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Review: Wigflex City Festival

Review: Wigflex City Festival
Jack Smith

Wigflex has long established itself as one of the most consistent and adventurous promoters the Midlands has ever seen, but never before has a multidisciplinary event of this scale tied together so many strands across the electronic music spectrum. With no fewer than seventeen event spaces – from pub cellars to The Brickworks’ heads-down main stage to the huge live performance space at Nottingham Contemporary – we were truly spoilt for choice. But was its breadth and ambition matched by thematic and logistical cohesion on the day?

After touching down in Nottingham and getting our bearings, we made a beeline towards the early afternoon’s most tantalising prospect – the ambient haven that is City Arts. No ordinary festival opener, the space, adorned with bean bags and an ethereal ceiling installation from local artist Will Bradley, demanded a hushed reverence. This was duly met by the early birds only too willing to ease themselves into what will inevitably become a not-so-lazy Sunday. Phlexx Records owner Trekkah Benjamin followed suit, combining glitchy dystopia with anything from Middle Eastern spoken word to rainfall and birdsong. A swathe of drone filled the dimly lit room – the calm before the metaphorical storm.

Elsewhere, independent streetwear, arts and music institution MIMM were the yang to City Arts’ yin, wasting no time throwing itself headfirst into full-on party mode. Tinny-fuelled punters spilled out into the streets as Lone & Esqueezy pumped out feel-good house inside.

There was no time to lose, however. An hour here, an hour there… the day’s generous schedule turned even the most casual of raver into an organisational nazi. All venues were within a twenty-minute walk from each other, but even so – this was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it programming at its finest.

A whistle-stop tour then, but one with highlights around every corner. In the short time that it has been open, Metronome‘s eclectic programming has already secured its reputation as an essential stop on Nottingham’s cultural circuit. In this respect, Mowgli’s live AV was a perfect segue-way between day and night. Ferocious bars weaved their way through scattergun dystopian grime, jolting an initially tentative crowd into life.

As the last of the sunshine called it a day, one heroic DJ took up the baton with an effortless masterclass in blissful instrumental disco, highlife and breaks – Gilles Peterson. The street party loose and teeming, a couple of toddlers on their parents’ shoulders flailed their arms around in appreciation.

Breezy soon turned to heady, and inevitably it fell on arguably 2019’s hottest stateside selector, Eris Drew, to bring proceedings to a close. The crowd inside the intimate Box swelled as she weaved her way through classic house and timeless breakbeat – Gat Decor’s ‘Passion’ in particular conjured the most adventurous shapes seen all day – with a technical precision few could match. An altogether jubilant, care-free farewell from the High Priestess of the Motherbeat.

All in all, Wigflex City Festival offered a bounty of riches which could easily have been extended to last the course of a weekend. Instead, its jam-packed sixteen-hour schedule has easily gone down as one of the best – if not the best – debut jaunts to grace our little island in quite some time. A new benchmark.

Photography: Tom Mitchell

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