For those ancient enough to recall the mid ’90s, the weekend’s Forbidden Fruit festival will have carried a peculiar whiff of deja vu. Abandoning its previously indie-centric sensibility, the three-day event instead felt like a giant valentine to dance music and hip-hop past and present — with an unmistakable emphasis on ‘past’. Friday was headlined by big beat sergeant major Fatboy Slim; on Saturday the curtain was brought down by Wu-Tang Clan, a New York rap collective whose debut LP came out all of 22 years ago.
The back-to-the-future sensibility similarly applied lower down the bill. On Saturday, walking past one of several secondary stages, you may have been detained by Mr Scruff, spinning a languid mash-up of hip-hop, trip-hop and house that would not have felt out of place in a mega-club circa 1995. So it was remarkable that the audience was overwhelmingly fresh-faced 20-somethings. How curious that the grooves of yesterday should be conspicuously irresistible to the youth of today
On the same day Slane and Foo Fighters paid homage to rock at its most primal, Forbidden Fruit was doing the precise opposite, then: marking the rebirth of electronica as a cultural force that has won a new following with distinctly old-school aesthetics. Not that the festival entirely had two feet in the past, one of the biggest day two draws was Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx, whose transcendental new LP In Colour looks set to be one of 2015’s essential listens. Against a lurid, slightly unsettling backdrop of flickering candles and a huge metal gong, the 26-year-old utilised an eclectic selection of beeps, blips and thunking tempos — all of it lapped up by a crowd whooping approval from the start.
Over on the ‘Live Live’ stage quirky electric duo Baths, for their part, congratulated Ireland on voting for gay marriage between deployments of atonal rhythms and Beach Boys-esque vocals (it’s a cliché to evoke the Beach Boys in the context of any music that is sweet and poppy — here, the resonances felt deliberate).
If this mix of chirruping pop and industrial clanging was too outre, comparatively conventional thrills were to be had on the main stage where cult rappers Earl Sweatshirt and Joey Badass showed there is more to hip-hop than bloated dinosaurs such as Kanye and Jay Z. On a weekend that seemed to champion the past as much as the present, these edgy performances were a reminder that, while the sounds of yesterday are worth celebrating, the future is plenty bright too.