Little Simz – Welcome To Wonderland: The Experience Part II at Roundhouse

Sunday the 4th of March was well and truly an experience for me. The reason why? I was lucky enough to attend Little Simz’ festival at the Roundhouse in Camden. I arrived well and truly shattered from the previous night, a wild one with very little sleep, so first things first was an Earl Grey tea with almond milk and honey. This gave me a much needed boost for the incoming 10 hour marathon, set to run from 1pm-11pm. I can’t lie, at the start of the day my tank was running on dregs and I didn’t feel up for it. But then I went to the Shroom Room and my life was changed forever…

No I didn’t take shrooms. What I did do was attend an extremely insightful actors panel featuring Riz Ahmed and Will Poulter, which was hosted by Reggie Yates. Riz Ahmed had just come back from a trip to Pakistan (his country of origin), and spoke about finding it difficult fitting in within their society. From there Reggie pushed the talk more onto race, and Will Poulter broke down his role in Detroit where he played a racist cop. He said after watching the film, white people will be encouraged to have an honest conversation about systematic racism and additionally, only by having these discussions will we see progress. During the talk Riz and Will had an interesting back and forth about how they use their roles as a form of activism, and the key thing Riz said that stood out to me was that “by acting out reality this naturally leads to social commentary”.

The talk was just what I needed to lift my spirits and I was now thirsty for more knowledge, so I went and purchased a vodka lemonade by the Wonderland stage and came across two gems in the shape of Nigerian- American duo VanJess. The soulful sisters had a chemistry that was almost telepathic, with gushing, fluid melodies and beautiful harmonies, and after their performance I can confidently say that they gained a new fan in me.

After digging out that golden carrot I had to find more, so I went down to the Rabbit Hole stage and came across a diamond in the dirt – Tiana Major9 – an East London singer with visceral star power. She came onto the stage with palpable confidence, at ease interacting with the crowd and soaking in the vibe and expectations like a veteran. I found myself silently praying that the product would match the persona and thankfully it did; she truly blessed us and has great range with her vocals. For me the standout part was her rendition of Luther Vandross ‘Never Too Much’, she brought her own unique twist to the song and I thoroughly enjoyed the reworking. I can say with serious conviction that she’ll be a force to be reckoned with, and soon.

From there I climbed back up to the Transmission stage; a platform for up and coming artists to show their mettle. Cue Jaja Kisses, a West London songstress with a dulcet voice and distinct fashion sense centred on the colour purple. Even though this was a difficult stage to perform on (given its close proximity to the bar and restaurant), I still felt as though she could have applied more oomph to her performance to captivate the crowd. However she has a unique electronic R&B sound that has the potential to do wonders, and I feel that when she gains more confidence in her undeniable ability, her sound will travel far and wide.

After Jaja’s relaxing performance I yearned for something a little more aggy, so I floated back up to the main stage and in came a star; Kojey Radical. He bounced onto the stage in a polar bear white jacket and checkered trousers. I can’t lie the swagger levels were emotional. But he managed to top his suave with a socially conscious performance, backed up by a truly amazing band. His flow was fire over the lively production, yet the set was masterfully controlled. He finished with ‘Kwame Nkrumah’, a politically charged song which really resonated with the crowd and he fed off their energy. Honestly he left everything on that stage.

Again there was a shift in tempo after Kojey’s explosive performance, things needed to slow down before mandem started passing out, and that’s exactly what Rapsody did when she came on. To me she’s an extremely astute rapper, with an on point flow and scissor sharp lyrics, and she definitely brought that nostalgic 90’s hip hop feel to the festival, but personally I feel that an extra dimension to her stage show such as a live band would have took things to the next level.

We now only had one more act before the headline attraction in Little Simz, and the crowd needed to be warmed up before the main course. Enter DJ Miller. She came in like a sizzling hot pot of garlic prawns, spinning a delicious selection of the urban sounds currently coming out of the U.K. DJ Miller and her team, MCed, DJed and danced on with abandon, setting the stage for Little Simz to come in and blow us away.

After DJ Miller’s performance, there was a calm before the storm and then Little Simz came in like lightning. Given that people had been there since 1pm and it is was now around 9pm, she gave the crowd what they wanted. As she strutted around the stage, her presence was immense, with her back-up band also doing a phenomenal job in bringing the songs further to life. She did a unique version of Kanye West’s ‘Heard ‘Em Say’, and had the crowd singing along word for word to the classic. She then brought out Mahalia to perform their collaboration, ‘Proud Of Me’, and the two complemented each other like a hot chocolate brownie, drizzled in ice cold vanilla ice cream. She then switches it up, closing the casket on her performance, with ‘Dead Body’ and she goes in on the beat like a woman on a mission, riding the dystopian production with an undeniable swagger. This night was her moment of truth and she took the bull by its horns and rode it to triumph.

After she closed out the show, I hopped on the train and instantly began reliving what I had just finished witnessing. With these festivals, the beauty is not in the headliners, but the obscure acts you stumble across only to instantly fall in love with, and I was grateful with the amount of unforeseen gems that I was bestowed with throughout the day. Overall Little Simz’s wonderland was truly an experience and I will most certainly be attending next year’s festivities, in attempt to unearth more musical truffles.
Words: Denzil Bell

Written by /
Published /
March 13
Category /
Event Review