Visions Festival is dotted all along and just off Mare Street in London Fields, taking about 30 minutes to walk its full 1.5 miles. What better place to have a festival than here; for the local folk of London Fields to be able to move from their Saturday afternoon picnics in the park and just walk across the road to see a phenomenal line-up of artists – the hottest, if not newest bands around. It sounds like hipster heaven, except the first group of people we come across look like they just got lost on their way to Henley Regatta as they sit sipping from their cocktail glasses and zipping up their floaty dresses.
Despite obvious geographical obstacles we grab ourselves an Estrella beer and take our first trek to St John’s Church in Hackney to catch a glimpse of the fruity and quirky world of Jens Leckman, turning up with just himself and a small Spanish guitar and we are treated to some acoustic tones, sitting in the balcony pews. They are both lulling and soothing, marred only by the church acoustics, we move quickly downstairs as he hits the laptop and backing tracks, introducing ‘A Postcard to Nina’ which is all about regret and the right to love whoever. This breaks smoothly into ‘Your Arms Around Me’, expertly hyphenated by a sample from Chairmen of the Board‘s ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’ and the audience lights up, dancing wildly while beardy philosophical types listen attentively to the lyrics; Jens plays glockenspiel from his laptop with imaginary chimes plucked from the air. The set is as hypnotic as it is difficult to make it to the next venue; his delivery is gentle, compassionate and tender. The vocals are open and brave as he shares his experiences of everyday delicate situations; cutting into an avocado will never be the same.
We find ourselves back at the Moth Club, a grungy, old, broken down venue; it’s a bit like a worn-out and cozy front room. Elizabeth Bernholz, under the stage name of Gazelle Twin, appears on stage alongside her fellow composer who attends to the samples and sound machine. Both dressed in hoodies, she wears a transparent rubber mask, her face blurred like a photoshopped version of herself, she jumps from side to side. Her vocals are like Liz Frazer fronting This Mortal Coil, ripping through the audience, surreal and tense as she seeks to reconcile her duality presented on stage; as the agnostic mind and body become one. Gazelle Twin flickers like a chrome photograph in a carousel glittering animation amidst trickling beats; audience bobbing their heads wildly accompanied by a mix of grunge and art electronica.
Next, a quick bus ride to Oval Space for some electronic disco beats with Shamir. On arrival the crowd is dancing already, together in the spirit of a shimmering, uplifting offering that is Shamir, the new signing to XL Records showcases his recently released debut album On the Ratchet. Tonight he wears an orange and yellow Paisley shirt with just one balloon tied to his back, like an illustration with a bold cut. These disco carnival tracks have everyone uplifted and brought to a stand still in the more soulful moments, as they pause quietly and attentively to the track ‘Darker’ singing “Harder to contain the truth” over and over again; words moving deep from inside as they are sipped out by the air. The crowd cheers and for a brief moment he pauses in humble acceptance to take it all in. Moving back into a soulful electronic party groove, with the mesmerising ‘On the Regular’, his vocals disappear momentarily as the mic was turned down so low to accommodate the immense sounds; the audience immerses themselves, dancing across the whole space as drum machines and synths are unleashed.
Back to the Moth House and on the way in, a guy leaving warns me not to enter. Ho99o9 are in full-blown mayhem; beats pelting as they jump around the stage with the audience hanging from the ceiling or diving onto the stage and back into the mosh pit. The Moth Club is alive and kicking as these two extraordinary hip-hop punk rap artists from LA seize the stage, with tracks from their recent EP Horrors of 1999. Bombarding words, noise and sounds hit at the audience with plasma style groans, electronic effects and wailing background screams; apocalyptic and otherworldly.
A stellar line-up of a festival, for each band you see you will be missing another amazing act. The only disappointment is not being able to get between all the venues fast enough. By the end of the night, there were increasingly limping bodies, as if victims of the Walking Dead were still trying to make it to the next venue. Perhaps Visions could design their own brand of walking stick, buggy or scooter to make it a bit easier on the diehard festival goers.
Check out GIITTV’s 10 Best Metropolitan Festivals 2015.
Photo credit: Estrella Galicia.