Festival Review: RiZe Festival 2018

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Hylands Park has always been as the home of V Festival, since it started in 1996, but this year something new has come along to replace it. RiZe Festival took over the park for a weekend of amazing music, but how did it compare to it’s previous owner, which can boast the likes of Beyonce on it’s line ups. 

We started our Friday with Call Me Loop on the 2nd Stage, which this year was a rather large yellow tent. For a 3pm set time of opening up an inside stage while the sunshine is beaming, can always be a struggle to get a good turn out. While the crowd was small at first, once Loop’s set got going, the people outside the tent gradually peeped inside as her infectiously catching pop tunes pulled them in. Once her set was finished, she had the crowd in the palm of her hands creating a great start to RiZe festival for us. 

It is always refreshing to see a New Bands Stage at a festival, especially one that has so many big names on it, it gives a chance for the smaller bands to play to an audience they wouldn’t normally be in front of. Our next stop was the band FEET, who have been causing a bit of a stir with their unique blend of indie-disco. The thing I love the most about FEET is their ability to get more intense as their set goes on. It isn't a case of it takes them a while to get going, I feel that is their performance as a band. It is hard to put them in a specific genre, as FEET are a bit post-punk, a tad disco, with a bit of indie thrown in. Whatever they are, they tick all the right boxes for me. 

It was back to the 2nd Stage for Sinead Harnett, who blesses us with her RnB and soul vibes. She owns the stage like as if she was headlining it. Following her was the voice otherwise known as Jacob Banks. That man’s vocal chords are something else, it reaches deep inside of you and pulls you closer to him. With tracks like ‘Monster’ in his arsenal, Jacob Banks was leading the charge when it came to RiZe. 

Our first stop at the main stage is for Plan B, who completely turned the festival on it’s head, owning the stage from the moment go. ‘Where my Essex boys at?’ he asks the crowd, and they go wild for him. As a local boy, this is like playing a home show for Plan B, and he certainly gave them something to party about. ‘Stay Too Long’ turns the main stage field into a complete frenzy to the point where you question why he isn’t at the top of this festival. From start to finish, Plan B gave it his all. 

Man of the moment Tom Grennan was next on the 2nd Stage, and he starts the first massive sing-a-long of the weekend. For some acts, there are certain songs the audience love, however with Tom Grennan, the audience sang back every lyric back to him. The tent was packed all the way to the entrance, and you could tell Tom was loving it. 

James Bay, what a beautiful man, with his huge collection of guitars he certainly brought a bit of class to the Main Stage at RiZe Festival. His style was a bit more peaceful that the rest of the line up on that day, but he had a massive crowd for his set. His cover of ‘Simply the Best’ got a huge response from the crowd, along with his hits ‘Hold Back The River’ and ‘Wild Love’. 

Known on his social media as Santandave, the rapper Dave is the only rapper on the line up, so it was interesting to see how he would be received on a line up dominated by dance acts and guitars. You could tell he felt mildly out of place when he came on stage, but as soon as he started his set, and the response from the crowd, you could tell by the look on his face that he knew they knew who he was. With the audience reacting to each track like it was their party anthem for the weekend, Dave was certainly a huge highlight of RiZe weekend. 

Finishing off our first day at RiZe with the big man man himself, Liam Gallagher, who crashes into his set with a grainy ‘Rock and Roll Star’. He roars into the microphone ‘Is this thing on?’, and asks the festival if they are awake? The audience absolutely worshipped his headline set, and it was a perfect end to the first day at the festival. 

The sunshine was very kind to RiZe this year, with the weather back out in full force for the second day in Hylands Park, and what a perfect way to start our day with a bit of Black Honey. With their debut album coming out, we got a taste of what was in store. I have always been a fan of Black Honey, they only downside is I just wish they had more freedom to burst on that main stage. Their set was flawless all the way through, just maybe a higher up headline set on a smaller stage would of been better for them. So they could of put on a bit more of a ‘Black Honey show’, because you could feel that they wanted to burst. Maybe next year RiZe? 

'If you like miserable songs sang by chubby Scottish guys, then you have some to the right place'. Up next was Lewis Capaldi on the Main Stage, who's voice carries all the way to the back of the field. Gracing the crowd with tracks like 'Bruises', and even a surprise appearance from Nina Nesbitt who joined him on stage for his song 'Rush'. Despite the tone of his music, his performance was inspiring and we couldn't help but feel inspired and lifted from his flawless set. 

Alma, Alma, Alma, who is Alma? She certainly brought something different to RiZe this year, with her blend of dance and pop, for anyone who didn’t know who this Finnish singer was, they certainly left remembering the name Alma. 

Maximo Park are always a huge bunch of fun, and their mid-afternoon set was no different. With lead singer Paul Smith on full form, jumping around the stage like a child on Skittles. Playing a full set of songs spanning their full career, it was nice to see a band play something for everyone, instead of just focusing mostly on the newest release, which some performers do. Maximo Park are a festival band, they just know exactly what to do to keep everyone in that festival mood. 

Rita Ora, brought a whole new level of sass to the Main Stage, with a full live band and an army of dancers, she certainly is the most commercially successful act on the line up. ‘Anywhere’ gets a massive sing-along during her warm late afternoon set. 

How do you follow a pop-princess? Bastille obviously…. They perform what can only be described as pure perfection, as they warm up the crowd for Stereophonics. They appearance at the festival could of easily been a headline slot, once they finished I could of gone home happy there and then. By then the sun had set, and everyone was ready for the Saturday night headliners, and a microphone appears at the end of the huge stage walkway. On walks Kelly Jones and heads straight down it! A flare lights up in the crowd, creating one of those festival moments everyone will remember. They have been around for twenty five years, but they shake off this ‘old guy’ imagery straight away and pull off a jaw dropping headline set. 

We end our RiZe experience with Years & Years on the 2nd Stage, and the thing you have to love about this band is that you can tell they have put hours of thought into their live performance. Bands with guitars can rock out huge solos and create massive mosh pits. But Olly Alexander is something else. Taking the definition of frontman to a whole new level. The whole show is a theatrical performance while also being a pop-show. It can only be described as ‘out-of-this-world’. 

That brings RiZe Festival to an end. 

You cannot compare this festival to V Festival, don't get me wrong V Festival had some amazing line ups, but RiZe is about the whole experience, which puts it out there on it’s own as a unique festival. It had something for everyone. Pop, rap, rock music, plus loads of new bands to discover. Everything and more you would want from a festival. 

So bring on RiZe 2019, but I ask you this RiZe. How do you top this year? 

Words and Photography by Ant Adams