The organisers of Wireless have done their bit to ensure that festival season doesn’t end up as one of The Rona’s casualties with Wireless Connect – featuring a bumper weekend of Rap, Trap and R&B from both sides of the Atlantic. Special pre-recorded performances were sprinkled with stand out sets from Wireless 2019, in an attempt to raise awareness of Black Lives Matter related causes.
2020 has been quite the year. A global pandemic, the ills of systemic racism coming to light across the world, so much so that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that we were supposedly on the verge of Nuclear war as long ago as…January? Alas, we’ve stumbled through to July. The height of summer. Or, at least it would be if we weren’t all bound to our houses, praying for an airborne virus to leave us alone.
Enter Wireless Connect. Free tickets for all? The only entry requirements being an internet connection and a smartphone? I made sure I downloaded the Melody App and went straight in. Getting to grips with Melody was half of the fun. I spent much of my time during the first few acts grappling with my phone in an attempt to get my camera in view of the performers on stage. Host Yinka Bokinni’s tips were definitely welcome, though admittedly after a while I sat back and gave the reigns to the director camera, which conveniently framed the artists in all their glory.
The weekend’s proceedings kicked off with Osh, reminding the world of the difference between our Ye and his own of the sauce drenched variety on the aptly titled ‘My Yé Is Different’. Los Angeles based entertainer extraordinaire Buddy brought some welcome bounce to proceedings, inviting fellow Californian Kent Jamz to the party and performing a couple of bangers from their Janktape Vol. 1 project from earlier in the year, with ‘Bad Boys’ being a highlight. I guess you could say they’re clearly great buddies? (Sorry, I’ll see myself out). Some of the other acts beaming in from LA did their part to keep spirits high, with Maxo Kream, Leven Kali and Saweetie contributing their respective sounds to bedroom bound party fiends from all over the web.
Admittedly throughout the whole weekend, I suffered the ignominy of missing out on numerous performances. I missed Gunna when I failed to secure Wireless tickets in 2019; I’ve missed the chance to amend that mistake this time around. It seems being sent to the shops by mum is the COVID equivalent of being stuck in the festival drinks queue while your fave’s tunes are blaring kilometers away. No bother though – Rae Sremmurd’s rockstar-esque antics got last year’s audience amped, and I returned from Tesco matching the energy of smash hits ‘No Type’, ‘Swang’ and ‘Black Beatles’. Skepta’s set was also a real crowd pleaser – I do wish someone had given Big Smoke some water though since his vocals made it sound as though he personally decided to justify his nickname. Shout out to him for contributing to a figurative ‘Shutdown’ of Finsbury Park right at the end of his set.
In my humble and absolutely, positively non-patriotic opinion, UK artists ran the whole weekend. Established Party starters IAMDDB and Stefflon Don did their thing. The boisterous Drill rhythms ruling the charts took socially distanced levels up a notch, thanks to the likes of Unknown T and your new favourite Brummie M1llionz (‘Y Pree’ is a heater, stop reading this review and listen immediately, whether you’ve heard it already or not). Ramz continued his recent resurgence with a strong performance of ‘Brixton To Oxford Circus’, while Knucks’ artistic flair was on full display with a saxophone-backed rendition of the cinematic masterpiece ‘Home’.
Hamzaa and her soulful, anthemic tunes tried to bring me to the brink of tears on many occasions; you’ll be pleased to know I stayed strong. Heartbreak was a Wireless Connect exclusive, and lyrics such as “imma scared of falling fast/ when I don’t have my brakes on” perfectly capture the anxiety of looking foolish after yet another talking stage on Hinge falls by the wayside.
For those who are stuck in the noughties, DJ Maximum and No Merci pulled up with a Garage Throwback set. Skankers probably rejoiced as Heartless Crew came through with the Heartless Theme before Lisa Maffia and Neutrino provided a mini So Solid reunion. Ah, the Nokia brick days that I’m too young to remember!
Speaking of memories, remember the systemic racism I mentioned earlier? Wireless was keen to encourage viewers to donate to Black Lives Matter related causes, and a few of the artists decided to take it a step further. Special props to Ray BLK, Leven Kali and Buddy for performing freestyles and songs that listeners and viewers would do well to take heed to. To quote Buddy, Black music is indeed “a black thing” but constantly justifying the right to be considered worthy of having opinion, opportunity and life itself is a task no one should ever have to undergo. Yet here we are. On both sides of the Atlantic. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga’s names are on the tip of our tongues because of the recency of their untimely deaths. There are countless others.
The first half of 2020 has been a time where livelihoods have been brought to a halt, and lives have quite literally been lost. Music hasn’t saved the day, and while it helps, it’s no cure. It’s a rapidly changing world for all of us; hopefully, by the time everybody is ready to step outside again, we’ll continue to ask each other the difficult questions and hear the harsh answers. Fundraisers for the general public are great; I failed to find any evidence online of any donations to BLM from Live Nation, Wireless fest’s organisers themselves. Hey, Live Nation, you guys are rich right? Have you put any money up yourselves? Feel free to correct me. Wireless Connect was lit though, pat on the back to everyone who performed!
Live Nation have in fact set up a tour fund, providing support for live music crews affected by the pandemic. More info here.
Photo credit: Luke Dyson