Courtney Francis has been a fan of Grime for almost a decade and as one of the countries leading photographers on the rise he decides to get nostalgic as he shoots some of the most decorated names in the scene, legends and he headed to Eskimo dance in Leeds and tell how it was to shoot them in their playground of reloads!
Eskimo Dance — Leeds Eskiboy’s the reason everybody’s here
Grime has it’s staples. Reloads, packed rooms full of MCs and gun finger salutes. A place where you can find all these is Eskimo Dance. Over the last 18 months, the major Grime event has taken the party on the road to major cities in the UK. Ones of those cities is Leeds, where I travelled to capture the festivities.
I normally like to get to the city with time to rest and prepare for the night. This time however was different. I had my car being serviced and found that I needed new brakes. Something that cannot be left waiting. Especially when you plan to complete a 400 miles round trip. So with my brakes freshly installed and my car in top form, I bought my travel Jelly Babies and made my way to the northern city.
Arriving in Leeds with 2 hours until doors opened gave me enough time to stuff myself with pizza and get changed into a comfortable tracksuit. The Grime uniform. Also very functional when you’re jumping down stairs and onto stages to get that great shot.
Having different cities host Eskimo Dance gives the chance for local homegrown acts to step on the big stage and show their city what they’ve got. Artists like SwiftCode and others from Leeds stormed the stage with crazy energy. You can tell they were really happy to be there. Other nearby collectives, like ScumFam from Sheffield drove up the M1 to jump on the stage and proceed to shell it down. I remember seeing these guys last year and they brought the same crazy energy as before. The crowd responds accordingly as the local artist spray local slang laced bars that they relate to. It’s evident that Grime is spreading across the UK and connecting with more people everyday.
By the time I ran upstairs to get another angle, Preditah touched the decks and was playing the kind of songs that make peolpe forget that they’re hold a full cup of beer. With grime fans jumping everywhere I had to make sure that my precious camera doesn’t get wet. I noticed it went quiet for a moment. Then I figured out why.
There’s no running from me. Ducking diving from me – SOLO 45
The intro to ‘Feed Em To The Lions’ is a sound that makes everyone prepare themselves for the mad ting that will occur. At this time I made a U-turn and ran to the stage. The last this I want to be is stuck in the middle of the crowd as it turns into a moshpit. If I pushed past you, i’m sorry. It had to be done. It’s a good thing I did. Just as I made it to the stage, Solo 45 walked on stage with him arms spread wide and embraced the crowd. he was like a warrior who came back from a win on the battlefield. Solo45 has been away for a bit so it was great to see him on the Eskimo stage and everyone scream his words at the top of their lungs. He has created an anthem. No doubt. The song got reloaded 3 times before he actually said a word into the mic. It was a great experience.
Eskimo brought out the Grime artists that have been about since the early days such as Big Narstie, P Money, Scratchy, Flowdan and President T. Bringing a sense a of nostalgia to the amped up Leeds crowd. Stand out performances from JME and Ghetts raised the levels even more.
Ghetts is one of my favourite artists to shoot. He is very dynamic on stage. Running and jumping from left to right. To capture a good picture of him performing requires you have shoot fast and accurate. As I know his music, I can tell when he’s going to calm down and go mad. It’s always good to do research find out what kind of performer you are shooting.
JME is one of those artist that you don’t see often. Sometimes, to his fans, it seems he only exist in Twitter. But tonight he made the journey to Leeds to go on stage perform songs like ‘Test Me’ and a fan favourite ‘Man Don’t Care’ which I’m sure will become another grime classic for the MC that has always kept Grime alive.
There was a time when you saw Wiley’s name on the flyer and you had to ask yourself, “will he even turn up?” Nowadays, that is not the case. Wiley, the Godfather of Grime, has been making a big effort to travel to many cities to perfom on stage to a crowd that probably have never seen him live before. The man who puts the Eski in Eskimo Dance made he way to the stage and perfomed recent bangers such as ‘25 MCs’ and ‘Wickest MC Alive’.
Wiley hasn’t missed a beat. Still spray fast, long verses with the ferousity of an emcee with something to prove. But he’s Wiley. He has nothing to prove to anyone but it’s amazing to see him going crazy on stage and the effect he has on the crowd was clearly evident.
At this stage, i’m finished. That pizza I had earlier was making me feel heavy and the constant movement around the venue had me yerning for my bed. It’s now 4am and the last act, Fekky, has finished his energetic set. Everyone is still hyped. Tunes are still being played and everyone is on stage havng a good time. Eskimo Dance added another sucess to the books. I decided to turn in for the night. As I was walking off the stage, Solo 45 walked past me and looked at the DJ. My photographer senses started tingling. I had to make sure I get that final shot before I head back to the hotel and collapse on the bed that I have been waiting for me. Eskimo Dance is always a great event. Lilz and the rest of the team are travelling the country and putting together a experience that people will always remember.
All photography by Courtney Francis