London Airwaves 2008

"Is anybody else coming to Iceland then?" the Young Knives enquire. "No? Just us then. We'll send you a fucking postcard."

Yes, most of the bands at London Airwaves are here because a trip to the far more alluring surroundings of Reykjavík in October is part of the package. Most of the crowd are here because it's Friday night in east London, and this is what you do on Friday night in east London. It seems there have been more one-day festivals popping up this summer than there have been hot days, with most sinking under the radar. But thanks to the association of this one with its big Icelandic brother, plus a slightly less indie-only feel than many others, it's crept into the consciousness of a fair few gathered in Shoreditch tonight.

Having tracked down a pub to pick up some passes, a wander around to take in the atmosphere of the event seems in order. Generally, it feels like Brick Lane often does at night; vibrant, dirty and filled with people rushing around with little purpose other than to look lover-ly and get to the next bar. There are burlesque dancers lining the streets and hordes of kids drinking nonchalantly on the street, but not much sign of a festival going on until inside the various pubs acting as venues.

Thankfully the wristband-based queuing nightmares of the likes of Camden Crawl are avoided here and it's refreshingly straightforward, bar a power-crazed bouncer, to get into Vibe. It soon becomes clear that the main reason for the lack of a backlog is that nobody is bothering to go out until the small hours. These New Puritans are on stage, churning out their surprisingly fashionable electro-by-numbers. Blessed with a charismatic singer in Jack Barnett, complete with a chain mail outfit, they entertain those here early – 10.30pm – with a brisk set of laptop driven rock. It's catchy, but all a bit harmless. When talk in the crowd turns to admiration for the singer's trainers (remember the ones you had at primary school that flash red when you walk? You got a free pair of shinpads with them signed by Alan Hansen sometimes) it is clear apathy is setting in.

The Young Knives are on next though; probably the festival's biggest draw in terms of profile. As irreverent and sweaty as ever, they take to the stage and promptly declare it, flippantly, the House of Lords' favourite haunt. Soon the darting, driving rhythm of 'Terra Firma' is thrilling the considerably swelled audience, with the gap between stage and crowd disappearing. However, it still feels a bit half-hearted. This isn't The Young Knives' arena and they know it. When they make a remark about it being "a bad night to wear a woollen suit" because of the heat, they peer back at a crowd that would undoubtedly wear a dozen layers if they thought it looked good, regardless of temperature considerations. Nevertheless, they air a new track that doesn't quite sound finished and is all the better for it and entertain in their idiosyncratic way.

A wander across to 93 Feet East beckons, where the numbers really are noticeable. A barbecue outside is attracting attention, but in the back room Cazals have already begun. Their two-pronged guitar attack is abrasive and the likes of 'Somebody Somewhere' are jaunty affairs, sung with the passion to be expected for a home turf gig like this. However, it gets tired quickly, as does the crowd, already thinking of the manic treat that lies ahead.

Sooner than expected, Digitalism take to the DJ booth. Having been fixtures of the electro scene for some time, it's a finely-honed act, ebbing and flowing with heavy beats in the right places, getting the texture between stylish licks and cheesy guffaws just about right. Not that it really matters when there's foam piping sailing across the crowd, people dancing on every table and sweat dripping off their faces. Everyone in here would dance to anything right now, Digitalism's reputation preceding them, making whether they're any good or not rather immaterial. Regardless, it's a fine set, provoking a prolonged stage invasion that never really disperses for the rest of the evening.

Upon leaving around three, the music is still raging, there's all manner of lewd acts going on in the toilet and people are still waiting to get inside. There's even a car park rave continuing as people paw around the street searching for naughtiness and night buses. For a one day festival in London, with all the problems that entails, Airwaves doesn't do too badly. It still just feels like wandering from a typical gig into another decent show. But that's good enough for the rest of the year, so as long as your expectations aren't too high, it's alright here too. But yes, Young Knives, we'd prefer to be in Iceland as well.