Tag Archives: London

Camden Market in the sunshine and the Urban Food Festival

123My weekend was so jam-packed with activities, fun and most importantly FOOD, that I simply had to split it across a few posts. So here is 2/3 and this is all about the time spent in Camden Market on Saturday, a gorgeously sunny day which we spent wandering around the stalls and enjoying delicious food. It was a beautiful day – lucky after a bit of rain in the morning and lots of storms elsewhere – and we headed straight for Camden so we could sit out by the river and relax. Now I love Camden Market, I feel like it is my spiritual home (jokes). I always say to myself that I need to explore more areas of London but I never get round to it because I can never resist visiting the Market. And as I’m sure you guys all know, once you are in, you’ll be stuck in there for hours looking at incredible stalls.

ssWe took a walk along the more peaceful end of the river, where families were sitting and dipping their feet in the water or eating food fresh from the stalls. It was so peaceful and the water was so calm, sitting in the sunshine, you could believe you were abroad it was so warm.

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After sharing a camel burger and a Turkish wrap, we walked back to the Tiki Bar which looked even prettier than it had the day before. We grabbed a table and a jug of Pimms to enjoy, and with live music and a DJ we stayed well entertained people-watching there for a few hours.


When it started getting closer to 6pm, we decided to start out on our tube journey to Shoreditch – which turned out to be a bit of a mission after we found out some of the tube lines were out of order. We ended up getting off at Bethnal Green and after a quick stop for a drink in the sweetest little park, we started on the ten-minute walk to Shoreditch. Our destination was the Urban Food Festival, which we soon discovered had taken over a small car park not far from the tube station. After stumbling across the website last week when looking for free things to do in London, we were so excited to go along and try some different dishes. Both big food lovers, we are always looking for new flavours from different countries and the food festival provided us with a fantastic opportunity to do just that.burgerFirst up for us to try was The Invincible Burger from the Korean stall, we spotted the huge queue and smelt the delicious combination of spice, marinade and meat and figured we couldn’t really go wrong! Everybody was tucking into these gorgeous burgers and I’m really not surprised, they were delicious with a beef burger that had been marinated in Korean spices before being stacked with equally flavoursome pulled pork on top. It packed a tasty punch and certainly had our mouths watering. It was easily the best savoury dish I tried and I wish I had another before I left! After trying this, we spotted the Italian stall and saw that they had several types of gnocchi on the menu. Now boyfriend and I have a long-held obsession with gnocchi despite neither of us having tried it before – it’s all thanks to Gavin and Stacey! Well I went straight over and picked up a gnocchi dish with a sage and pork ragu. Sorry to say but I was so disappointed, I have no real comparison when it comes to gnocchi, but I found the dish soggy and flavourless and I certainly would not bother to have it again. I really wished I had tried the semolina pasta instead.

Third up was pizza and after seeing lots of people tucking into wood-fired and crispy-based pizzas covered in chorizo, cheese, mushroom and more, we were looking forward to this one. Boyfriend went over and ordered the chorizo, cheese and jalapeno pizza which, although it took a while because there was a bit of a queue, was well worth the wait. I’m very particular about my pizza bases and yet I couldn’t have been happier with this one, just the right amount of crunch and softness. The toppings were the perfect combination and we wolfed the dish down, wishing we had more! We had a break after this and enjoyed the live music that had been playing throughout with a beer.1234After a while, the smells and sights coming from the Peruvian stall were just too much and I insisted we have one more savoury dish, just to try. I went over and ordered a steak wrap after studying the orders of those in front of me. I had been keen to order the ox heart dish, but it seemed a bit small for two people to really get the taste so I went for the steak wrap instead. Watching them prepare the food was fantastic, a show in itself. The head chef was so focused and calm despite flames flying everywhere and the orders pouring in like crazy. This was the busiest stall by the time I joined the queue but again, was most definitely worth the wait! The meat was so tender and the whole thing was just so brightly coloured and full of flavour. I can really compare the flavours as they were so unique. All I could say is that it is cooked similarly to peri-peri but the flavours taste completely different and you get the opportunity to add a variety of sauces including a cheese and chilli one, a red pepper and chilling one and another with lime, mint and yoghurt. I sloshed in all three and wow. It was incredible – kind of like eating a mojito-flavoured steak wrap – and if that doesn’t sound good, what does?!

Over on the drinks stalls they had the tasty Orchard Pig truffler and reveller ciders from Somerset and absolutely fantastic. You could taste the sweet apple flavour and it had a nice sparkle. I’d had a few people recommend the cider to me before but had never had the opportunity to try it before now. For those with a taste for ale, we also tried the brand new Indian Runner premium golden ale, which was only launched a couple of weeks ago. A perfect Shoreditch beer, their slogan is ‘refreshingly different’ and it certainly was!12345We sat for hours at the festival, watching people and their food choices, enjoying the beers and wines on offer. The live music was great and had the crowd singing along to all their favourites – the last act on, The Twelve Band, really had people dancing along and gave a great performance. The whole place was packed out from start to finish, and this really added to the atmosphere, it was lovely to see people of all ages enjoying the food, whether they had come straight from work or dropped in right before a night out. As the event was winding down, I made sure to pop by the SE Cakery & Brownie Bar where they had the most amazing cakes on sale. I had spotted and tried a tiny bit early and was determined to grab a bag of goodies to take home. We had six individual bites, a mixture of vanilla cheesecake brownie, oreo brownie, banoffee brownie and honeycomb brownie. All were just incredible – I can’t even describe how good these brownies were. I have to say, I am a baker myself and pride myself on how good my own brownies are but these just blew mine out of the water. If you get the chance, make sure you snap up some of these cakes!

It was a fantastic event, and although smaller than I expected, I have no doubt it will soon be growing in size. I was equally excited to find out that the free event is run weekly on Saturday nights from 5pm to midnight at Euro Car Parks on Shoreditch High Street. From the looks of things, the stalls change weekly so whenever you go you will get a taste of something delicious and new! If I were you, I’d make it my business to head down there often and discover some new foodie delights.

Have you been to the Urban Food Festival? What did you think and what was your favourite dish?

 

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Restaurant review: Eating everything from the savannah at Shaka Zulu

sThis weekend, me and the boyfriend decided to take advantage of the empty flat in London before my sister moves in and have a weekend away to celebrate my birthday. We’ve both been so busy the last few weekends, we figured it would be good to get away and do something fun. We had originally planned to go to Zoo Lates, which is the late night opening at London Zoo where they have cabaret and entertainment, but sadly didn’t get tickets in time. I checked my phone while at work in the week and had a hilarious text from Mark saying he hadn’t managed to get the tickets so he had booked a table at Shaka Zulu, the South African restaurant in Camden Market so we could “eat the fuckers instead”.

bfNever one to pass up an opportunity for a good meal out at a fabulous restaurant, I was pretty excited to say the least. I had never really eaten much South African food but knew that I would like it, and after knowing others who had been to the restaurant and hearing rave reviews, I was certain we were in for a treat. Amusingly, Michelle Keegan was celebrating her birthday there the same night I was, although I’m sure she was on the champagne. We headed to the Tiki Bar first for a cheeky Pimms in the sunshine, while live singers performed. It was such a gorgeous sunny day and the Pimms just put us in the summer mood.

bWe arrived at the restaurant and were taken straight to our own booth, on the way to our table I couldn’t help but just stare at everything around me. Shaka Zulu is beautifully decorated from top to bottom, with giant statues of South African warriors, tribesmen and animals, engraved and carved walls with gorgeous designs and the most fantastic  furniture – I was in love with the chairs! The service was amazing, I felt like we had our own personal team of waiters ready to jump if we needed anything and eager to recommend dishes. I couldn’t resist visiting the ladies, just to have a walk around the rest of the restaurant, which was equally impressive with a champagne bar, massive group tables downstairs and another gorgeous bar. Meanwhile, Mark chose us a delicious South African wine which went beautifully with the food.fdMore importantly, what did we eat? Well, we went all out guys, both starving and desperate for some really tasty food. We decided to eat our way around the savannah and by gum, I think we did pretty well. We started with the top dishes, the left is Ham Hock & Wildebeest Terrine with Papaya Salsa and the right is Crocodile Cigars. Both were incredibly tasty dishes with an exciting array of flavours. The wildebeest had a lovely meaty flavour which worked well in contrast to the ham hock, and I loved the papaya salsa – it seemed out of place on the menu, but it certainly hit the spot on the plate. The crocodile was interesting, although I wasn’t expecting the spring roll style, I really enjoyed the taste. It has definitely left me wanting to try crocodile again, next time I would like to try the meat without the spring roll style just so I can really get the individual flavour of the meat. Both were great dishes that certainly had our mouths watering for the second course, but we didn’t have long to wait!

The second course was absolutely my favourite because both dishes were just delicious. It makes my mouth water now to remember them. We shared the Zebra Fillet and the Springbok Loin, with sides of Sugar Snaps & Red Onion, Creamy Spinach and Peri-Peri Fries. Wow. What a feast! The first time I had tried any of these meats, but as a big fan of venison and lamb, I was sure to enjoy them. The zebra was lovely, strangely it looked a lot like lamb but with a different flavour that I don’t think I can compare to anything else I have tried. It went really nicely with the spinach and the fries. My favourite was the springbok, which was just so full of flavour and really reminded me of gamier meats like venison. It was gorgeous with the red wine jus and the red onions from the sugar snaps dish. It was the kind of food where you feel like you need a few minutes to recover because each mouthful is so good. The side orders were delicious, the peri-peri fries were flavoured to perfection and the spinach really added to the tastes of the foods.meAll in all, a pretty darn good birthday meal and I’d like to say a huge thanks to the guys at Shaka Zulu for making it special. I will most definitely be going back again and I seriously recommend that you give it a try too. A perfect restaurant for a special occasion with plenty of entertainment – there was African drummers performing and dancing around us as we ate! If you like experimenting with food and you love a good steak, South African is perfect for you and will introduce you to a host of new flavours and textures – just what all of us food-lovers enjoy! It may be a tad more expensive than you might usually pay for a steak, but for me, quality speaks volumes over quantity and I would always rather a high quality piece of meat.

Have you been to Shaka Zulu – what did you think? Are you a big lover of South African food – what’s your favourite dish?

Loving life in London town and celebrating in the sunshine

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The view across the London Eye and Houses of Parliament in the sunshine

I still haven’t quite managed to get back to reality after last week’s mid-week break to London – I just keep wishing I was back strolling along the South Bank drinking wine in the sunshine! Me and the boyfriend had the trip planned after he bought me tickets to see Ella Eyre at XOYO for Christmas – both very excited after seeing her perform the other year on tour with Rudimental. Unfortunately a change in the date of the gig meant the tickets had the wrong date on and we ended up missing the gig – so no Christmas present but we more than made up for it with an epic couple of days.

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Sunshine and smiles on the bridge

When we arrived in London we decided to ignore our previous plans to head to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit and to the British Museum for the exhibitions on Egyptians and Vikings – it was just far too sunny to be inside looking at history. Instead we headed straight to Embankment with plans of grabbing some lunch and sitting out in the sunshine. As we walked out of the station and towards the bridge, we came across a food festival.

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Mark with his lucky heather

 

We could resist heading into the gardens were there were various stalls selling jerk chicken, pasta dishes, African cuisine and even fish dogs (fish finger hot dogs!). We plumped for a lobster bite, which was absolutely delicious, followed by black truffle mushroom risotto balls stuffed with Italian cheese and with a tasty ragu – incredible! We were glad for these later on when we ended up not getting the chance to eat again until late! While we ate, we sat in these beautiful gardens with a great view of the London Eye.

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Afterwards we walked across the bridge to South Bank and strolled along in the sunshine watching the street theatre and listening to live music. I loved the steel drums, while Mark was the perfect target for anyone selling anything from ‘lucky’ heather to bibles!

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The bendiest rasta men I have ever seen!

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Mark with his lucky heather

We must have walked miles, stopping now and then to sit in bars drinking wine in the sunshine and trying to remember where we were going. As we were walking, we found some leaflets for a gig that night in Camden Market where a ska orchestra would be playing at Dingwalls. We figured this was a perfect replacement for Ella Eyre and decided to head there instead of to Soho to watch a jazz band. After a quick stop at the Restup Hostel (genuinely nicer than hotels we have stayed in previously in London, perfect position for going out all over and my first choice more often than not).

10003439_10151937972882617_1889696327_nWe grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few drinks then headed to Camden where The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra and another ska act would be playing later on. It was a great little venue – slap bang in the middle of Camden, dark and full of interesting characters – just my kind of place. The bands were great, really lively and energetic – they had everyone up and dancing from the beginning. I’ve never seen any other music have such a awesome effect on a group of people with such different backgrounds, ages and jobs – it really has such a good atmosphere and has got me all excited for the summer at BoomTown fair. The band played such a range of instruments and were really talented – I was very impressed.

1622840_10151937973082617_110445465_n 1012138_10151937973202617_1120837800_nWe danced long and hard and my legs were killing me by the end after a day spent walking all over London. The next day we spent eating our way round the food stalls at Camden Market nursing our hangovers before heading home. A great few days in London where we achieved nothing we planned to do but had loads of random fun. It was great to get away and really hard to come back to work after this followed by the weekend. It was also our eight year anniversary over the weekend – quite an achievement in itself! Can’t quite believe we’ve been together for more than a quarter of my life now – we must be doing something right!

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Do you love spontaneous trips like this or do you prefer to plan every second? What’s the most random thing you’ve come across in London?

 

Review: Here’s to the boys of 1941

The morning after The Snow Queen, I was on an early train heading to London for the day to meet my parents and my sister for her Christmas treat to us all – tickets to see From Here To Eternity!

The show was not one that I had really heard of before, despite loving the film Pearl Harbour, I had not read the original From Here to Eternity and found myself once again really excited to see a show that was new to me – although knowing the historical aspect of what happened on these dates, I was unsure of the storyline weaved around these facts. It is still a very interesting experience to go to a show without any prior knowledge of the show, so many now have been turned into films or vice versa, we hear the soundtracks played on our favourite television shows or read about them in the papers. So to experience the show for the first time was fantastic and really rather spectacular.

 Set in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in 1941, the show kicks off with an introduction to the main characters and clearly we can already see the makings of two parallel love stories set against the backdrop of war. Private Prewitt falls for the kind-hearted escort club girl Lorene, while his platoon sergeant, Warden, embarks on a dangerous affair with his commanding officer’s wife, Karen, with the lives of both men set on a course they cannot control. Their lives are quickly torn apart when the harsh realities of war unfold before their very eyes, costing them what is dearest to them all.

The show was beautifully translated from the page to the stage with fantastic dance routines that showed off the cast’s athleticism and drove the story forward. Tim Rice’s adaptation saw the cast challenged in both dance and song as they portrayed the innocence of those working and living at Pearl Harbour without any real knowledge of the war going on beyond the barricades, and the harsh realities as the war came crashing down around them. It was a beautiful retelling of the story and one that had the audience in fits of laughter with the gentle comic element, but welling up towards the end as the final attack was expressed through an amazing display of lights, music and dance.

The love stories were sweet and tender as the couples fell for each other and made plans for the future, made only the sweeter by the shortness of their lifespan as the war drew closer. The gentle love scenes showing the raw love of human contact and emotion, next to the stark brutality of war – a powerful combination.

My favourite scenes were the dance routine performed by the men of G Company in the barracks towards the beginning – it was brilliant, funny and so well choreographed. My eyes flashed across the stage, back and forth, and almost left me dizzy as I attempted to take in every move. I noticed in this scene, as in many others, that the choreographer must have a liking for slow motion movement because this was something that had been incorporated several times and was very effective, particularly in the scenes with the miners/prisoners and later when the bombs hit.

My other favourite scene was with all of the escort girls dancing with G Company, another lively scene with impressive, fast-paced choreography and gave the girls a chance to show off their powerful voices. Now this production was a little more risqué than most others I have seen before with a few bottoms on display and some rather skimpy lingerie, but this only added to the dancing and comedy. This scene actually reminded me slightly of those in Chicago, another musical that I love, where the ladies also parade around in their undies and complete astonishing song and dance routines.

 All of the cast shone, and I struggle to pick out actors over another – the four main characters were all incredibly talented both musically, in their acting and dances.

But it was Marc Antolin who really shone in my eyes, and this sentiment was reflected in the riotous applause he received when taking his bow at the end. He was fantastic, boundless energetic and effortlessly funny throughout. The audience could really identify with his character’s struggle between duty to his country and feelings of betrayal after being left out in the cold, punished and eventually killed as thanks for his hard work. His sad death brought an undertone to the performance, a reminder of the lives that were lost unnecessarily through unjust punishment, unfair actions and those who let the power of rank go to their heads.

It was a powerful retelling of a story that we all know so well and the final scenes had me welling up as the bombs struck the harbour and so many lost their lives. The sudden reminder that this was not just a romanticized story being told in a theatre in London was a shock and it gave way to an emotional finish. This musical is probably one of the top five that I have seen, with others alongside it being The Phantom of the Opera, that classic, The Lion King and Chicago among others. As a new show, I would take advantage of the not too extortionate ticket prices and a chance to go and watch the show in the stunning Shaftesbury Theatre, which was lovely, especially since my sister had managed to get tickets almost in the centre of the third row from the front!

My final comment has to go to the conductor of the performance – he was almost enough entertainment in himself. Throwing himself around and passionately singing along to every word, it was amazing to watch and you could tell how much he loved the show. This really does make all the difference, as you may see from my previous review on The Snow Queen, if you have a cast whose heart and soul really isn’t in the production, it can really knock the performance down. Another amazing production and one that I would seriously recommend to anyone, families, children, parents, grandparents. And theatre tickets do make a lovely Christmas or birthday gift!

Basement Jaxx blew it out of the park with plenty of bass and soul

Now you would have thought that two gigs in a row was a bad idea, but I have a habit of signing myself up for these things – I just can’t bear to miss anything that good! My boyfriend bought me Basement Jaxx tickets for my birthday and it has been a long summer waiting for the day to arrive. Then the FatBoy Slim tickets went on sale and we just had to go to that as well! Luckily they were on consecutive nights so it saved us the train fares on separate journeys, but it did mean two expensive nights out in London, plus accommodation and travel. On this night we stayed in the London Balham Travelodge, which I would recommend to anyone who is going to a Brixton Academy gig, it is right next to the tube station and so easy to get between them, close enough for a taxi if it finishes late but amazing access to the tube as well to save costs.

After a heavy and long night out at FatBoy Slim that had seen us partying until around 5am at a second club that had a pool in it, we had spent the day wandering around the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland eating moose and venison burgers, drinking hot mulled cider and wine. It had been a long day with very little sleep, but nothing was going to dampen our spirits. After one night spent raving to the soundtrack to my nineties childhood, I was eager to start dancing to the amazing hits of Basement Jaxx and relive my love of Bingo Bango, Good Luck and Romeo!

The group started with a powerful introduction by the incredibly soulful singers – all fabulous women with huge, multicoloured hairdos and elaborate outfits. It was clear that a lot of thought had been put into every aspect of the staging, with one of the singers being bathed in the spotlight on the balcony above the waiting crowd, before hurriedly making it to the main stage for the rest of the song. From the very beginning, the group had the entire crowd dancing and singing along at the top of their lungs to every word. It was as though Mardi Gras had exploded on to the stage, but with added soul, attitude and bass. Despite the huge range in ages, from the youngsters coming out with their mates, or even their mums, to the older groups of women and middle-aged couples who made up the crowd – everyone was bonded by their love of the music from whichever era.

The gig was explosive, and amazingly even managed to outdo the Major Lazer one I saw there last month. The showmanship was spectacular and just kept surprising the audience, from an incredible body-popping dancer who writhed her way across the stage, to dancers in morph suits with lights all over the front, to a huge robot that came on stage and did the robot dance with a bunch of gorillas! It was chaos, but well organised and perfectly put together. My favourite moments had to be when the group had a slightly more chilled number followed by the huge Good Luck and Bingo Bango – both huge, loud and explosive songs that had me screeching out the lyrics. My boyfriend and I were dancing like maniacs and I couldn’t keep my feet still – it was amazing. A moment that gave me chills, and still does now, was when a stunning ballet dancer reminiscent of Black Swan took to the stage and delicately danced her way around the stage while one of the singers began to sing the lyrics to Raindrops. Amazingly, I had managed to forget that these guys sang that song, despite loving it so completely when it was released. But hearing it sung so beautifully, so delicately and yet so powerfully was incredible. She stripped the song bare and, in contrast to the huge bangers they had just been playing, seemed so stunning in comparison.

I was also impressed by the performance of one of their latest releases, Back to the Wild, which to be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of when I had heard it previously at home or on the radio, but which had a huge impact live and although not as catchy as their older stuff, it certainly made everyone dance and sing along, including myself. Finally, my absolute highlight of the night was, without a shadow of a doubt, hearing the start of Where’s Your Head At. It was one of those moments, like when the Project X theme tune comes on in a club when everyone is smashed, when everyone turns round to each other with their mouths agape and then loses the plot seconds later. It is one of those songs that, ever since seeing it performed live on TV, I have always wanted to see live at a gig and I am so glad it has happened. The atmosphere was beyond anything I have ever experienced – it was electric and sizzling.

It sounds silly, but I’m getting chills just thinking about how amazing this gig was. I am so lucky to have experienced two of my top acts in two nights and I will never forget this weekend – I just hope that I am lucky enough to see them again in the years to come. The nineties were my favourite decade for music because so many of my favourite vintage acts were at their height at this time, but I’m glad to see now that electronic dance music is making it into the top 10 – it is about time we escaped talentless, boring pop music – I can’t deal with any more cutesy love songs by kiddies too young to have experienced their first kiss! Give me hard, dirty, filthy base music in a dark club or a huge venue and I’m happy.

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Mind blown by the Renegade Master!

After years of waiting, months of planning and weeks of listening to his songs as I drive to work each morning, I finally had the opportunity to see the man himself – FatBoy Slim DJ live at a top London club on the very first night of his brand new tour. Just typing the words gives me goosebumps all over again because not only was it an incredible gig, but it was one that I had been waiting a lifetime to go to. As a huge dance music lover, I have had my top ten list of DJs that I simply have to see play live in my lifetime (I’m sure we all have that same list for whatever music you might prefer), and FatBoy Slim was top of my list.

For anyone who grew up in the nineties and loved music, fair enough I may have only been about five when some of his tracks came out, we still grew up listening to his tunes on the radio, hearing them played at school discos, on Top of the Pops, mum and dad singing along… The list goes on. Whether we were aware of it or not, unless you lived under a bridge, FatBoy Slim, like the Chemical Brothers and Oasis were a huge part of nineties culture and therefore our lives. I always think that the music of the time plays a part in shaping the future lives of individuals and I think listening to this type of music as a youngster (yes I loved the Spice Girls as well!) is part of the reason I love live DJs so much now – this makes me worry for the generation growing up listening to the rubbish churned out by the likes of One Direction and Miley Cyrus.

Anyway, back to the gig. I headed to XOYO for the first time with a bunch of boy mates from home and my boyfriend – all of us ridiculously excited for the night ahead. My boyfriend and I already had tickets for the Basement Jaxx gig at Brixton O2 Academy the following night so had decided to make a weekend of it. We were staying in the Restup Hostel (a five minute walk from the Elephant and Castle tube station) the first night, which was perfect – close to the club and cheap – helpful since we would barely be in the room! Heading into the club, we made for the bar for a quick whisky to warm us up and then went on into the main room. The venue was great – dark, smoky and underground – just the way I like them. It was the perfect basement, gritty setting for the gig and the room was already busy as the house DJs warmed up the crowd. We headed through the crowd and found a good spot where we soon cut loose and started dancing as we waited for the man himself.

He exploded into his set with Renegade Master and everyone went wild – it was amazing to know that everyone there was as excited as we were to experience not only a gig, but the opening night of the Eat Sleep Rave Repeat tour. Everyone was dancing like their life depended on it, not just with their friends but with everyone around them. A few songs in, he dropped Free Mandela which was an incredibly powerful moment as we had heard on our way into the club of the great man’s death. The whole crowd punched the air and sang along – it was incredible and just shows you the power of music to unite people and express extreme emotion – something that I’m sure many would judge as lacking in a DJ set. I could sit here and list every amazing song that he played but there would be no point. It is important to say that he played a great set spanning his whole career from the earliest songs right through to his latest release of Eat Sleep Rave Repeat – and that one certainly got the crowd bouncing. FatBoy Slim also made sure to play loads of other amazing tunes that have basically been the soundtrack to my summer, with hints of Disclosure and others.

I was so utterly impressed by his set, which proved that as a DJ he truly is as relevant as ever, despite those who commented to me when I bought the tickets that isn’t he really old now? Well after seeing both FatBoy Slim and Sven Vath DJ, I can safely say that age is just a number and great music is not only a talent but one that lasts. The fact that I have now seen him live once has simply proved to me that I must see him again – perhaps next time in a festival setting to see how his set compares. I would fully advise any dance music lovers out there to take any opportunity they might get to see the godfather of dance rip up the DJ set, purely so they can see where it all began. This is definitely one of my top three gigs of the year and I had the most amazing time. I was so glad I could share it with so many of my friends and it will stay in my memory forever. If you look in the picture above, I am the fifth person along from FatBoy’s knee! Woop!

‘Music gives colour to the air of the moment.’ – Karl Lagerfeld

If Karl Lagerfeld’s words are correct, then the air above London’s Brixton Academy must have been ablaze with the red, yellow and green of the Jamaican influenced dancehall project, Major Lazer, on Saturday night.

O2 Academy Brixton – the calm before the storm

Known for their explosive performances and with fans across the world, the electronic DJ team created by Diplo has been on my must-see list for some time now. I love their eclectic and unique mix of dancehall, reggae, ska and heavy bass influences which were my favourite combination of sounds throughout the summer, epitomising my experiences of the music at Boomtown Fair in August. Their love of experimentation with sound is something that stands out to me against the blurred and quite frankly, now boring, background of pop music where the likes of Little Mix and Miley Cyrus either churn out the same rubbish or try to shock audiences with nudity or lewdness.

Major Lazer treat music as a growing and fluctuating thing, their performance clearly showed them working with the crowd and reacting to them – you could tell the show was completely unique and that every member of the crew was loving every second.

It was my first time at the venue and although I had been told only a couple of weeks before at a Sub Focus gig that it wasn’t a very good venue, I was more than impressed. The auditorium was huge and domed, which perfectly reverberated the sound of a fantastic bass system – I was impressed because so often the sound is not completely right at gigs and the bass is slightly too heavy and ruins the tone of the music. The roof of the building was incredible, the dome and the darkness of the ceiling made it looks as though you were in an open-air venue, but thankfully not because it was rather wet outside.

The show started with a warm-up by Martello and then Redlight, Sadly we missed the first act because of a mix-up with the tickets, but we made it just in time to watch the whole of Redlight’s set – I have now seen him DJ three times this summer. This was significantly softer than his usual sets, but we figured this was because the crowd was a more laid back one of some younger teens as well as the heavy bass nuts so he may have been keeping it slightly lighter. Not as good as his set at Boomtown Fair, but still a great set and certainly got the crowd up and dancing as they waited for Major Lazer.

The gig went pretty much to time and I was pleased because I was dying to see Major Lazer hit the stage, and hit the stage they did. It was like an explosion of pure reggae, bass, colour and personality had taken place right in front of our eyes with streamers, lights and boundless energy. I was instantly swept up in the crowd as they bounced to each drop of the bass and swayed to the reggae sections.

It was an incredible set, with plenty of the older songs from the group’s first album, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do, that had the crowd singing along and dancing like crazy. But it was the songs from the newer album, Free The Universe, that really brought the audience to fever pitch. You’re No Good, Jah No Partial and Bumaye really had the crowd dancing, especially the latter during which Jillionaire got the audience to hit the floor and jump up when the bass dropped before running to the right and the left. It was such an active performance, not just for Major Lazer, but for the audience, which was great. It was incredible to feel like a part of the performance.

Going off!

Not long into the show, the group even launched a guy in a giant inflatable hamster ball out onto the audience and with crowd surfers heading all over the place, it was fantastic. Of course, they dropped the legend that is Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot to a rapturous response – I would have died if he had actually walked onstage and I had seen him for the second time! Later on, the group asked a bunch of girls to head on stage to shake it for Bubblebutt (I was told by people around me that I should have joined them but I was just having too much fun where I was!).

My favourite part of the gig had to be when they played my favourite song – Get Free – not just once, but three times and they even played two different versions! I absolutely love this song, I have so many incredible memories of hearing it on nights out and at festivals, and I think the reason I love it so much (like Tidalwave by Sub Focus) is that it features an incredibly powerful vocal followed by some strong bass. This seems to be the perfect combination for the perfect song. I loved that the group played not only the original, but teased us with it throughout the performance, then finished with the Andy C remix which is actually my preferred version with more bass.

The gig was just incredible and I have to say it was the best I have ever been to. I have never been to a gig where there was literally no trouble at all, and where people were all so friendly. In a packed venue, there was barely any pushing or rudeness, people queued for the bar and toilets patiently and didn’t go crazy if you accidentally stood on their toe. I was even more impressed to notice that the majority of the crowd seemed relatively sober, apart from the odd person who had wide eyes or had hit the booze a little too hard, but even they failed to cause any trouble. I did see a few people blazing up during the performance but  fair play, it was a Major Lazer gig after all!

To any reggae, ska, dancehall or bass lovers out there, or to anyone who is looking for music that is a little bit different and haven’t heard of Major Lazer before – I would highly recommend checking out their music. Trust me, no matter how good it sounds on your iPod, it sounds a million times better live. If you ever get the chance, don’t miss out on seeing these guys. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Bubblebutt