There is a natural energy produced in the process of sharing a creative endeavour. Manifesting itself uniquely in the individual, yet, in the moment, shared equally both by creator and receiver. It is this energy that saturates the atmosphere at Brainchild, where each year performers and attendees connect through collective serotonin – all are beneficiaries.
In it’s seventh edition, offerings to stimulate the senses were as strong as ever, from audio-immersive forest explorations producing a different kind of wide-eye, socio-political talks tackling working welfare, race and gender issues with the likes of 4dayweek and gal-dem; to a vast array spoken word, theatre, comedy and more. This is before we even mention the impressive collection of talented musicians and DJs providing the festival soundscape, let alone the incredibly intricate and ingenious installations that adorned the site. These were a particular highlight for all, especially during golden-hour!
Making a good thing even better is tricky at the best of times, yet Brainchild make it look easy and there really are few others like it, it’s an iconoclast of the modern festival.
As with last year we asked some of the festival’s performers to put into words their own experiences. Read below their standout performances and memorable off stage moments.
I loved watching Alabaster de Plume! The way he integrates political and social commentary into music is absolutely incredible! Musically emotive and free, he creates a non-threatening space but speaks so passionately and it doesn’t feel heavy or twisted, it’s just truth and it’s energising and loving and intelligent. This is something that I am trying to achieve within my own music so I felt this was very powerful.
Coming from Melbourne and being surrounded by familiar faces, of south-east London family and musicians was really amazing! Such a beautiful community of conscious creative humans on and off stage
Slam The Poet
So many! It was incredible watching the musicians in Levitation Orchestra. You could really feel all of them so full of joy and present in the music. Or else, walking in a swarm of humming people for WOOM’s singing workshop. Or also, at the Lemon Lounge jam on Sunday night. Someone got up and shared their songs for the first time, and then halfway through a song their friends arrived and just sort of exploded in disbelief and excitement and pride. They had just wandered over and had never expected their friend to be there doing that! It was this beautiful moment of seeing someone for the first time as a stranger, and then watching their friends see them for the first time too. I felt very lucky.
PECS Drag Kings succesfully blew me wide open again. And the Gender and Wellbeing Led Discussion was incredible, I can’t remember who the facilitator was but they were really supportive and welcoming. But I think truly the “non-musical” moment is the festival itself. It felt so good to be surrounded by kind, caring people; to trust that I was in a safe and supportive environment where I could be the best version of myself. And not even because I knew everyone, in fact every Brainchild I recognise fewer and fewer faces! The field was full of people I’d never met before, but they all felt so friendly and welcoming. It felt as if we’d all decided this was a place of love and support. That all sounds really sickly and sentimental after having been back in London for 3 weeks, but it really is how it felt. That kind of stuff is very rare and very replenishing. I’m trying to keep that feeling in my head for darker days, like a little Brainchild oasis full of trippy fabric installations.
Munashe Caleb Manyumbu (Brothers Testament)
Other than getting the chance to actually play, which was itself incredible, probably watching Nihilism – it’s such a different atmosphere to the usual festival at brainchild I feel because it’s very homegrown, people really know each other a lot of the time, so to be with your friends watching your friends killing a set is very satisfying. Feels good seeing everyone coming up on their own paths.
The vibe as a whole was great. I wouldn’t say it was a particular moment but more a feeling of family and freedom, no sense of having to look or be a certain way, which was expressed in the music and the people who were there, in my opinion.
Pike (Still Moving – FKA 3Peace)
Lunch Money Life blew me away. I’d come off a huge high from Levitation Orchestra, already feeling like I’d been on a big trip. I wandered dizzily back into Kite Bar with a friend and got immediately drowned by this overwhelming sense of dark energy and hype. The room was empty, adding a real unease and uncanniness to a performance filled with so much punky groove aggression and cocksureness. Spencer the lead even smugly snarled – ‘we can play to 4 fuckin people or a few hundred – it makes no difference to us!’ Sure enough it started filling out, people started headbanging and dancing, and my feeling of awe and bewilderment snowballed into some kind of possessed frenzy! Like a lot of the best music, I’ve experienced it both turned me on and freaked me out in equal measure.
Doing a singing workshop with Woom was amazing and so inspiring for me. I’ve been trying to open up with my own voice for so long because it’s always been a real nervous/shy spot in my musical life, but just being in a room full of 100 or so people just singing out into this immense chorus made it so easy to forget yourself and your voice and just sink deep into the collective sound. It was like a folk choir – maybe that should be a thing for Brainchild, Brainchild’s Folk Choir!
My best non-musical moments were mostly chatting to musicians and people I didn’t know after sets! I met so many amazing artists and players, all with such a sense of warmth and openness to just chat and get hyped with – something often lacking in musical circles where standoffishness and mystique can be the currency. Even the aggression and twisted darkness of LML came through as sincerity and warmth in person. Love to all the good folk!
This year sadly I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time at the festival, but one thing I was fortunate to see on the beautifully balmy Sunday afternoon was the set by Allysha Joy. Her powerful soulful voice had myself and the whole audience mesmerised, breathing in her every note. Felt so honoured to have gotten the opportunity to see her live, and seeing her the Brainstage with the sun in the background made it even more special.
One of my favourite non-musical experiences was arriving on the Sunday afternoon and being welcomed by all these happily tired smiles. That’s one of the many things I love about this festival, the community which is created over the space of the weekend. Whether it’s friends who have been coming for years, or brand new faces experiencing it all for the first time – everyone is welcomed to be themselves, discover, play all together. So much love for Brainchild, thank you for doing what you do.
Born Cheating (Tiff’s Joints/ Touching Bass)
DJ Tahira – He’s the best DJ in the world so of course, he’d be a highlight. Tahira laid down two hours of Afro-Brazilian goodness in the Shack just as the sun was beginning to dip on Saturday. It’s always a life-affirming experience hearing the maestro play and I love seeing people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the type of music he plays getting into it.
On Sunday a huge tanker was driven onto the site for some reason and the security got so excited about it as they’d obviously had nothing to do all weekend up until this moment. Its a sign of a good festival when the security have so little to do they get excited about a big vehicle.
Ben Bishop (inner u)
Sunset transmissions and transitions at the Shack between Donna Leake and Zakia. The dust kicked up by dancers caught the sideways sun beams of golden hour and gave the whole space a very special energy.
Post-panel impromptu cherry stone spitting contest. Techniques critiqued, participation encouraged, prizes not important – brought together our little shoddy crew in a very cute way.
And Is Phi
Fedah blew my mind. The power and execution managing such a lush electronic sound while vocalising in flourishes somewhere between garage classics n Sarah Vaughn kinda floored me. And Maxwell Owin, all three sets. Don’t even feel I need to explain there.
DAL held a workshop that put us in our bodies with assurance of how much we could truly hold ourselves – and in the presence of others on that same journey. They turned us into trees, encouraged our curious blooming into a crossing intimacy of each other. Guiding a fluid but grounded connectedness. Then they beckoned a circle of fire. My loved ones and strangers all the same threw themselves in and danced in the beauty of their own flaming untapped resources. It happened on a Sunday, and changed the way I hold myself. I am now a walking tree who can bloom flames if she wants to. They woke that up.
Maxwell Owin’s opening DJ set on Friday was incredible and a great way to get everyone into the vibe of the festival and getting a good boogie on. He smashes it every single time he plays, plus you can’t help but feel the love because he’s also the nicest person you’ll ever meet.
Duendita on Saturday on the Brain stage was also mesmerising. She’s an amazing song writer, with this insane voice that has so many beautiful tones and shapes. I’ve had ‘Pray’ in my head for a solid month (Harley)
Jay Jay Revlon’s Voguing workshop of course…he captures an audience like no other. It’s so much fun to learn some of the voguing dance moves and you really feel part of something amazing when there is 150 people all doing the Duck Walk! The only downside was that the tent was too small for the amount of people who wanted to join in – he should definitely have been on the Brainstage!!
Brainchild provides a very different vibe and aesthetic in comparison to the rest on offer during the festival season, there is a massive sense of communion and togetherness which tears down the curtain between the line-up and attendees as all get to meet and interact in a very visceral and natural way.
This also supplemented by the relaxed atmosphere, which in turn gives you a personable experience to enjoy the festival on your own terms.
A personal highlight was Maxwell Owin’s performance, he never disappoints, even when he isn’t performing! His spontaneous mix of genre which he executes effortlessly, is a sight to behold. Another standout moment, which made me and the CDR team proud, was seeing one of our regulars, Shunaji’s performance. On so many levels it was beautiful to see the journey of one of our own, to centre stage. A story that will hopefully inspire other CDR attendees.
Building on the CDR standpoint, I was really proud of the workshop we held this year with Ben Hauke. From my perspective it taught me to not overthink the end result and the fall in love with the process as that’s where the growth comes from and also not to be a gearslut ! An added bonus being able to tickle the attendees curiosity in taking a first step in making music during the hands-on workshop itself.
From a non-musical standpoint, I gained a lot of actionable value from Emma Warren’s talk on “How to Document Your Culture”, which I feel at times is neglected during the infancy of an artistic endeavor. As it often is the case with art, we are only as good as our current output. A particularly great lesson to come from this was, that it’s always important to reflect on your growth and all the steps taken on your path to the present.
Photo credit: Jordan Matyka