VENGABOYS + PETER ANDRE + 5IVE + 911 + LIBERTY X + ATOMIC KITTEN + S CLUB + GARETH GATES + EAST 17 + A1 + BLAZIN’ SQUAD + LIVIN’ JOY + BABY D + ROZALLA + DJ NICK COULSON – THE OVAL, HASTINGS 3.10.21
On a rainy Sunday, 90s music fanatics came together for 90s Baby Pop, a day festival courtesy of JBM Music taking place at The Oval in Hastings. The venue was full of glitter, glowsticks, hair scrunchies, balloons, and plenty of neon body paint. The day lasted for nine hours and for the whole time the atmosphere was electric, not even rain could hold us back. After eighteen months without festivals, I was buzzing to finally go to a day festival. Whilst as a 1996 baby I don’t remember much of the 90s, I spent my childhood listening to artists like S Club 7, Atomic Kitten, Gareth Gates, and Vengaboys, so I was excited to get to see my childhood favourites live.
The Oval is the perfect space to hold a festival and the event was well managed. The festival was set underneath a huge tent, which was a relief given the weather. The large stage was easily visible and two screens meant that wherever you stood you could see the performances. There was plenty of space inside, so it didn’t feel like we were all bunched together like sardines. What really made the atmosphere was DJ Nick Coulson playing 90s hits in between sets. He knew how to get the crowd going, especially when he played ‘Wannabe’ by The Spice Girls! In keeping with the festival vibes, outside of the tent there were food vans and portaloos a plenty. There was a wide selection of food choices and the pricing was reasonable, especially for the quality (we had delicious vegan burgers and cheese sauce fries). There were even stands to get glitter done! The event operated a drinks token system which helped keep queues moving; the bar staff were lovely, even when they were rushed off their feet. The event was so well set up, and I hope to see more day festivals at The Oval.
The day kicked off with Rozalla. Rozalla is a Zimbabwe born electric pop singer. Her first single in 1990 ‘Born To Luv Ya’ was a success and was played on the club scene. Her most popular song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’ is still played in clubs today, with several different remixes released. Rozalla was the perfect act to kick off the day, bringing electric rave vibes, which had the crowd partying from the offset. Despite being the first act of the day, the turnout was great and everybody was having a blast. The crowd went wild for ‘Everybody’s Free’; there was lots of screaming and no one could keep still. Rozalla set up the atmosphere for the rest of the day, the energy she brought was immaculate.
Next came Baby D, known for their rave scene and festival performances. Baby D originally consisted of Floyd Dyce, Dee Galdes-Fearon, Claudio Galdez, and Terry Jones. Baby D had a number one single with ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ in 1994. Baby D gave it her all today and brought great beats which got the crowd going. She gave the crowd exactly what they asked for: amazing dance vibes! There was lots of fun with ‘Need Your Loving’; the highlight for me was ‘Let Me Be Your Fantasy’ as the atmosphere was electric. Everyone loved the song and it was the perfect way to end the set.
Next to take the stage was Livin’ Joy, and as she herself said, everyone who came early to see her set must be a “proper raver.” Formed in 1994, Livin’ Joy consisted of Paolo Visnadi , Gianni Visnadi and Janice Robinson, who was replaced by Tameka Starr in 1996. The group’s success came with their 1996 song ‘Don’t Stop Movin’’ I thoroughly enjoyed Livin Joy; she brought those rave vibes and her vocal range is incredible. She’s such a talented performer and I was in awe of her, especially her acapella singing. She brought great energy and an all-round good time.
Then came the first boyband of the night, Blazin’ Squad. Blazin’ Squad are a ten-piece hip-hop boyband formed in 2001. The band consists of James MacKenzie (Kenzie), Ollie Georgiou (Freek), Marcel Somerville (Rocky B), Chris McKckney (Melo-D), Lee Bailey (Krazy), Sam Foulkes (Spike-E), James Murray (Flava), Alan Mason (A-Tell), Joe Williams (J-Tell), Tom Beasley (Tommy-B), Chris Tulloh (Tulloh), and Mustafa Omer (Strider). The band had seven top ten hits during their career. Tonight, Blazin’ Squad kicked off the boyband fever nicely. The highlight of the set was the steamy performance of ‘Love On The Line,’ a quintessentially early 2000s song. What was so lovely about Blazin’ Squad is that they were genuinely so happy to be playing, and thanked the crowd afterwards. It was brilliant to see a band so full of passion and love for their art.
Continuing with the boyband theme, next came A1. Formed in 1998, A1 consists of Paul Marazzi, Christian Ingebrigtsen, Mark Read, and Ben Adams. They had two number one chart topping hits in the UK during their career. Tonight A1 brought the classic boyband performance with 90s dance moves and over the top graphics. It was like watching a 90s music video. I felt like I’d been transported back to what it must’ve been like to be a teenager in the 90s! The audience loved A1 and despite not being overly familiar with them, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.
The final boyband in the line-up was East 17. I was excited to see East 17 as ‘Stay Another Day’ is such a great Christmas song. East 17 consists of Terry Coldwell, Robbie Craig, and Joe Livermore. Previous members include John Hendy, Brian Harvey, Tony Mortimer, Blair Dreelan, and Terry Jones. Formed in 1991, the band saw great success, with eighteen top twenty singles during their career. I was worried that they wouldn’t play ‘Stay Another Day’ as October really isn’t the season to get into the Christmas spirit. The boys asked the crowd if anyone wanted a Christmas song and everyone started screaming. They teased us by singing ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ but they eventually blessed us all with ‘Stay Another Day.’ This was another performance where the crowd went wild, their whole set was great, but this moment was by far the best.
I was extremely excited when I realised Gareth Gates was next to take the stage. Gareth Gates rose to fame in 2002 after being a runner up in UK singing competition Pop Idol. Since then, he’s sold 3.5 million records. In his set, Gates did quite a few cover songs but really made them his own to the point I didn’t actually realise some of them were covers till the distinctive lines; this was the case when he covered Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect.’ I got goosebumps when Gates played his cover, his vocals were stunning and he played the piano which showed his talent. Gates brought a different vibe to the previous acts with some of his ballad performances really focusing on his musical ability as a pianist. He ended his set with his 2003 classic ‘Spirit In The Sky.’ I used to listen to a CD with this song on all the time, and I sang along like I would on car journeys as a child! Everyone was singing and dancing and he left the crowd on a real high.
There ain’t no party like an S Club party, proven when S Club 7 came on stage with their electric energy. Formed in 1998, S Club 7 consists of Bradley McIntosh, Hannah Spearritt, Jo O’Meara, Jon Lee, Paul Cattermole, Rachel Stevens and Tina Barrett. S Club 7 starred in their own show Miami 7 and released music from the show. They have had four UK number one singles and one UK number one album. Tonight was S Club 2, with Bradley and Tina giving it their all. The crowd was buzzing in anticipation waiting for the performance to begin. They kicked off their set with ‘S Club Party’, and everyone was hooked. S Club 7’s famous song ‘Don’t Stop Movin’’ was definitely happening—no one could stop moving to the “funky funky beat!” Everyone danced along to ‘You’ and ‘Bring It All Back,’ but the highlight had to be ‘Reach.’ Almost everyone knows the dance to ‘Reach,’ and the whole crowd were jumping to “Reach for the stars”! It was the perfect opportunity to bring out all those moves I’d practised in my bedroom as a child. S Club 7 were absolutely brilliant, definitely one of my favourite acts of the day.
For me, the highlight of the event was Atomic Kitten. Liverpool band Atomic Kitten were formed in 1998, currently consisting of Liz McClarnon, Natasha Hamilton, and Jenny Frost. Past members include Kerry Katona and Heidi Range. Their debut single ‘Right Now’ entered the top ten in the UK charts. Tonight saw Liz McClarnon and Natasha Hamilton take the stage. Seeing Atomic Kitten live has been a dream of mine since I was about six years old. All throughout my childhood they were my favourite band. I could barely contain my excitement and from the offset I was crying happy tears! When they started playing ‘Eternal Flame’ I couldn’t contain my sobs and had to wipe away my running mascara. The girls are so down to earth, joking about how surprised they were about canned water! They were both having such a good time on stage, and their dancing together showed the bond between the bandmates. I was obsessed with ‘The Tide Is High’ music video as a child, and it’s one of my favourite songs of all time. It was great fun to pull out the music video dance moves! The whole crowd loved the performance, and I’ve destroyed my throat from screaming along so loud! The set closed with ‘Whole Again,’ which was noted as a football classic. I must’ve been living under a rock because I hadn’t realised that the girls had recorded a version called ‘Southgate You’re The One (Footballs Coming Home Again)’ for the 2021 Euros. You could tell who were the Atomic Kitten fans and who were the football fans were during this performance based on who screamed “whole again” and who screamed “footballs coming home again”. It was a great way to end the set and I was so giddy afterwards—my childhood self got everything she dreamed of!
The next girl band in the series was Liberty X, consisting of Michelle Heaton, Tony Lundon, Kevin Simm, Jessica Taylor and Kelli Young. Liberty X were formed in 2001 on the ITV talent show Popstars. Their third single ‘Just A Little’ reached number one in the UK charts. I’d forgotten how many incredible songs Liberty X have—you just can’t help but throw yourself into dancing. They opened their set with ‘Just A Little’ which had everyone giving it their all with their singing and rhythmic dancing. The highlight for me was ‘A Night To Remember.’ The girls smashed the performance and their vocals were incredible. They really did make it a night to remember!
Next came 911, the 1995 boyband consisting of Lee Brennan, Jimmy Constable and Simon ‘Spike’ Dawbarn. They had one number one single with their cover of ‘A Little Bit More.’ 911 did their cover of ‘A Night To Remember,’ which was great as it meant we got to hear two versions of a great song! Their cover of ‘More Than A Woman’ was a unique take on the original and the crowd loved it. 911 brought the stereotypical boyband energy which the audience wanted to see. It was a great set.
Then came 5ive, and they’re right: “five will make you get down” and dance! The 1997 band 5ive are currently made up of Ritchie Neville, Scott Robinson, and Sean Conlon. The band were originally a five piece with J Brown and Abz Love joining the boys. They’ve released 25 million copies of their records worldwide. 5ive are set to release a new album, and they treated us with songs from the album. The boys did a cover of ‘We Will Rock You,’ a classic which went down well with the audience. I thoroughly enjoyed it when they played ‘It’s Alright,’ which is one of my favourite 5ive songs. The highlight of the set had to be ‘Keep On Movin’.’ In my opinion, this is 5ive’s best song and I couldn’t stop movin’ whilst they played!
Next to the stage was heartthrob Peter Andre. In 1992 Peter Andre released his first single ‘Drive Me Crazy.’ ‘Mysterious Girl’ hit number 2 in the charts when it was released in 1996, and hit number one in 2004 whilst Andre was on reality TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Andre is back in the studio making albums inspired by reggae icons, evident in his cover of ‘Three Little Birds,’ originally sung by Bob Marley. There was plenty of screaming for Andre, and that was just from me! He was a real crowd pleaser and his teasing style of dancing was great. Peter Andre hyped up Ryan Jackson who performed with him, and Jackson was an incredible performer. Andre teased us with ‘Mysterious Girl’ all set, and when he ended with it, we all screamed. The energy Andre brought by running around the space was great, and we all sang and danced like there was no tomorrow!
The night ended with Vengaboys who brought those Ibiza vibes. The Dutch band formed in 1997 and are made up of Kim Sasabone, Denise Post-Van Rijswijk, Robin Pors, and Donny Latupeirissa. In 1999 they broke into the UK music scene when ‘Boom Boom Boom’ topped the charts. The Vengaboys were the perfect way to end the night and they captured the whole spirit of 90s Baby Pop: dancing and having a good time!
They opened with a sneak preview of ‘Boom Boom Boom’ before breaking into a cover of the Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling.’ We took a flight with Venga Airways and they sang ‘We’re Going To Ibiza,’ a classic euro-dance song—we spent a lot of time doing an airplane dance! Their set was fast paced when they started doing snippet covers of classic songs such as ‘YMCA,’ , ‘1999,’ Livin’ On A Prayer,’ ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ and many more. They went back to playing their own songs, kicking off with a long version of ‘We Like To Party.’ There were plenty of people pretending to be a (Venga) bus in some hilarious dancing. They ended their set with the classic ‘Boom Boom Boom’ which was the perfect way to end a wild 90s night. Everyone was loving it and the dancing saw a lot of extreme jumping! Vengaboys brought so much positive energy and made me smile the entire set.
My legs are aching this morning, but it was worth it to sing and dance to some incredible bands. Keep your eyes peeled for more festivals at The Oval, they really delivered a brilliant day.
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