Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Visions Festival 2016

09 August 2016, 15:03 | Written by Lucas Fothergill

"Black lives matter. And if you don't believe that, you can go fuck yourself." – Graham Hastings, Young Fathers.

The hip-hop trio and 2014 Mercury Prize winners have never shied from speaking their minds, a case in point being when they won said prize and emphatically refused to speak to rightwing newspapers following. Thankfully, this latest statement was universally accepted – and applauded – by the audience.

That was sole moment of their set at Visions (6 August) in which any member of Young Fathers addressed the audience directly. Otherwise, the group let their abrasive and furiously creative music do the talking. All three members have an intense presence on stage; as they finish each song, they stare out into the audience with beads of sweat rolling down their bare chests as they assess the carnage they’ve just wrought. It’s almost as if they’re squaring up to you. It might not sound like fun, but trust me, it really is. It's a special kind of live performance.

Their set spanned all of their output to date, including latest album White Men Are Black Men Too, with "Get Up" and "Shame" being the set's highlights as they raised St John at Hackney Church’s roof. St John at Hackney is a brilliant venue, despite it feeling little odd to drink a pint in a church. But if you’re drinking a pint in a church and there aren't a load of great bands also playing there, you should re-evaluate your life decisions immediately. When I spoke to Melvin Benn (the organiser of Reading & Leeds Festivlas) about who he thought could one day headline his festival in the future, he said Young Fathers. A lot. The man couldn’t stop talking about them. He was obsessed. I wanted to say “Melvin! Other bands exist!”, but he couldn’t be stopped. This was a man on a mission to hype Young Fathers. After seeing the trio at Visions, clearly, that hype is well deserved. Young Fathers are going places. (Probably Reading & Leeds. Definitely Reading & Leeds.)

Young Fathers weren’t the only ones to make a statement from the stage that made people take notice. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons, The Japanese House (whose single "Still" had the honour of being Zane Lowe’s last ever hottest record on Radio 1) were delayed by over an hour due to technical difficulties. When they finally did get going (with more of the day's artists like Shura - bright blue hat on and all - watching on in the crowd), singer Amber Bain said "sorry to be an arsehole, but we can only play four songs.” Which wasn’t ideal. But hey – they were having major issues. It wasn’t their fault. As the band were about to come off, Amber took to the mic again to say: "sorry on behalf of the venue". Tense. But you can understand the frustration.

Elsewhere, things were decidedly more relaxed. Cat Le Bon put in a solid as ever set, as did hell-raisers Yak, and there was delightfully odd pop music from the recorder-toting duo Let’s Eat Grandma and the brilliant Shura.

In fact, the atmosphere at Visons Festival was almost always pleasant. At one point, a security guard remarked to me that he had had no troubles all day, and it was easy to see why. At no juncture did anyone seem to get pissed off in any way. Taking place over five different venues in London’s Hackney, with the sun shining throughout as people made the pilgrimage from venue to venue, it was a truly feel-good festival. A great illustration of this atmosphere was during ESG’s carnival-esque set (if you ever get the chance to see ESG, grab it with both hands) in St John at Hackney, where a security guard went racing through the crowd, not in pursuit of someone, but dancing manically to the music.

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next