Photo Credit: Emily Williams
Over the May bank holiday weekend, a small space off Globe Road on Leeds’ South Bank became a utopia for the city’s ultra-cool jazz fans.
In its second year, World Island is the creation of promoters Super Friendz, and after a successful inaugural event, its 2018 line up boasted the likes of Sampha, Loyle Carner and Alfa Mist, plus an equally high caliber of after-party bookings.
The festival was set across two tented stages, with almost 40 acts squeezed in throughout the weekend, and a small Friday night line-up kicked off proceedings, headlined by Mercury Prize winner Sampha.
Saturday’s sunny weather was fittingly sound-tracked by Carmody’s feel good folk-pop, Yellow Days’ dreamlike lo-fi indie and Alfa Mist’s mesmerizing beat-making. Masego proved to be the surprise standout of the day; the multi-instrumentalist rose to fame last year when his improvised performance of saxophone-laced Tadow with FKJ racked up over 37 million views on YouTube.
The day closed with Loyle Carner; a young Brit who has been praised for his sensitive and honest branch of hip-hop, Carner possesses an ability to effortlessly blend high-energy with unparalleled emotion and authenticity, and performed tracks from his universally acclaimed debut LP Yesterday’s Gone, plus new tracks including one with Ninja Tune’s newest signee, Jordan Rakei - who performed earlier in the day. Carner ended his set with a poem and the crowd fell silent, hanging onto every word. There’s not many artists that could close a festival with a poem, but then again, there’s not many artists like Loyle Carner.
Sunday was the day of jazz, with Laura Misch, Nubya Garcia, Ezra Collective, Moses Boyd and Yazmin Lacey on the bill, to name but a few. Jazz has seen nothing short of a renaissance in the past year, with young British artists breathing new life into the genre, combining it with electronica, afrobeats and hip-hop. Gone are the days of jazz for solely sophisticated upper-class settings - jazz is back and it’s in the clubs.
We arrived before Ezra Collective, who aptly summarized the jazz resurgence, exclaiming: "we write jazz, afrobeat music and we wrote this music to make all of you party". Their performance definitely made everyone party and set a precedent for the day. Drummer Moses Boyd followed and wowed with a non-stop 30-minute show of flawless drumming combined with electro beats. Later on, Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman performed under his jazz project moniker Mr Jukes with tracks from his acclaimed LP God First.
Jungle followed; the band are back after a four-year hiatus with new songs, alongside their biggest hits Busy Earnin and The Heat.
Over on the second stage, Yazmin Lacey oozed sophistication. She was followed by saxophonist Nubya Garcia who played an incredibly energetic show with Ezra Collective’s Joe Armon-Jones on keys and Femi Koleoso on drum - if you’d have told me five years ago that a saxophonist could fill a festival tent in Leeds and have everyone dancing, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra brought the classic festival vibe and it was clear that for many revelers, they were the main event. Closing the festival with the eclectic Gilles Peterson was an apt choice, Peterson is arguably the godfather of the jazz revival, with many of the acts on the line-up owing some of their success to his relentless radio support.
As the sun set, it was clear that World Island had done it - another immaculate year focusing on high-quality music and good vibes, all blessed with glorious sunshine.
Check out our World Island 2018 gallery, above. Photo credit: Emily Williams.