Quite fresh from last August’s Visions, London’s Hackney offered another multi-venue all-dayer festival on Saturday, October 28th. Affordable tickets an incredible lineup and the idea of spending a typical Saturday afternoon in Autumn wandering between the corners of Hackney were enough to convince me to be part of it. I’m lying, of course: Pinegrove as headliners in St John at Hackney played as the biggest temptation.
Here is a short story, of what I saw amongst the brilliant names the festival had to offer. And here are my thoughts, as usual, with no disappointments and a lot of great feelings. All of this has been my MIЯRORS 2017.
Peter Oren | Paper Dress Vintage
Hackney’s vintage clothing boutique Paper Dress Vintage has a first floor that looks already packed by the time – with a hot cup of coffee – I make my way into it. Standing, with a big window that looks to the street as a background, is Peter Oren. Singer-songwriter born and raised in Columbus, Indiana, he’s just about to release a new record. His voice is one of the most peculiar I’ve come across lately. Deep and smooth at the same time, Peter’s vocals merge with delicate lyrics throughout a set that highlights the best of his production so far, as well as brand new tunes in anticipation of his nel LP, ‘Anthropocene’. Amongst the few gems, the latest offering, ‘Throw Down’, “a song for people fighting for freedom from oppression everywhere”. Higly recommended.
Aaron Shanley | Paper Dress Vintage
Lirburn’s (Northern Ireland) Aaron Shanley follows up on stage shortly after Oren’s soulful songwriting. Aaron is a singer-songwriter too, and his storytelling reflects on those big questions we all face and try to find an answer to, at some point in life, such as “how to make a decent apology to someone we hurt”. His album, ‘Metal Alligator’, officially released earlier this year through Swallow Song Records, was actually recorded throughout 2015 all DIY by the multi-instrumentalist artist himself. His hallmark is a characteristic and intriguing lo-fi sound that, mixed with dusty, various noises and his electro-acoustic guitar, creates what – at a first impact – reminds me of the oldest Guided By Voices. The setlist goes through the best moments of his studio offering (‘A Decent Apology’, ‘Beautiful Blue (Only You)’), as well as newer and older numbers like the brilliant ‘I Really Really Wish You Were Here’. Right before the closing chapter, ‘You’re Intergalactic’, which marks the end of the set.
Boy Azooga| Moth Club
Mid-afternoon: time for a beer. The way to Moth Club, iconic venue in the heart of the most underground layer side of the city, is a melting pot of people, colours, and different accents. London is clearly buzzing, on what is the characteristic weekend… rush hour. Moth is one of a kind, with its ceiling decorated with golden glitter, its carpets, and a warning sign one one of its walls: “Children must be off the dancefloor by 9.30PM”. Ok, mum.
Another unknown act (to me, and to my friend Iñigo at least) are Boy Azooga from Cardiff. They look scruffy enough to impersonate the typical psych-pop act. They are something more than a surprise, because they bring on stage exuberance, personality and some damn good guitar riffs that are blended with joyful atmospheres and changes of directions (musically speaking) that set us aback. Lush.
Gold Connections | Moth Club
Boy Azooga’s noise is still in the air, when Will Marsh and his Gold Connections appear on stage. The Williamsburg-based outfit was in my list of “must see”, if nothing else for his very brief appearance as Car Seat Headrest’s guitarist and his much longer-lasting professional relationship with Will Toledo (also a drummer for Marsh’s band), who admitted Gold Connections’ sound played a crucial part to inspire him writing and composing that masterpiece titled ‘Teens Of Denial’.
The outfit are as I expected them to be: lyrically sharp, musically smart, handling the audience with a set that reaches its climax with ‘Isabel’, ending tune over seven minutes of length that unfolds all the intricacies of Gold Connections’ sound and their incisive approach to songwriting. Needless to say, they are “ones to watch”, from a very close angle, as 2018 will probably feature them on its cover.
Ultimate Painting | St John at Hackney
When I step into St John, the church is full already, and I can clearly see how much attention singer-guitarists Jack Cooper and James Hoare, co-frontmen of Ultimate Painting, have been able to generate in their first three years as a band. The band is well into its set, when I approach the stage, and their guitar-driven (lo-fi) indie rock sounds like it’s coming out of a bedroom. Bangers from their debut self-titled record and from the latest studio offering – 2016’s ‘Dusk’ – alternate in a second part of set that showcases the band’s empathy and catchier sides. Theirs is music that reacts “against modern life”, after all.
Los Campesinos! | St John at Hackney
When it’s finally prime time, St John is packed and I find myself with well in the mood, besides my friend, and ready for a much-awaited Los Campesinos!’ gig. The seven-piece from Cardiff released a new album earlier this year and frontman Gareth doesn’t teases the audience about that quite early into his set, to call out for “geeky music journalists” and expressing his wishes to see ‘Sick Scenes’ included in some top tens/twenties/thirties at the end of the year. The atmosphere between the the walls of the church becomes soon explosive, and the crowd is totally captured by a band who are able to transform a gig into a wild party. The sound system is not too loyal to the outfit, and from time to time Gareth’s voice gets a bit lost in a sea of distorted guitar riffs. Fear not, Los Campesinos! know how to create the right amount of fun, regardless.
Pinegrove | St John at Hackney
It’s clear that most of the people standing in front of the stage have been waiting the entire day for Pinegrove to show up. I don’t blame them, because despite my natural (and geeky) interest for the unknown and hidden gems the indie scene has to offer nowadays, I have had Evan Stephens Hall’s steady in my playlists at least for the last 18 months. Having the chance to see them headlining such a well crafted festival adds to the general quality of the day, and I guess I am the only who is thinking in this way, when the band – already on stage for a creative soundcheck – starts playing their music.
Beautifully complicated, Pinegrove incarnate what is, in my humble opinion, the modern take of an indie/emo band. It’s introspective, exquisite songwritingwhat I am talking about, combined with a sound that perfectly matches a sunny afternoon in Autumn. Colours are those of falling leaves and the crispy air anticipates what could be a cold winter. ‘Cadmium’, ‘Problems’, ‘Size Of The Moon’ flow one after another and Pinegrove’s live set grows without imperfections. There’s not a single bit that wouldn’t be worth re-listening. Evan reaches his peaks with ‘New Friends’ and the haunting ‘Aphasia’, right before the beautiful closing track. It’s a cover of Carole King’s ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’, and it makes the walls of St John vibrate, whilst the crowd sings along.