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Review: Essential Music Festival Finsbury Park, London

Sam Le Rougetel
Thursday 07 August 1997 23:02 BST

I had enjoyed the Essential shindig earlier in the year in Stamner Park at Brighton - very polite, South coast, student-middle-class. But there's something about London Town, an event in a park, in the midst of the concrete jungle, without ageing Mick- / Dylan-stylee rockers as the crowd-puller, that makes you instinctively know that "this is going to be a laugh" and far more cosmo with it, an event for young people, run by young people, aimed at young people.

A quick dash around the park later confirmed that the six, huge circus tops were all doing the business offering something for everyone from Soundz of the Asian Underground in the Anokha marquee to drum 'n' bass in the Metalheadz arena.

Early on I checked out Goldie, Red Snapper and Midfield General - all very happening. Thousands of revellers were perceivably getting chiselled, one way or another. Circumnavigations of the park kept leading me to the same place - the Big Beat Boutique Stage. Funked-up, danced-up beats are the business. Bentley Rhythm Ace came on at 7.30pm followed by Fat Boy Slim and Propellorheads, whose skilfull mix of DJ samples and live percussion just got me hooked.

Before I knew it, I'd missed most of Massive Attack. But there were was no doubt that they were the main draw of the day. The Essential Stage was overflowing on all sides. Unfortunately the sound system didn't travel well out of the big circus top. But you could see everything and by the time the crowd had dissipated they were into an immaculate double encore. A new track, "Wire", was followed by the disciples' favourite, a new interpretation of "Unfinished Sympathy", which blew me away. They've come a long way as a live act since their gig at Cricklewood's Galtimore Ballrooms in 1994, when even, dare I say it, Mad Professor upstaged them.

Roots Day on Sunday had a much mellower feel to it, as you would expect. Some great performances from Zion Train, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers.

A resounding "yes" in my mark book for Essential. There was no bad attitude to be seen, on either day, and having an event like this end at 10.30pm is a nice flip-side to what the London scene is normally used to. Roll on more events like this in the heart of the capital - it's what the urban sprawl needs.

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