Last year’s Baltic Block Party was a genuine event, spilling out people – clouded by free e-cigarettes – every which way down the streets of the Baltic Triangle. It’s a disappointment to find the Garden Party has no such giveaways, or limitless dimensions of madness. We’re firmly hemmed in here: there are mojitos being served from a shack, and you can drink out of a coconut if you wish, but exploring isn’t strictly doable. There are only two stages: one of which, the Observatory, has a well-placed phalanx of potted ferns at its feet. The foliage provides something to look at while SUBMOTION ORCHESTRA take their sweet time to get going. It takes around an hour and a half, but they get there, and they don’t seem rushed. Scratch that – they’re far more patient than any group playing this sort of thing ought to be. Three albums into their career, the band are as smooth and conspicuous as a porkpie hat in a Primark sale. The texture of their music requires attention. It’s not enough for the stuttering hi-hat of All Yours to reframe the song’s momentum single-handed, because the bass is right there behind it, pulling the crowd to where it wants to go. Singer Ruby Wood is good but the band as a whole are better. They edge towards trip hop, just as jazz penetrates the highest point of their ascendances with colourful relish. A treat, generally speaking, and perfect for the tobacco-mojito melange.
Tonight is one of celebration for overworked students, many of whom are looking for a send-off befitting their grateful, summery faces. The benevolent presidency of CHANNEL ONE SOUND SYSTEM might offer them a more natural high than the type currently circulating round the porta-loos. A modern relic of roots reggae’s earliest attempts at global peace-keeping, the outfit rests on the turntables of founder Mikey Dread, supported by the Zionist mantras of MC Ras Kayleb. The duo run through decades of material and empowering gobbledegook. “Where is Babylon?” Kayleb shouts, with the bullishness of a preacher. “Babylon’s in your phone! Babylon’s in your pocket!” All right, OK; if this is a ploy to download a Channel One set as an mp3, it doesn’t need to be so obscure. That said, their abiding message is crystal clear – love everyone, love yourself, stop whining about anything that doesn’t involve bobbing your shoulders (although this is already the greatest pastime imaginable, from a quick survey of young gents wobbling to an early comedown). Mr Dread has been doing this for 35 years and it’s only courteous to admire him, playing to the same demographic that launched him to prominence in the first place. He must be entirely deaf by now, and although the set goes on and on, he could go longer.
Down and dirty house carries on inside, but, truth be told, by this point I’m seeing friends old and new, each off into the next horizon of their lives and it’s a fitting denouement to our time in Liverpool. The music and the lights coalesce and simmer, spiral around us, and I’m elated. This may be a different sort of party to yesteryear, but it’s most certainly not of the Chelsea Flower Show variety.