A Harbourfront Festival

A group of our CNETs share their highlights of an event last month that definitely wasn’t a Clocken-flop...

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Genevieve’s highlights:

Clockenflap was one of the best music festivals I’ve attended (and not just because somebody gave me a free ticket for Sunday so I only had to pay for Saturday!). Usually, festivals specialise in a certain genre/vibe but not this one. We were treated to brilliant DJs as well as live bands but also food and craft booths, smaller stages for burgeoning artists, and mobile art, all right on the edge of downtown’s glorious skyline.

Erykah Badu was more than just a highlight - she was an induction into the cult of live Baduizm and an embodiment of R&B. Beginning with “Green Eyes,” a jazzy number featured in a recent TinyDesk episode, Erykah Badu continued to play hit after hit. The audience got everything they came for, including “Bag Lady”, “On and On,” and even a musical version of her poem “Friends, Fans, and Artists Must Meet.” There was an André 3000 shoutout - “he’s my best friend” - and a jaw-dropping display of vocal prowess from her back-up singers. But inimitably, she and her fro and denim on denim commanded the stage with the regal control that only comes with 20+ years of practice and power, and I was honoured to soak it in.

Saturday’s one-man show Youngr wasn’t lacking for manpower; he played drums, bass, guitar, keys, AND sang, enthusiastically and seamlessly using a loop pedal and backing track to transition from one bop to the next - including a rendition of Billie Jean. I was thoroughly impressed by his musicianship (not immediately evident if you were to just listen to his songs) and told him as much when I ran into him later that evening - he gave me a hug in return that I’m still gushing over.

Amadou & Mariam were actually the reason I had originally insisted on Saturday tickets. A couple from Mali who have been married close to 30 years, they began their show by being led onstage by assistants as they’re both blind. Their opening number was my favourite song, “Ta Promesse,” which causes tears to stream from my eyes whenever I hear it. The upbeat and serene polyrhythms wash over your body. At one point, Mariam began to caress the head of her husband as he strummed his guitar, both facing the crowd. She croons in French, “My dear, I love you so much. I feel so lucky to be living this beautiful life with you.” How can anyone resist crying [more] when being allowed to witness such a tender, intimate moment?

Ashley’s highlights:

To pick one highlight from Clockenflap is hard. There were iconic homemade badges, somewhat questionable ‘dancing’ and dedicated searches for the perfect insta spot and accompanying pose... Oh and the music was good too. Khalid played so many bangers you wanted mash on the side, and David Byrne put on a masterclass in modern performance but - truthfully - what made the weekend was the company.

Chatteris is unique in its blend of cultures from all across the globe and the friendships it forms. Each different attendee in various Clockenflap groups knew about different sections of the festival: someone’s research into Byrne, another person’s knowledge of Wolf Alice or somebody’s magical ability to find anyone in a crowd.  Clockenflap was a wonderful weekend, spent just thirty minutes from your doorstep. Seeing world-class artists with the picturesque backdrop of the harbour could only be better with the company of fellow CNETs. Special mention goes to the additional fun of guessing where the girls had disappeared to again and our accidental philosophy Sunday Funday: is a burning chair still a chair?

Adam’s highlight: David Byrne

Coming into Saturday night’s headline set from the former Talking Heads frontman, I was only faintly aware of what was in store. Sure, I’d scanned online reviews like any diligent festival-goer and I'd gathered the impression that the show was quite unique. I had no idea.

An empty stage save for a single desk, chair and model of a human brain prepared the ground for the kaleidoscopic, joyful weirdness that was to follow. Opening with the ethereal ‘Here’ from his most recent album (a song all about which parts of your brain he’s about to trigger over the next hour and a half), the setlist went through hit after hit. From the undeniable rhythm of ‘Lazy’ to the life-affirming ‘Once in a Lifetime’ via the sheer funk of ‘Blind’, this was a setlist designed to simultaneously satisfy old fans (of which there were plenty) and whet the appetites for future David Byrne-obsessives like me.

There are few feelings quite like discovering a new band out of nowhere. How rare, then, to discover an act that provides undoubtedly the best, most memorable live show you have ever seen. If you’re ever dissuaded from going to a festival because you’re unfamiliar with the headliners, don’t be. Because David Byrne is what can happen.


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