Over a wet and warm August weekend, We Out Here Festival established itself as a festival for all, showcasing the best of what comes from people and music coming together. Set amongst the idyllic lakes, gardens and river of a Georgian farm house, the four-day event returned to Abbots Ripton for its second edition in 2021 after a forced hiatus due to the pandemic.
Curated by Gilles Peterson, with the festival taking its name from a popular Brownswood recordings compilation album, the daytime bill was populated with South London jazz groups and individual artists, amongst others. For instance, Friday evening saw 6-stringed bass virtuoso Thundercat, a surprise inclusion, lead the billing on the main stage.
As day became night, the festival’s applaudable dynamism took shape, with an array of DJs varied in selection performing across the multiple stages. Dance music of nearly all forms could be found from the Woodland, Forest and Rhythm Corner across to smaller gems such as the Lemon Lounge, WWFM, Love Dancin’ and Brawnswood stages. Worthy highlights from these include Dr Banana, Tash LC & Friends and Sargasso with Matthew Herbert, to name a few. Beyond the music, We Out Here existed as a genuine all-round cultural experience with cinema-screenings, gong baths, lake swimming and in-conversation events aplenty to keep everyone occupied all weekend.
An almost surreal feeling took hold on the first day following 18 months of disruption for all, melding into an inclusive, communal and celebratory mood as the weekend progressed. Families, groups of young friends and stalwarts of the scene represented themselves across the extensive variety of stages and styles. Each well-placed and exceptionally well-tuned in terms of sound quality, the plethora of stages allowed We Out Here to perfectly showcase the astounding choice of music on offer from day through to night. Friendly, incredibly well curated and good humoured, the weekend provided a welcoming return to the dance.
Cousin Kula – Lush Life, Friday
The Bristol five-piece and psych-pop outfit opened the Lush Life stage on Friday morning with an astonishingly tight and well executed set that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Wobbly and dreamy synths fused brilliantly with the falsetto-esque vocals and sax work to produce a unique and resonating sound. Think Mockasin meets Prince with noodly, jangled guitar tones – a band that just needs to be seen live.
Sally Rogers – Forest, Friday
As we ventured towards the forested stages for the first time on Friday evening, emanating from the far reaches of this brilliant corner of the festival was Sally Rogers. Her sounds journeyed through worldly deep house to more eclectic selections that had us locked for hours – keeping us moving under the trees. The DJ, producer and senior lecturer at the University of Leeds was on hand to deliver perhaps the weekend’s nicest surprise.
Children of Zeus – Main, Saturday
Gracing the main stage on Saturday night, accompanied by the rising talent of KSR, Children of Zeus paid homage to their hip hop idols through sampling, hair raising soul-smattered vocals and many, many rewinds. The neo-soul duo, made up of MC Konny Kon and vocalist Tyler Daley, stunned through their tightly-nit set that felt both well-rehearsed yet enthralling in its spontaneity. KSR’s stunning vocal work had the main stage crowd holding their breath as the set neared its end.
Ashley Henry – Main, Saturday
Providing a welcoming respite for some sore heads on Saturday morning, Ashley Henry’s trio delivered soothing South London sounds and profound sentiments lyrically on the main stage. With a soaring and mercurial accompaniment on trumpet, the set took on a multitude of influences and aesthetics from hip-hop to spoken word. Ashley’s piano work fused effortlessly with the rest of the group to form one of the highlights of the weekend.
Sherelle – Lush Life, Saturday
Rolling fiercely through jungle and breaks for an electrifying 90 minutes, London-based DJ Sherelle brought her energy and skill to the Lush Life stage, with a few ceremonial love hearts and flip offs directed at the adoring crowd. Her own bright energy and performative qualities on stage formed a bond with the festival goers, who undoubtedly felt a part of this gem of a showcase as much as the artist did.
Ezra Collective – Main, Saturday
The Jazz quintet took to the main stage on Saturday evening and delivered a raucous and intense set which set the festival alight. The group, who met and first played as part of a South London youth jazz organisation, were keen to shine light on their humble origins and implore the audience to seize the day. With strut and bluster, Ezra Collective lived up to their title as pioneers of the new wave of jazz music.
Listen to a playlist of 50 Track IDs heard at the second edition of We Out Here.
Photo credits: Ella Brolly, Lauren Luxenburg, Rob Jones, Naomi Omokhua, Sahil Kotwan.