Any diehard Grime head knows there are events that jump out from the calendar calling you to dive in and get on a wave with the artists who represent the scene in the brashest and boldest way possible. Spring gone saw the Eskimo emerge from his igloo to thaw out and dutty dance at the academy in Manchester, but where Eskimo dance is primarily a celebration of Grime, Sidewinder is host to differing urban music genres such as UKG, DnB, bassline and of course Grime, with over 100 artists on the bill and a crowd of more than 10,000 revellers expected this was a rave of astronomical proportions which demanded a huge venue to hold a whole lotta BASS (no treble allowed) luckily The Bowlers exhibition centre located near Old Trafford, Manchester was just the place to hold the supersized indoor and outdoor festival, the exhibition centre has also helped sidewinder settle in to its new home as it saw the festival return to Bowlers for the second time.
With Sidewinder summer festival in a state of slumber in 2015 we were more than ready for the event to wake up from its yearlong snooze and wind itself back up again like a watch with a brand new battery; just in time to celebrate its sweet sixteenth. In Sidewinders’ infancy back in 1996 its capacity was that of only 600 and was held at a small venue in Northampton shining a spotlight on garage legends EZ, Sticky, JAM and Principal. As the Garage sound began to evolve into a darker sound it welcomed acts, So solid Crew, Ms. Dynamite and Heartless crew so too did the venues, as they increased in size to house its Garage / Grime performers along with the fans eager to enjoy the new genre which was rapidly emerging. The stepping-stones the garage genre laid out paved the way for Grime artists and DJ’s – Dizzee Rascal, Wiley Kat (the Kat has used all 9 lives and will not return!), Slimzee, Kano, Target Ghetto (now known as Ghetts) etc. who became regulars on the Sidewinder circuit by late 90’s–early 2000’s, you could say Wiley was soaking up his environment during his early years at Sidewinder as this seemed to influence the blueprint for his brainchild – The Eskimo dance, which he created in 2002.
Having been spectator to the scenes at Eskimo dance earlier this year I thought sidewinder might be pushing it and I should be happy with my lot. Stop being greedy I told myself and watch suicide squad instead on some dodgy website you have to pause for 20 minutes just to get a 5 minute uninterrupted stream and sip your echo falls tonight and chill for a change so you can imagine my utter shock when the team at UK Grime informed me with 6 hours until the alarm sounded on Sidewinder watch that we’d been granted access by Operations manager/brand director and co-owner of Sidewinder Paul (super) Spruce to the biggest bassline bonanza of the year!! Cue me chucking make up on as though I had a paintball gun instead of brushes (It was that brutal.) With the team assembled we bounced up to Bowlers anticipating an epic night. Whilst waiting at the artist entrance who should we see breeze past us in a hurry – none other than Garage first lady Lisa Maffia , legend Megaman and the smoothie us ladies have a soft spot for – Romeo (If they ever remake ‘Twilight’ with an all-black cast they need to cast Romeo as the lead as he has that whole glow and gleam skin thing going on without the need for special effects or trickery) after very brief hello’s the ageless and petite Mz. Maffia asked if we were coming inside and with that they rushed off to get ready to do what they do best – gas the crowd. So solid’s set was full of anthems such as ‘Sentimental things (Oh No)’, ‘envy’ and ‘No good for me’ TWIN MC’s were leaping about on stage like Olympian high jumpers and it was clear the crew had not lost the enthusiasm they had back in 00’s when I first watched them perform at Sun city raves. The crowd was at deafening levels during their set as the classic tracks filled one of 4 arenas it felt like a 00’s reminisce rave. Their set was well erm…solid (sorry I had to!), and we wouldn’t expect any less from the Garage Greats.
As we chilled with our drinks watching the very young crowd in their element in their casual garms there were blinding camera flashes coming from the left and when we turned to see who was causing the flashing (of the non-naked kind) we saw UK Hip Hop pioneer Tim Westwood taking in the last moments of So solid’s set as he relaxed after his performance beforehand, he looked deep in thought (perhaps he was thinking about his successor Charlie Sloth and plotting his next move) but happily posed for pictures with fans and stopped to say a brief Hi to us at UK Grime. A bullseye was scored with ease when DJ Target took to the decks accompanied by 2 girls in thong like bathing suits humping his speakers and DJ platform whom despite their best efforts did not seem entirely comfortable grinding to the murky beats (‘Man’ Skepta and instrumental ‘Rhythm and Gash’) Target was dropping but the intention of creating a visual for the DJ who largely remains static on stage did not go unmissed by the bwoys in the crowd who gathered to watch gyal whine and as always DJ Target was on form. P-Money looked as though he’d walked off the Eskimo dance stage and onto the Sidewinder stage seconds later as he sported his much-loved grey and black tracksuit top, the crowd seemed to dull to a lull and seemed to watch wide-eyed and wired as P-Money put in a ferocious performance as usual but without the same crowd response he received at Eskimo dance and the fact he didn’t have his Eskimo dance peers around him his set wasn’t a madness due to lack of crowd response, but that didn’t stop me from turning into skankarella from the front row screw facing to the pulsating bass underlining P Money’s expert flow. Despite the crowd losing momentum his performance was still 10/10…sorry I couldn’t resist that one either!
Sidewinder Saturday was just as big as the night before with main players such as Dreem teem, Roll deep, Fonti and Bushkin, Principal, Artful Dodger, Sir Spyro, Rude Kidd and Ghetts (who must be shattered as they’ve been at every festival going this year) President T, Big Narstie, Jammer, Mez and Izzie Gibbs and more set to bless the stage Sidewinder was ready to wind it all the way up for their second night running in the city of Manchester. Earlier in the day I had been catching vibes at Manchester carnival with my girls and the team at UK Grime where I heard a lot of speculation in the crowd regarding whether Wiley would turn up to perform, I had no doubts he would honour his agreement to perform as his set at sidewinder alongside DJ Slimzee was a return to where it all began for him as a performer with what promised to be a classic set from the godfathers whereas Wiley has now passed the baton on to Grime’s new generation at Eskimo dance I had a feeling Wiley would enjoy returning to the playground which helped him to fine tune his skills.
Wiley and DJ Slimzee’s set began 30 minutes later than scheduled for which I was grateful as it gave me time to race the 7 or 8 miles across the city from carnival to sidewinder. Once I’d arrived I was lucky enough to catch General Levy perform ‘Incredible’ which took me right back to the hey days of jungle with its skippy double time beats and ragga vocals I found myself wishing for a resurgence. And then…it was time, I was practically holding my breath waiting for the godfather to burst on to the stage, I felt like a little girl waiting for her godfather to come home with plenty of treats and that is EXACTLY what was delivered. Wiley began by bantering the crowd “Hold tight all the people who said I weren’t gonna be here, are you crazy? I used to live ‘ere” as Slimzee loaded up the riddim on Wiley’s own IMMENSE instrumental ‘Morgue’ he bigged up his musical family BBK and led the crowd into BBK’s ‘Too many man’ before launching into one of his most recognisable lyrics “It’s Wiley and I’m getting em hyper, I make it dirty like a baby diaper…” Slimzee then switched it up to rebound X’s ‘Rhythm and Gash’ which had Wiley bouncing around stage in his grey t-shirt / shorts combi and ice blue creps like an 18-year-old! Wiley brought out former Pay as you go rapid fire MC God’s gift and Roll deep’s MC Scratchy whose native Indian war cry rung out from the outdoor stage and I instantly felt like I was at Red bull culture clash as Scratchy’s war cry has not left my head since he brought it to the Eskimo dance team. What was great about Wiley and Selecta Slimzze’s sidewinder set was how they generously chose to share the stage with other Grime veterans such as De ja vu and Kiss FM regular MC Preshus and the internationally known and respected MC Vapour of Force FM fame who spat such tongue twisting bars my brain is still spinning from his microphone attack. The fact other prominent MC’s were invited to shell down with the godfathers alludes to the fact that although Wiley and Slimzee are Grime generals they are humble enough to stand back and share the stage with other Grime dons.
The most surreal moment of Wiley and Slimzee’s set was hearing him ski and slide over his very own ‘Eskimo Riddim’ which I first heard over 10 years ago and we all embrace the instrumental as being one of the first of the Grime genre, it was like being transported back in time to hear the beat and see the man who made it up on stage live and direct in the flesh; As a fan of Grime since it’s humble begins it is a moment I’ll remember for a very long time to come.
Wiley being the charismatic ‘Kat’ that he is was in an upbeat mood and cracked jokes with the crowd about removing his baseball cap “I need a haircut don’t watch nuttin, but don’t worry I know the man in town still who’s gonna line me up, not gonna lie” He spoke to the ravers as though he were down the pub with old friends and had everyone creased with his quick wit and comedic timing. Wiley ended his set by shouting out Manchester’s biggest export to date Bugzy Malone and his BBK brothers Skepta, JME, Frisco and Jammer (here’s hoping shorty hasn’t gone BBG – Bye better go!) after which Slimzee dropped the computer bleeps of ‘That’s not me’ while Wiley bussed some impressive moves and cooled down with a much deserved swig of water after smashing sidewinder to bits to the point the festival might need another year off to recover.
After finally getting to see Wiley perform after 12 long years he did not disappoint. His flow is interchangeable and seamless, his technicality is complex in the way his words interlink and weave in and out of the rhythm, he jabs with his metaphors and packs punches with his word play and while he’s hitting us with these skills as a lyrical sniper he does all this whilst remaining “hyper hyper” his energy is boundless. Superior sound selecta DJ Slimzee did not miss a beat, he played all the classic Grime instrumentals us old Grime goats remember from the first time around and his mixing was as smooth as a jar of peanut butter without the nuts in! The crowd brought their own nuttiness to the event as it was obvious they were ecstatic to see living legends on stage doing their thing.
So sidewinder all that’s left to say is – set your alarm clock! You’re not allowed to hibernate now you’re back and doing it proper, lets ‘av it! Sidewinder 2017! I will be there front row at all the stages. For those of you who didn’t make it this year don’t get caught sat on the side-lines next year buy your tickets NOW and wind those hype levels up to maximum. See you all next year!
Regrets – Missing Logan Sama’s set yet AGAIN, missing Mez’s, Big Narstie, Roll Deep and Burst Gangs performances.