Fusion Festival 2016 review, best bands and what we learnt at Otterspool Promenade

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The crowd at Fusion Festival

The crowd at Fusion Festival

With a toxic combination of rain and Jason Derulo, Getintothis’ Nathan Scally braves the elements to bring you all you need to know about Fusion Festival’s first year in Liverpool. 

Let’s set the scene; Saturday morning, it’s raining, and has been for a while. Worse, there’s no sign of it slowing down. The poncho salesmen all wake up with a forceful fist pump at the site outside. Queues have started to build up the street. The elderly lady looking out from her living room window is miffed to say the least.

As time passes, the rain picks up and the queue hasn’t quite moved, but doubled in size. The smiles are starting to turn. Moving venues isn’t easy for anything of this size, and it seems some moving in hitches have slowed down the day.

Despite the delays, everyone eventually makes it inside and despite the oncoming rain, smiles are back on faces. The drunk mums have ran off in pursuit off a wine top up, and the young ones have managed to escape the claws of any more dad dancing for now.

Fleur East

Fleur East

It seems to be a bit too early in the day for anyone to be fully functioning. The earlier acts have suffered from the weather as some people can only really get invoved by awkwardly shuffling about. Fleur East is the first person on stage to really catch anyone’s attention for longer than a couple of minutes. She relentlessly moved up about the stage not dropping a note all set. It seems her hair is so big merely just to have somewhere to store all her charisma. When she first takes to the stage the punters down below look like the first rehearsal of a zombie musical just bumping into each other trying to dance. Everyone involved is just too confused.

We head off to the Kopparberg Urban Forest, which is tucked away inside a tiny little arena built so you don’t have to hear the main stage from everywhere on site. Inside is like a whole new world, the crowd you would expect to find at a festival have all gathered in here. Too old to not need a guardian, but not necessarily old enough to be one themselves. There is a fair of bit shade from the elements and shorter queues to the bar, and yet the main selling point is that its the only place on site that doesn’t sound like a Godawful Pop Party CD.

Soon a rumour is swirling around that the stage is behind a schedule and there would be time to see Tinie Tempah before the next act. Had the rain not still been everywhere maybe some people would have taken them up on the offer to get Frisky. We didn’t.

Taya had a healthy crowd for her set. Although it was only a short show the crowd were more than willing to dance their cares away. Presumably not everyone was there to see her, and if she can take control of a show like that she has got a long career ahead of her. Clearly talented, she is one to watch in the country, never mind just Merseyside.

The crowd at Fusion Festival

The crowd at Fusion Festival

As the day goes on certain themes start to take shape; rain being the major, followed by the characters. Most of the crowd fit into certain groups of punters, people of an age who are only there for Craig David being the most prominent. They have been on the ale for a while to get through the day, turning up just in time must have seemed like too much of a waste of a ticket for many. The sun emerges just before MiC LOWRY are ready to go in the Urban Forest, and everyone stops to feel the warmth and collectively cheer for a bit of brightness in the day.

But as things progress, we realise how behind schedule we now are. The acts start to feel a little rushed and the endings of sets are simply too abrupt in some cases. This heavily impacts MiC LOWRY.

According to the bill, Craig David is due on stage just 10 minutes after the Liverpool group. Clashing with David means that their numbers dwindle fast, but they don’t let it discourage them. Having only a mere six songs to establish themselves, it doesn’t matter too much as they have clearly performed together for years. Working in a cover of Rihanna’s Work and Eye of the Tiger, the crowd seem pleased. This isn’t music to move to, it’s more like the sort of thing you’d get in a rom-com when the hero needs to serenade to serenade their lover. But nonetheless they are clearly well-rehearsed and it’s clear why they’ve been chosen to support the The Bieber later this year. If they can perform consistently on a stage like that it’s only a matter of time until they gain mass attention.

We couldn’t resist catching Craaaaaaaiiiiiiiigggggg DAVID. He certainly wakes up the previously dormant older generation have woken up. Children are being looked after by guardians who don’t look happy to miss out, almost like they have drawn straws for the unlucky ones. He brought his TS5 along with him, though it is unclear just what this TS5 is. He mentioned it a few times in the set, but to the untrained eye (i.e. anyone not part of his production crew) it’s just him on the stage. There’s a table in the middle with some equipment and a laptop with TS5 on a banner going around it. Maybe that’s his TS5, but like the identity of Jack The Ripper and the truth behind the JFK assassination, this is something we will never truly know.

Missed this summer’s festivals? We didn’t – check out all of our coverage here. 

What is apparent is that he’s actually pretty decent. Running the music himself, not missing a note, this is something he takes seriously and is not letting the opportunity go to waste. At one point the music stops and he breaks into this rap, its quick, it flows and you can still understand him. Silence has befallen as we all witness what could’ve been around for years before had Bo Selecta not happened.

Labrinth provides a show much better than expected, and many of his songs carry weight more than the vast majority of what you will hear on the airwaves. So much so, that it could inspire a ‘Pop Show’ on alternative stations. Where Radio 1 have a Rock Show slot, maybe an hour on a Sunday night could be dedicated to pop that is worth listening to. Granted a lot of what you hear every day wouldn’t qualify, but every now and there is a diamond in the corporate label wet dream rough.

And, then, Jason Derulo. He is exactly as you’d expect, for better or for worse, but especially for worse. He dances a bit, sings a bit, a bit more dancing. Now he can move, but as a singer Jason Derulo is a very good dancer. The show doesn’t go much further than to be a longer music video. All around, it feels like he’s there to fill a slot. Like a temporary Usher. He grooved his way to the top of the bill, somehow.

Jason Derulo

Jason Derulo

Day two is much clearer. The ground is partially dry and spirits are high again. The Urban Forest has suffered, shade is no longer a commodity and the much younger crowd aren’t as interested in premium cider as they are in balloons that you wouldn’t get reprimanded for playing with.

GIT New Breed artist LUMEN is the first to hit the Kopparberg stage. The crowd is barely above 30 but that doesn’t stop him chatting away. The lovechild of Two Door Cinema Club and Bombay Bicycle Club only gets a few songs to showcase his talent but the potential shines through nonetheless.

Sub Blue doesn’t fare much better in the still not so busy Urban Forest. One man is more than happy to release his inner demons with some form of dancing, half of which can only be described as falling over in style. The young singer has pipes that can rival (and beat) a lot of those over on the main stage. Each track is well produced, but you just feel with a little bit more experience his new tracks or even a reworked existing song can be something special. So far the two representing the area are brimming with potential.

Now, as previously mentioned, the age span amongst the attendees is wild. It might look pretty normal for a summer outing but the amount of children isn’t ideal for crowd response. The hype man for DJ Fresh worked harder than any hype man should. Resulting in “somebody scream” being the only proven move for involvement. Ever the professional this didn’t show in his expression. Some acts might not earn their money, but this man did.

The crowd at Fusion Festival

The crowd at Fusion Festival

Louis Berry emerges into the stage to no more than 40 people. Clearly miffed at the site this fuels the set. Berry and co have a point to prove and they do so with vigour. Sadly, the punters in attendance are already aware of his prowess, it’s those outside who need to see. The likes of LUMEN and Berry are clearly not bland enough to be part of the general theme amongst the majority of the acts, but they don’t let it stop them.

Back at the main stage, Busted arrive with a huge needle to inject nostalgia into anyone who can remember Live 8. James Bourne is still donning his shorts circa 2003. They must’ve shrunk from 3/4 to knee length after numerous washes. Charlie Simpson still has some humble pie around his chops, he’s saving it for later. Matt Willis looks to be enjoying himself just as much but with less hair gel. Onlookers need no encouragement to singalong and all looks to be going smoothly until the keytar (for a new experimental tune). The set begins to wobble but the beauty of short slots is you can always end on Year 3000.

Busted

Busted

It’s late in the day and it’s time to experience life on Murs. The next hour and a bit resembles a weird and heavily produced Take Me Out audition tape by some face-punchingly shirpy git. Constant references to his love life and derrière fill in the gaps between songs, as well as the mention that his pants are a little too loose and are persistently falling down (oo-er missus!).

Suddenly the ground is as sodden as yesterday morning, as it appears Olly Murs is an avid fan of gyrating, even getting close to a camera mans caboose. If he’s trying to make you picture something, it definitely involves unironic jazz hands. He can dance and can sing, we suppose, in a Butlins Redcoat kinda of way. Some of his set resembles a jazz swing sort of vibe which go down much better than his eye-gaugingly bland pop tunes. The highlight is a 10 minute medley of ‘funky’ tracks, that admittedly sounded about as funky as a moist flannel, but the songs were at least better.

There are a lot of things to be improved about the weekend. Some can be controlled, others not. Shoehorning in Liverpool acts that just don’t fit in with the theme of the rest is detrimental to their sets. Sure booking Louis Berry might convince someone to take their significant other, but it’s fair to say you won’t see a Vamps track featuring Berry anytime soon. Some worlds aren’t meant to collide. The mixture of fans isn’t ideal, with many teenage girls who are more excited by the idea of a selfie with a young quiff wearing gentleman than those on stage in front of them. But choosing who gets to go to a festival and who doesn’t isn’t exactly a solution.

All in all, it was a slightly bizarre mixed bag. Like a king sized packet of crisps and M&Ms. A little too much of both and they don’t belong together anyway.

Olly Murs

Olly Murs

Getintothis‘ Top five picks for Fusion Festival 2016

Craig David

Craig David

  1. Craig David

We were tempted to put DJ Fresh’s hype man in the top slot. Hee relentlessly tried to get blood out of stone and had to settle with squirting a pack of ketchup on and acting like it worked. But, in a shallow talent pool the high achievers are easy to point out and even just for sheer surprise Craig David has to take the top spot. He would’ve been a meme sensation had his career started a decade later, but the guy knows how to put on a show. There were two women sat up against the fence and didn’t move all day. This man is the only thing that got them on their feet, that alone is worth praise.

Louis Berry

Louis Berry

2. Louis Berry

Though visibly and audibly frustrated with the turnout, Louis definitely aced his set. It is as if his frustration fueled his performance. But in a climate where the biggest quiff wins, the classic short back and sides stood no chance. On a bigger stage with a crowd that understands the sound, this show would’ve gone down in the long term memory as a classic.

Labrinth

Labrinth

3) Labrinth

Though shackeled by the sales expectations of his label bosses, Labrinth showed us he could blossom into something wholly new and revolutionary in a few short glimpses. But, alas, that doesn’t sell enough records, and given that he is signed to Simon Cowell‘s SyCo “label”, that could pose a problem. Which is a shame, as we would hate to see someone so clearly talented, so tragically squandered.

MiC LOWRY

MiC LOWRY

4. MiC LOWRY

These local boys are definitely a hugely talented group. With what MiC LOWRY have already at such a young age and taking on board everything they’re going to experience in the coming months, the world is their oyster. The cool Westlife are coming, if you can image such a thing.

Sub Blue

Sub Blue

5. Sub Blue

This is another man just looking for the final break into the business. Sub Blue definitely has something special. Perhaps some collaborations with artists from different sub genres could change the whole way he works and let him evolve into something different entirely. He’s got the voice, so some experimentation can’t hurt.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam

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