The third edition of Strawberries and Creem Festival went off with a bang this weekend at Haggis Farm, as huge names in RnB and grime played alongside upcoming DJs and Emcees.
‘Direct Rudeboy’ and grime hero, Kano, opened the afternoon and his 2pm set packed one hell of a punch. About to rush off to play Parklife in Manchester, standout tracks in his energetic selection of older tracks and stuff from recent album, ‘Made in the Manor’, included ‘GarageSkank Freestyle’ and ‘3 Wheel-Ups’. The uniquely jilted flow and stage presence of D-Double-E kept the afternoon popping, and Big Narstie got himself shirtless and got the crowd shirty in a rowdy, suitably bass-heavy half hour.
Elsewhere, the sweaty Strawberry Tent offered high energy drum 'n' bass, grime and jungle and the sandy Beach DJ booth kept things mainstream hiphop and disco. Bordered by bikes, and featuring punts as seats and even a mini Granchester meadows, the food arena gave a nod to the university city without overdoing any Cambridge student clichés. This is a festival that dances to its own jams and unapologetically offers a friendly, laid back, beer-and-trainers alternative to the opulence of May Week ; even Security were caught nodding along to the mainstage acts.
It wasn’t 100% plain sailing. Poor layout meant that in the middle of the field, sound from the three stages clashed; this is often a problem at festivals but at such a small scale event it was a bit too notable at times. And of course, festival appropriation bingo saw many crosses next to white girls in bindis, white guys in kurtas and one too many Native American headdresses from dancers in the Beach booth.
Yet, for its relatively small size and budget it is otherwise hard to criticise this very impressive festival. Playing in a UK festival exclusive, Nelly’s short but sweet tea-time set drew the biggest crowd of the day, and included a surprise rework of ‘Hot N*gga’ as well as all the crowd pleasers we all expected; ‘Hot in Here’ and ‘Dilemma’ sounding as fresh as ever. While slightly at odds with the rest of the line-up, the gravitas of this booking kept the hype high around the site all afternoon.
There is nothing quite as confusing as watching an old white dude mix up reggae and dancehall classics with the freshest new releases; David Rodigan has always puzzled me as a DJ, but his ability to work a crowd half his age is testament to his lifelong commitment to the genre, and his set was extended The heavy rain didn’t stop comedy crew Kurupt FM close the festival with a tonne of energy; the dwindling crowd laughed along to the onstage banter.
In case it needed any more demonstrating, Strawberries and Creem reinforced the fact that Grime is one of the most exciting and dynamic music movements of our time. This is a very special day festival that has now fully forged its identity as a mainstay of the UK underground festival circuit: and it is a true asset to this city and its people.
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