A welcome burst of energy to fire up a tiring crowd
Lead image by Sharon Lopez
Have we burnt out yet? For technicality’s sake, the first weekend of Primavera Sound is now over, but our unsatiated appetites and new sleeping patterns make a night in the city centre unavoidable. Luckily, FLOHIO is on hand to make it worth the trip. As the festival moves away from Parc del Fórum to fill the liminal space before Weekend Two begins, it doesn’t take a site of thousands for her to deliver one of the programme’s biggest sets in sound and heart.
The Lagos-born, South London-based MC has a timeless swagger about her: a bluster always on the thankful side of arrogance. It’s been called “up-and-coming” for five years now, but something about FLOHIO makes that tag still feel relevant. Opening with old-time favourites ‘Snub’ and ’10 More Rounds’, La  de Apolo feels plunged into the heart of SE16. From industrial grime to commercially-minded hip hop, drill and electronic, hooks indebted to US rap where melody is valued as fervently as her sharp ruminations on community, selfhood and emotional availability sound serrated as punk.
She demands full energy here, and it’s given; she covers the stage like a tilt-a-whirl, seemingly suspended airborne when she jumps, while the club floor shakes with the weight of hundreds doing the same. “Tank on F,” she yells, demanding that we fill up the energy when it’s not to her levels. “I know it costs a lot these days,” she takes time to joke, but it’s not stopping her barefaced maximalism. She only breaks once to take it all in, take off her shades and raise her glass (of water) to have a drink with everyone.
At the same time, FLOHIO’s strength is in finding that room for introspection within the energy, switching from euphoria to engine fumes with set highlight ‘Pounce’ sounding sometimes like the drowsy beats of The Streets. As she ushers out a mumbled chorus over Clams Casino’s recorded synth, she buries herself into the corner of the stage battling against the crowd’s renewed chaos, reciting her words like off-beat poetry. It feels genuinely dangerous, but never unsafe.
“This is the one song I always say defines me,” she says of ‘Unveiled’. The front rows know every word, and she grabs one of them by the shirt, snarling the hook back in his face. “Sorry man, it’s not a joke – seeing you singing that, that got me charged – this is my heart.” The set feels for all intent like the spirit of raw rock’n’roll in grime’s revelry – it’s what it looks like now – her set ending with a room-wide circle pit and strangers hugging by the sweat-dripped walls.
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