“I’m bringing together new outlaw musicians from everywhere, who have contributed to keeping things weird, exciting, opinionated, loud, emotional and brave or off the grid in the present climate” M.I.A. – Curator of Meltdown 2017.
Whilst I tend to make a habit of going along to the Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival each year – having had the pleasure of seeing the likes of Richard Hawley, Laura Marling, Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan there in the past -, this year I knew it was going to be extra special. With Sri Lankan-born MC and activist MIA taking her turn to curate the festival, she’s hosted a wonderfully eclectic range of artists, including controversial British rapper Giggs, dance music maestros Soulwax and London MC Afrikan Boy.
On Saturday night, however, it’s the turn of rapper and queer pioneer Mykki Blanco and activist and musician (and personal heroine), JD Samson.
Having spent all day out in the glorious sunshine, I’m a little worried I won’t last late into the night for the gig, but the minute the exuberant vibrancy of Mykki Blanco takes to the stage in the Clore Ballroom, I’m instantly overcome with an intense energy and overwhelming sense of joy.
Oozing their unique charisma and fierce passion, Blanco bounds onto the stage in a colourful whirlwind, immediately getting stuck into a set of empowering, compelling offerings – no introduction necessary.
As pounding beats and shimmering electronic melodies blast from the speakers, Blanco bounces and twirls across the stage, and skips into the crowd at regular intervals – a beautifully buoyant and intoxicating ray of light, oozing much-needed positive vibes. Greeted by constant whoops and cheers, powerfully honest and thought-provoking social commentaries are delivered as pieces of intoxicating performance art; as Blanco climbs the stage, standing on speakers and swinging from pillars, an electrifying power sweeps across each and every sweating, dancing body.
Whilst Blanco’s message is utterly serious, each song is blasted out with a ferocious, fun-filled spirit. Being in the presence of Blanco is not only powerfully affecting, but – most importantly – fantastically fun. They’re able to deliver necessary, powerful messages whilst creating a unifying sense of joy and soaring optimism.
And this joyous mood continues into the early hours as JD Samson takes to the decks to treat us to some electro-feminist-punk-pop. It really is a dream to be in the presence of such an inspiration of mine. As part of my favourite trio Le Tigre, and later Men, the LGBTQ activist holds a pretty special place in my heart. And being able to dance the night away to tunes that she’s hand-picked is a truly beautiful experience.
As Riot Grrrl classics such as Bikini Kill’s ‘Rebel Girl’ and, of course, Le Tigre’s ‘Deceptacon’ are played, the dancefloor is filled with a blissful euphoria. And, with feminist anthems from the like Peaches, X Ray Spex’ and the legendary Joan Jett, as well as pop classics from Rihanna, Samson has shown herself capable of creating the perfect playlist.
I can’t really put into words just how these two sets made me feel. I’m unable to do justice to just how important these two pioneering artists are. What I will say is thank you to Mykki Blanco and JD Samson – thank you for inspiring, and sharing your beautiful art and passion with us. Saturday night with these two wonderful humans was filled with an immense joy and sense of unity that’s just what we all need right now. It’s more important than ever to make time to come together, dance, love, and be united against those who seek to divide us.