Music / Reviews

Review: James Blake, Lakota

By sammy maine, Friday Apr 10, 2015

Lakota has long since been a sort of, initiation into the Bristol club-night scene, as fresh-faced first year students plough into the multi-storey venue every weekend. Renowned local producers and DJs regularly fill the dance-floor with special one-off showcases causing queues to stretch all the way back to Stokes Croft. Tonight is definitely a special, one-off showcase.

James Blake, along with Trim, Airhead, Dan Foat, Klaus, Mr Assister and – if rumours be true – Frank Ocean are here to celebrate Foat’s London-based label 1-800 Dinosaur. On Thursday afternoon, music blogs went into overdrive as Blake tweeted a recent image of Frank Ocean, along with the 1-800 Dinosaur name, later tweeting ‘BOYSDONTCRY added to the 1-800 Dinosaur road trip line-up’ (BOYSDONTCRY being a hash-tag Ocean had used on his own Instagram just days before). With neither party confirming or denying, local, national and international blogs ensured the night sold-out within minutes, stating Frank Ocean was indeed touring with Blake.

It was only around 10pm last night, once the crowds had gathered at Lakota, that Blake stated on Facebook: “As previously said earlier today, Frank and I are not performing live or on tour – we’re on a 1-800 Dinosaur road trip, putting on club nights and documenting the weekend for the BoysDontCry Magazine. Blog that, as that’s the correct information.”

This, to me, is distancing himself from a situation he knows full well, he fuelled. Being in the music industry himself, he knows how blogs work and simply producing cryptic statements does nothing but to confuse fans further. Now we know Frank may not be ‘performing live’ but could well be in the building, or even taking to the decks – Blake does nothing to set the record straight, with fans coming from London, Cardiff and Kent to catch a glimpse of their idol.

The night itself starts off with a long foray into stagnant, slightly anthemic house before Airhead takes to the stage and opens with Holding by Bristol’s very own Lurka. The crowd’s previous lack-lustre energy is immediately retracted, bringing the vigour back into the room. Trim arrives and as one of the first-generation grime MCs, and previous member of the Roll Deep collective, it’s a rare treat to witness his talents.

The anticipation soon dies as he’s only on stage for a few minutes, spitting one verse before heading backstage. Airhead himself is an expert in keeping the energy afloat, pushing out last year’s Claptrap by Joe, mixed in amongst modern 140. As it’s edging ever closer to 1.30am, the anticipation is rife, the atmosphere excited yet frustrated.

James Blake himself finally appears, opening with Oneohtrix Point Never – a definite Bristol favourite after his show-stopping set at the Arnolfini last summer – as well as mixing in what could be new material from himself. It doesn’t sit well, however; the mellow, housey slo-jams do nothing to deter the crowd’s irritation. Trim is back though, but it’s truly sad and somewhat uncomfortable to see him reduced to a hype-man. As Blake sips champagne, with his crew chuffing on e-cigarettes, he showcases Motown, disco and even acid, Trim unable to showcase his talents at all. After a self-indulgent 45-minute set from Blake, playing his very own Retrograde (seriously, this really doesn’t work at a club night unless it’s live), Trim is left to utter “bass line”, “yeah!” and “Blake on the decks” for an excruciating amount of time.

Luckily, he steps out in front of the decks, performing the highlight of the night, Confidence Boost. His energy ever-present, he riles the crowd up a treat, making eye contact with both levels, fist-pumping and bouncing from every angle. Still no sign of Frank and annoyingly, Trim continues to list the names of the 1-800 Dinosaur collective, before shouting: “Who am I missing?!”, the crowd screaming “Frank!” in anticipation, even going as far to say: “Are you ready for Frank!?” I’m later told that the promoters at the venue were also informed he would perform but this may not be entirely true.

To cut this long story short, Frank never turned up. He was probably never in the building, with the attitude very much ‘more fool you’ for ever believing he would be. This all felt like an incredibly sneaky PR stunt, for the label and for James Blake, that has caused many of his original fans to feel tricked.

The night itself was fun, Trim being the absolute highlight who deserved far more than his 30 minutes in the spotlight, but for some incomprehensible reason, decided to ruin itself by vaguely promising an appearance by Frank Ocean. Is this the new way to sell out mid-week shows? It certainly worked for Blake and co. 

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