I'll be your Mirror returns with a complete shake-up on last year's formula

I'll Be Your Mirror 2012 review

published: Wed 30th May 2012

around the festival site (2)

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th May 2012
Alexandra Palace, London, N22 7AY, England MAP
£130 for the weekend
daily capacity: 10400
last updated: Wed 16th May 2012

ATP's, I'll be your Mirror returns again to Ali Pally with a complete shake-up on last year's formula. The diverse curation by Portishead over two days, replaced by three days of somewhat nostalgic rock music. From a metal Friday, post-rock Saturday to alt-soul Sunday. I bet Slayer, Mogwai and the Afghan Whigs never expected to co-headline a festival.

On the first day seeing Slayer was the main event. 'Reign in Blood' from beginning to end is something not to miss. After playing more recent tunes to warm up, the backing banner dropped to reveal the iconic album cover behind. Unrivalled ferocity from beginning to end, 30 minutes of anger spat out like bullets. Shredding through the two-minute songs, 'Criminally Insane', 'Reborn', 'Epidemic' and finishing up with 'Raining Blood', spectacular. Despite Jeff Hanneman's continuing illness, Gary Holt standing in didn't affect things except for purists or nostalgia seekers.

Sleep's downtempo heaviness proved to be perfect before Slayer. Not fighting for speed they held their own on power. Every growl sounded true, fringed with spatters of feedback tempered precisely. If deafening the great hall of Alexandra Palace was their plan, they succeeded. They may have converted some die hard thrash fans to their style but im not sure.

Trying to see Wolves in the Throne Room was difficult through the billowing dry-ice. The dark atmosphere in the west hall suited the band well, masked from the blinding sun outside. The only place in London where a vampire would have felt comfortable... Though they were overshadowed by the headliners along with Yob, and Melvins.

The first full day on Saturday had to compete with the heat. Sweating inside or out there was a fairly even split. Just all the music was inside, unlike the beer. The bizarre Antoni Maiovvi started my day with techno and despair. Not sure I fully followed but it certainly woke me up.

Chavez, Codeine, and Mudhoney fitted the bill perfectly together. A perfect slice of melancholy Americana with a shoutout to Sub-pop. If you haven't left the 90's then you're in the right place. The crisp, clean licks of Chavez, followed by the haunting vocals of Codeine, finished off with fuzzed up Mudhoney. Touch me I'm sick.

Warren Ellis' Dirty Three added some fire to the stage. Opening the set with a song dedicated to Bono's enema even had the security chuckling. Attacking his violin with a howl Warren whirled like a dervish, beard flying, kicking his leg in the air with more energy than someone half his age. It was a good day, and there was nothing else like them on the stage.

Unsure what to expect from headliners Mogwai after their generally downbeat day I was surprised. The audio visual was so loud and bright that all other senses disappeared. If you stayed in the room for too long without earplugs then your hearing would be on its way out too. If ever there was an advert for tinnitus awareness, Mogwai should be centre page. The nearest comparison I have would be Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who opened the Sunday last year. Sadly, Mogwai didn't keep me quite as entranced, partly due to the almost painful volume, even with earplugs firmly in, stood at the back of the hall.


Unusually for England the most consistent thing was the weather. Sunday rolled around to clear blue skies and it seemed even more people were favoring the sunshine. The panorama room was a nice place to rest. Tall Firs sound-tracked this perfectly with a very horizontal audience. In fact, Sleepy Sun summed up the day with just their name.

The Make Up
The only band to really shake me out of my Sunday doze was The Make-Up. Gospel from the heart of New York with Ian Svenonius as our Minister for the day. Climbing into the audience with a single white light picking him out he preached lyrics with a cracking spoken word delivery. Organ Chords punctuated by smooth bass backed up the words with an organic flow. With little energy left for The Afghan Whigs, I called it a day.

Overall I'll be your mirror is a great concept of bringing unusual acts to unusual venues and hearing something that opens your ears to something new; for me that was The Make-up. But losing headliners Guided By Voices and the unfortunate last minute drop-out of El-P meant some momentum was lost on the Sunday. The popularity of Slayer also dominated the whole weekend leading to two of the headliners playing to a room half the size as the other. Unusual, yes, but it didn't detract from the experience. In fact Mogwai's all-encompassing show might have lost some of its effect in the Great Hall. If taking a bit of a risk and seeing new / different music to your norm then ATP always make it work. It might stretch the budget compared to other 'city' festivals but it usually pays off. I look forward to whats pulled out of the bag next year.
review by: Chris Mathews

photos by: Chris Mathews

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th May 2012
Alexandra Palace, London, N22 7AY, England MAP
£130 for the weekend
daily capacity: 10400
last updated: Wed 16th May 2012

latest on this festival

I'll Be Your Mirror
festival home page
last updated: Tue 1st Sep 2015
I Will Be Your Mirror 2013
photo galleries
last updated: Tue 7th May 2013
I'll Be Your Mirror 2013
festival details
last updated: Tue 16th Apr 2013