When the sun shines in London, its impact is profound. It stirs glee, happiness, enthusiasm and a real sense of community. For a transient city known for its (often negative) quirks, today it feels like London is far behind us. The annual British Summer Time series in Hyde Park is known for bringing out some real headliners – both longtime legends and new talent come together across two weekends to share in the joy of music.

But while the festival creators are well versed in putting on this popular event every year, what was particularly special about today’s line up was that it was dominated by women. Standing before the crowd, Florence + The Machine front woman Florence Welch took particular note of this fact – “I’m not great at speaking to crowds, but I’m going to try because what I have to say next is very important,” she began. “I’m so happy today to be playing a festival that is 70 percent women…welcome to the matriarchy, it’s fun!”

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

For something that is so rare on the festival circuit, it was wonderful to see all of the acts leading the entertainment for the day so warmly welcomed. First up on BST’s Great Oak Stage were the fruitily-titled Cherry Glazzer, a Los Angelean rock trio of Clementine Creevy, Tabor Allen and Devin O’Brien. 1980s-styled computer graphics adorned the massive screens as they quickly worked through an energising set.

Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr (Kalpesh Patel)

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Tabor Allen of Cherry Glazerr (Kalpesh Patel)

A quick stroll over to the smaller Barclaycard stage and it’s British indie rockers with both an unusual band name but also far-fetched individual pseudonyms that blast out the indie rock Goat Girl. The quartet of Clottie Cream, Rosy Bones, Naima Jelly and L.E.D. ensure the BST crowd take note.

Clottie Cream of Goat Girl (Kalpesh Patel)

 (Kalpesh Patel)

L.E.D. of Goat Girl (Kalpesh Patel)

But it’s British singer-songwriter and general badass Nadine Shah who shakes things up over on the Great Oak, her accompanying dance routine often digressing into an on-stage martial arts workout, the 33-year-old in fine form and taking her rightful place on the grand stage.

Nadine Shah (Kalpesh Patel)

Nadine Shah (Kalpesh Patel)

Nadine Shah (Kalpesh Patel)

In the early afternoon the oddly named Let’s Eat Grandma kicked things off on the Barclaycard stage.Trapped somewhere between electronica and synth pop, the British school friends – Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth – started off their set with Hot Pink to great enthusiasm. From their playful dancing in unison, to spontaneous saxophone interludes, the group is fun and refreshing. Their music as entertaining as it is chaotic. In the wake of their latest release I’m All Ears, together they show great potential to really grow into their careers as standout musicians.

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Rosa Walton & Jenny Hollingworth (Kalpesh Patel)

Rosa Walton of Let's Eat Grandma (Kalpesh Patel)

Back to the Great Oak Stage and English singer/songwriter Devonté Hynes commenced his set with Blood Orange under a radiating sun. With seven band members behind him, Hynes showcased an R&B, hip hop, jazz synth fusion – a musical style so eclectic it probably can’t be defined.

Devonté Hynes (Kalpesh Patel)

Devonté Hynes (Kalpesh Patel)

Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange (Kalpesh Patel)

From vocals to piano, he moved tirelessly across the stage often taking a step back to allow his other vocalists to shine. As they started their last song, Charcoal Baby, Hynes took to the stage and asked for an adjustment to his guitar – “less gain, more treble please. I’m sorry you had to hear that, I am awfully embarrassed!” A small but humble gesture that highlighted that even during the last song, it is important to leave a good impression, which they certainly did.

 (Kalpesh Patel)

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Devonté Hynes (Kalpesh Patel)

As flash mobs in costumes and spontaneous DJ sets with dancers entertained audiences throughout the festival, crowds started to gather at the Great Oak Stage to watch Swedish dream pop icon Lykke Li. While she is certainly no newbie when it comes to performing on stage (her debut album Youth Novels was released in 2008) her performance is one seemingly perfected over decades. If you could use a word to define what Lykke Li’s show is all about, it’s presence.

It’s all about catching your gaze, about never losing eye contact, about creating an energy both through the music and through the body. Poised in a long leather jacket, white knee high boots and a golden microphone, Lykke radiates the confidence of a superstar.

Lykke Li (Kalpesh Patel)

Lykke Li (Kalpesh Patel)

Lykke Li (Kalpesh Patel)

Her show speeds through well known tracks – Two Nights and Late Night – as she emphatically encourages the crowd, shouting “let’s pretend it’s really late at night and we’re all really drunk”. Throughout the show her indie pop hits certainly drew more enthusiasm from the crowd than other softer numbers – instead the slower interludes seemed deliberate to allow her a personal moment to soak everything in. But the slower pace did not last. An injection of high energy through I Know Places, I Follow, and Sex Money Feelings Die was a perfect close to an otherwise up-and-down set.

 (Kalpesh Patel)

 (Kalpesh Patel)

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Speaking of sleepy, the heat of the day was certainly taking effect on the many that had gathered to watch co-headliners The National. It was forgivable then that not a lot of people immediately latched on to the Cincinnati rockers’ fusion of indie and classic American rock. Frontman Matt Berninger appeared on stage shortly after the group’s many wonderful musicians (including Gail Anne Dorsey, Pauline de Lassus and Irish songstress Lisa Hannigan). Sunnies on, beer in hand, the 48-year-old frontman approached the microphone and beamed into You Had Your Soul With You. Aided by stunning visuals on the Great Oak Stage’s floor to ceiling wraparound screens, the vibe started to slowly grow as the group moved into more songs with little room to pause, twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner in fine form on guitars.

Matt Berninger of The National (Kalpesh Patel)

Aaron Dessner of The National (Kalpesh Patel)

Matt Berninger of The National (Kalpesh Patel)

In fact, it seemed that any time the band stopped it was to allow Berninger a moment to tell the most odd and non-contextual stories he could come up with. “You ever feel like when you make the same mistake over and over again it just becomes the right way to do things? That’s my life!” he states. “So I have a sad story. My brother got fired by email just now” he randomises. If anything, it was just something to liven up a moderately bored crowd. Predictably the pace of the show is slow, rarely deviating into anything unusual or unplanned making the 90 minutes drag on somewhat. But all of that quickly changed as Berninger finally embodied the rock and roll persona he is known for, energetically running towards the crowd and, during Day I Die and The System Dreams in Total Darkness, taking it a step further and jumping into the audience to sing, the microphone cable barely able to keep up with him. 

Bryce Dessner of The National (Kalpesh Patel)

Matt Berninger of The National (Kalpesh Patel)

Lisa Hannigan (Kalpesh Patel)

And so the countdown commenced for the evening’s headliner – Florence + The Machine. The wait is antagonising for some. You can sense the excitement, overhear the conversations about the songs they want to hear. People are parading Florence Welch’s iconic flower headpiece, they are singing her songs emphatically in anticipation. It’s such a wonderful moment that, when she finally does appear on stage, the reaction is raucous. She begins with June jumping around the stage, her dress a beautifully marbled, flowing gown of green and yellow.

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

As a camera follows her around the stage the images are projected on the giant screens behind her, creatively overlaid with arty visuals of flowers and garden beds. They are a fitting addition to an otherwise bare stage, allowing all of the focus to stay fixed on Florence’s infectious energy. She continues with the anthemic Hunger and Lungs single You’ve Got the Love – the lyrics reverberating from the crowd – before stopping to pause. Breathless she thanks the audience for their love and support, praising the festival for their representation of women and continues with an ode to one of her lifelong idols Patti Smith in Patricia.

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

But the real highlight of the show was during Dog Days Are Over when halfway through she stops the music and starts to converse with the crowd – “I want us to have a collective moment”, she proclaims. “Everyone put your phones away, if you see someone still with a phone ask them politely – because we are British after all – to put them away. Or, you can also ask how the Queen might ask and say ‘put your fucking phones away!’”. It was a simple (and humorously forward) request that led to the most unimaginable outcome – a surreal feeling of pure, collective enjoyment. A moment where everyone was singing, everyone was jumping, an energy so palpable it overwhelmed even Florence herself who couldn’t believe her eyes. “This is one of the greatest moments of my life, thank you”, she yelled.

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Florence Welch (Kalpesh Patel)

Taking the show a couple of paces down with the written for Game Of Thrones song Jenny Of Oldstones and 100 Years, it was a short-lived moment of rest as Florence completely overwhelmed her fans by running into the crowd during Delilah and What Kind of Man  a song almost exclusively performed whilst crowd-surfing into her audience. Ending the evening with an emphatic encore, she thanked her thousands of fans with evident emotion and closed her set with Shake It Out – a song that demands movement and signing in unison. A fitting, energetic ending that not only closed out a monumental day but left those in attendance with a lingering sensation of intense happiness – most surely to last into the days ahead.

 (Kalpesh Patel)

Live review of Florence + The Machine & The National @  BST Hyde Park by Lilen Pautasso on 13th July 2019. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.

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The Dylan Young Experience At Hyde Park, London 2019