1234 Festival - Shoreditch, London - 1/9/2012 5

1234 Festival – Shoreditch, London – 1/9/2012

Last Saturday saw 1234 occupy East London’s Shoreditch Park for arguable the hippest festival of the year. The line up for 1234 is infamously non-mainstream and encourages the artistic and experimental side towards music, which is much needed amongst today’s cultural generation of V Festival/Wireless drudgery.

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1234 Shoreditch

The first act of the day that I caught were Drop Out Venus, who kicked off proceedings on the main stage. They adopt a purist and direct approach to their brand of grungy rock ‘n’ roll – embracing scrappiness and a DIY attitude towards song-writing. The female fronted trio create a wash of cymbal crashes and overdriven guitars underneath sexy, snarling vocals. From what I tried to decipher throughout the performance the lyrics are cryptic, dark and confusing, which leave you with an enticing curiosity to scope out the band further.

Shortly after I wondered over to the tent to see La Femme. This band had already won over my heart after I saw them at The Great Escape earlier on in the year. However, what had started as a crush has now transfixed into obsession. The French 6-piece create irresistibly danceable and up-tempo 1960’s surf-pop that draws an additional influence to synthesised experimentalism and elongated krautrock-esque instrumental sections. There is also a welcomed French identity to their music, which is strengthened by their decision to sing their native language. Along with their intentionally moody, yet undeniably cool stage presence, I genuinely do not understand why La Femme are not galactically popular yet.

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La Femme

I had been an admirer of Porcelain Raft’s recorded work prior to the festival and after experiencing their live performance I was rather surprised. The music is very chilled and spacey with a strong emphasis on dreamy electronics that can cradle you into a lullaby. The live execution is heavily reliant on the backing track, but delivered a very tidy and impressive manner. It also became clear that Porcelain Raft was a solo project, but was accompanied in a live format by the drummer from Yuck, whose immaculately maintained afro hairstyle is defiantly recognisable.

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Porcelain Raft

Gabriel Bruce is ridiculous. I mean this in the best possible sense of the word. It’s ever-increasingly rare that you can see such a level of character and personality omitted on stage. The easiest way to describe Gabriel is that he sings in a low Nick Cave-esque baritone, but with a camp, theatrical flamboyancy that draws parallels to Patrick Wolf. Solely accompanied on stage by two female backing singers wearing 1920’s style ‘flapper’ dresses and practising synchronised dance moves, his stage presence is brilliant to watch and rigorously entertaining overall.

All was going swimmingly until an air of disappointment struck for Dirty Beaches. ‘Badlands’ remains to be one of my favourite albums of the last few years and I had seen them in London just a few months ago and their performance was nothing shy of incredible. Today was different. They have re-jigged their live setup in a more complex way that incorporates less guitars freakouts, which had previously been breathtaking to witness. They also played a lot of new material where several new sounds were thrown in the melting pot, but it doesn’t really feel contingent. I couldn’t really fathom how they had completely changed their live delivery in such a short amount of time and this new phase of Dirty Beaches seems a little underprepared, uncertain and overcomplicated.

Bo Ningan. WOW. The androgynously dressed Japanese psych-rockers are one of the best live bands I have ever seen. I’m sure everyone in the tent at 1234 would not beg to differ. It is a non-stop onslaught of noise and simply a great spectacle to observe. It is truly astonishing how a band a rock out to Bo Ningan’s expert magnitude can provide a performance that is flawlessly executed musically – organised chaos. At the point of writing this it seems foolish to even try to describe what they do, you just have to experience it yourself. I’ve seen them play quite a few times over the years and they are dependably phenomenal and never cease to amaze. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

With everyone’s jaws well and truly dropped, Bo Ningan are certainly a hard act to follow, however Savages stood up to the challenge and retained the feeling of awe under the canopy. London’s all girl post-punks have been one of the most talked about emerging bands this year and they havn’t shied away from admitting that live performance is the most important attribute towards the concept of Savages – this makes complete sense. The bass and drums lock in together tightly and provide a sturdy foundation for which guitarist, Gemma Thompson, and vocalist, Jehnny Beth, have free reign to implement their own creativity. Savages artfully toy with dynamics, which is extended further by Jehnny’s intense glares and sharp stage presence, which hauntingly resembles the reincarnation of a young, female Ian Curtis.

I then strolled outside for a well-deserved breath of fresh air and watched Buzzcocks show the kiddies how it’s done. Playing a hit parade of their classic punk anthems, it really puts in context what an influence and effect that they and their past punk contemporaries from the 70’s have had upon all of the other bands listed at this festival. Obvious highlights came from ‘Even Fallen In Love’ and ‘Orgasm Addict’ and a feeling over unanimous mutual respect was in the atmosphere; the old and young sharing the same outlook, ethos and spirit with one another, despite being born decades apart.

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It was now time to leave the festival site and hit up some of the after-parties, so I went to 333 to catch Dead Wolf Club. Starting their set on a loud note, I noticed that the drummer was battering the skins and cymbals to within an inch of their lives, whilst furiously head-banging long locks of jet-black hair around. This immediately reminded me of Dave Grohl from the early days of Nirvana. Then the song finished, the drummer looked up, and, much to my surprise, it was a GIRL, which is obviously ridiculously attractive. Dead Wolf Club’s material is energetic and punky, but with pop song structures and sensibilities -a nice little nightcap for what was an altogether great day!

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