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A menagerie of music taste: We Out Here 2023 reviewed

by Charlotte Russell

 
"A festival devoid of hierarchies, where clout means nothing".
A photograph of singer Flossing hunched in the middle of some red fabric
Credit: Rob Jones 2023.

In its fourth year, and at a new, bigger and better site, We Out Here festival is really finding its stride.


Having previously attended in its second year, We Out Here instantly became a personal favourite of the UK festival circuit. Not being short of some of the finest acts playing today across dance, hip-hop, soul and jazz, its eclectic curation is intent on spotlighting the energy and experience of the crowd in favour of the idolisation of the artist. In turn, this showed itself as a festival that centralises the euphoria of mass gathering, in a setting where both live music and club culture encourage you to let loose amongst a hotbed of unwavering hedonism.


However, in its infancy there were still some teething problems that needed ironing out (TW: broken portaloos), and I was therefore intrigued to see how its fourth edition, in a brand new location, would pan out.

 
 

Setting up camp within the Dorset countryside, the fourth year of We Out Here festival saw it ironing out these kinks, in a truly triumphant weekend that reflected the multi-faceted sensibilities of its founder: DJ and Brownswood Recordings originator, Gilles Peterson.


With the sands of time pitted against me, heading into a festival in my mid-late twenties definitely filled me with some concern. In previous years I have been able to bounce back following a night of sleeping on the hard ground, surviving on nothing but cereal bars, straight gin, and hard beats. But now, attending a festival as a *full blown adult* complete with back pain and eye bags, I was tentative about the prospect of spending a weekend free of confined spaces.


VLURE, a Glasgow band photographed by Oli Erskine
Ezra Collective at We Out Here 2023. Credit: Sienna Gray 2023.

The beauty of We Out Here is that its broad programming allows you, the attendee, to choose your own festival vibe whether that be the opportunity to absolutely send it or completely lay back. Days filled with the likes of Kyoto Jazz Massive, Brian Jackson and Yazmin Lacey allowed for a more subdued pace that could fix any hangover. Whilst in reverse, after the opportunity to rest and recharge, there was the welcomed opportunity to dance away to sets from Almass Badat, DJ Koze and DJ Storm & Blackeye MC - to name a few highlights.


As per its previous lineups, there was nothing short to experience at this year’s event. Its genre-bending programming included Nia Archives, Sun Ra Arkestra, Knucks, Wu-Lu, Grooverider and more on the same bill. From attending many festivals in the past whose lineups are just mere variations on a theme, it is rare to experience an event like We Out Here, whose mismatch of sounds and genres allows you the opportunity to stumble across acts that you may have not thought of tuning into before.


Falling on the 50th anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop (11th August) was clearly no coincidence, and was followed by a careful curation of some of the biggest names in Hip Hop and funk: Black Star, Knucks and Cymande, coupled with some of the UK’s rising stars: Kofi Stone and Wesley Joseph. Throughout the weekend we saw DJ’s paying homage to this anniversary, including Gilles Peterson, Lefto Early Bird & Elsewhere Sonido’s 50 Years of Hip Hop set, played to a crowd whose infectious energy proved to be a truly magical experience.


Channel One Soundsystem at We Out Here festival 2023.
Channel One Soundsystem at We Out Here 2023. Credit: Sienna Gray 2023.

Throughout the weekend, the lineup continued to spotlight the South London Jazz movement as it so often has done previously, featuring a heartwarming, energetic send-off from Sunday headliners Ezra Collective, and jams hosted by Tomorrow’s Warriors: the musical organisation from where many of this movement’s musicians began their journey.


In turn We Out Here has demonstrated itself as a festival devoid of hierarchies where clout means nothing. Of course there are the headliners - monumental acts in their own right: Ezra, Goldie, Bonobo and Nia Archives, but the same enthusiasm from the crowd for these bigger acts was also given to the smaller artists. It was apparent to all that we were witnessing music from a plethora of talented musicians who were all on the cusp of bigger things to come.


yassiin bey performing at We Out Here festival 2023.
yassiin bey at We Out Here 2023. Credit: Lauren Luxenberg

I could wax lyrical about WOH forever. It’s a festival for music-lovers in search of something a little different. But instead of penning a novel I’ve included a quick list of high and lowlights below:



Festival highlights


  • Channel One Soundsystem during the day on Sunday: Notting Hill Carnival stalwarts Channel One were led by selector Mikey Read who took us on a journey of heavy Reggae and Dub, in a truly euphoric set that saw bass rip through everyone in his wake. The beating sun was a very welcomed edition.

  • Wesley Joseph on Saturday evening: Walsall-based up-and-comer Wesley Joseph’s stage presence is unmatched. His impeccable vocal range and ability to deliver complex and heartfelt bars so seamlessly has displayed him as a force to be reckoned with.

  • Almass Badat on Thursday night: we stumbled across this DJ by chance, who delivered an up-beat set of remixed tunes from the South Asian diaspora alongside collaborator Karina Freitas. I will definitely jump at the chance to see her play in London soon.

  • Black Star on Sunday night: hearing yassiin bey perform Auditorium was pretty spectacular (I’d like to petition for The Ecstatic to be put back on Spotify with immediate effect). Seeing the duo live was a proper pinch-me moment.


Festival lowlights

  • Accidentally brushing my teeth with a bottle of gin.

  • Missing Kofi Stone.

  • Bonobo’s set finishing - I wanted to live in that moment forever.

  • Rainy Monday morning.

Follow @weoutherefest for updates on 2024.


Charlotte Russell is the Music Editor for Radical Art Review. Pitch to her: info@radicalartreview.org or follow her on Instagram: @chars_words.



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