03 May 2017 (gig)
03 May 2017
One can’t say Portobello Road without saying music. Walking down the iconic West London street on any day, it is almost impossible not to bump into the regular Rockabilly busking band with tattooed arms and stickers-covered double bass, the saxophone guy playing smooth jazz versions of popular pop hits, or some random musician of any age, nationality and music genre jamming on the edge of the sidewalk. What is almost impossible, too, is witnessing someone play without a cheering audience, including both locals and tourists taking pictures on their phones.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, though: West London’s music scene has been known for a long time as one of the most vibrant on the capital’s music map, with its heritage including a significant help in the spawn of genres such as jazz, folk, pub rock, prog, glam, reggae, punk and stadium rock.
Following this line of tradition, this year’s May Day Bank Holiday marked the 3rd edition of Portobello Live!: a music festival that has already proven to be a winning formula over its running years, with its eclectic mixture of music, performance and art, as well as cabaret and spoken word. Spanning along the iconic Portobello Road - home of the world-famous market during the weekends and the Carnival once a year – the festival provided once again a deserved platform to celebrate the area’s past and present cultural and musical heritage.
This year’s edition welcomed a varied range of artists, including big names such as punk performance poet John Cooper Clarke, Don Letts, The Egg, Glenn Matlock (The Sex Pistols) and Bandante (The Bad Seeds) as well as a wide range of niche and up and coming artists, performing their sets across a number of historical music venues and pubs located along the main street, each one hosting a showcase of a different music style.
On entering the main stage area hosted at Acklam Village Market, the inebriating aroma of spices filled the air, together with afro beats coming from the main tent where the whole audience incessantly participated in dancing and singing along: a perfect celebration of the local sense of community and togetherness of different cultures and nationalities.
As a venue known for its ongoing collaboration of London’s finest in entertainment and art, as well as street food and drink, Acklam Village Market turned out to be the perfect location to host both multi-cultural music performances and arts exhibitions in its BAY 56 theatre space. This year’s main exhibition on Sunday took a retrospective look at Rock Against Racism, the movement which 40 years ago came to public attention through music and marches, or “carnivals”, inspired by Notting Hill’s annual event, where many RAR artists had their musical and street-fighting apprenticeships.
A panel discussion also took place, including participation from influential personalities that fought for, supported and are still supporting the cause, such as Chris Salewicz, Glenn Matlock and Daniel Rachel, author of Walls Come Tumbling Down, the iconic book that charted the pivotal period between 1976 and 1992 which saw politics and popular music come together for the first time in Britain's musical history.
Mau Mau Bar, a Bohemian local hangout at a short walking distance, hosted a showcase of the loudest, grittiest punk talent, with bands of the likes of Pink Cigar, Sisteray and female fronted pop punk band Bexatron.
Ongoing Dj sets took place throughout both festival days at Westbank Art & Music, a disused 19th century bank space adapted into a contemporary art gallery. The venue also hosted an underground talent showcase from the influential music website and artist promotion agency Blatantly Blunt.
An endless number of other showcases, book readings and happenings including spoken word performances took place in a range of different venues including The KPH, Book & Kitchen, the Rum Kitchen and The Cow.
Once again, the watchword for this year’s edition of Portobello Live! has been accessibility, with one affordable wristband allowing entry to all acts and venues over two days. If you are in London for May Day next year, make sure not to miss it!