1234 FESTIVAL + AFTERPARTY / OUTSIDERS LDN LAUNCH
For the 5th year in a row, Shoreditch Park in East London has played host to the annual 1234 Festival. 1234 aims to present the best up and coming bands from the underground scene as well as reintroduce to a new audience more established acts that have had a lasting impact on music. Past headliners include Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame and Glen Matlock from the Sex Pistols. This year promised to be equally exciting with a line up that boasted the likes of English punk legends Buzzcocks and festival stalwarts The Duke Spirit who shared the bill alongside new and unsigned bands including Zulu (fronted by the son of ex Clash Paul Simonon), Holograms and Arrows of Love.
We arrived at Shoreditch Park at midday and were met with an overwhelming smell of musty vintage clothing and jazz cigarettes. The source of the odour was finally revealed when we gazed upon the bodies of Hoxton Hipsters sprawled lazily on the grass outside the gates. We joined them as we cracked open our tinnies and did our best Trinny & Susannah impression, and then grudgingly joined the back of the VIP queue which was rather hilariously 10 times as long as the ordinary queue. As the music pumped out of the tents and knitted together in a curiously jumbled mix in the air I had a feeling it was going to be the most interesting noise I was going to hear all day.
We made our way to the back of the site to catch our first act of the day, Canadian lo-fi crooner Dirty Beaches, the one-man band project of Alex Zhang Hungtai. I really enjoyed his debut album, 2011′s Polaris Music Prize nominated Badlands, so I was more than curious to see how his reverb drenched 50’s style rock’n’roll would go down in such a big open space under the midday sun. It’s always impossible to make out what a London crowd is thinking as the rigid, arms folded posture and look of disdain is de riguer and not even my powers of telepathy could break through the audience’s rather cold disinterest. As Hungtai closed his set with a slightly punchier new number and we walked away, I tried to convince my friend that this type of music is better suited to smoky, drunken late nights. She stared back with a look of disdain in her eyes, arms folded.
Crocodiles, making their second appearance at a London festival this summer (they played Field Day in July) were up next on the main stage and put in a solid performance. Yet, one can detect in them the air of a band that has been on the road too long. The set was made up of songs from their excellent second album Sleep Forever and most recent release Endless Flowers. They also threw in a new as-yet-untitled song which was, I have to admit, not very distinguishable from the others. Anyone looking forward to the next album can expect more of the same from Brandon and Charles, but I suppose ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’. The band rounded off their set by bringing out legendary drummer Paul Cook (Sex Pistols) onto the stage to perform Pistols classic Bodies. With Buzzcock’s headlining performance later in the evening, festival organisers must have really exploited the rent-a-punk hotline…
The Duke Spirit, shortly after them, put in a reliable performance. The impossibly cool Leila Moss is a compelling frontwoman, oozing charm and charisma as she purrs around the stage like a cat. There’s no doubting the fact the rest of the band are more than capable musicians but their performance is just a bit too neat. Rock is meant to be dirty and rough around the edges, neither of which are words I would use to describe the Duke Spirit.
We also managed to catch the end of Bo Ningen‘s electrifying set in the Loud & Quiet tent. The London based (by way of Tokyo and Kyoto) quartet delivered a blistering slab of Kraurock-influenced Japanese noise-punk much to the delight of the packed crowd. I wish we’d gone to see these guys earlier because they were by far the most exciting act of the festival. I will definitely be front and centre when they play the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen next month.
After a quick stop in the VIP area (for the mere plebeians amongst you, don’t worry, the queue for the bar was just as long and there were no gold fittings in the loos), it was then a mad dash to the front of the crowd to see headliners Buzzcocks. The punk legends’ waistlines may have expanded considerably and their hair got a little thinner on top but if you were to close your eyes you could have been back in ’77. Or at least those of us moshing in the front pit would have liked to think. They stuck to a tried and tested setlist running through their most well known hits including What Do I Get and (of course) Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone Shouldn’t’ve) which sent the crowd wild. I’ve pogoed to Buzzcocks. I can die happy.
Without a minute to spare we dashed over from Shoreditch Park to The London Apprentice for the official 1234 after party/OUTsiders LDN launch. Butterflies in our tummies, worrying that no one would turn up, when we finally reached the venue we could see the queue to get in was wrapped around the block. We smugly patted ourselves on our backs; a day spent handing out flyers and sticking posters up in grimey loos was well spent.
Kicking off the night’s proceedings with a likeable performance was London’s very own Matildaz. Front woman Matilda’s sultry powerhouse vocals filled the whole room. The songwriting is strong with genres and styles bleeding into one another but this is perhaps both Matildaz’s quality and problem: London’s music scene is tribal and this band – luckily? – just doesn’t fit into any one slot.
Fresh from a performance at the festival earlier in the day were Dead Wolf Club who made the walls bounce with their brand of geeky, DIY punk. Drummer Serra put in a thundering performance which left the whole room breathless. Elsewhere upstairs in the bar area a succession of DJs worked their magic on the turntables. This Included an impromptu DJ set from OUTsiders very own Mark Shipp (Mark’s Mobile Disco – available for Bat Mitzvahs, Christenings and weddings).
Back downstairs in the basement, the big draw of the night was Brighton’s Bad For Lazarus whose frenzied dirty pop had everyone in the venue posturing in front of the cooler-than-thou band. This band is going to be big. Comparisons will inevitably be made with The Strokes, not that musically they share much of the same ground but with their skinny limbs and long perfectly imperfect bed hair, both bands exude a heady mix of wild untamed sexiness and swagger that is electrifying to watch. The highlight of my day was the sight of guitarist/bassist/occasional vocalist Dominic Knight writhing on the floor in front of me. It was probably the most fun a girl can have without batteries.
Next up and joining us all the way from Moscow were Blast, by followed London art-punk duo Second Head. Or so I am told. Unfortunately, I was busy outside feeling hungover and drunk. At the same time.