Festival crowds can be a weird and sometimes hostile place. It seems the younger the festival’s general age, the more people in the crowds come across as aggressive or just plain dicks. However, at Bestival 2015 we encountered a humbling experience while watching Jamie xx.
Jamie, who you may know as the producer for alternative band The x,x has recently taken on a new solo challenge and this year saw the release of his debut album, In Colour.
His album is arguably one the best releases of 2015 so it was no surprise that the Big Top tent at Bestival was crammed with fans. With the tent being on a hill, everyone looks up at the stage like religious folk staring towards heaven. Although instead of it being peaceful, the tent is hostile. Maybe it was from some of the crowd drinking a couple cans of brave beforehand? Whatever it was, the people in the tent were aggressively pushing people who squeezed in front of them and frequently told people to “fuck off!” – classy.
As Jamie enters the stage, this already rowdy crowd grows even more energetic. People push past one another and start to further irritate the others in the crowd. But, just like magic, Jamie drops his album’s leading single ‘Good Times’ and the attitude of the tent suddenly changes. This previously rowdy and aggressive crowd suddenly soaks up the positivity from the music and seem to be, in fact, having a “good time”.
As the set progresses into a more atmospheric mood, it further transforms people into a much more relaxed state. A once cramped crowd starts to loosen up, freeing space for us to wobble through to find a better spot. Just as the deep nocturnal sounds of ‘Sleep Sound‘ starts to play, we found ourselves more or less at the front. Being at the front wasn’t what baffled us, but the ease of moving through the crowd. What happened? These same people were being dicks to one another only moments before and now everyone’s pretty much cuddling?!
While Jamie works through the In Colour tracks, the atmosphere changes and perfectly balances the joyful and more emotional feeling. Tracks ‘The Rest Is Noise‘ and ‘Stranger in a Room‘, melt the crowd’s minds into an even deeper and appreciative state where every second of each song really counts.
The mood changes to a more upbeat atmosphere when Jamie skillfully mixes tracks ‘Gosh‘ and ‘Hold Tight‘; these faster and heavier beats waking people from their dream state. One MDMA general next to us felt this energy and with a second wind he put half-a-dozen people up on his shoulders, one-after-another. But that wasn’t enough, as he pushes the crowd back to make a circle in the middle of the limp and relaxed crowd. While he tried his hardest to get the crowd to mosh, everyone else was too intensely indulged in the music – no one would play with the MDMA kid.
The set climaxed as the uplifting sounds of ‘Loud Places‘ burst through the speakers and, as the chorus drops, the tent became a place of celebration and joy. It’s remarkable that someone’s set can be this good. Jamie had taken today’s crowd on an incredible journey and left the stage with a round-of-applause echoing through the tent.
So why did this originally dickish crowd suddenly become a delight to be around? How did Jamie xx do it?
With a set that does not rely upon “the drop”, there was no repetitiveness, just a seamless sound. Perhaps these continuously subtle beat changes were enough to capture this crowd’s imagination enough to change? Or maybe the long journey to the Isle of Wight was starting to take its toll on people?
All we know is we witnessed a rare moment where a large collective of people came together, through the pure power of the music. I once saw rock star Andrew W.K. and experienced a place where people came together with the common understanding of: it’s going to be rough, but we’re all here to party. The same thing happened today; people understood the music and collectively reacted in the best way.
Does Jamie xx have some sort of magical powers? Nothing’s for certain. But what we do know is that one man’s set managed to stop everyone being complete dicks and all harmonise together – an indescribable feeling.