Live review

Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London

Let’s do the time warp again with the Brockwell Park weekender.

Anyone that’s ever visited the visual smorgasbord of central Tokyo will know the feeling of having your eyes literally filled up with overstimulation. Such is the sensation of stepping into Brockwell Park for Mighty Hoopla’s sun-soaked party Saturday. Everyone has made maximum effort, from fabulous full drag, to leather harnesses, to body glitter, all sorts of costumes and copious naked arses - oh, the arses! The most ludicrous fashion choice you could make here would be to wear a pair of jeans.

An established queer mecca run by the team behind drag royalty Sink the Pink, Mighty Hoopla is a music festival by name, yes, but it’s also really about much more than that: providing a safe space to wear whatever the hell you like, love whoever the hell you like and listen to an awful lot of throwback novelty nostalgia while you’re at it. There are lip sync competitions and Ru Paul’s Drag race alumni on hosting duty; the first thing we’re greeted by upon entry is a DJ leading a pack of people in a perfect Macarena. Suffice to say, there’s been a 180 in tone from last week’s Wide Awake festival.

Forward-thinking music booking is far from the prerogative here and yet, kicking off the Saturday afternoon as pretty much the sole new act of the day, recent BRIT-winners FLO fit in surprisingly well. Though they’ll be spending the rest of their summer performing on modern pop and R&B line-ups, the trio’s love of the ‘90s and ‘00s means that, on a day headlined by Kelly Rowland, they actually make a lot of sense. There are matching denim outfits plucked straight from the ‘Survivor’ video’s wardrobe extras; choreography that picks up the era’s ‘say what you see’ approach with gusto, and vocals that could win over even the surliest of crowds (a problem they most certainly don’t have today). They cover Jamelia’s ‘Superstar’ before bringing out the star herself to say hello - a full-circle moment between influences old and new that shows Hoopla isn’t all about the kitsch.

Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London

That said, if cute is what you aim for, then there’s plenty of kitsch to be found. We’ll spare you a play-by-play of an Aqua set, but suffice to say ‘Barbie Girl’ is given the sort of screams normally reserved for Harry Styles while, in these parts, Natasha Bedingfield is treated like Beyoncé-level pop royalty.

A theme of the day comes from girl band members gone solo. Early in the afternoon, it’s Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle who clearly understands the assignment, namely: slot in a couple of your own tracks but know that people are here for the hits. She gives the crowd many, bringing out the Sink the Pink girls for a joyful ‘Biology’, before referencing her own well-trodden internet memes and ending on a GA bumper mix. Less ready to acquiesce to the audience, however, is headliner Kelly Rowland, who not only seems unable to get through an entire song without cutting it off midway, but also relegates her Destiny’s Child back catalogue to a rapid-fire megamix.

On the flip side, the promotion of Years & Years’ Olly Alexander to full-blown festival headline status is an inspired move. His Sunday night closing spot manages to walk the tricksy pop tightrope between artsy and camp with all the ease of someone who’s done this for decades. Tracks from debut album ‘Communion’ - namely early showings of ‘Shine’ and ‘Take Shelter’ - shimmer in the sunset, and Jake Shears soon bounds on stage for a deliciously boisterous cover of ‘Filthy Gorgeous’; all while Olly’s dance troupe sport more pleather and ripped fishnets than you can shake a riding crop at. There’s the perfect dose of tenderness, too, with the Trans Voices Choir joining a piano-led rendition of ‘Eyes Shut’, before a cover of Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s A Sin’ feels particularly poignant on a night such as this.

It’s a set that caps off a fairly different vibe to that of the previous day; giddy '00s nostalgia is still high on the agenda (Vengaboys, A1, Liberty X, we’re looking at you), but today’s billing feels much more rooted in the present day. An early showing of Eurovision double champion Loreen offers up the day’s first big moment; even with just three songs in her set - including, of course, her winning anthems ‘Tattoo’ and ‘Euphoria’ - the Swedish star whips up one of the weekend’s biggest singalongs.

Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London Mighty Hoopla, Brockwell Park, London

The Main Stage’s one-two of Confidence Man and Jake Shears is as gloriously extra as you’d expect, with the former whipping out a cover of ‘Heaven’ that’s much more DJ Sammy than Bryan Adams. The Scissor Sisters frontman, meanwhile, veers through an eclectic mix of his new solo material - including the glitzy ‘Last Man Dancing’ - and cuts from Scissor Sisters' back catalogue (‘Laura’, ‘Take Your Mama’ and ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’’ all get a look in) with the required dose of showmanship.

A quick pitstop to dance to ‘Tragedy’ and ‘Boom Boom Boom Boom’ via Lisa Scott Lee and Vengaboy’s Candy Crush Arena slots, and it’s on to Róisín Murphy’s simmering golden hour set, made all the better by her array of outrageous headwear; every song sees her don a new accessory, with the Moloko vocalist ending her slot with a gracious bow before “gathering up her bits and bobs”.

And then, midway through Years & Years’ headline set, it’s time for one last surprise. “Come on girls!” shouts Olly Alexander, a grin across his face, as the opening beats of Girls Aloud’s ‘The Promise’ begins to play and he’s joined on stage by Nicola Roberts and Kimberly Walsh, in what might be Mighty Hoopla’s greatest manifestation moment yet. If a mini Girls Aloud reunion isn’t the most exciting way to round out such a glorious weekend of freedom and celebration, then frankly, we just don’t know what could be.

Tags: Confidence Man, FLO, Girls Aloud, Róisín Murphy, Years & Years, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

May 2024

With Rachel Chinouriri, A.G. Cook, Yannis Philippakis, Wasia Project and more!

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY