Wireless Festival review

Ben Jolley spent a sunny weekend in Finsbury Park.

Amelia Ward

Last updated: 10th Jul 2018.
Originally published: 9th Jul 2018

Image: Wireless Festival (source)

World Cup fever, scorching temperatures and rumours of a massive special guest headliner took over Finsbury Park as Wireless returned for its 13th year, bringing the biggest names in grime and rap to 150,000 festival-goers on the hottest weekend of the year.

As England went football mad, the patriotic energy spread to the London festival site as trendy teenagers and twenty-somethings sporting Trapstar caps, Places+Faces bumbags and Off-White tops arrived draped in flags and chanting ‘It’s Coming Home’ at every opportunity. It wasn’t just the Brits that seemed excited for the big game – which was screened on the main stage - though; New York rapper Post Malone performed with an England flag stitched into the knee of his trousers while French Montana sported the team’s red and white top.

More so than previous years, there seemed to be an even balance between the number of US and UK artists on the line-up. Arguably, it was testament to how important and influential British music is right now: Giggs and Suspect packed the same stages as US rap icons Rick Ross and Migos (the legendary Madonna was even spotted side of stage watching the latter) while the next generation of ‘SoundCloud rappers’ - Lil Pump, Smokepurrp and Lil Uzi Vert - made sure their flights were worthwhile, demanding the biggest moshpits they’ve ever seen, resulting in shoes, beer and even weaves flying overhead.

Having been criticised for their lack of female bookings over the last few years, the Wireless team paid attention and took action to rectify that gender imbalance. As well as Ms Banks (sporting a rainbow streak of Pride colours in her hair), Raye and Mabel who drew sizeable crowds, the festival organisers teamed up with Rinse FM to curate a stage full of female talent. Girls of Grime, Anz and Manara got behind the decks while live performances came from Spain’s Bad Gyal, South London’s Paigey Cakey and blue-haired Birmingham MC Lady Leshurr, who stole the show in just 15 minutes thanks to her playful, tongue-in-cheek lyricism. 

Whilst there were a number of last minute cancellations - Trippie Redd, Cardi B and even Sunday’s supposed headliner, DJ Khaled - rumours of a surprise appearance from the biggest rapper in the world kept everyone’s spirits high. As soon as Giggs finished his main stage set, an instantly recognisable banner (the OVO owl with its wing in red, white and blue) dropped onstage signifying that the rumours were true. Moments later, screaming fans climbed nearby trees as everyone rushed forward to catch a glimpse of Drake. He may have only been granted a 30-minute slot, but it was enough time to run through new fan-favourites ‘I’m Upset’, ‘Nice For What’ and a fitting finale of ‘God's Plan’.

But it was Stormzy’s homecoming headline show on Saturday night that was the most unforgettable of all three days. Proving himself as leagues ahead of his nearest competition – in the UK and US – the Londoner owned the massive stage, joined by a street dance crew, Krept & Konan, and later a full orchestra for an emotive rendition of ‘Blinded By Your Grace’. His versatility as an artist is unmatched; from the moshpit-inducing grime of ‘Big For Your Boots’ to his fiery Grenfell Tower tribute, Stormzy’s Wireless set felt like a crowning moment for both him and the festival.

Festivals 2018