Festival Review – Rally Festival with Lucinda Chua, Wu-Lu, Kelly Lee Owens & more… | Juno Daily

South London Rallies round

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 230805_RALLY_2023_SiennaGray_@siennalorrainegray_@khromacollective-1297-1024x683.jpg
pic: Sienna Gray

Rally Festival: London Southwark Park, 5/08/23

The days prior to London’s Rally Festival are unfortunately plagued with dropouts. The first year of this new festival coming from organisers Bird on The Wire seem to prove hectic nearing closer and closer to the day; stage headliners drop out close to entry, including the likes of Princess Nokia and DJ and producer Kelman Duran, leaving attendees visibly miffed over social media.

And day of, things seem to take a turn for the worst; overcast skies suggest the opposite of festival weather, fears that are quickly realised when drizzles turn to rain in the early hours of the morning. Delayed start times are eagerly rescinded as quickly as they are announced: the site will now open at 2pm, then 1pm (little word on acts with slots scheduled before then). 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 21_CROWD_OKWILLIAMS_@elijessicahill-edit-819x1024.jpg
pic: Eli Jessica Hill

But despite the teething issues, mood is quickly buzzing upon entry. Attendance seems hardly affected; it’s largely in part to an incredible set of bookings (see: the elusive John Talabot for starters).  The crowd, mostly younger-leaning, are perhaps more alternative than the average festivalgoer (every third person has either a mullet, dyed hair or facial piercings) and are in high-spirits, passing one another other good-natured compliments over cans of Red Stripe and only hobbling under canopies to hide from the odd drizzle. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RALLY-2-9-1024x682.jpg
Wu-Lu – pic: Eli Jessica Hill

Early acts like Erika De Casier and Wu-Lu are strong performers, the latter in particular injecting some terse punk energy into the sets of the day. Though he’s swapped the incredible vocals he has for a much more gravelly tone (see his Touching Bass contribution ‘Harlem Jazz’ for evidence), it proves as engaging as it is intense, even though the grounds are less stable for moshing than would be ideal. Elsewhere Anthony Naples b2b DJ Python dish out an eclectic and good-natured set during their late afternoon slot, visibly getting heart rates rising despite an unbelievable amount of mud for August. 

Lucinda Chua proves the most spiritual act of the day on the humble Lectern Stage. Angelic in white, she thanks the crowd for bracing the rain, although her set actually works quite well with the elements; songs like ‘Echo’ and ‘An Ocean’ become almost transcendent through billowing gusts of wind, and her stunning cello playing makes it feel like we might have entered a strange time-warp. She’s flanked by the likes of Kelly Lee Owens on the Channel Stage. Owens lives up to the hype wondrously; highlights include Evolution in front of incredibly intricate graphic work, and the crowd are simply euphoric.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 38_IAMDDB_RALLY_@elijessicahill-edit-820x1024.jpg

IAMDDB – pic: Eli Jessica Hill

And finally, as the crowds face two of three replacement headliners (The Cavemen on the Lectern Stage, and IAMDDB on the main stage), you’d be forgiven for thinking they were original bookings. The Nigerian sibling duo may as well have come straight from their support slot at Tottenham Hotspur stadium the week prior, giving Rally crowds the same level of gusto and liquid highlife rhythms, whilst IAMDDB is as raucous as she is spirited, much in part to her incredibly high-energy hype man.

As crowds slump home in the late hours of Saturday, visibly spent and muddied from hours of dancing, it’s clear that Rally has put on a good show – despite battling the English weather. If anything, there is one thing that rings true: where the elements fail, good programming will reign supreme.

Christine Ochefu