If you have been to a UK festival in the last few years, chances are that at some point you found yourself dancing in the OneTaste tent. Having residency at Glastonbury, Big Chill and Secret Garden Party to name but a mere few, OneTaste have acquired a devoted fan base of festival goers who want a guarantee that when they walk into a tent they will get the following components; top quality live music, an high-spirited and friendly crowd, and twenty four hour revelry.
OneTaste in Hyde Park, London
Yet their festival appearances are just one aspect of the multifaceted music troupe. When they are appearing at say, SGP or Glasto, they perform as a collective of musicians, poets and artists who, for many of the festivals, break bread and share space with Chai Wallahs. When they put on events in Greater London and Brighton, (where every night is different from the last), their roots run deep, towards diverse and innovative singers, performers and spoken word artists. They are fiercely proud of their reputation of facilitating and nurturing emerging talent; promoting, not exploiting it, connecting with the audience and creating a true OneTaste family, both onstage and off.
I have known of OneTaste for years, being friends with some of the artists who have performed with them. Having shamelessly utalised their tent at this years Secret Garden Party to dance, drink, chill, detox and then re-tox, I felt it was time to get to know them a little better. The perfect opportunity came at the recent OneTaste night at the Bedford in Balham which I attended recently on a balmy Thursday night. The vaudeville past of the Globe Theatre within the Bedford was an apposite setting for the style of event that OneTaste puts on. As the preparation for the evenings entertainment began in this deeply historical building, I managed to catch a quick chat with the creator of OneTaste, Dannii Evans, where we talked about the rhymes, reasons and the meaning behind this unique and innovative event.
photograph by Kim Leng Hills
When I saw OneTaste’s excellent night in the Jazz Cafe a while back, I saw a lot of different styles of music and spoken word. What would you say is the one common thread that unites everyone?
We’ve always been trying to find out what the thread is! It is definitely not genre, we do every single style and welcome every style, probably the only genre we haven’t booked yet is heavy metal! The thing that links us all together .. (pauses)… is that everyone has got a massive social conscience; it is not always explicit, but it is implicit within a person, it’s in their art. It’s something that holds us all together, everyone at OneTaste has that in mind – that there is a bigger picture and that we need to better ourselves in everyone that we do.
Charlie Dark performs at OneTaste Bedford
How did OneTaste begin?
The OneTaste music and spoken word night, started four and a half years ago by myself, and Jamie Woon. We basically started it in order that these musicians can do something where they could get paid.
You pay the performers? That’s so rare!
Definitely. We wanted to put on a night where the quality of every single act was really high and it could be where musicians could start their career, so that was the premise and also the concept is that the event is always half music, half spoken word.
So is it a collective, a record label, an event? I’m kind of confused!
It started off as an event, with us meeting a number of artists and acts that we got on really well and gelled with, who we took on tour around festivals, and then out of spending three months together we formed the OneTaste collective. It started becoming an artist run collective where people would help with the actual event production and then it ended with them all collaborating on material together.
How do artists become part of OneTaste? Is it something that they can dip in and out of?
Absolutely, it’s not exclusive. It grew organically, it’s not an in or out thing – it happens more naturally than that.
Do you have to audition to get in?
To take part in the OneTaste night, either myself or someone running it have to have seen them live. Audience engagement is very important to us, to reach out and to be able to communicate with the audience is really vital. The live aspect and their live dynamic with the crowd is so important, so while they don’t audition, we do need to see how they will perform.
So it seems to have grown hugely in the last four years; Can you give me an idea of the numbers of acts that you have worked with?
In the collective, we have around 30 acts that we are currently championing, but in the last four years we have worked with around 300 artists. The audiences have grown from 40 people to 300 here at the Bedford, 500 at the Jazz Cafe, and 5,000 at the recent gig we did in Hyde Park.
How does OneTaste promote its artists?
It has always been very grass roots, we’ve never done an advert, it’s always just been people coming down and then telling their friends and from that it grew really quickly.
Are there many of the artists signed to labels, and do you help them along their way?
We do, we give them industry advice – we develop their music, or spoken word, we try to help where we can. Some of the artists like Jamie Woon or Portico Quartet have gone on to get more media attention and they kind of carry the OneTaste name with them and still do gigs for us.
What is the direction that OneTaste is heading in?
Potentially, we might have our own venue at festivals next year, which is really exciting. We have a digital compilation coming out, the first one will be coming out in September, and eventually we may form a OneTaste record label.
Gideon Conn performs at OneTaste Bedford.
Dannii and I continue chatting for a short while, and after this she has tasks to do. The audience is filling up, and the night is about to start. Sitting on a bench in the back with a big glass of red wine, I watch the event unfold. The performers are electric, and completely different from one another, yet equally complimentary. Most appear to be old friends, and loudly cheer each others performances. The atmosphere is infectious, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much at a gig (and it’s not because of the wine!). I’m quite au fait with the open mic nights and acoustic gigs of London, but I haven’t been to a night which is as cohesive and inclusive as OneTaste. If you want to experience it for yourself, OneTaste are easy to find. Check out their Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr for images, articles, and dates about upcoming shows, which include a September 8th gig at The Distillers in Hammersmith and 27th September at The Hanbury Club in Brighton.