1234 Shoreditch Festival.
Shoreditch Park. 26jul09.
These smaller festivals are made for serendipity, a chance to wander about and find something new. That is increasingly so today as it soon becomes clear that the times given in the programme bear so scant relation to what’s actually going on on-stage that a printed listing of the contestants in the Hartley Wintney village-fete under-8’s fancy dress would have served just as well.
Still, it’s only a £15 in, I have no rigid agenda as to who to see and, well, I like a challenge. I’m not sure if my fellow mug-punters feel the same and certainly the bands on the second stage appeared a little disgruntled as they were forced to hammer through 15 minute sets due to the over-running.
Brevity is the soul of wit though, as well as being the key to not out-staying one’s welcome. KASMs (below) are a vibrant, jagged soul-punk outfit, but Rachel Mary Callaghan’s yelped vocals grate rather than pummel, so a quick in-and-out means there isn’t time to get too hacked off with it. Rory Brattwell’s guitar work does the job though.
An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (below) have been reviewed here before, and only did 15 minutes of their pencilled-in 30 then anyway. So, everything remains in place, and is even a little more thrilling this time, what with their cataclysmic drum beat; their incessant fuzzcore; and their primal soul holler coming in three different shades as each member takes the lead mic.
LR Rockets were first on when I arrived (you can thank their valedictory remark of “Oh, and by the way, we’re LR Rockets” for me being able to identify them for you) rolling out some sweaty and dishevelled Parkinsons’-like art-punk, vocalist Le Bomb prowling the empty grass arc in front of the safety barriers in lieu of a dancing crowd.
Out on the main stage, the unfeasibly young looking Lion Club were playing half an hour earlier than billed. With crowds still only trickling in, and many picnicking outside due to food being confiscated on the way in (I found myself two apples light after picking up my wristband), the Club didn’t appear to be overjoyed with their rescheduling, singer Lewis Henry Rainsbury misanthropically announcing “luckily for you, this is our last song.” Far as I could tell, people were quite receptive to the big expansive keyboard sweeps in their arch pop-rock endeavours, but Lion Club seemed happy to do the off anyhow.
Back inside the second stage’s tent flaps, Wild Palms (thanks to the good people at MySpace for the ID on this occasion) were chopping about, drums nibbling around; their singer Lou Hill looking like Zammo MacGuire, the vein on his neck popping as he prowled. He’d come in an 80’s shirt of many misguided colours running together, but at least this made a change from the uniform black on show thus far.
Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man brought the sartorially monochrome back to the fore for their main stage set, but at least Frederick Blood-Royale had the decency to put a suit on for the occasion. Arguably he took it a little far on returning after a lengthy instrumental break in a lengthy grey coat with a pointy hood. Still, their Birthday Party-esque rumbling punk blues was agreeable enough.
After …Air Pump in the tent came the duo Banjo Or Freakout. Alessio Natalizia sings and manipulates guitar, sampler and snare drum, often all at once, whilst his colleague Daniel Boyle rat-a-tat’s away behind him. Their second tune sounded like an electric train hurtling towards the inner ear as the two player’s clattered together in an attempt to beat it back. Ploughing a similarly defiant vein later, Factory Floor brought into unison a crackling electro-beat, brooding PJ Harvey vocals and a guitar being bowed like a carving knife attacking stubborn duct tape. They climaxed with an aggressive tumult of screaming feedback, then wandered off.
As a contrast back outside, Polly Scattergood was playing her cutesy and twee summery electro-pop under a sky that was refusing to play ball. Later on, Patrick Wolf would alter his set to be in keeping with the elements, respecting Mother Nature, but disrespecting whoever it was that threw their drinks can at him. “Go back to the dole queue, motherfucker” was the end of long ranted riposte. Still, Patrick is always likely to be provocative to audiences that are not his own, being that he is the most ostentatiously dressed pop hero since David Bowie packed his Ziggy Stardust costume up in the loft next to his old Beano’s. Yet for all the make-up and clothing unbuttoned to the navel, young Patrick makes a wonderfully ambitious classic pop sound that follows in the lineage of Bowie, Scott Walker and ABC. Nowt wrong with a little flamboyance or even, as in Patrick’s case, a lot.
Aside from the serendipity, festivals can also act as a point of reconciliation. I can only ever remember walking out on bands twice for reasons other than transport home. The two bands were Mega City Four and The Warlocks, both of whom bored me to the point of anger. The Four got a second chance at a small festival gig in Gosport, and failed to win me back. Now, six years on, Warlocks got their chance, and whilst their records will continue to be thumbed past in record shops, I can happily say we have reached a point of partial reconciliation, even if Bobby Hecksher’s voice continues to detract more than it adds. Yet, I liked the fact that they all looked a little silly in their war-paint (each face sporting a different tiny coat of arms) and I am much more receptive than I was to getting locked into a peering-at-me-tootsies post-rock groove. Others do it better, but I reckon even more do it a lot worse. This is about as faint praise as you can get, but its progress nonetheless.
After all this came the final two acts of the day on the second stage. S.C.U.M.’s psychedelic, Joy Division-with-more-showmanship kinda thing was just starting to grab me when the power was cut on them for over-running. Those plugged in could only raise their arms in an incredulous ‘WTF??!?!?’, however drummer Melissa Rigby gamely clattered through to their end of the tune with a ridiculously wide grin on her face. Every drummer wants their Cozy Powell moment, it would appear.
Getting Chrome Hoof’s many instruments sound-checked was proving problematic, the soundman having to speak to the band through the house-speakers rather than the monitors to get his message across. His message containing many heavy sighs and a final exasperated “let’s just get on with it, I’ll sort it as we go along, this PA is a fucking joke.” Not that this appeared to affect the band, but then you can pack up any troubles in a uniform set of silver robes, I guess. Also, chants of “Hoof, Hoof, Hoof” would suggest a less than 100% ideal sound mix isn’t going to affect the on looking punters too much.
Besides, the ‘Oof are arresting in every sense so only the real nerds would notice. They work through, free-noise, shimmering glam jazz and freak-soul. Not only that but when bassist and co-founder Leo Smee (formerly of Cathedral) has a barbute-like helmet shoved on his head, this gives him the threat and energy to deliver death metal to a disco-pants crowd. The Rakes are still playing the main stage as we file out after this, but checking their progress would seem a bit post-Lord Mayor’s Show after Chrome Hoof’s captivating display.