As a lifelong resident of next door neighbouring town Stevenage, it has become a rite of passage that when July rolls around, I hot foot it to Hitchin for the annual Rhythms of the World festival to immerse myself in some culture. This year was no exception, catching my eye in particular for the long awaited headline slot from local heroes The Subways, a band with an incredible live reputation behind them. When I discovered this was their only festival slot all year, it became a no brainer; off to Priory Park I must go!
However, before The Subways took to the stage there were plenty of other talents on offer. The beauty of Rhythms lies in its eclectism in both performance and audience: people of all ages and cultures are welcome to enjoy the mixture of dance, music and other interpretative art, via a medley of food and merchandise stalls from all over the world. It certainly makes for some sights you wouldn’t see at any other festival. Fancy trying out some exotic dancing? Well the Tabeeya Egyptian Dance Company are the place to be, busting some moves that even Beyonce would be proud of to a variety of catchy beats that rubbed off on the crowd, prompting many of them to get up from their picnic blankets despite the beating sun to try a few wiggles themselves. Perhaps guitar music is more your thing? Both Bill Lennon and The Astronauts covered that slot successfully, Bill favoured more gentle acoustic numbers and covers ,Jason Mraz’s “Im Yours” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” in particular sparking sing-alongs. At the other end of the rock spectrum, Welwyn four piece The Astronauts were the opposite of subtle, barking nonsensical lyrics over jagged riffs like an erratic Horrors cover band, to the utter glee of a devoted following clinging to the barrier, chanting back every word.
Following a well received set from touring veterans Stackridge (complete with melodic violin solos), the time finally came for the headliner. The BBC Introducing stage was packed out with crazed teenagers desperate to catch a glimpse of Charlotte, Billy or Josh. They weren’t disappointed when the three piece exploded onto the stage with a super charged version of their hit single “Oh Yeah”, prompting a circle pit large enough to divide the crowd impressively. This reception didn’t let up, continuing through old and new tracks alike, including “Obsession”, “Girls & Boys” and of course, “Rock And Roll Queen.” Even slower tracks such as “Mary” provoked jumping and dancing unlike anything else that day, showing the sheer effervescence of youth, unwilling to stop even when being seriously injured (this writer saw one young boy accidently pushed to the floor and jump straight back up without his ear splitting smile even wavering). Culminating in the aptly named new track “It’s A Party” (from their forthcoming third album) with the mud and rain well and truly ignored, Rhythms of The World had its defining moment, much to the pleasure of the band who claimed they’d been wanting to play for years. It was definitely worth the wait.