Featuring Speech Debelle, Gwilym Gold and more
Saturday At Land Of Kings - Live In Dalston, London

Bank holiday weekend dawns and it’s off to a Baltic Dalston for the optimistically-named Land of Kings festival. First stop on our stumble through the grimy kingdom of cool is the cavernous Magnolia for some fortifying Desperados, trippy projections and experimental electronica from the Public Information DJs. From thence we make our way back down Kingsland Road to the Eastern Curve Garden where Clash has decided to sock one in the eye to the British weather and hold a May day fete and reggae party, temperature be damned. We’ve sadly missed the maypole dancing, but we do arrive in time for the Four Aces BBQ held in honour of that legendary Dalston Lane bastion of black music. With Mr Mafro spinning sun-shine infused reggae and with our beer jackets on, we can almost believe we’re in Jamaica.

Power of the mind not quite overcoming our frozen fingers, we stop off for some fortifying Turkish grub courtesy of Stone Cave, then head off to the Servant Jazz Quarters where some folk gems are nestling amongst the electronic-heavy line up. First up is All the Queens Ravens who are fetchingly bedecked in matching, opulent vintage, and play Hispanic-inspired, psych-folk. It’s an intriguing mix and we’re soon nodding and clapping our hands in a vaguely Spanish fashion. They’re followed by Hall of Mirrors whose lead singer, Jessica Winter, bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Kate Bush, and sounds a lot like her too. Their quirky, classically-inspired dream folk owes not a little to Bush but is original enough to avoid out-and-out plagiarism. Beautiful and mesmerising.

Folk fix fulfilled, we swing by The Alibi for tequila and former Golden Silvers frontman, Gwilym Gold, who’s playing deep, ambient house and hip hop. From being almost deserted, the club soon fills up and we start to get our groove on. Suitably motivated/inebriated, we leg it to the Vortex Jazz Club for the inimitable Speech Debelle, probably the biggest name on tonight’s line up. Thankfully we arrive early because the space is soon maxed out, leaving us on intimate terms with the people on either side and wondering why this isn’t in a bigger venue. A crafty clamber onto a window ledge and we can actually see Ms Debelle who, frankly, kills it. She blends a dizzying range of styles into the live set, from a funk-inspired, bass-led ‘Live for the Message’ to the almost Rage Against the Machine guitar riffs on ‘Elephant in the Living Room’, which she dedicates to Tupac. Telling a devoted crowd, “There ain’t no amateurs on this stage right now, these are real fucking musicians,” she delivers a blinding performance and cements her position as the Queen of UK rap.

Lamenting our inability to be in two places at once and thus missing Factory Floor, we console ourselves by heading down to the Dalston Boys Club for some general merriment and hula hoop twirling. Like a retro, magical cave of curios and trinkets, the Boys Club reverberates with the sounds of Boss Terror and Comadisco while we quaff beer with random strangers on the roof terrace and all agree that Dalston truly is the Land of Kings.

Words by Theresa Heath

Click here for a photo gallery of the festival, including NZCA/Lines, Connan Mockasin, Male Bonding and O Children.

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