The Royal Festival Hall played host to the first Outlook Festival Orchestra at London’s Southbank Centre, billed as a celebration of the soundsystem culture that has swelled the ranks of Outlook Festival ravers year on year for the last 10. Now in double digits, the Hip-Hop-cum-Grime-via-Dub-Reggae-and-Jungle festival sees numbers in excess of 14,000 fly out to Pula in Croatia to see the biggest names in music.
For one night in London we had a 100 minute mix lined up – a live festival soundtrack played by a 20 piece orchestra, concert style, with Mad Professor and Adrian Sherwood live in the mix. Mary Ann Hobbs made the introductions as the stragglers found their seats. Typically mixed in age and ethnicity for a London crowd, the weird part was watching everyone operate as competent humans in their real lives. There was a buzz in the room already, but they were so orderly I thought they couldn’t possibly be the same ones I’ve seen pissing outside their own tent and puking into the sea.
Composer Tommy Evans, made his way out to the stand and we hit the ground running with Pharoahe Monch’s ‘Simon Says’. Previews had boasted of extended string and horn sections and they did not disappoint, with Monch on stage things got underway proper. For an opening, it was pitch perfect. Foreign Beggars, Jehst and Newham Generals all followed Pharoahe Monch in a breathless mix – Footsie and D Double performed ‘Hard’ and I held my breath during the intro but the Outlook Orchestra came good.
Jenna G led the way on the track ‘Sincere’ with J Appiah also on hand with vocals in the Garage section of the night. Submotion was next, A performance of ‘All Yours’ translated as easily as you’d expect, a solo from the lead Trumpeter gave their performance a little extra. Tommy Evans, the man behind both Submotion Orchestra and Gentleman’s Dub Club, had things running just right and a performance of ‘Highgrade’ pushed the party well into fourth gear, horns and percussions united with precision to deliver a turned up Ska party.
But there was no time to linger. Congo Natty and of course General Levvy were holding it down for the Jungalists and predictably, I watched their performances through the amidst a sea of phone screens. Jenna G returned for her D’n’B classic ‘In Love’. Before Dawn Penn gave an encore as strong as the opening. An amazing night of music came to an end.