As Bad Boy Chiller Crew open their joyful set at Reading Festival 2021, a bog roll flies through the packed BBC Radio 1 Dance Stage, followed by countless chucked pints throughout the show. It’s hard to say which is the bigger commodity by Sunday afternoon here, the festival site a scorched tundra strewn with takeaway cartons and feral teenagers who’ve been absolutely having it for several days now.
One thing’s for sure, though: the lads from Bradford are ready to get down and dirty, bringing their very Yorkshire brand of bassline – booming, Tesco basics dance music and cheeky, rapid-fire rhymes – to these southern mash-heads.
DJ-rapper GK and MCs Kane (topless) and Sam (bouncing around in a PE kit and gold chain) lead a series of vintage chants that reflect their ‘90s influences: “Oggy! Oggy! Oggy! Oi! Oi! Oi!” and “The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!” And the throwbacks continue: the packed audience put their lighters up for the blisteringly buoyant ‘Everybody’s Free’, which appeared on May’s ‘Charva Anthems’ EP, before we’re treated to a very 2021 view when every other camera phone in the tent comes out for the massive ‘450’.
The latter tune is an anthem for kids who’ve been locked up for 18 months and are now ready to take what’s rightfully theirs: “All blacked-out, coming with the mask on / Coming for the lot, coming for the jackpot.” True to the lyric, the trio’s DJ dons a balaclava, while the audience roars in response when instructed: “If you’re here for the first time, somebody screeeaaam!”
Speaking to NME about the Chiller Crew’s ridiculously fun debut album ‘Full Wack No Brakes’ last year, GK marvelled at their burgeoning success: “I’m not bigging my own head up, but we’re probably one of the most talked-about new artists of the moment. We were in The Guardian in January: ‘Top 50 artists to watch out for 2020.’ We thought it were some sort of weird joke. Why would a paper which is nowt to do with around here want to write about us?!”
There is no gulf between the group and their audience – almost anyone in the tent could get up onstage and look right at home – which is perhaps why their sense of freedom is so rapturously received. No wonder Bad Boy Chiller Crew opened with an audio clip of a little kid hyping them up: this set was a celebration of youth and young mashhood.
– Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Reading & Leeds 2021