Can you hear that? That noise rumbling somewhere over the horizon — people laughing, glasses clinking, basslines pumping, guitars twanging and snare drums pounding? It’s live music, clubs open, festivals blaring. It’s fun: it’s the sound of the summer.
As much as this week’s thundering storms may be trying to convince us otherwise, the warmer weather is on the way — and with the hope that face masks and two-metre separations could soon become a thing of pandemics past, the next few months are shaping up to be a riotous, joyful thing.
Naturally, it will all be sound-tracked. But by who and what? As we all rediscover the pleasure of dancing together as one grooving mass, which artists will be on hand with the bangers?
Here, we’ve asked some of the capital’s top tastemakers — from festival bosses and venue owners to radio DJs and label heads — to pick the acts set to pop up on our playlists and shudder through the speakers as we gloriously lurch headlong into a summer quite unlike any other.
Fifteen months without gigs still seems unfathomable, but that’s how long it’s been since the “big lights” out in March 2020. There have been countless brilliant records released since then, many of which by bands we’d have loved to have seen on the stage at The Social, or propping up the bar. Bands like Bdrmm and Working Men’s Club — each of whom played early gigs here — and the kind of new artists we’d love to have put on, like Wu-Lu, Fran Lobo, Los Bitchos and Biig Piig. Outside the bar, we’ve tuned in and turned on weekly to Zakia Sewell’s peerless Saturday morning show on NTS, which has been a constant source of hallucinogenic inspiration. And one of the things we’re looking forward to most is getting back in front of the speaker stacks for any mega raves promoted by the likes of Hooversound and Mella Dee’s Warehouse Music.
Carl Gosling and Robin Turner, manager and co-founder, The Social
I think after the past year everyone has had, this summer is going to be filled with a lot of “hands in the air” moments, massive vocal tracks, and real euphoric sounds. One of the best artists out there at doing this is Jayda G. As well as making her own huge songs like last year’s Both Of Us, as a DJ she’s one of the best at getting the party started. If you’ve not seen her play before, it should be one of your top things to check out this summer — her energy and enthusiasm behind the decks is second to none, and the music she plays creates an amazing atmosphere wherever she performs.
This summer I’m putting my money on two different sounds I’m very excited about coming out of lockdown. The first is the new bass scene that has been growing in the UK over the past couple of years, made up of influences that go all the way back to ‘92. It’s got jungle, breaks, garage, hardcore and techno all rolled into one, and it feels like I’ve waited half my life to hear these sounds all played together. Some of my favourite DJs to check are Jossy Mitsu, Bailey Ibbs, Emerald, IZCO and Club Glow, to name but a few. My second — but no means lesser — choice is the Amapiano sound. This South African take on house is such a vibe: it takes me back to the start of house and funky and is championed in the UK by the likes of Supa D. Check out the Balcony sessions by Major League and my favourite track of this year so far is Busta 929’s Hamba Nobani.
Geeneus, founder, Rinse FM
I love it when a plan comes together coincidently — and the arrival of summer coincides with the release of Wesley Joseph’s debut mixtape Ultramarine, out June 18. Wesley is a singer, rapper, producer and filmmaker whose passion for creating is infectious; he’s as comfortable behind the scenes as he is in front of the mic. His clear vision has meant he’s come straight out the gate with a series of high quality releases. I like the contrast of his falsetto vocals and the lower register of his introspective raps over productions that feel just as juxtaposed — one minute they’re warm like a hug and on the flip, suddenly quite haunting. Ultramarine as a body work deserves a close listen on repeat to really take in the layers.
Secret Night Gang are a new Manchester-based band I’m excited about at the moment. Based around two incredibly talented 20-year-olds, Kemani Anderson and Callum Connell, they write classic soulful songs updated for a new generation, and will go on to have long and industrious careers. There has been such an explosion of amazing new talent in the last few years from the UK, which is the reason why the music scene in this country is so vibrant at the moment. New single The Journey has just dropped and the debut album will be out later this year. Look out for the band on a short UK tour in June, including the Jazz Cafe on June 14 before they hit the We Out Here festival in August.
Gilles Peterson, founder, We Out Here
It’s been a breakthrough year so far for bands associated with our little south London venue: Shame, Goat Girl, Squid and Black Country, New Road have all placed high in the album charts this year. Meanwhile, Black Midi’s second album Cavalcade gets released on May 28; it’s a huge, highly intricate album and while perhaps it’s not that summery, will nevertheless be on our stereo for some time to come. For a more dancey vibe, check out new Ninja Tune signing, PVA. All of these will be playing the inaugural Wide Awake Festival in Brockwell Park on September 3 — it’s definitely going to be the sound of (late) summer.
Tim Perry, booker, Windmill Brixton
Fun fact, but in 2020 more guitars were sold than any other year in history. It’s exciting to think about what happens next — all those new guitarists honing their creativity and taking it out live. We’ll all be ready for them. I’m paying attention to Los Angeles, which is a creative hotbed right now, from the genreless Junior Varsity to the pure poetry of Jensen McRae — whose song Wolves I’ve already listened to well over one hundred times — while here in London, I’m excited to hear what the Seventies-inspired Molly Payton does next. Fellow Londoner ENNY is drawing on some pretty awesome inspiration and looks set to have a breakthrough year.
The Eighties revival has now gone on longer than the 1980s itself, so it’s great to hear Laura Mvula tapping into the Nineties instead on Got Me, her take on the Quincy Jones/Michael Jackson plastic-funk sound. It’s wonderful to see her back and I can’t wait for the Pink Noise album. Hemai is a young artist from Birmingham with an immaculate slick neo-soul approach. Love Dancer features Fifi Robo and is in heavy rotation currently. We’re overjoyed that dancing will be back soon. Maurice Fulton is the DJ we all aspire to be and has released a nicely retro remix for Byron Stingily on We Belong Together with a chunky, summery garage feel. He’s playing at our fifth birthday party in September and we couldn’t be more excited.
Paul Noble, founder and artistic director, Spiritland
With a second album set for July, Wayne Snow is one of the artists we’re most excited to bring to Peckham Rye Park this year — a string of infectious collaborations makes it seem like everything the Nigerian touches turns to gold. Whether jamming with artists from the jazz scene, electronic producers or his band, Wayne has a gift for feel-good, neo soul that draws from the roots of funk and from his own bottomless charisma. He translates this inimitable energy on stage, with performances that move through big band crescendos and intimate moments of acoustic story-telling.
Giles Napier, co-founder, GALA
Mark Knight’s Everything’s Gonna Be Alright with Beverley Knight and the London Community Gospel Choir will surely be a summer anthem! Uplifting and incredible vocals from Beverley alongside the amazing choir teamed with those house and disco elements gives it such happy energy. It’s brimming with feel, great nu-skool disco vibes and, with a positive message of love and bringing people together, feels particularly poignant right now. Music should be about coming together and sharing experiences and it’s something this track embodies perfectly.
Simon Gordon, director, 51st State