Soundcrash is renowned for running top tier music events in and around London, and they’ve lent their influence and expertise to several festivals over the years, most notably Soundwave. The Funk and Soul Weekender is distinct, however, in that it is the only festival run by the company from the ground up.
Originally it was held at Camber Sands in Sussex, but this year for the first time it was transplanted to the more well known shores of Brighton Beach. The layout also morphed as a result of this, splitting itself between a dedicated set of stages on the beach itself and various venues around the city, including Patterns, Volks, The Haunt and Concorde 2. The idea was that attendees would be able to drift between these spots watching acts at their leisure.
In terms of the line-up, it was nothing to sniff at, with the roster littered with British jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop up and comers, some of whom played multiple sets across the weekend. Overseas imports included The Pharcyde, Kamasi Washington and one the weekend’s major highlights – Akua Naru, whose saxophonist Julian Ritter fired off a mindblowing solo at the end of the set with just as much passion and power as the poet/MC threw out with her lyrics.
Elsewhere, The Haunt played host to an intimate but electric showing from Gentleman’s Dub Club, as the band played to a packed venue who jumped so hard you could actually feel the floor moving.
In reality it’s hard to single out a single artist or DJ who failed to deliver, and the afterparty schedule was similarly impressive. The one key issue, which will hopefully serve as an important lesson, was the crowd management.
The beach area proved so popular on the Saturday that it hit crowd capacity in the late afternoon, prompting security to adopt a one-in-one-out policy. This meant many ticket holders were left standing in line while acts they wanted to see came and went on the other side of the fence. The idea had clearly been that all venues would be evenly attended, spreading the crowd. This simply wasn’t the case and the resultant logjam left many people feeling short changed.
While this certainly marred the enjoyment of the weekend (as did the sudden appearance of a gigantic Mini Cooper owners’ club gathering in the same area on Sunday), the line-up and setting were both note-perfect.
The key takeaway here, for my money, is to spread the acts out more evenly and not lean too heavily on a bespoke festival space – use the venues more, and ensure all are aware that you either get there early, or you don’t get in. It’s harsh, but if you want to involve the local clubs (a commendable approach), you have to account for capacity limitations. Hopefully that’s what we’ll see next year.