed to shimmer in the space between his notes and his humanity. He sang to a beautiful Sussex sunset, all orange skies and seagulls soaring on the thermals. I can safely say that I’d not been touched in this way by a live musical performance.
Kamasi Washington. Heir apparent to Coltrane and Pharaoh Saunders. It was utterly wonderful to watch musicians at the very top of their game. In decades to come folk will surely discuss performances such as this one in the similar tones to the twentieth century outings of Bird, Diz and Miles. I noted the particular intensity in the eyes of Kamasi when he was playing. Something was burning bright; soul, life force, cosmic wisdom? At times you have to breathe inwards and acknowledge that black folks run very, very deep.
I was also taken by Kamasi’s astral maiden-cum-singer (Patrice Quinn). She was quite something to behold, and functioned as spiritual conductor for the band. That is, her purpose was to draw down all manner of wonder and love onto the stage for the purpose of enchanting us all. There was a point during improvising where the sound went awry. An electrical buzzing noise burst through the PA. Patrice simply lifted her arms skyward, performed some kind of Egypto-nubian-vedic realignment of her neck and face, and embraced the chaos. She channelled the electrical fault into the improviation! My mind was blown.
The Nightmares on Wax DJ set. Now I thought this was going to be a bit passé. I mean, I’m a fan. I own his Carboot Soul and Passion albums, but I’ve been grooving on his output since the late 1990s. I was thinking is he going to say anything new to me?
Well he did. In spades. However today, I’m finding it very difficult to put into words exactly what he did. I am reminded of the phenomena of dream forgetting. While grooving on Friday night, I could speak the language. I resonated deeply with the meaning of the message. He was stretching time with beats. A weird quantum elongation. His artistic messages extended across tens of minutes. Let me rephrase – you know when speaking to a friend, you might say “it’s a beautiful day today”? Well the messages in that performance, for instance “life is epic”, seemed to resonate for ages – an extended, beat-driven meditation on a simple idea. I of course was dancefloor shaman – shaking those bones for all who were able to hear. Magical.
Other honourable mentions go to Blue Lab Beats. I only heard the last two tracks of their set, but I was mightily impressed. Luckily, both they and I will be at WOMAD in a few weeks so I’ll give them a full listen then. Cameron James – pianist for Max Mosely who also guested on one of the Kamasi Washington numbers. If Nightmares on Wax stretched time, Cameron compressed it. In a single short musical phrase I heard Coltrane, springtime, train tracks; beautiful things. Cosmic things. He’s another artist I look forward to exploring.
Well, now the return to work and things mundane stretch out before me, and will dissipate the wealth of soulful spirituality that the festival has inspired. Redemption comes again in the shape of WOMAD at the end of the month. And, more than likely Love Supreme again next year.
Peace, love and music everyone!