Positive Vibration Festival 2021: Photo Gallery & Review
We make our return to live festival coverage with Positive Vibration Festival 2021. What better way to get back into the swing of things?
“We covering this?” above an image of the Positive Vibration 2021 poster read a post in the Planet Slop contributors group in the middle of July.
Yes! Of course we are.
Positive Vibration has historically been one of the highlights of our year here at Planet Slop and having missed a year, with so little else to grasp onto in the meantime, it really did feel like the clouds were finally lifting and in the distance the colourful, inviting, eclectic, award winning festival we so dearly love was beckoning to us to get back into the groove of things.
After all, how hard could that be?
The closer the event drew though, the more trepidation surfaced. Are we putting anyone at risk? Do people feel pressured to do this? Are people ready to get back out there?
Early on in inviting our friends to start taking the opportunity to get back out to live shows in regards to our coverage we felt compelled to make sure that everyone was only doing what was comfortable to them, so that is all we’ve asked from those who have volunteered to make the trip into the Baltic Triangle this weekend. No rota’s, no stage allocations, no wish list. Simply go where you wish, see who you want and do what is comfortable to you.
Due to this on more than one occasion all four of us found ourselves in the same place at the same time, taking photos and notes of the same acts. Which was extremely pleasant to be selfish with you as we’ve not been able to enjoy each others company like this for far too bloody long. So no, we don’t cover every act in this review or anywhere near it quite frankly.
Regardless, let’s get into it.
For us Friday started with punk-reggae band Ruts DC (aka The Ruts) who attract a sizeable on-brand crowd to District, including Jah Wobble who takes on the roll of a reggae ‘Where’s Wally’ so frequent is he spotted mingling over the course of the festival.
The weather really didn’t have any choice when it came to brightening up for the weekend, forecasts be damned and so the lovely outside Yard of the venue is booming too. Despite multiple instances of disbanding, reforming and line up changes from the late 70’s to date it’s clear the John Peel favoured trio have retained a enthusiastic fan base as they sing along to the almost 4 decade-strong hits.
District was the place to be this weekend if you ask us. Some of the most legendary acts on the bill were staged at the Jordan Street venue and the sizable crowd from Friday afternoon didn’t ever seem to thin for the remainder of the festival.
When it came to the venues and layout, there were definitely separate uses and vibes to each of the spaces. Hangar34 was another of the perpetually packed venues (come the late afternoon at least) with a stream of upbeat, high energy DJ’s and live acts. Having Sinai Sound System have a residency of sorts there was a genius move and as such have come away as one of our weekend highlights.
92 Degrees provided the ideal respite for those pulling longer stints across the weekend and found themselves in need of a caffeine hit and also hosted the Art of Reggae exhibit where attendees could take part in a silent auction to take home the pieces on show. Starting at £20 for a framed piece it seemed like an absolute bargain considering the quality on offer and so we hope that they all found happy homes.
Earlier in the days (more so Saturday) both Camp and Furnace took on more multi-functional purposes, with workshops and talks taking place before the acts took the reigns into the evening. Furnace especially spun lots of plates, with acts on throughout whilst also hosting a number of stalls, arts and crafts and a large seated table area. As the weekend progressed there were some hit and miss elements to this.
One of the things we noticed early on was how family friendly the set up was this year with a choice of child targeted activities, which we love. Entering into Greenland Street and seeing a bunch of kids watching their instructors intensely and totally engaged with banging away on their drums of all shapes, sizes and colours was wonderful. Seeing the happy little faces glow at the reveal of a screen-print they’d just done and watching the particularly lively ones run, bounce and dance about right in front of the Furnace stage is such a welcome sight at a festival – even more so when you consider the kids go free here. A free day out and a load of stuff to keep them entertained?! You’d be mad not to.
The flip side was the Furnace acts were too often neglected of the crowds they deserved. DJ Keith Marley and Rubber Dub being two standout acts we really enjoyed but wish they’d had more bodies to perform to.
Elsewhere the newly erected Bob Marley statue welcomed a constant stream of admirers and selfie-takers into its outstretched arms and the Gravel Pit lived up to its reputation as the proverbial kitchen (the one where all the best parties are at!) and was awash with smiles, chatter and good eating all weekend (shout out to the vegan dumplings), with the festival’s unmistakable diversity of attendees for all to see. Positive Vibration and Africa Oye really do lead the way in the city when it comes to welcoming one and all as their own to their events.
Friday night was always destined to be triumphed by Asian Dub Foundation and Jah Wobble – who was playing his first post-lockdown gig. With Zig Zag Nation and Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay on the setlist ADF soon had Camp moving, which amusingly included any water bottle left to rest on a flat surface – the music animating them into bouncing little dancers of their own. Joined by The Invaders of The Heart, Jah appeared to be a man enjoying himself just as thoroughly as his audience.
It seemed like everyone within a 5 mile radius had intentions of seeing Dawn Penn on Saturday afternoon, which benefitted Aleighcia Scott who by the end of her set had a pleasing view from the stage. Keep an eye on that name by the way, the award winning singer is reported to be working with producer Rory Stonelove who’s known to rub shoulders in the studio with Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Dawn Penn eventually took to the stage to join The Maticians in the kind of fashionably late manner that only the most legendary women can really get away with whilst still making you feel overwhelmingly fond of them the minute they do walk on stage. Handbag following a song later. Being front and centre for it we have to trust the overheard reports that District turned into a one-in one-out destination and some of our group did depart to enjoy a little more social distance. Still emitting a tangible charm she lights up the crowd with every smile and gesture.
Don Letts was on double duty, first at Camp where we was joined by John Robb to talk about Letts’ recent book There and Black Again, amongst other things.
Letts is such a engaging and passionate character, pacing up and down the stage as Robb proficiently quizzes him, which is hardly a surprise as he’s one of the best in the business when it comes to making these such appearances. The small but enthralled crowd hung on every word of his tales of hanging out with Bob Marley in London, journeying to Jamaica with Johnny Rotten and Richard Branson of all people, a weird and wonderful improv session with Patti Smith. We’re almost inclined to tell you to buy the book. Hell, buy the book! Later in the evening he took to the decks in his trademark style.
Back in the swell of District there was an ongoing triple threat of a set from Tippa Irie, Horseman and The Upper Cut Band. For the next couple of hours we’d return to poke our head in to see the still going at it until eventually they made way for The Twinkle Brothers.
Between the aforementioned repetitive visits we managed to look in on a couple of unexpected weekend finds. Dub Link Up held down a two hour set that was hard to pull yourself away from. Hanger34 swaying in motion as people continued to flow in until the infamous Channel One took over. Kiko Bun owned the small strip of stage in front of DJ Adam Prescott in Camp, crowd in the palm of his hand for opener Bad Boy Tenor. Sunshine vibes, swagger, catchy tunes and just a generally likable presence he’s the one we’ve come away thinking about most frequently.
We cannot shy away from the fact that the rest of the Saturday night did not go to plan. As a result of technical issues on at the Camp venue two of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Hollie Cook and Gentleman’s Dub Club were unable to take to the stage. The festival have released a statement regarding the issues which you can read below.
We’d have to be in denial to claim that the last 18 months (or whatever it is by now!) haven’t had lasting effects. The nature of them seem to be unique and varied to each of us. One of the unexpected challenges to raise it’s head over the last two weeks was in fact this review.
Having done this for about, ohhh, five years now, the person currently writing to you now can honestly say that they have never encountered this level of unnecessary stress and anxiety putting together copy for a review. This tab has been open since the Monday following the festival. Naps, comfort eating, chores, online shopping, actual work, walking the dogs. Literally any form of procrastination was welcome, anything other than having to sit here and cobble something together. The habit of pumping out two or three of these a week pre-pandemic is well and truly a thing of the past and that can be said for a lot of things that we’ve simply not had the opportunity to do.
So lets be kind to everyone out there who is just trying to remember what it is they do and how they used to do it. The sound techs, the festival organisers, the venue managers, the acts. This was one of the first multi-venue multi-day festivals in a good while, run by a small team of passionate people who were undoubtedly under immense pressure and stress to pull it all off. Things go wrong sometimes, especially when you’re out of practice.
Overall though, the weekend was overwhelmingly right and there is nowhere else we’d rather had made our comeback.
Photos & words by Brian Sayle, Gary Dougherty, Graham Smillie, and Vicky Pea.
Check out the photo gallery below.