hot bands & left field artists perform at the hip 1234
The 1234 Shoreditch Festival review
published: Fri 7th Sep 2012
early bird £15
last updated: Thu 30th Aug 2012
As the summer begins a slow dwindling and the UK festivals dry up, music goers begin to turn their eyes at those closer to home in order to get their fill of bands. In recent years Offset had been the leading example of London-based boutique music events, out in the leafy glades of Essex. Since that fine festival failed to materialise this year, 1234 Shoreditch has surely picked up a fair percentage of its would-have-been crowd. Placed a short walk from Old Street station in Zone 1, you'd struggle to find a more central location for a festival than this. The clientèle is, given the area and the acts on offer, unsurprisingly young and well heeled. Although we're thankfully spared repeated nightmare visions of people wearing Gameboys as chunky necklaces and glasses with no lenses, there does appear to be a current vogue for men. Beards and tattoos are back in a big way, not that they ever went away, of course. But here they're worn as emblems of counter-cultural awareness, showing their bearers as willing to suffer for their look in an earthy, manly fashion. This style is often balanced with a single earring, a subtle reminder that they're in still touch with their feminine side too.
Elsewhere in the arena, signs of normalcy abound. There is an amusement park with a 'death drop' style ride, and some bumper cars are squeezed in next to it. There are a few food vans scattered around, serving the usual fare at reassuringly expensive prices. A Halloumi and mushroom burger is £6, and beer is £4 a bottle, leaving no change from a tenner. So far, so average. Outside the entrance people are kicking back on a small green, drinking ales from local corner shops. For those on a budget, this is the best option by far.
The stages in the arena are not well signposted, and the programme, while containing a lot of very sharp black and white photography, seems to lack a map. This means lot of extra walking around is needed to find your bearings even within a small site. Given the proximity of the stages, there is, predictably, a fair bit of sound bleeding between them. Inside a tent, this isn't a problem, but early on in the day some of the bands on the main stage suffer from a lack of volume to cut through the audible blurring of noise nuzzling in from elsewhere.
The day starts in earnest for us, band wise, with La Femme
on the Rough Trade stage. They pierce the mid afternoon gloom with a French chill of their own, staring into darkness from the stage where they stand still behind a row of synths. They have something to them, but it's hard to nail down quite what it is. There's a deep love of Seventeen Seconds era Cure mixed in with a slightly more palatable New Wave approach thrown in for good measure. They don't go down a storm, but then again, they don't really perform or interact with the crowd either, so they get what they deserve in terms of reaction. Jeff The Brotherhood
, a two piece in the same sort of mould as the Black Keys, don't really get a response either, which is curious. It could be as simple as the crowd not being dense enough to be able to roar approval, and the band seems to know this, offering to play a little bit of Jazz for Children to make the afternoon a little smoother. That comedy concession aside, they do everything right to little avail. The genuinely dismal and unpleasant show that follows from Gabriel Bruce
gets a better response, perhaps because he works the audience like a sleazy suited carney, backing dancers in tow. He appears to be playing to tape, which is, let's face it, simply karaoke. He receives plenty of applause. Obviously we're experiencing a break in the time-space continuum, and it's topsy-turvy world time. Up is now Down, Bad is now Good.
Dismayed by this unsettling turn of events, we leave the festival to seek nourishment somewhere else. A few moments away, we find a curry house offering a sensational deal that feeds two for £6-ish with a drink. Sitting on a bench, eating whilst making eating noises, we reflect again upon the cruelty of a world that would apparently accept a sub-par club singer as being better than those who actually play their own songs live with passion and talent.
That miserable griping seems to do the trick, and by the time we return, Bo Ningen
are smashing / killing / nailing it to a full Rough Trade house. There is some sort of cosmic justice after all, as they get by far the best reception, with their furiously kinetic psych punk impossible for anyone to follow. That Savages
can't is no surprise, as they've had the rug firmly pulled from under them. Despite this, their combined efforts leave a firm enough impression. They have a full albums worth of good material ready to go, but here seem to be playing to a sea of bodies unable to recover from the fizzing mania of Bo Ningen. So they do what they do, and the photographers stay in the pit for the entire set. There's a three song rule in place, but everyone is ignoring it. That's an annoying and disruptive factor if you're on the front line at a show, and something the organizers will have to look at implementing properly the next time around.
The main stage headliners, according to the timetable are Iceage
, but everyone knows it's really Buzzcocks
. They've got it, the energy and the will to play, even thirty five years along the track, and finish with the hits like the senior pros should. Speaking of whom, Minny Pops
, a Dutch act so obscure that they made their last album proper in 1982, are excellent in the Rat Pit tent. You'd give up your seat for them on the bus, but here, in a room full of people who very likely have never heard a note of their minimal wave output, they crackle with the energy of teenagers on Red Bull and uppers. Luckily there's an art house short film première that follows them to take the edge off.
And that's what makes 1234 work. The considerate booking of acts and their careful scheduling is so strong. There are imperfections that perhaps should have been ironed out by now, but show me a perfect festival and I'll show you a liar. For £15, you're in a central location, and have a chance to see several hot bands and left field artists perform to a young and enthusiastic audience. Value wise in London, that's the deal of the decade.
review by: Thomas Perry
early bird £15
last updated: Thu 30th Aug 2012
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