Event Review & Gallery: We Out Here Festival (Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire; Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th August 2022)

‘Dance yourself free’ became the anthem of this years’ festival. Words sung from the main stage, through a swarm of silk outfits, bright colours and distorted horns. Abbots Ripton became home to both seasoned and newer artists showcasing their latest creativity. 

This year We Out Here festival drew a big audience. Where this festival previously appealed to an older crowd, the majority of the audience were youngsters fresh with energy from university. Peterson and his jazzy, world influenced taste-making has become mainstream.

We arrived late on Thursday, just as the gates were closing, to the sound of jungle music coming from the forested perimeter. As we chatted to the 19-year-old behind us, he was upset to have missed the wood-hidden rave. His mum’s electric car had run out of battery and he hadn’t been able to find a charging point outside of the city.

The first full day of the festival on Friday held lots of treats. Aside from swimming in the lake and bathing in hot tubs, the artists were ready for us. South African group BCUC passed through the main stage like a frenzied outburst of energy. It felt like dancing with thunder as the group banged their drums and embodied their primality. They shouted about love, family love. Screamed how it can become mucked up, but we still have to love. Jovi the bandleader then returned behind the main mic and became wild again. This is a band that will never be tamed, and somehow mix anger and love into an enjoyable erotic frenzy.

On the Lush stage by the lake, Leeds-based ten piece TC & The Groove Family transitioned from spiritual jazz through to funk, samba and Ethio-jazz. Despite the radical diversity throughout their set it felt cohesive and the band became like an extended cross-cultural family. With an earlier set it was perfect for the first sip of drink.

We missed the Kahil El’Zabar Quartet as we  were darting between tents trying to explore the DJ sets but overheard someone talking about how beautiful it was. Classic festival FOMO. There was a buzz around those wanting to see cktrl (stands for can’t keep to reality). His flavour of jazz is both exploratory but gentle. He leaves you feeling sentimental and pining for more.

Secret Night Gang is fairly new to the nu-jazz scene. But this young Mancunian band wasn’t afraid to take up space on the main stage. Whilst adorable with their laid-back soulful take on the highs and lows of romantic love, it was a little saccharine for me.

After so much relentless energy, talent and beauty it’s hard for other bands to continue to take your breath away. However both The Comet is Coming and Pharoah Sanders achieved that as our main highlights.

The Comet is Coming headlined in 2019 and despite having seen them several times before I lost myself in a cosmos of synthetic reverb and sax hooks. One could describe it as an optimistic apocalypse. You feel like you’ve stepped out of the matrix through the sound of their holographic soundscape. Wherever it takes you, you won’t want it to end.

The festival ended for us with Pharoah Sanders, then the last standing free-jazz saxophonist explorer who played with Sun Ra and Coltrane. The crowd waited patiently as it took him over an hour to get to the stage. There was a heaviness in the air as people wondered if he was ok, and more and more people were building up by the stage. At one point a dad kept the crowd amused by starting a Mexican wave, lifting his baby high into the air. The baby had its five minutes of fame.

Then Sanders was rolled onto stage in a wheelchair. The audience hushed to a silence as he tried to be lifted onto his feet, but had to sit straight back down. Tears were flowing freely as a general feeling of awe filled the audience. He simply emitted a pureness of truth and beauty through his melodies. This will be a set that many will always remember.

Each festival, each year has its own personality. And this year for me was tinged by the mood of travelling between different spiritual and ethereal realms. I had to ground myself again with a trip to the local Wetherspoons on the way home.

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Photos ©: Maria Meco Sanchez