Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Well, kind of weapon: The 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch 2010

Shoreditch: a place habitually prefaced in the media with "London's trendy" which, thanks to Nathan Barley, is synonymous with twattery of the highest order, but which also plays host to an annual one-day music festival for the intriguingly bargainous price of £20. With genial company guaranteed in the form of Skif and Tobi, and me at a loose end owing to my better half being off in Scotland, attendance was a bit of a no-brainer.

The day doesn't get off to the best of starts, with an unfriendly cash machine around the corner from the Old Blue Last charging me £1.75 for the privilege of withdrawing my own money and then petulantly spitting it out on the wind. Cue much dancing about the pavement in an undignified fashion frantically grabbing at fluttering notes like a contestant at the end of The Crystal Maze.

Fortified by Co-op sandwiches, we enter the site to find PRIZES (Main Stage) performing to a handful of early arrivals. No prizes for singing. More agreeable are NECRO DEATHMORT (New Bands Stage), who come across like a warp-speed Sunn O))) (i.e more than three chords a minute) armed with electronics. Tobi ponders whether they've started yet before we both realise that the long-haired guitarist in the black wifebeater is Matt, the former flat-mate of a close friend of ours. Small world.

ACTION BEAT (Main Stage) declare themselves to be "the noise band from Bletchley" - presumably to distinguish themselves from another Action Beat, given that surely there could only be one noise band in Bletchley? Despite the several-strong improv mob being regular visitors to Oxford (at the invitation of local promoters Poor Girl Noise or Vacuous Pop), I've always contrived to miss the Beat - so it's good to finally witness their battering of Sonic Youth and Oxes. The drummer count is variable and today stands at three - how, you have to wonder, do they all manage to squeeze onto the stages in the Port Mahon or the Cellar?

"Shoreditch wankers" is Matt's curt assessment of the clueless festival organisers, who changed Necro Deathmort's set time and length and yet insisted on them being punctual. They've got a label and a good booking agent who scored them a memorable slot at Sonar in Barcelona last month, but who has also set up "shit like this". Still, at least there was one person in their crowd who looked like he might just listen to Slayer in a non-ironic way - some compensation for the fashion victim wearing his trousers practically up to his chin...

Speaking of Slayer, here are a band for the genuine metalheads in search of something a bit different. INVASION (Now Music Stage) are like Chrome Hoof without the glitz, glam, disco and platform shoes - which figures, given that cowled vocalist Chantal Brown used to be one of their number, as well as fronting one-time Darkness support act Do Me Bad Things. Backing her strident Motown stylings in Invasion are guitarist Marek Steven, who worships at the altar of Iommi, and feisty drummer Zel, whose insistence on stripping down to her bra effectively prohibits the gentlemen among us from taking any photographs for fear of being frowned upon. A righteous racket, and the first thing to genuinely grab us by the lapels.

On the subject of photos, a goon from festival sponsors Converse wanders around snapping pics of punters - all the while sporting a pair of Reeboks. Strange to think that the most corporate festival I'll go to all year - Converse and Kopparberg branding everywhere - is being headlined by Fucked Up...

VIC GODARD & SUBWAY SECT (Main Stage) are that rarest of things: an old-school punk band who HAVEN'T reformed at the behest of an ATP curator for a late-night appearance on Butlins Minehead's Centre Stage. The reason they haven't been asked, though, is that they're both as safe as houses and pretty darned awful. The only band other than the Sex Pistols to emerge with much credit from Jon Savage's England's Dreaming amble along like weary methed-up tramps sticking the boot into Dexys Midnight Runners.

Far more focused are SHARKS (New Bands Stage), who, when it comes to the Indie Big Time, are clearly intent on going in for the kill but whose songs are too toothless to leave much impression. I find myself transfixed by the guitarist's tie-pin - it's not attached to his shirt and so purely decorative. Still, not as daft as the bloke we pass soon afterwards: Clint Boon's bowl haircut, black wifebeater with Bundeswehr logo, flannel shorts worn around the waist Cowell-style, socks and brogues. Fucking hell, Nathan Barley really didn't go far enough, did it?

By comparison, Brooklyn duo VON HAZE (Now Music Stage) are significantly less of a spectacle, but - it soon becomes apparent - very definitely worthy of investigation on record. Shoegazery drones are channelled into something sinister and foreboding (call it goth if you must), the result akin to being stalked by a zombified Beach House in search of a good meal. Sod destroying the head or removing the brain - I'm paralysed.

OK, time for a spot of mood lightening. MARIA & THE MIRRORS (New Bands Stage)? A 60s-influenced soul band - just the ticket. Except they're not. Oh no, they're a painfully arch art school project that's been allowed to fester out of control - a car-crash of New Romantic fashion, tribal drumming, electronic scree, blank-faced 'Addicted To Love' dancing and crass exhibitionism (flagrant tit-jiggling, if you want to dispense with the euphemisms). When the power cuts off (blessed relief!), one of the drummers looks as though she's about to cry. Note to self: best avoid Thrush Metal (aka Alice Dellal and her spoilt-little-rich-girl model/socialite friends playing at being the Slits)...

S.C.U.M. (Main Stage) may have the right alleged influences (Suicide, The Birthday Party) and the right connections (keyboardist Samuel Kilcoyne's dad is Barry 7 of Add N To X, bassist Huw Webb's brother is in the Horrors), but their docile post-punk fails to deliver on the confrontational promise of their moniker. A good thing that A GRAVE WITH NO NAME (Now Music Stage) don't deliver on theirs - teenybopper goths, nothankyou - and instead conjure up impressions of Dinosaur Jr or Guided By Voices covering Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque, but the brevity of their songs and set means they never truly seem to get going.

Hurrah, then, for Skif-endorsed master insurrectionists THE PRE NEW (New Music Stage), whose besuited frontman Jim Fry - brother of ABC's Martin, unbelievably - announces his arrival on stage by removing all the coloured filters from the lights and frisbeeing them into the crowd, before swinging on the lighting rig and swaggering about like a drunken father of the bride spoiling for a punch-up with a member of the groom's family. In their previous incarnation Earl Brutus, Shinya Hayashida's sole role was to stand onstage drinking and smoking - now he appears to have been handed bass duties, though it's not clear whether it cutting out repeatedly is accident or design. Two Earl Brutus numbers end a chaotic set, the disgruntled stage manager switching off the mics. And there you have it: the elder statesmen needed barely twenty minutes to show all the festival's pretenders and poseurs How To Do Rock 'N' Roll Properly. One fancies Nick Sanderson may just be looking down and smiling.

And now a word of advice for Akiko Matsuura: ditch your moonlighting on drums for dullards The Big Pink and concentrate on your day job - that day job being the focal point of COMANECHI (Now Music Stage). The duo - completed by guitarist Simon Petrovich, whose face is permanently veiled behind hair - sound like a horny Karen O and a horny Satomi Matsuzaki racing Sonic Youth-shaped bulldozers into your face. I suspect that they might be even better in a confined space - but then the bow on Matsuura's head might not fit through the door.

One thing's for certain, though: 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' should never, ever be performed by a man in a white T-shirt and desert camouflage shorts. While an Old Hooky beer would have been welcome respite from the overpriced lager, OLD HOOKY (Main Stage) the man is most definitely not when he's intent on butchering Unknown Pleasures and thereby discharging a mighty racehorse-length piss from a great height onto Ian Curtis' grave.

One restorative organic burger later (five quid exceedingly well spent) and we're back in front of the Main Stage, where all eyes - including those of The XX's Oliver Sim, Fucked Up's Pink Eyes, Vivian Girls and Glen Matlock, wandering about with a carrier bag that I speculate contains a four-pack, 20 fags and a Pot Noodle - are on WAVVES' Nathan Williams. Williams notoriously suffered a drink-'n'-drugs induced onstage breakdown at last year's Primavera, and if I didn't know better I'd think the stage crew are trying to bring on another one. One song is halted when he thinks the soundman is waving at him ("We're not rude, we wave back - that's why we're called Wavves") and another is interrupted by the soundman chuntering on in his monitor. To add insult to injury, the stage manager - the same beleaguered jobsworth who was outflanked by The Pre New - tries to cut them off after barely 25 minutes, and when the band - understandably annoyed - don't comply Williams receives a stern, headmasterly talking-to. There's some music too, 'I'm So Bored' and 'Beach Demon' pleasingly resembling The Vines playing Beach Boys covers in an echo chamber.

The heated and fractious relationship between performers and crew comes to a head when ROLO TOMASSI set about finishing the job The Pre New started: destroying the New Bands Stage. Skilfully deploying the art of innocent disguise, the Sheffield quintet are a rabid, shape-shifting post-hardcore assault whose next move is impossible to second-guess, as underlined by the fact that second LP Cosmology - described by a friend as "terrifying" - was produced by Diplo. As songs veer off at jaw-droppingly obtuse angles and ongoing microphone issues leave Eva Spence's unholy growl unamplified, a pole-dancing competition ensues, encouraged by the band's offer of a free T-shirt. After a procession of loons scale the central tent pole and drop ten feet onto the heads of those below, two security staff rush in and bundle away one unfortunate punter, his arms pinned behind his back. Stable doors and bolting horses spring to mind, and it doesn't take long before the skydiving recommences.

Talking of things flying through the air, I'm still gutted I missed Bobby Gillespie being hit in the face with a full pint at the My Bloody Valentine-curated ATP. No projectiles for him today, though there should be - THE SILVER MACHINE (Main Stage), his side-project supergroup with Glen Matlock, Zak "son of Ringo" Starkey (of The Who) and Andrew Innes, look like Kasabian and manage to render classic rock 'n' roll songs by the likes of The MC5 and The Troggs banal and boring. VIVIAN GIRLS (Now Music Stage), meanwhile, are actually more competent than I'd been expecting (both in time and in tune) and pleasant enough in a jangly Pains Of Being Pure At Heart kind of way, but not really what I'm looking for.

No, what I'm looking for is unapologetic punk rock and a man who crushes a metal can into his forehead until it bleeds, announcing with a mischievous grin: "Don't worry, I'm clean - or am I?" Hello FUCKED UP (Main Stage), you'll fit the bill. Pink Eyes is soon satisfying his wanderlust, out and about in the crowd where people gripping the mic cable rather than lifting it up hint at the prospect of a tug-of-war situation developing. There are shout-outs to Wavves, Comanechi and Vivian Girls, and also Rolo Tomassi with whom they're set to play a no-longer-secret afterparty show at the Macbeth. An endurance test? Pfft. All in a day's work for a band who launched The Chemistry Of Common Life with a 12-hour gig in a Brooklyn record shop.

And there's still time for one more: androgynous, psychedelic, Japanese-via-London weirdos BO NINGEN (New Bands Stage). Krautrock dons some sparkly flared slacks, lets its hair down and wigs out to Black Sabbath, and a howling guitar ends up on the lighting rig. Job's a good 'un.

So, the verdict. On the rap sheet we have the generally poor sound mix (though the Now Music Stage was largely decent), the bad stage management (either over-officious or ineffectual), the heavy-handed security, being held to ransom by brands, and my fellow festival-goers and their ludicrous fashions (though Team later squeals on Facebook that it "was like a catwalk in a field. Best dressed fest ever!" - so that's me told)...

But (and this is obviously thanks to the heavyweight sponsoring) the tickets were an extraordinarily low £20 - at that price, I can't really have any complaints. It costs me £25 to get a cab home from the train station back in Oxfordshire...

1 comment:

skif said...

Think I can agree with pretty much all of that.

"swinging on the lighting rig and swaggering about like a drunken father of the bride spoiling for a punch-up with a member of the groom's family"

Oh aye! Like it.