Review: 10 Years Of Wormfood

Art & Culture

If you’ve had an ear to the ground over the past ten years, Wormfood are sure to have appeared on your radar: they’ve promoted bands who have gone stratospheric, put on some of the best events in the country, and since 2014 have also entered the label game as Wormfood Records. On Saturday at Electric Brixton, they were officially celebrating a decade of partying hard, and boy do these guys know how to throw a party.

I’m new to London – a few months ago I moved here from Norwich, which is, believe it or not, quite the haven of afrobeat, funk, soul, and world music in general. Literally, you can’t go to a pub on a Saturday in Norwich without walking in on a DJ spinning some Fela Kuti – and I for one could not be happier about that. Back there, I’ve seen both Nubiyan Twist and The Comet Is Coming live on multiple occasions (not bad for a small town off the beaten track), so catching them both in one night here made Brixton feel like a home from home.

Another important caveat I must disclose before I go on with this review is that I was entirely and unequivocally sober for the entire proceedings. (Not due to any kind of “dry January” nonsense, some of us just have day jobs at the weekend after all…) As such, I was delighted that this night was a perfect crystallisation of the rule of three Wormfood have strived for since 2007 – great people and great music in a great setting. It’s a simple equation, but less easy in practice: getting that relaxed vibe on a night where you need everything to run like clockwork is an art unto itself. The bands on Saturday night were a perfect example of this ethos: a heavy leaning towards African dance with a fun and forward-looking attitude, with an unstoppable energy and sheer intensity of sound brings out the best in everyone. It’s been a while since I was at a gig where everyone was just so damn friendly.

The Turbans kicked off proceedings with their upbeat sense of humour and music almost as loud as the gold and bronze suits they were wearing. Frontman and founding member of the collective Oshan Mahoney worked the slightly tentative early crowd until we were all suitably warmed, and the band’s Eastern European-inspired klezmer sound was a brilliant demonstration of what’s really special about all of the acts on the line up here: the ability to take very traditional sounds and turn them into something that’s modern, futuristic and wholly unique without losing track of or losing any reverence for their roots.

Next up, Nubiyan Twist. This incredible collective are easily one of the most exciting live acts around. They’re longtime Wormfood collaborators too, with several releases on the label and many past performances together. MC Nubiya Brandon is such a captivating performer – her voice is beautiful, and she commands the stage, conducting the instruments from front and centre with an elegant flick of her hand. Brandon made room for Nick Da Funk, normally found lurking at the back of the stage with his saxophone, to come forward for vocals on one song, and he almost stole the show.

After a real quest for the smoking area and bathrooms, we were ready to catch Nubiyan Twist’s labelmates, Afriquoi, for their turn on the main stage. Combining Congolese guitar, Gambian kora-playing and British electronica, Afriquoi draw as much on jungle, dance and hip-hop as they do traditional African and Carribean sounds to make music that you can really, really move to.

The Comet Is Coming were, I have to be honest, my main draw when I saw the line up for this night. Master saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, also of Sons Of Kemet and previous member of the band who gave me possibly my favourite live experience to date, Melt Yourself Down, is the centrepiece for this trio of genre-pushing musicians, which also includes Danalogue on synths and The Betamax Killer on drums. In terms of talking about their music, “far out” doesn’t cut it – they have officially left the solar system, they’re somewhere near Alpha Centauri, they’re holograms projected back to us from 3017 to convey an important message about the future of humanity and its ability to party. With an aesthetic built from Afro-futurism and 1970s sci-fi B-movies plus musical talent this good, how can you not fall totally in love with their presence?

The final act of the night, but certainly not the end of the party, were The Busy Twist with K.O.G, who had been present throughout the evening, appearing to perform with both Nubiyan Twist and Afriquoi for a couple of songs each. K.O.G’s energy is infectious, and he really brightens a stage whenever he’s on it. The Busy Twist were, as usual, serving up tropical vibes unmatched by any other DJs in town, and the crowd were eating it up. What more could you ask for?

With work starting five hours later, I said goodbye to Brixton to head North West, but my Sunday exhaustion was more than made up for by the sheer fun I’d had on Saturday night. Wormfood – I salute you. Here’s to 10 more years!

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