A dance music festival in a royal park sponsored by Barclaycard shows how deep into the mainstream the once outlaw scene is now. Headlining on Saturday night, Basement Jaxx bring out the omnisexual disco roots of rave's "'avin' it" hedonist culture, and add tropical rhythmic heat. The madcap 1940s nightclub they conjure for "Do Your Thing" show how they view dance in its broadest, most encompassing sense. Digital dub vocals, squealing rock guitar and the slow flamenco strum of "Romeo" are followed by trumpet-led electronic jazz that late-period Miles wouldn't have found strange. They could have morphed genres and moved feet all night.
Earlier, Jack Penate had claimed his band were "the only people with guitars" here, during a tetchy set of average, yelping pop. Actually, they're everywhere, including the tent where sharp-dressed rapper Master Shortie is high-stepping and low-creeping across the stage, making "Dance Like a White Boy" sound like a subversive hit.
The rough digital noise and energetic hypeman preceding another rising UK rapper, Chipmunk, is deflated by formation dancers who make me wonder at Simon Cowell's influence on the scene. When Britain's Got Talent winners Diversity cause a near-stampede and the weekend's biggest crowd for their 15-minute set, it's no joke.
Even Dizzee Rascal is partly about how hard he can push himself in his brand of showbiz now. His move from grime into addictively dumb old-school rave anthems such as "Bonkers" at least shows he's still pushing his music, too. The Streets' Mike Skinner, who might have been expected to comment on this strange scene, draws a crush to his tent, though it's half-full before long.
On an old-fashioned park band-stand, meanwhile, Bella Union put on indie bands to laze on the grass to. The Low Anthem's mix of moonshine bark and high hymnal tone, and St. Vincent's spiky, acidic songs are highlights.
It's left to Q-Tip to attempt some consciousness-raising, in a respected set. But it takes Kanye West to remind us just how much ego hip-hop can contain. Crystalline cubes hide almost all anyone else who may be contributing, until a harem of topless Ancient Egyptian-style women pose statuesquely at his feet. "My reign is as far as the eye can see," he notes. The crowd's screams are silenced by dropped jaws. A somehow fitting end to an odd weekend.Reuse content