It’s been a hell of a year for Playgroup. The party providers have turned The Blind Tiger into Brighton’s best café/pub/live venue/club and had a great response to the success of last year’s Playgroup Festival. There’s only been one slight snag, and that’s that the relentless pissing rain that we call summer meant the people who look after the beautiful festival site wouldn’t let us party on it cos it was sodden. Well now it’s had a chance to dry out everything is ready to go, which is great news because there’s no better way to end the summer than with a weekend at Playgroup.
Stepping things up last year, they hit on a perfect balance between intimate party vibes and bundles of entertainment. The line-up is better than ever – loads of local heroes and some interesting names from further afield – but you could take the music away and still have a great time.
As well as the best fancy dress costumes in the land (this time with a lost toy theme), there are hundreds of other esoteric performers to keep you entertained. We were dancing last year when the tent suddenly filled with busty owls in Hooters t-shirts. Be prepared to come home from the weekend of Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd with some tales. Turn it up! Bring the toys!
Definitely one of Tru Thoughts’ most exciting recent signings, Anchorsong is a Japanese producer with a penchant for subtle, warm and slow-building electronica. Last month’s single release ‘Darkrum’ was highly praised, but his live shows are where it all comes together. Using instruments and sampling them live, creating loops and soundscapes, and singing in a surprisingly harmonious voice, Anchorsong’s set is one to prioritise.
Initially a promising vocalist heard on tracks by Starkey, Ital Tek and others, Brighton’s Anneka has progressed into a stunning multi-instrumentalist whose live sets have been impressing club crowds for months. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see her craft her haunting songs yet, don’t miss this opportunity – she’s comparable to a young PJ Harvey or Imogen Heap, and her latest tracks are her best yet.
Blah Blah Blah
The best clubbing is all about going out as a gang, so it makes sense that perhaps Brighton’s best dance music promoters are a proper gang themselves. Former SOURCE cover stars, the Blah Blah Blah quartet of DJs, designers, bloggers, label heads and more control every part of what they do – no detail is left unchecked. Currently playing a wider mix of party based house music than at any time in their five and a half year history, if you stay long enough you might even hear ‘Red Red Wine’.
Recent guests on Mumford And Sons’ Gentlemen Of The Road package tour, perennial Playgroup favourites The Correspondents’ mix of swing and breaks is subtly making them one of the country’s favourite underground festival acts. They may have the names of errant children’s entertainers, but Mr Bruce and Mr Chuckles are adept at whipping up a crowd’s energy without the aid of sugar, tartrazine or balloons. Chucking ragtime, scat and jazz into the mix, their daft dance music will make your party peak.
Format’s 2011 set at Playgroup was one of the best received of the whole festival, so it’d be foolish to miss this year’s installment. Effortlessly crossing genre boundaries from hip hop to funk to soul, via the occasional rock or indie snippet, Format mixes so smoothly that all you can do is marvel. Latest album ‘Statement Of Intent’ was released earlier this year and proves that his lust for crate digging is still as strong as ever.
So many bands make great claims of their own originality, but really, there’s no other act around quite like Gaggle. The invention of composer Deborah Coughlin, formerly of disco-punk outfit 586, Gaggle are a 22-piece (or thereabouts) female choir with a unique approach to sound and image. On their Transgressive debut ‘From The Mouth Of A Cave’, the group combine their full throated chanting with pounding rhythms to bizarre effect. They’ll need a field of their own to camp in.
Centred on the duo of Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, The Herbaliser broke through in the 90s with a series of jazz influenced, instrumental hip hop albums for Ninja Tune. Numerous collaborations and soundtracks later, The Herbaliser are now gearing up for the release of new album ‘There Were Seven’ on their own Department H label. Their Playgroup appearance takes the form of a two hour DJ set, sure to be packed with the choicest hip hop tracks.
Treading the line between drum’n’bass and rock in an authentic way that Pendulum never managed, Brighton trio The Qemists have spent much of the three years since being on the SOURCE cover travelling the world playing to huge crowds, as well as popping up on the soundtrack to every videogame you’ve played recently. They’ll blow your head off live and promise to be the most aggressively intense band on the bill.
Sam & The Womp
Summer smashes often come out of nowhere, and this is what’s happened with Sam & The Womp’s instantly recognisable ‘Bom Bom’. The daft club cabaret track has won over Radio One and secured much props from Rizzle Kicks. By the time their Playgroup slot arrives, it could be number one all over Europe, or already played-out. In the meantime, all together now, “I’m the cat with the bass and drum, goin’ around like Bom Bom Bom!” Inescapable.
It’s too easy to use food metaphors here: the Soul Casserole crew cook up something special; they know how to mix the freshest and the tastiest tunes from the past 50 years; they cater for all tastes… OK, we’ll stop now. The three DJs behind Soul Casserole love soul music, but they also love reggae, ragga, blues and hip hop. They have the same enthusiasm for Aretha Franklin and Luther Vandross as they do for modern tracks, and they know how to throw a very good party.
Master of the cut up, DJ Yoda has successfully walked the line between credible turntablism and comedy populism ever since the crossover success of his first major mixtape, ‘How To Cut And Paste Vol. 1’. Well over a dozen volumes later, Yoda’s still mixing up musical history: his latest track, ‘Happy’, is an uplifting collaboration with Boy George. For Playgroup, Yoda presents an audio-visual set, so expect some rapidfire picture editing to match his swift deck skills.
Words by Stuart Huggett, James Kendall, Jessica Marshall McHattie