As the bus took us through the East Sussex countryside and the winding streets of the Hobbiton-like village of Glynde we got a glimpse of what to expect at Love Supreme Festival 2016. As expected for a jazz festival, the visitor demographic was primarily 30+, which has its pros and cons as we were about to find out.
You see, Love Supreme is an interesting festival. The older demographic the lineup attracts are a calm and gentle soul. They are polite and relaxed, albeit a little festival naive. There was not a whiff of trouble or violence throughout the Saturday & Sunday Art Noise attended the festival which was welcoming, especially for the many families in attendance.
The downside to this demographic however was first noticed as we entered The Arena to see Native Dancer. Catching the end of the show involved first wading through a sea of camping chairs, leading to a few bruised shins. Such is the desire for some folks to sit down, that they brought camping chairs into the actual tents of the festival. Of course, this really was to be expected at a festival where you were as likely to see people distracted by knitting as by their smartphone.
We headed across to the Big Top next for Esperanza Spalding, whose theatrical performance was both intense and intriguing, a story played out through music & dance that whilst we struggled to follow fully, was entertaining none the less. Esperanza was a possessed queen, her movement across stage hypnotically erratic at times.
Next up we strolled back to the Arena, and caught Moon Hooch, a Brooklyn-based trio who create dance infused percussion music led by Saxophones. It was big, bold and filled with bass and the crowd were jumping throughout. After witnessing their set it was surprising to see them so early on in the day, they would have had everyone at Love Supreme Festival (who wasn’t knitting) bouncing long into the night given half a chance.
Kandace Springs was up next, and the stage was dominated by a piano and her awesomely BIIIG hair. Kandace’s music is perfectly suited for a smoky whiskey bar, filled with leather upholstery and teak cabinets. Just listening to her music had us heading to the bar afterwards to order a bourbon on the rocks.
Over on the Love Supreme Festival main stage, Skye|Ross from Morcheeba provided a relaxing Saturday afternoon soundtrack, letting her voice do the work of sending the crowd gently toward the evening.
Of course, gentle was not on the mind of Eric Truffaz 4Tet – where trumpet-fueled jazz partnered with synth melodies to create an uplifting experience that had the crowd swapping their wellies for dancing shoes.
Lianne La Havas was a delight for both the ears and eyes over on the main stage, her beautiful stage presence matched by the aural bliss of her music. It’s crisp, soulful and filled with heart, the perfect support act for the glitz and glamour that was to come.
Closing the main stage was the demi-God of jazz and soul herself – Grace Jones. The costume was incredibly brave (considering our summer has been a little chilly), as Grace chose to bare all. The body paint can’t have been particularly insulating, but she still looks incredible and commands the attention of the crowd. Personally, we would say the outfit was like a cross between Old Greg and The Spirit of Jazz (from Mighty Boosh), so take that how you will. After Grace we retired back to Brighton, ready to take on Sunday.
We kicked off Sunday morning with Cactuses – a relatively new but promising Brightonian neo-soul band. Despite getting an early morning slot, Cactuses have managed to gather quite the audience around the Band Stand Stage once they started playing.
Blending classic rhythm and brass sections with more techy, electronic samples and loops, Cactuses bring a unique, refreshing sound that we’re sure we’ll be hearing more of in the future.
Next, it was a short stroll back over to the main stage, where Avery*Sunshine played a fun, energetic performance which was filled with self-humour and interactions with the audience who absolutely loved them. It is safe to say that after this show, mood levels had risen (well, the sun might have had something to do with it as well!).
One of our highlights from the festival was GoGo Penguin’s show. The Manchester-based band, who are originally known for being an acoustic piano trio, have demonstrated an impressively diverse set including many different influences and sounds, from electronic breakbeats to grinding bass lines.
The name GoGo Penguin was heard around the festival premises quite a lot after their show, so we are sure we were not the only ones who were left so impressed by them.
Suitably warmed up we were ready to fling ourselves back over to the main stage where Hip-Hop and R & B legend Kelis blessed us with an amazing set that had the crowd put down their knitting needles and novellas in order to get their groove on. Her milkshake still brings all the boys to the yard.
Caro Emerald followed Kelis with a delightful show, her electro swing anthems pleasing enough, although never quite capturing the same energy as her stage predecessor. In the (surprisingly) hot sun this was exactly what we needed, a breather before the evening entertainment took over.
What came next though, took us by surprise. Kamasi Washington brought a performance that can be likened to being hit by a truck filled with saxophones. It was hard hitting in your face Jazz at its most energetic, intense and exciting, and everyone in the Big Top tent loved every second.
It was at this moment, looking out from the tent we saw the throngs of people heading over to the main stage, making their way to see Burt Bacharach. Following the crowd, it was like a pilgrimage, after all, this will be the last opportunity to see Burt, who started his performance by stating “we do as much as we can in the time we have.” Launching into his many many hits the crowd were swaying along and singing the songs they had come to know so well, no matter the generation.
We didn’t stay for all of Burts set, as a certain band we couldn’t afford to miss were headlining over at The Arena. The Correspondents (a band we know only too well, read our interview from back in 2013) juxtaposed against the soothing tones of Burt Bacharach over on the main stage, performed to their usual vibrant standards, bringing the Arena alive with Mr. Bruce’s infectious dance moves, Chucks’ filthy beats and a whole new punchiness added by drummer Holly. The new AV show was a nice touch, but honestly, it’s hard to look at anything except front man Ian Bruce when he’s flailing limbs across the stage in perfect time to the music.
All in all, there were plenty of stunning performances throughout the weekend, and for the older generation, it is a festival you can really feel safe at. Bring your children, bring your grandchildren or just bring your friends and loved ones. Just watch out for your shins & knees, those camping chairs sneak up on you in the darkness.
Watch our video highlights from the festival below: