The Ends is an ambitious three-day event by Metropolis Music at Lloyd Park, Croydon. Even for those who live in south London, the location was a talking point (“Hope you’ve got your visa ready”). However, not only was the journey easier than imagined, but riding a train from grey buildings into greenery is actually an effective way to get into the festival mindset.
This summer sees a new wave of London festivals. From Cross the Tracks to Maiden Voyage, there is a lot of competition for our time and cash. The Ends makes a mark on the festival calendar with a bold program of domestic and international talent.
Alexandra Ampofo, Promotions team at Metropolis Music, and EMBRACE Nation Leader explains the origins of the festival: “He [colleague Kiarn Eslami] actually saw De La Soul in that very same park years ago when his mum took him to his first show; this is what inspired The Ends Festival. Kiarn was passionate enough about his love for music combined with his love for his hometown to bring his idea to life.” This enthusiasm for talent and culture is baked into what the festival became.
On arrival, the atmosphere felt palpably positive, and it helps that the sun was shining across the entire weekend. Contrary to bigger festivals such as Wireless where you have to think ahead to avoid missing a set, there was no such problem at The Ends. You could make a run between the three stages, as well as the Footasylum sneaker cleaning truck, two large bars, a thoughtful selection of food concessions, a giant chair swing ride and bumper cars, in no more than 10 minutes. It’s clear this was planned to be a proper festival, a real day of celebration and fun.
Friday was not very busy and so retained a calmness, which meant no waiting in lines and plenty of dancing space. Two New Yorkers headlined separate stages, Saint Jhn and Nas. Saint Jhn gathered a sizeable crowd given the number of people there, tempting punters as the set went on, no doubt curious about the topless guy in red leather trousers and red cowboy boots rapping to trap/rock beats.
The crowd swiftly moved to the main stage for Nas, arguably the biggest name of the whole event. Playing as the sun was setting behind him, the legendary rapper kept momentum up throughout his 90-minute set, smoothly taking us through his extensive back catalog with nothing more than his DJ, occasional hype man and background visuals. Letting the music speak for itself, the crowd was engaged throughout, but went wild when he played a remix of ‘Halftime’ with Giggs’ track ‘Talking Da Hardest.’ A smart acknowledgement and sign of respect for his surroundings.
Day two was packed out with a younger crowd and a largely Afrobeat line-up made for some head-turning fits and dance moves. Producer and DJ Juls opened the main stage and kept the music going between acts, delivering consistent energy with a seamless soundtrack. Funky house king Donae’o sparked excitement, followed by Jamaican dancehall artist Kranium bringing a few girls from the crowd onstage and lifting them up. Kojo Funds, who has been a bit quiet of late, performed all of his many, many bangers to the crowd’s delight, with his signature low-key white vest look. There wasn’t a track where the audience didn’t know every word, allowing Kojo to adlib in parts.
Nigerian artist Wande Coal was one of the most anticipated sets of the day, and he did not disappoint. Playing with a live band, Coal was the perfect precursor to the penultimate artist on the main stage, Maleek Berry. Also with a band (it makes all the difference) and dancers, Berry pushed the energy up a few levels. Playing as many hits as he could in his 30 minutes, it felt like he could have gone on for hours. No doubt the highlight was bringing out Not3s for last year’s smash ‘Sit Back Down’, which the audience sang back word-for-word.
As Berry finished, NSG was just getting started on the Footasylum stage. The crowd went as wide as it could go and way, way, back so that you had to weave in to get a decent view; the sign of an act about to blow. The crowd reaction to this collective, who have only released two tracks, ‘Options’ and ‘OT Bop’ (their first performance of the latter) was incredible to witness. Wheeling up both tracks was entirely necessary; no one was ready for the madness that ensued. The whole audience was shouting back every line and making the same moves in perfect unison, while the group kept it together on stage. It was the best example of the day of how homegrown talent can connect so strongly with a cross-section of people when it’s representing culture so accurately.
Ending with another Nigerian-British artist, Wizkid closed the day with an effortless set. Strolling on stage with a Nigerian flag, he delivered the exact kind of music you need to close a festival. Even if you didn’t know the words, even if you only knew the recent tracks, even if you didn’t have any connection to Nigerian music, Wizkid made you feel at one with every person there. It was a perfect example of music, quite literally bringing people together. Showing he has his eye on the UK scene, Wizkid brought out NSG for an encore of ‘OT Bop’. The guys looked very comfortable on the main stage, and it emphasised the celebration of UK and African-inspired music that the whole day had been about.
For a new event vying for our attention in a very crowded market of gigs, day parties and other festivals, The Ends delivered. It was well-organised from transport to water stations, from toilet banks to security. The curation was an ideal balance of international and domestic artists. There were enough overseas names, like Nas and De La Soul, who don’t play here often and therefore bring a dedicated crowd, to UK artists like Sneakbo, Kojey Radical and Miraa May, who all have their own fans and bring a different vibe. The crowd were all there to listen to music, to dance and just have a good day out; no bad behaviour, no drama.
Ampofo reflects on the event in the following days, not with wholly rose-tinted glasses, but certainly with optimism: “The festival was hard for the whole team as it was our first year. The team is made up of staff from all walks of life, and that was the best thing about coming together in such an organic way. Getting to see how all of the pieces of the logistical puzzle fit, the artists, sponsors and everyone else in between was an honour. We pulled it off successfully, and we’re excited about possibilities in the near future.”
Hopefully, The Ends is here to stay. We are spoiled for choice in London, but it’s important to keep representing and supporting artists from our own culture and postcodes, because if we don’t, then who will?