There may have been grey skies looming over Hackney Marshes this weekend, but the dreary weather did nothing to dampen the festival spirits at BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend as the free festival boasted an incredible line-up in the heart of East London.
As local girl Leona Lewis began the weekend on the main stage, we kicked off Saturday with one of Radio Ones most exciting and current DJs, Annie Mac, who played an electric mix of dance, dub and chart hits in the Dance Arena.
The afternoon acts on the Main Stage saw an eclectic range of genres as Example and Ed Sheeran were followed by Hip Hop Queen Nicki Minaj, who gave an entertaining, if slightly subdued performance, through sheets of rain.
Saturday night was all about the boys as Indie Kings Kasabian rocked the Main Stage. Meanwhile, Welsh boys Lostprophets were proving they’ve still got it in the InNewMusicWeTrust Tent, with a highlight being a nostalgic performance of sing- along anthem Rooftops. They were followed by the multi-talented and hotly anticipated Jack White. Mad props to Jack for managing to squeeze in tracks from his incredibly extensive back catalogue into a half hour set, as well as showcasing new songs from successful solo album Blunderbuss. His unbelievable guitar skills and amazing stage presence made sure the atmosphere was incredible and the crowd went especially wild for a jaunty rendition of White Stripes favourite Hotel Yorba and iconic track Seven Nation Army.
Back out on the Main Stage, superstar Jay Z took to the stage and was joined by special guest Rihanna to kick off the set with their smash hit Run This Town. The Jigga Man was also joined by M.I.A. and Kanye West who helped him deliver a knock out performance to round off the evening.
Sunday began with Hackney boy Professor Green taking on the slightly soggy main stage and as the rain continued to hammer down Santigold turned up the heat in the InNewMusicWeTrust Tent. Playing a mix of crowd pleasing favourites from her first album and new tracks from recently released Master Of My Make Believe, her powerful voice, fresh beats and flamboyant wardrobe (including a pantomime horse) got the energy levels in the crowd soaring.
She was followed by man of the moment Ben Howard who proved his growing popularity by playing to a packed out tent of adoring fans (the majority of which knew every. single. word. to his mellow folk tracks). He showed himself to be a true musician, swapping between acoustic and electric guitars effortlessly and injecting incredible passion into his gentle voice.
Back on the Main Stage, the sun was just breaking through the clouds as Jessie J began her set. It’s easy to see why she is considered one of coolest girls in pop, she gave a slick performance packed with hits and showcased her famous vocals to perfection. It’s just a shame she pretty much insists on the audience singing along with her, nice of you Jess, but not everyone has your range (the young lady behind me definitely did NOT).
Shortly afterwards, the atmosphere in the 1Xtra tent was electric as the crowd gathered to watch hot property Azealia Banks. The 21-year-old rapper didn’t disappoint with her tight rhymes and natural charisma. The highlight came at the end of her set as she finished with her single 212, one of the hottest (and most explicit) tracks of the year. I never thought I would witness a tent full of decent, hard working folk jumping up and down while shouting ‘I’ma ruin you c**t’ but hey, it happened…and it was pretty awesome.
As the evening set in it was all about the Laydeez as Lana Del Rey proved the naysayers wrong by giving a sultry, captivating performance in the InNewMusicWeTrust tent as London girl Florence and her machine took over the Main Stage. Lovely, ethereal looking Florence skipped around the stage like a woodland nymph while belting out a carefully selected mix of euphoric, uplifting tracks from both albums.
After an expectant wait the Special Guest of the evening was revealed and Dizzee Rascal took the stage to bring a bit of Grime back to Hackney. There seemed to be a slight air of disappointment in the crowd as rumours had been rife all day about the mystery guest (popular names being thrown around were Beyonce, Coldplay, Katy Perry and er…Justin Beiber). The cheeky rascal soon won the crowd over with an energetic performance finishing off with bounce-tastic hit Bonkers.
Having made a special guest appearance during Jay Z’s set on Saturday night, headliner Rihanna truly made the stage her own to round up the weekend. With an elaborate Egyptian-themed backdrop and dripping with bling and attitude, RiRi absolutely smashed it with her incredible stage presence and massive collection of crowd-pleasing hits. She finished off the night by welcoming back Jay Z for a repeat of their duet followed by smash hit We Found Love, a perfect end to an incredible set, and an incredible weekend.