In 2019 XS Noize was invited to Meltdown, the world’s longest-running artist-curated festival. A series of live events, including Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Johnny Marr and Mystery Jets, was curated by Nile Rogers. Grace Jones was scheduled as curator for the subsequent year, but owing to COVID 19, the 27th rendition of Meltdown was postponed for two years.
Thankfully owing to the high regard of the festival itself, where past curators include David Bowie and Robert Smith (The Cure) and the calibre of Grace Jones and the artists she invited to perform, including Skunk Anansie and Nova Twins, enthusiasm and momentum for this festival remained intact, and another successful rendition of Meltdown was delivered.
With Nova Twins’ sophomore album Supernova released on the same day, their opening slot for Skunk Anansie couldn’t have come at a better time. This female rock duo has a similar stage presence and energy to punk-grime male duo Bob Vylan, albeit Nova Twins leans more grunge and nu-metal as opposed to punk, where both members play instruments live. The diversity of Amy Love’s vocals, from rapping to vocal growling, captivated and galvanised the Royal Festival Hall. As well as offering a luring rock backdrop, Nova Twins also brilliantly fused pop and R&B elements too. The success of this performance can be judged on the mass exodus, not to the bar post-performance, but to the merchandise area to procure Supernova.
After waiting two years to play Meltdown with new material, Skunk Anansie was ready to perform and immediately got the all-seated venue to stand as they opened with “Yes It’s Fucking Political” from their sophomore LP Stoosh. “And Here I Stand”, from their debut effort, Paranoid & Sunburnt followed, maintaining momentum and keeping the crowd standing. Elation escalated further when vocalist Deborah “Skin” Dyer took off the plastic Maleficent style headwear she was wearing to reveal more of her natural beauty.
Skunk Anansie adroitly performed several songs from their first two albums in the first half of their set, including “Weak” and “I Can Dream”, without bleeding the back catalogue dry and saving more for the latter half of the set. Skin’s rapport with her band members, especially touring member Erika Footman, who not only played keyboards and percussion but also sang and danced with Skin harmoniously throughout the set.
As well as playing material from all six albums, Skunk Anansie showcased three new songs, including “Can’t Take You Anywhere” and “This Means War”. The first of these new songs saw synths and bass come to the forefront, both being deeply political, with the second having middle-eastern sounds in the introduction before exploding into a nu-metal adrenaline rush which earned the band synchronised head banging from their fans.
When a band has proven to themselves and their fans that they are more than a time capsule to an age that has passed, it’s time to indulge in the classics. When it came to playing “Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)” and “Brazen (Weep)”, Skin could reward herself and her band by not singing the chorus the first time around, as the Royal Festival Hall did this in unison for Skunk Anansie. Furthermore, the track list leading up to the encore, which kept the adrenaline-fuelled energy further escalating with “Intellectualise My Blackness”, “Tear the Place Up”, and finally, with its drum and bass introduction, “Charlie Big Potato”, proved to be the perfect synchronised combination.
With a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on the bands’ return and playing out with “Little Baby Swastikkka”, which saw Skin come out into the audience facing the band, saw the audience turn their heads and fix their eyes on her whilst harmonising with Erika Footman who remained on the stage with the three other band members.
Skin, along with band members Martin “Ace” Kent, Slash styled Richard “Cass” Lewis, Mark Richardson, and Erika Footman did Skunk Anansie fans and Meltdown curator Grace Jones proud. Whilst people survived the two-year hiatus, the soul, spirit, and positive energy Meltdown gives means that everything possible must be done to ensure this festival continues to go ahead annually and continues to attract the same calibre of curators and artists as it has done since it began back in 1993.