Janelle Monae, Brixton Academy

I’m still not really sure what the word swagger means, but if pressed to define it, I’d say Janelle Monae sums it up. This little lady has more soul, rhythm and flair than any other modern musician. It is rare to see a singer-songwriter with such mesmerising moves and infectious energy. By the final song she had the whole floor bouncing.

Hailing from Kansas, Monae or the Electric Lady as she’s commonly known, has wowed British crowds for a few years now, popping up previously at summer festivals. I have seen her once before at Latitude Festival, when her cheeky talent was equally impressive. With her second album out, she is currently touring the UK spreading the joy of her music to every major city.

I joined a boisterous crowd at Brixton Academy for her, as always, monochrome show. Wearing a sharp tailored black outfit, she showcased her oeuvre – her set combined songs from the first and second albums, the singles particularly exciting the crowd.

Tightrope, her most celebrated track, was electrifying. I was oblivious to my surroundings as I screamed the lyrics with her and danced about madly in appreciation. Electric Lady was a blast too; as her voice soared on the melodic runs, the crowd joined in enthusiastically, not as tuneful as the star on stage but equally happy. I also really enjoyed her rendition of ABC made famous by the Jackson 5 which carried all the same youthful spirit as the original.

The crowd left elated, truly inspired by a musician who genuinely possesses a unique talent, Janelle Monae I salute you.

More information about Janelle Monae here.

Latitude Festival 2012

After a treacherous and frustrating journey and an unnecessary mission to collect tickets, we arrived inside the gates of Latitude Festival… all slightly frazzled from the time-consuming organisational fiasco. The weather was bleak but dry and we wandered across the grass in search of food and musical inspiration.

This was my third year at Latitude Festival, but my first time as a day guest… no camping to endure but inevitably a lot of good music missed. 2012’s line-up was, in my eyes, the best yet, with a score of ace acts up performing each and every day. Friday was the must see bill for me, with Janelle Monae strutting her stuff on the main stage and Bon Iver headlining, not forgetting a little set from new icon Lana del Rey.

The venue was teeming with people – in its seven years of existence the crowd of Latitudees has increased from 4,000 to 35,000 and nowadays it certainly feels like a squeeze. My festival advice to you: decide on a few acts you want to see get there 20 minutes early for a good spot and prepare to be squashed.

The day had its highs and lows. I had a particularly unpleasant experience at the female urinals: it just doesn’t seem fair to queue for half an hour for such an ordeal… after attempting and failing to use the designated funnel I had to rejoin the queue, this time for normal toilets. That’s the last time I make that mistake.

Starving from the journey we wolfed down stone-baked made to order, and rather delicious, pepperoni pizzas and set off for the main stage. Amadou and Mariam triumphed with a soulful and charismatic set, colourful in costume and jubilant in mood, the crowd danced joyfully in the mud.

Before returning to the Word tent for a nostalgic set from Dexys, I thought I should see what else was on offer. Don Paterson’s poetry was particularly touching though the Literary tent’s offerings were less inspiring. I had a great chat with the Emerald City girls… we bonded over our specially designed Tatty Devine necklaces and talked about fabulous Stylist magazine.

Thankfully Janelle Monae’s magnificent showcase made the tiring journey to Latitude entirely worth the hassle… the stage and band were dressed in elegant black and white and after a grand introduction from her teammates Janelle entered concealed beneath a black cloak. Aside from her obvious talent as a singer and dancer, this young performer certainly knows how to work the crowd. Her set consisted of popular tracks from her own repertoire, of which ‘Tightrope’ was my highlight, but also a few exemplary covers… including Jackson Five’s ‘I want you back’. She exhibited endless energy and a personality that you can’t help but fall in love with. Towards the end of the set she managed to coax the whole audience into sitting on the floor, only allowing us up to dance when she felt the anticipation had reached its peak! As if the performance hadn’t been exciting enough, for the final farewell Janelle lunged into the crowd for a brief crowd surf!

As expected Lana del Rey was rather a limp and lazy disappointment, although her performance here was marginally better than the flop at Lovebox… and she still managed to pack out the Word tent with her desperately loyal fans. Another round of food and it was back to the main stage for the final act, Bon Iver. I have always liked his music but this show exceeded my expectations, a spectacular light show accompanied his passionate and sincere music, it was incredibly atmospheric.

As we walked wearily out, we witnessed the magical scenes that appear as darkness falls at Latitude… Pagan ritualistic fire parades, actors and performers everywhere asserting their creativity and involving the guests in their fun. For a day trip from London, Latitude is a huge effort but to see an unforgettable star like Janelle Monae, I would definitely do it all over again.

Massive thanks to my dad for driving us all the way there and back.