#Gidifest2017 Review: Not quite yet a festival, but certainly not just a concert

Music Festivals in the incarnation that we recognize now are a relatively new thing. Before the inaugural Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in the 1969, the only people who performed music outdoors were travelling renaissance faires and folk singers eking out a living. You either went to the musician indoors in theatres and auditorium halls, where engineering and architecture ensured the musician always had the best sound, or the musician came to you, travelling to your small town and busking to earn a living. 69’s Woodstock challenged the status quo and created a singular event spanning three days that saw some of the biggest names of that time share the same stage, finding new fan bases and consolidating their existing ones. Gidifest is doing that for Nigerian music.

We have long needed an open air festival. One where the music and its roster of established and emerging musicians is biggest sell, but its community and camaraderie is it’s long term goal. The very nature of social events in Nigeria illustrates how open we are to the idea of festivals; our wedding receptions, naming ceremonies, bridal showers and birthdays are often done outdoors, (sometimes right on the street) with live music heard for miles and people co-mingling while they try out food. The local precursor to festivals of this nature; the Benson and Hedges concerts of the early to late 90’s which helped catapult artists like the Remedies and Azadus into this highest levels of fame, largely replicated this premise. So does this year’s Gidifest, in it’s own interesting way.

The one day festival started at 12am and immediately reminded me of Eat Drink Lagos’s food festival held in the same venue months before. An area of the developing Eko Atlantic estate was cordoned off with tractable metal fences, the spires of plastic white tents stacked in neat rows breaking the horizon. Women in branded t-shirts waylaid us and got to us to buy electronic hand bands that doubled as virtual wallets. The Lagos State government as a provision for granting the license for Gidifest had insisted that the food and drink vendors for the event go cashless and the armbands, which worked in tandem with mobile phones were the futuristic payment alternative.

The Festival’s brochure suggested a plethora of activities to lose yourself in before the performances began at 7pm but save for a trampoline that was set up at 4pm and a blow up bouncing castle set up at 5pm, there was nothing to really get us into the Festival mood other than retail therapy. The added inconvenience of having to queue at the venue’s only mobile ATM and having to track down the virtual wallet people to top up our wrist bands with cash meant we abandoned that idea pretty quickly.

Luckily, performances started promptly with Abuja based alternative singer Tay Iwar taking the opening set. It was pretty obvious none of the headlining acts had made their way from their hotel rooms to the venue so a slew of relatively unknown to mid-level artists took up the opening sets in their stead. Meech Straw was particularly distinguished and his set was the first that really got the crowd pumping. Then Nneka, the first headliner took the stage. Nneka, ever the shining model of professionalism took the stage with her electronic guitar and quickly stirred the crowd into a frenzy with a proper set list that included the crowd pleaser “Soul Is Heavy”. By the time she closed her set with ballad, ‘Do You Love Me’ we were all in love with her again.

After having to endure a hyperactive but ultimately annoying hypeman/filler host, the evening’s comperes Folu Storms and Jimi finally showed up on stage to take over and Storms made the rookie blunder of introducing the next act singer Falana as a ‘upcomer’. That was the first misstep that included the sound messing up during Falana’s set. Idris King rallied the crowd with a rousing performance of his single “Squad” and debuted two new members of his collective ’90’s Baby’. By the time singer Simi got on stage, the rain which had threatened to fall all day finally began to drizzle.

But it was actually electronic issues that caused the first proper downer of this year’s festival. The stage lost power for nearly thirty minutes during which the rain began to fall and all the revellers made for the tents for shelter. By the time the sound got back on, and Reekado Banks got on stage unable to sing because he had lost his voice performing around the voice, I was over and done with Gidifest 2017.

Sadly I missed the last few sets including Burna Boy, Davido, Diplo and Niniola who from what I hear had a spectacular set, but I didn’t miss much. Gidifest is very much still a concert first and a festival as an after thought. There are no proper art installations, no associated creative endeavours to entertain the revellers the festival expects to attend, and even the artists do not seem to respect the money we pay to come and see them. But it is getting there, just a few kinks left to sort out.

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