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When I discovered that one of the UK's most trend-setting lifestyle magazines was putting on a mini festival in swanky Shoreditch, I was a little intrigued. Then I read that Dazed & Confused had organised a day of eye-opening exhibitions, talks by forward thinking speakers and the cream of underground music to delight the savviest of audiophiles; it sounded like my perfect festival. What I actually encountered was the opposite. My personal nightmare might have been a little of my own doing, but the disinterested crowd and terrible musical set-up did very little to lighten my mood. The real fun was had in what I can only describe as Joan Collins' shag pad, watching Next catalogue models dancing degradingly to Britney. Unfortunately that wasnt part of the festival.
I can't write this review without being completely honest about my whole experience. During my travels to the venue I lost my Oyster card, and shortly after I also lost my purse. A few missed buses and frantic phone calls later, I arrived at The Tramshed already broken. I had already missed most of the talks led by 'inspiring' under 35's, such as the political activist Laurie Penny, fashion filmmaker Ruth Hogben & data moulder Arron Koblin of Google Creative labs. A friend who had wisely arrived much earlier informed me that most of the talks were interesting, but poorly attended due to the face and fashion spotting outside. Sun 1 Dazed 0.
Determined not to let my bad luck spoil any more of my day, I set about investigating what the arts had to offer. The highlight by far was a large selection of self-published fanzines celebrating city life, lovingly collected by Jotta; they cried out for a slow perusing. The supposed centrepiece of this particular exhibition was a data visualisation console, showcasing a selection of hash-tagged London tweets, which were difficult to read not only because of the cloudy display, but the pure vanity of tweeters obsessed with leopard print leggings.
Other displays included some ravetastic prisms and a garish photo booth courtesy of Cassette Playa and Levi's, Kathy Grayson's zeitgeisting postermat exhibition, and the Mix Cloud boys producing a radio show under the cover of scaffold poles and broken TVs disguised as a specially commissioned installation. The cultural efforts, like the rest of the festival, were overambitious and instantly forgettable.
If the arts were the so-so sideshow then the main event should have pulled it out of the bag. The music started in a boiling XOYO at the branded time of 5.01 (the ad exec who thought that up must have been beaming with pride) withHuw Stephens presenting and trying to interview bands to a shit-chatting crowd. One of the best performances of this session, and for me that evening, was from Austra, a Canadian band with a drummer who must have blistered in front of the Levi's lights. Described on Twitter as a spring collection Zola Jesus supported by Michael Bolton, I felt the synthtastic songs were catchier, dancier, and packed more a moody and atmospheric punch than her American counterpart. I was not so sure about the sexually regurgitating bandmate on keys, wearing denim short shorts. And ripped gussets. Pwoar.
Slowly a hipstamatic crowd were forming in Village Underground as the headliners started to kick off the main event. The venue was much cooler, but not well equipped for the evening. Most of the bands had technical difficulties, which led to the schedule running an hour behind, with many performances full of audio feedback. About Group kicked off the proceedings: Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip and John Coxton of Spiritualised were very good at looking and sounding like the improvisational jazz band your Dad wished he started with his mates in his garage.
Factory Floor, one of the bands I was hyped about, only highlighted the problems with the set up, producing a violently deafening wall of sound that was painful to listen to and impossible to enjoy. Darkstar too wrestled with the complications of their equipment to disappointing results; the bass echoed into the vacuous space, drowning any hint of a melody and atmosphere that made their album North such a hit. By the time Gang Gang Dance were due to hit the stage I couldn't bear any more disappointment, and went to seek solace in a cocktail glass elsewhere hence the Joan Collins.
The DJs had a much better time as the set-up was created with them in mind. The first act to be seen actually enjoying themselves were Black Devil Disco Club, whose flamboyant prancing proved infectious and got at least a quarter of the crowd moving. Heading back to XOYO to check out Actress, and Caribou doing DJ sets, both very respected acts, I found they were playing to practically empty rooms. SBTRKT hopefully put on a show for the three of them, but I expect the crowd didn't even care. And neither did I.
Dazed Live have tried very hard to be the festival to be seen at. Unfortunately for the performing artists, they were also seen but not heard, decently at least. The crowd were far too busy being cool that they forgot to have any fun, and the whole event left me drained, not inspired. Dazed & Confused? More like Fazed & Bemused.