As we picked our way through vibrant Carnival crowds, with the heavenly waft of jerk chicken and monstrous sound systems all competing for our dancing feet, it felt almost like a betrayal to leave it behind at the Red Bull Music Academy’s walled compound in the heart of Notting Hill. Hosted and powered by the irresistible Major Lazer – the Dancehall-spewing alter-ego of Philadelphia DJ and producer, Diplo – this event was everything you’d expect from Red Bull, who do everything, just bigger and better: the sound was louder, the food and alcohol cheaper (it was FREE, all FREE), the party goers more beautiful and the vibe maybe just a bit more ‘carnival’ than carnival itself.
Sheltered from the rain by the Westway overpass made the air on the dancefloor thick with party atmosphere and was further electrified by the bassy emissions of Lunice, who transformed the crowd into impromptu festival attendees by setting an example with his own energetic performance behind and infront of the decks.
The fact that this day was all about celebrating London’s Caribbean influences escaped no-one: Lunice demonstrated his eclectic tastes with some distinctly calypso vibes, whilst perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the presence and sound of special guest, Skrillex. Normally you could add my name to a list of sceptics for one of Dubstep’s most controversial figures, so I was taken aback by the vim and vigour his set inspired. Whatever you think of this guy he undeniably cottoned on to crowd’s vibe and the spirit of Carnival with gusto.
Dre Skull, a mysterious character shrouded by a mighty beard, brought his A Game, dropping a set riddled with irresistibly danceable Kuduro, deftly switching between groovy riddims and driving basslines. Take note:
Of course, all this was a warm up to the main attractions, Sean Paul and Major Lazer. The former was introduced and thoroughly hyped by Reggae’s evergreen golden-boy, David Rodigan MBE. None of this drew attention away from Sean Paul though, who switched up his classic crowd pleasers like Get Busy and Like Glue with tunes duttier than his so-proclaimed debut album. Given all this build up it would’ve been rather embarrassing for Major Lazer to flop, but that he did not. Interspersing carnival stalwarts with on-stage antics. First came the crowd surf inside a giant zorb ball, then the stage invitation for any willing and able female to invade the stage.
No doubt RBMA threw the party of the weekend. Every performer was on-point, the crowd wholeheartedly dedicating themselves to the feel-good Caribbean vibes emanating from the decks. Next time Red Bull throws a shin-dig in your area rob, steal or kill your way to a ticket, there’s no experience quite like it.