Monday 26 July 2010

1-2-3-4 Festival, Shoreditch Park 24 July 2010

Von Haze by Drew Cox

I’m standing in the dry grass dustbowl that is Shoreditch Park. I’m watching three drummers and a phalanx of guitarists bash and thrash their way through a series of tunes. This is Action Beat, the self-styled ‘Noise Band from Bletchley”. We are here for the 1-2-3-4 Shoreditch Festival and sights such as this are eyed with idle contentment by the early crowds lolling in the scrub in front of the main stage.

It turns out to be a long and eventful day during which I catch sets by nearly twenty acts. I can’t detail them all, but there were memorable and noteworthy performances and incidents including:-

Trailer Trash Tracys’ wistful sighs on the main stage in mid afternoon. A band much more suited to the wee small hours in the morning but somehow pleasingly gentle and soporific here.

They were followed by Vic Godard and the Subway Sect, a band much concerned with developments in the affairs of the Royal Mail and the first of a number of bands here today who seem aimed at the more ‘mature’ festival goer. I park the more senior members of our team here and wander off to catch complete sets of great quality from Mazes and Sharks. On my return, Vic and co are still happily rambling on.

Soon after, I catch what turns out to be my favourite band of the day, the deceptively languid Von Haze. Travis Caine and Katherine Kin gradually draw a rapt crowd for their incredibly glacial take on shimmer-pop. The duo’s swathes of guitar, synth and barely audible vocals seemingly never go faster than 15RPM the whole while. And yet they are mesmerising, their very minimal sound focussing concentration until there is nothing else in the world except us and Von Haze. It’s an impressive trick.

Later, I enjoy the excessively rowdy Comanechi, with drummer/singer Akiko battering and screaming her way through a rambunctious set from beneath an enormous hair bow/hat that almost obscures her. In what proves to be a foretaste of things to come they have difficulties with their sound and refer to a ‘row’ with stage hands.

I join the hordes in front of the main stage for Peter Hook and his extended family playing Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in its entirety. This starts off a bit ramshackle, but gradually becomes absurdly affecting. Hooky takes over most of the vocal chores himself, although this means that others have to take on bass guitar duties as he is unable to play and sing at the same time.

His enthusiasm occasionally carries him away, and there is a lot of arm windmilling and “make some noise Shoreditch”. But it works very well, mainly because the songs themselves are so strong. When Hook can’t cope with ‘Insight’ and ‘New Dawn fades’, Rowetta (Black Grape etc) takes over and her powerful voice really lends itself to this material. They end with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, which Hook dedicates to a young couple who are getting married. Barely a dry eye in the field.

Barely a waste bin either, and by the early evening the crowd is wandering across an apocalyptic landscape of scorched earth and metal cans. The entire area resembles the opening scenes of Wall-E.

Leaving an underpowered Wavves to flounder on the main stage, I sneak off to see Rolo Tomassi in the smallest tent on site. It is packed solid and so hot that you can barely see for sweat in your eyes. And not your own sweat either.

Rolo Tomassi are an unclassifiable beast that shouldn’t work at all, but just gloriously and riotously do. A combination of thrash metal screaming and grunting, prog rock keyboards and musical fannying about they are for once upstaged by their own audience. Goaded from the stage, various youngsters shin up the main tent stanchion and tombstone down upon their mates below - who mostly catch them. It is reckless, stupid and totally exhilarating.

Exhausted, I take in the final moments of Vivian Girls and do my best to ignore the indulgent karaoke bawlings of The Silver Machine, which is a Bobby Gillespie vanity project and yet another excuse for him to rub up against his icons (in this case Glen Matlock and Zak Starkey) in the anticipation that some of their cache will transfer to him.

I am looking forward to seeing how These New Puritans can transfer their ambitious brass and drum based album ‘Hidden’ to a concert stage. The lights go down, the band comes on and…phut! All sound disappears, along with most of the power in the tent. There is a further fifteen minutes of prodding around in the dark and a second attempt. This goes phut even quicker than their first try. It’s a cataclysmic breakdown and not one that can be resolved.

Apart from this setback, it’s been a terrific day and the organisers can generally be well satisfied with themselves. I join the throngs heading out into Hoxton and beyond.


Keith Knight said...

Ah, but if only you'd been there for Maria and the Mirrors assault on all the senses -

Wyldman said...

Maria and The Mirrors are indeed very fine. Unfortunately they clashed with Von Haze and by the time that had finished there were lots of puzzled people leaving the MaTM tent.