The countdown to the London 2012 Olympics is well underway with just one month to go until the Opening Ceremony. To celebrate, London is hosting a variety of free events and festivals throughout the capital, among them is Hackney Weekend, a free two-day music extravaganza with an impressive line up of A-list superstars.
Keenan and I were lucky enough to score Sunday tickets to this free concert held at Hackney Marsh. While Rihanna and Jay-Z were the main headliners at Hackney Weekend, this music festival very much celebrates the success and talent of homegrown London-born artists including Leona Lewis, Taio Cruz, Plan B, Jessie J, Dizzee Rascal, Example, Tinie Tempah, Jack White, Labrinth, Chase & Status, Florence + the Machine, and Professor Green.
Sunday morning we traveled out to East London donning rain gear and our Hunter wellies (yes, we’re having quite the British ‘summer’). We joined 55,000 music revelers at Hackney Marshes for a fun day of music. Over 30 artists performed across the event’s six stages. We carefully planned our day, weaving between the tents to make sure we got to see all of our favorite artists perform live on stage.
Opening acts included rapper Professor Green; English indie rock band, Bombay Bicycle Club; and local Hackney boy, Labrinth. The atmosphere was amazing; despite the mud and brief rain shower, everyone was happy and really enjoyed themselves. I was impressed how organised everything was, from the security checkpoints, bar and food areas, first aid stations, and even the ladies port-a-potty toilets were surprisingly clean.
We watched Jessie J. and rapper/singer/songwriter Plan B delight the crowd with hits, “Domino,” “Nobody is Perfect,” “Love Come Down” and “Prayin.” B.o.B, who performed an awesome set playing both his guitar and piano over at the 1xtra Stage, joined the Main Stage with Jessie J to sing their hit “Price Tag”. I was beyond excited to see a live performance by Florence + The Machine as I am a huge fan of their music. They were awesome on stage, belting out all my favorite songs, including “Dog Days are Over,” “No Lights,” and “You’ve Got the Love.”
There was also an unannounced ‘Special Guest’ for Sunday’s line-up. Rumour was that it could be Kanye West who is on tour in the UK and whom made a guest appearance on stage with Jay-Z on Saturday night; or Eminem, or even Coldplay. To my surprise, and somewhat a disappointment, the Special Guest turned out to be rapper Dizzee Rascal.
Over in the In New Music We Trust Stage, newcomers folk singer Ben Howard and Born to Die singer Lana Del Rey, who wore a short red dress, did not disappoint the audience with their respective musical talents. Sporting her signature 1960s bouffant, Lana Del Rey’s melancholic set was a major contrast to the high-energy beats of previous artists on her supporting stage.
Back over at 1xtra Stage, the British singer, Taio Cruz, dressed in black with cool shades, electrified the crowd, closing out his set with his hit “Dynamite” and “Break your Heart.” We joined revelers in the rave-like, heart-thumping Dance Arena where superstar D.J/Producer David Guetta got fans up on their feet and singing along to “Titanium.”
Of course, Sunday night was all about Rihanna who opted for an Egyptian-themed stage. She got the crowd on their feet, opening with “Only Girl (in the World),” followed by all her major hits from all her studio albums to date. Guest appearance by Jay-Z was a special treat, sharing the stage for three songs: “Run this Town,” “Talk that Talk,” and “Umbrella,” which we thankfully didn’t need for the rest of the day as the sky opened up for a lovely sunset over East London. Rihanna’s 90 minute set was superb, entertaining, and definitely a highlight of Sunday night’s event, if not the entire festival weekend, closing the festival with “We Found Love”.