BBC Radio 1’s Big Lockdown Weekend
Harry Edmundson reviews the BBC’s attempt at a zoom-radio festival.
The lack of festival season this year is depressing enough, but with artists providing sub-par lockdown sets for BBC Radio 1’s festival alternative indoors and seemingly over Zoom – the effect is rather dystopian. Less than mega-stars try and sing their only top 40 chart hit as if they are singularly healing the nation.
Big Weekend started on Friday with a non-stop run of impressive and exciting electronic acts like Disclosure, Bicep, and Camelphat. Linking this with Annie Mac’s usual dance slot post-7pm was a great idea. Radio excels in moments like this – against the odds, a night of especially curated setlists and live mixes was a treat for fans turning bedrooms into clubs. Resulting in an experience was not dissimilar from normal Big Weekend which kicks-off for the majority over the airwaves.
These dull attempts left a sour taste and failed to transform homes into festival-grounds.
In referring to the majority, this idea of a virtual-festival is not new or ground-breaking – the difference this time is the content being isolated rather than of the festival. With Big Weekend travelling around the country year after year, the vast majority of fans will never experience the event in person. The technology of the iPlayer and BBC Sounds app is something invaluable in connecting fans to these huge events, making the festival experience one of universality. Usually, this closest to the real thing approach satisfies – in lockdown it was bittersweet.
The next two days of ‘Lockdown Sets’ proved hit and miss. The star power involved is testament to the Beeb and the devotion to providing entertainment in adversity – the entertainment factor of Rita Ora dancing in front of a green-screen, lip-syncing to a C-Grade pop song is questionable, however. Artists like Biffy Clyro, Blossoms, and Haim were brilliant in using their resources to provide lockdown covers that felt original and of worth. The charisma of AJ Tracey and Aitch in their rendition of ‘Rain’, saw the former atop Piccadilly Circus, and the latter with Old Trafford in the background which really enhanced the overall cheekiness and enjoyment value their contribution added to the weekend. Otherwise, Radio 1’s Big Locked-down Weekend fell flat with Anne Marie singing in her front-room over Zoom and Niall Horan providing a good-intentioned but awfully beige acoustic set on a sunny roof. These dull attempts left a sour taste and failed to transform homes into festival-grounds.
I appreciate the effort of the 2020 edition of Big Weekend, those that went the extra mile really hit the mark in providing entertainment whilst in lockdown. However, the amount of middle-of-the-road covers really hurt the overall quality of the event. Where Friday night of Big Weekend saw Radio at its best and most vital – the remaining weekend struggled to make gardens feel like festival fields, and left you binging old sets from years previous to fill the void strengthened by Anne Marie and Rita Ora. These highlights include Coldplay’s headline-homecoming to Exeter in 2016, the 1975 in Middlesbrough last year, and Rihanna and Jay Z storming Hackney in 2012. And sadly, in the event of another global pandemic threatening another festival being cancelled – I’d recommend they stick to the back catalogue rather than hype-up another mediocre Zoom cover ever again.