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The Renegade Brass Band, from Sheffield, aped the popular Stateside style of merging hip hop stance with old school New Orleans parading, to moderately convincing effect. They've recorded with singer Harleighblu and rapper Rodney P, who followed on the same Night Vision stage soon after. In between were Soundsci, a punchy pair of MCs with a confident thrust. Harleighblu sounds fine on her Tru Thoughts label debut, but this set fell distinctly flat, partly due to the extreme sparseness of the crowd, but also a certain lack of projection on her part. Rodney P seemed to be sensitive to the situation when he joined Harleighblu onstage, switching plans a few times, boosting the speed of the beats and changing the set list. The pair didn't manage their stage time efficiently, as their intended duo closer had to be aborted due to the fest's strict changeover regime. The shrunken crowd for this last set prompted musings on possible restrictions on site capacity, as it seemed that the festival was sold out, or very nearly sold out, but most stages appeared to be nowhere near optimum fullness at any time. When De La Soul was playing, half of the main tent was empty. Perhaps the health and safety regulations were set at their accustomed level of absurdity.
Another cooking zone was the small BBC Radio York tent, dedicated to introducing fresh talent. The stripling Ceiling Demons were shambolic, possibly even intentionally so, but possessed a relaxed confidence, even when they all removed their deathly masks, rapping at the borders of the unconventional. Local duo Viewer were one of the day's stand-outs, augmented by guest vocalist Toastie Tailor, whose ragga/d'n'b stylings formed a stark contrast with spindly contorter A.B. Johnson's more perversely poetic couplets, the latter graduating more from the Mark E. Smith academy of rap. Two articulate rhyming languages, easily complementing each other, wired up for tension. Electronicist Tim Wright was more visible than usual, actually mid-stage and facing the audience. Normally, the band's pulsingly minimalist visuals will dominate, but this mid-afternoon set courted an alternative response. It was great to witness a cluster of dancers locking onto the beats, an activity that often isn't possible when Viewer play at smaller indoor venues. Wright infiltrated the pert beat-progressions with outbreaks of distressed extremity, and just about kept on the electro-pop leash.
Across at the Irie Vibes tent, ska combo Dandy & De Lions maintained a jogging pace, adding nothing new to the genre, but playing with an appealing brightness. Then, the stylistic coin was flipped by the Dub Barn Collective, lunging slowly and deeply. They played live instruments rather than emulating reggae deconstruction electronically. And who should that be on percussion, but Zucchini Bill Hickling from King Courgette, revealing another facet of his musicality? An amble to the Bison encampment revealed Muttley Crew, caught in a prime intersection of their garage-y post-Velvet Underground riff-churning, with angular lead guitar solos bursting out at surge-rising peaks. Following them, the ever-morphing Boss Caine was found in trio formation, with fiddle and lead guitar surrounding subterranean vocal croons. Depending on musical orientation and spontaneous choices, this could have been a very different festival for numerous beings, as there was no shortage of house, techno and indie-pop, but that's simply the desired result of a day's spontaneous musical piggery.