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Rizla Invisible Players

We look back over the course of the festival season where Rizla's musical talents wowed the crowds

It may be howling outside, but hark back to the summer of love and (surprisingly) sun, rewinding the best musical moments led by the traveling troupe of Rizla’s upstanding Invisible Players. What better way to keep you toasty. Now in its third year, that inimitable 1920s decked out Rizla van has established itself as one of the UK’s most mobbed party starters. Pulling up on the banks of Loch Ness for RockNess, into east London’s oasis, Victoria Park for Lovebox, the gracious grounds of Eastnor Castle and The Big Chill, and of course, the irreversible madness that is Bestival. Lest we forget impromptu Invisible Players visits to Bristol and Manchester, warming up for the festival circuit back in May and June of this year. We also witnessed the mini-tour in October and November hitting London's Cargo, Leeds' A Nation of Shopkeepers, and Glasgow's The Admiral.

Taking the reigns from 2008’s hosts Greg Wilson, Kid Acne, Annie Nightingale and Justin Robertson, 2009 saw a wickedly diverse cast of leading Invisible Player DJs shake the Rizla Arena to the ground. From art pop princess Micachu to the godfather of British dance culture Jazzie B, Dazed favourite Gruff Rhys (check out Separado! his obscure new movie that traces back the thriving Welsh community in Patagonia) to Jon Carter and David Shrigley. “I thought it was a place for freaks and crazy monkeys to mud wrestle in,” muses the great Northern illustrator turned DJ, when asked about his first impressions of the Rizla Arena. “I expected there to be palm trees and sand,” adds Jazzie B. “But there was a great little van and one of best sound systems and productions that I have ever worked with. The crowd response was fantastic. They all allowed me to go from one musical extreme to another. Moments like that for a DJ nowadays is a rare ting!”

In the height of July, the Invisible Players tour smashed the annual east London Lovebox shindig, road blocked the likes of Diplo, X-Press 2, Sir Jazzie B and Annie Nightingale MBE. “One of my favourite moments were the old people dancing to rude tunes at Lovebox,” remembers Shrigley. Next up on the festival trail was The Big Chill, with Jon Carter’s sublime three hour set, bubbling away whilst the sun went down and the pop up actions of Man Like Me MCing from the top of the bus. “He clambered up there so darn quick!” says Carter of the effervescent electro mod frontman, this being the first time a live band has played the arena... and on top of the bus. Carter’s standout tune of the summer was Roosevelt High’s Superstition-ripping dancehall banger Stevie's Drop, whilst the crowds obviously dropped to their knees when Jazzie B dropped Back II Life. “Mine was Black Meteoric Star, Death Tunnel,” Shrigley says. “Ideal to dance to if you’re drunk and dressed as an alien.”

Which brings us to Bestival, the magical, mystery lost weekend on the Isle of Wight, and in some ways the spiritual home of the Invisible Players Rizla Arena. One of the highlights of the festival itself - attested by the 1,000 strong crowd that gathered outside the arena gates - was the almighty Hip Hop Karaoke and crunking gingerbread men. Then there was Disco Bloodbath, Little Boots’ Italo set, the legendary Ragga Twins smashing the arena’s Funktion One bassbins and a rare set from NYC underground hero, Rub N Tug’s Thomas Bullock. Early risers were greeted by dubbed out sets from beats king Bullion and Shuttle aka Nate Donmoyer, drummer in the brilliant Passion Pit who were also playing on the Bestival Main Stage. “I loved it,” says Shuttle. “The kids are way more open to experimental dance music that wouldn’t fly in America. It was awesome.” So here’s to next year. And more sun. We’ll leave you with an image seared into the eyes of Heavenly Socialite Jon Carter. “That Scottish guy in the Borat mankini. Thankfully he'd shaved his nuts especially, but that didn't make it any less disturbing.”

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To check out more video clips and exclusive set recordings from the Rizla Arena visit:
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