1234 Shoreditch 2007
When fashion and festivals collide
Alex Fahey - 07 August 2007
Rain at festivals? Nah not this season, or so it feels today as I step outside of my flat and into the overbearing heat. I instantly regret my choice of clothes as my skinny black jeans begin to melt into my legs. But, as the saying goes, you have to suffer for fashion and to be quite honest, skinny jeans with accompanying effeminate jewellery and tight t-shirt aside, I still don’t think I’m fashionable enough for trendy Shoreditch.
It’s only when my bus chugs over the Thames I begin to realise I don’t even really know how to get to Shoreditch. Sure, I’ve been before, close enough to felt adequately out of place in my meek Topshop get up, but it was a weekday and the East London line actually ran to Shoreditch. Today, in sweltering summer conditions, the tube only rolls as far as Whitechapel.
A bus replacement service is provided for us to complete the final stage of the journey but it seems to stop in the early afternoon just in case people want to actually get to Shoreditch. Luckily the glassy eyed gentleman next to me provides some outstandingly slurred directions and my journey continues down the bustling Brick Lane.
As the curry houses disappear and the scenesters swan out of super stylish saloons I know I’m here, finally. The hum of cars and bars mask any noise that the festival is creating so I ask a group of über-cool kids for directions: “Shoreditch Park is near Old Street mate. We’re getting a mini cab over there.”
I grab myself one and we rocket through the East End breaking as much of the Highway Code as possible. No pavement is too high to nip up on, no pedestrian too elderly to scare. The driver drops me off just by a church in Old Street as he says that the park is just through the path that runs alongside it. It’s not, he just lied. But as our quest continues we join a group with a map to take us there – they’re lost too.
As we curve around an estate we see and hear the melee of a festival unravel in front of our eyes. We’re all a bit late, but hey we’re fashionably late. And for future reference Shoreditch Park is in Hoxton. Noted.
The site itself isn’t particularly big but it does manage to squeeze four stages around the inflatable alien head stand. I’m not sure what the stand does or sells but it looks tackily good. The main stage is busy for children’s favourite Selfish Cunt who are delivering one of their destructively brilliant and entertaining performances. Lead singer Martin Tomlinson bounds around stage like post-punk counterpart Frank Carter from Gallows but provocatively more aggressive.
As the London fashionistas swagger around the site masked by oversized sunglasses it’s unsurprising to see T4 starlet Miquita Oliver hobnobbing by the ice cream van. Even the ancient Chinese warrior having a boogie at The Whip turns very few heads.
The Xbox Sensitive Youth Stage is tiny, around the size of a garden shed, but it dwarves the nearby dance stage which is thumping out a series of Behemoth electro grooves. Bolt Action Five take to the stage late and announce, “We’re the only sober ones here,” before they ram into their set. Their music epitomises a certain niche the festival yields – over-exuberant underground indulgence, not that it’s a bad thing. The guitarist flings his bright yellow Gibson Flying V around the stage as lead singer Dan The Carnivore flays his arms around like a child learning to dance or perhaps one suffering some sort of fit.
XFM’s Steve Harris is curating the nearby Weekender Records Stage. The tent is packed for squeamishly good Look See Proof who sweatily launch out punk-esque riffs without compromising to the indie jitters that hold the genre in the pop pig-pen. The quartet end with their raucous yet harmonic single ‘Casualty’ before those scattered on the outskirts of the tent fall back out into the sunshine.
The song aptly describes a proportion of the audience who have obviously forgotten how easy beer dehydrates you in the sunshine. A red-faced (half sun burn, half beer glow) gentleman fires a water pistol at the water stall owner who is suitably unimpressed.
I leave the site quickly to grab some beer from a nearby pub but when I get there it’s packed. Everyone else has had the same idea, except the owners. They’ve only put on three members of bar staff, which probably seems right for the usual Sunday crowd but this isn’t the usual Sunday crowd and the queue at the bar is three deep.
A local off-licence is also as unprepared for the deluge. They’re stocking the fridges with beer as quickly as they can sell it. Some are stuck with cans of Special Brew, others with Jamaican Stout, I luckily spot some Carlsberg in among the ice creams and I head back up to the park.
The bikes that line the fence which surrounds the festival are being used as step ladders to jump over. I walk past and use the gate, it’s easier. Neil’s Children take to the Xbox stage looking slightly like Jesus and the Mary Chain, but more approachable. Their indie trodden tracks have been done before. They fall short of being as good as The Fall and their prodding pubescent-gothica borrows heavily from both Blondie and Television in equal measures. “You might as well all go home after this,” says singer John Linger before their final number, ‘The Night Is Over’ but nobody wants to.
Instead a crowd gathers for buzz-word band, The Lea Shores. But frankly that’s all they are. Maybe a hasty judgement as I only manage to watch three tracks but it’s like watching The Magic Numbers’ Romeo drool out a dated Oasis track. Elongated lyrics are drawn out over worn guitars riffs. They call themselves psychedelia but I’d much rather trip over my own shoelaces.
The audience at the MySpace main stage begins to swell as The Paddingtons begin their set. They began when the good ship Albion crashed and burned. A phoenix from The Libertines’ flames? Almost certainly, but there is something missing from The Paddingtons that they haven’t managed to nick from Doherty or Barat. It may be the romance, it may be the poetry, or it maybe it's me being unfair. The five-piece can stand alone and tracks like ‘Panic Attack’ gets them up on their bike, but their new material just seems to kick the stabilizers back off again. Moaning aside they are great live and suitable openers for Har Mar Superstar.
The American funk flasher is on his normal nudity form. He’s pulled The Strokes’ Fab Moretti onstage to drum with him as he sings hits ‘E.Z. Pass’ and ‘D.U.I’ between his popular vulgarisms. “I’m going to be fucking your girlfriend tonight,” he tells someone in the audience but once he’s ceremonially stripped to his grubby y-fronts something suggest he isn’t.
Har Mar’s sexual provocatively awash with the usual sexual simulations shows why his performances are at times unmissible. Moretti willing takes a lick of the Superstar's nipples before the pair do a choreographed dance. They end with Har Mar’s latest offering ‘Brothers and Sisters’. The American duo are a fitting final act for a fantastic festival. Local radio roadshows should take heed because 1234 Shoreditch has nailed the free music event perfectly. It feels like I’ve been told the Shoreditch secret. It's let both it's fashion sense and it's underground music out of the bag at once and they’re going to be falling over each others' massive sunglasses to get it back in again.