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Brownstock Festival - Morris Farm, Essex - August 29-31 2014 (Live Review)

Thursday, 04 September 2014 Written by Adam Holden

Photo (Main/Inset): Ben Wilson Photography

Brownstock celebrated its 10th anniversary by selling out for the second year on the bounce, with the likes of Dizzee Rascal sitting atop the bill.

The three-day festival drew some 6,000 people to Morris Farm in Essex, with the site managing to escape the rain for the entire weekend, which in this country, if we’re honest, is always a blessing.

Friday evening presented festival-goers with the biggest and best set of the weekend as Dizzee Rascal justified his place at the top of the pile. His back catalogue now spans a decade, with hits lifted from his acclaimed debut ‘Boy In Da Corner’ all the way through to his latest effort, ‘The Fifth’.

He opened with Fix Up Look Sharp, a track that laid bare his grime roots and left some of the younger audience members slack-jawed. Just A Rascal followed soon after, with another modern great getting older heads bouncing.

Stand Up Tall, Sirens, Holiday and Bassline Junkie were dispatched effortlessly, with Dizzee spitting with precision, clarity and cohesion, stopping occasionally to chat to the crowd and showing his admiration for the support so close to home.

American hip-hop veterans De La Soul provided the Saturday night entertainment, marking a big catch for Brownstock after they were such a big hit at Glastonbury this year. But, this was not a stage set for De La Soul.

Whether it was because they were flat, or that the crowd were flat themselves, something was missing. The connection between the fans and the band just wasn’t there. They were adequate on the mic, but seemingly too laid back for a headline set.

Part of the problem might have been that Roots Manuva had taken to the stage prior to their arrival. Though completely different to Dizzee Rascal, he has that deep, underlying inflection to his rhymes that cannot be replicated. And yes, of course he played Witness.

But, while the Main Stage failed to ignite late in the day, Saturday’s dance tent action had a lot of punters excited. With Doorly, Route 94, Claude Vonstroke and garage legend DJ EZ on the line up, there was plenty to fit in.

The only downside was that it ended, prematurely, at 2am. The fans wanted more, especially from DJ EZ, who has amassed quite a following after his notorious Boiler Room set earlier this year.  

With only an hour to fill, he faced a dilemma. How do you fit that many garage hits into one hour? Well, he gave it a shot. The pirate radio star teased the audience with three second samples and his mixing was just exquisite. His set bore the hallmarks of a true professional who’s been there and bought the t-shirt.

On the Sunday evening, Razorlight and Pendulum shared duties in closing proceedings with enjoyable sets, which resonated with the crowd. It is certainly easy to see why. Brownstock has retained the sort of intimate feel that you just can’t imitate at major festivals. Whether or not they choose to expand over the next few years is a question for another day but, either way, let’s hope they keep the boutique aspects that make it so appealing.


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