Underage Festival, Victoria Park, London
Thursday 11 August 2011
On a hot Friday afternoon in Victoria Park, the free Coca-Cola was flowing liberally, as if to underline the fact that this was the place where middle-class teenagers could soak up the festival vibe safely, without drink or drugs and without their dreaded parents in tow. (Though we spotted plenty of naughty young people filling pop bottles with vodka on their way in.) And soak up the festival vibe they did – after all, what better opportunity could there be for all those 14-year-old hipsters to hang out in the sunshine, showing off their vintage clothing and their quirky music knowledge?
As a relatively ancient 17-year-old, and thus at the upper end of the festival's age limit, I felt a little out of place. The only adults in this sea of trendy adolescents were those running the food stalls or the security guards, which created a slightly other-worldly atmosphere – it was like being in a giant teenage creche.
Giggs, the grime artist from Peckham, went down a storm, though the fact that all those teenagers jumping around to his south London rap were white, well-off and wearing Topshop from head to toe took the edge off it a little bit.
Crystal Fighters, on the other hand, seemed a better choice for an underage festival. Their trance-like music mesmerised the crowd, who temporarily forgot about looking fashionable and actually had some fun – the audience's obvious pride in the song "I Love London" contributed to one of the day's most memorable and exhilarating moments.
However, the highlight of the festival was Janelle Monáe. A true performer, in just a short set she managed to convey her wildly individual character – outlandish and outrageous. Apart from her mind-blowing voice and fantastically jazzy music, the power and energy of her stage presence was extraordinary. Monáe pulled off a beautiful, goose-bump inducing version of "Smile", between more upbeat numbers – the only downside was that there wasn't a bigger crowd to witness her performance.
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