REVIEW: Saturday at Love Supreme 2016

The main stage at 2015 Love Supreme Festival

Love Supreme 2016, Saturday 2nd July 
(Glynde Sussex. Review by Dan Bergsagel)

A music festival can be a delicate thing, and while it may have been the weather that tried to scupper the mighty Glastonbury last weekend with 12 hour queues forming to enter the site, it was the less muddy problem of Southern Rail's ongoing industrial dispute conspiring to hold things up at Love Supreme 2016 with many Friday night punters crammed in on seemingly the only train to Glynde, and arriving too late for most acts.

The main stage opened with Riot Jazz Brass Band on Saturday, the loveable laughing 9-piece Mancunian outfit showcasing music from their new album Incoming, with a smattering of old favourites and familiar covers mixed in. Merkin' is all long horn harmonies and drum-breaks, while Afro's blistering drum shuffle and stomping sousaphone bass lines demonstrate how crucial the back line is to building the brass band sound. Life of a Mouthpiece saw them in to new territory with an '80s pop anthem with a rap interlude, before some real pop covers from Britney Spears and Jon Bon Jovi closed out the set. Many a band will politely mention the following acts on the same stage, but it must be a festival-programmers dream to have bands who really plug the later acts with enthusiasm. The highest praise came from Riot Jazz's MC Chunky who, breathless with excitement, exclaimed “I can't believe Grace Jones is playing on this stage later! I wish I was Grace Jones”.

Compared to the chatty Riot Jazz, who spent their time telling anecdotes and applauding the audience for indulging them in their on-stage shenanigans, Esperanza Spalding was stony silent during her theatrical concept performance Emily's D+Evolution - a new musical sound from a narrative based around an alter ego. Helpfully signposted for the audience with a large print sign held aloft, a Prologue saw the afro-sporting Esperanza enter a cocoon and emerge as braided, bespectacled Emily. Evolution, Devolution and D+Evolution took us on a prog-rock opera, with a journey of self-discovery peppered with learning, religious ideology and amicable dance-offs amongst her small choir. The new sound is less focused, and takes a dreamy rock-funk jam approach. In comparison to her previous earnest talkative self, at times this verged on the self-indulgent, and while Emily's D+Evolution was certainly no Dylan at Newport in '65 moment, half-way through the set an audience member piped up with: “We want Esperanza back”.

Moon Hooch are a dreamy narrative's antithesis. The New York subway system seems to be acting as a hot-house for high-energy minimalist brass trios (see also Too Many Zooz), but Moon Hooch bring their breakneck speed horn lines and juddering dances to a place where house meets virtuoso performance. The Arena stage was scattered with particularly large and loopy members of the woodwind genus; baritone saxophones and contra-bass clarinets honked on top of primal drums and big-drop techno beats. An exhilarating onslaught of duelling reverb saxophones let up only for tenor sax and loop maestro Mark Wilbur to embark on a frenetic lung-busting lesson in circular breathing.

It would be hard to accuse Erik Truffaz of being high-energy, and he brought a controlled calm to the Arena later in the day. Mixing familiar crowd pleasers from 2007's Archangelsk and 1998's The Dawn with pieces from Malian-inflected new release Doni Doni, Truffaz's signature soft sound lilts thoughtfully over the Gallic acid-jazz groove. Benoit Corboz deserves much credit for the rich sound, his Rhodes work providing many layers, and some intense improvisation.

French performers mixing house with francophone influence is not the sole territory of Truffaz, with St Germain headlining the Big Top with a 7-piece formed from members from post-colonial West Africa and the French overseas territories, mixing traditional Kora and Ngoni with the expected electric fare. The performance marks the release of Ludovic Navarre's first album as St Germain in 15 years, but saw him very much taking a peripheral role lurking unannounced behind his decks with the collected ensemble in front. It was quite the spectacle, and with so many musicians and instruments had the potential to build into some real climaxes, however without a front man leading the music it tended to drift. The band was having fun, but Navarre appeared to want to be anywhere else. The Big Top appeared to be having sound mixing issues throughout the weekend, and perhaps some of the magic of the array of acoustic instruments was lost in the mix.

Sound issues presented less of a concern at the Bandstand in the morning, with little to mix and no other stages to compete with. Chris Coul’s “Brownie Speaks” gave people a swinging Clifford Brown tribute to enjoy their morning coffee to, while Liane Carroll woke up a sleepy crowd with her sheer enthusiasm to be performing and singing. Partikel’s String Theory Quartet did a fantastic job of reminding people that time signatures didn’t need to stick to 4/4 for people to still be able to groove to it.

 LINK: John L Walters covered different acts on Saturday. His review for us is HERE

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