Titan Festival 2022 review: a feel-good welcome to the UK’s festival circuit

Copthall Playing Fields, London: August 21: with its headliner T-Pain having pulled out, this R&B one-dayer recovers masterfully for a fun debut

At Copthall Playing Fields, home to Hendon FC, the first-ever Titan Festival celebrates all things old-school. It’s run by the same team who brought us the disorganised MetroFest last year; they’ve rebranded, rejigged the format and installed more COVID restrictions than they did last time. These promoters finally got it right – despite a few hiccups around the way.

Unfortunately, after promising his comeback gig (his last UK show was four years ago), the Auto-Tune modern music revolutionary that is T-Pain had to cancel his headline set, announcing online, “To all my loyal UK fans: I’m sorry to be the one to piss you off today, but, unfortunately, I have tested positive for COVID yesterday”. He continued to promise to “return for Titan Festival 2023 to perform for all my UK people next year”. Could the festival succeed when its beloved headliner isn’t here?

The answer is surprisingly in the affirmative. With the blistering weather helping the atmosphere, this indie festival’s small site can be summarised in one word: bustling. As we wait for the event’s new headliner, R&B star Lloyd, and for mid-liners Bobby V and J. Holiday’s Grammy-nominated tunes to flood the speakers, the tents are raving. Bouncing between Hip Hop Brunch’s servings of hip-hop and dancehall classics to younger DJ-ing superstars such as Jay Berry filling the pointy circus tent with new homegrown diaspora classics, it’s fun to break wild before your R&B karaoke later.

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At the main stage, the ladies get their chance to warm up the crowd, with the Billboard-charting Lumidee hyping the crowd with her most popular tune, ‘Never Leave You’. Later, the acclaimed super-writer Shontelle plays renditions of some tracks she penned (see Rihanna’s reggae hit ‘Man Down’) as well as her biggest solo release, the heart-tugging ‘Impossible’. It’s a shame, then, that these leading ladies’ enjoyable sets are only about 15 to 20 minutes long. Yes, they may not have as many hits as the guys, but this set-up doesn’t leave them much room to be creative.

With just the help of a DJ to play live instrumental recordings of his songs, DC’s self-proclaimed “King of R&B” sounds, J. Holiday, puts on a set that sounds exactly like his recordings. Performing to a motionless crowd for the most part (bar one swooning super-fan), Holiday still appears to be having the most fun singing his ethereal love anthems. However, it’s the 15-year-old hits from his debut album ‘Back Of My Lac’ that have the crowd full of life again as the floaty sex anthems ‘Suffocate’ and ‘Bed’ transport us back to better times.

Following on from J. Holiday’s fun solo performance comes eight-times Grammy-nominated Jon B, who ushers out his backing singer and asks us to help him sing his songs, while Atlanta’s Bobby V brings his whole band with him. Of course, Bobby V does the hand grab trick, jumping down to the barriers, asking, “Where are all the single ladies at?” It’s textbook R&B schtick, but Bobby V has some of his own moves too.

At the end of every track, for example, he encourages audience participation by doing the hook one more time a capella. For his croonery club track ‘Anonymous’, he beatboxes before playing a keyboard, pounding his foot, enthralled by his music. Bobby V does so well that he’s flung a pair of panties in reward of a great set, and jokes: “I hope they clean-clean in between-tween”. His comical charm only elevates his set.

Lastly, we see the moving-and-grooving Lloyd, who is non-stop pop-and-locking while his powerful alto vocals pierce your heart. With a long list of multi-generational ’00s hits, he takes us down memory lane, from his sultry TikTok-reclaimed tunes from ‘Lay It Down’ and ‘You’ to his 2011 comeback hit ‘Dedicated To My Ex’. And all with high energy and hoarse singing from the crowd.

The Atlantan sandwiches his songs with small speeches, as he loves to show gratitude to his fans, and apologises on behalf of the man he replaced: “So sorry T-Pain couldn’t be with us. He would have tore this fucker up but I’m glad to be able to share this time with you… I want to say thank you for rocking with me for all these years. I really do feel appreciated.”

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Lloyd finishes his set with a thoughtful moment of reflection as he strums the chords to the forgiving ‘True’, imploring us to tell our “neighbours” we “respect” and “appreciate” them. And to ourselves? “I love you”. All of this before he brings a bolshy close the festival, covering Ye’s dazzling ‘Graduation’ single ‘Flashing Lights’, ad libbing: “I’m so flashing, I can’t help it”.

Despite condensing stars’ discographies into truncated 30-minute sets and not giving them the time-appropriate slots we’d hope for, this one-dayer is a mega step-up from the atrocities of MetroFest. These performers gave us their best, making this a successful debut for Titan Festival.

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  • R&B
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