Loop Festival 2007

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Phil Petty | 23 August 2007

The main arena is a park situated on a large traffic island near the Brighton Pavilion, where the Futures and Hub marquee stages have been neatly tucked. I start my day in the university building across the road where the indoor Limits and outdoor Outer Limits stages present ambient, leftfield acts.

The atmosphere is very ‘electronica goes to college’. “Smells like school in here,” one punter complains. So necking a cup of tea from the refectory (rock n roll!), I get studious in the darkened Limits (AKA the college’s Sallis Benney Theatre), where Mira Calix are laying down an ambient classical soundscape of cello, violin and laptop sound effects. Yep, V Festival this certainly isn’t. Hypnotic, spooky and soothing it is.  This is one for the All Tomorrow’s Parties crowd where the music is difficult yet rewarding.

Fuck art, let’s dance – or nod our heads slightly at least, to the jazzy grooves of Brighton’s own eight-piece Bonobo in the Hub tent. It’s all a bit: “Hmm, acid-jazz, nice” for me with drum solos and noodling sax, but the crowd lap it up.

With the usual £3-a-can at the bar bollocks and only two burger vans for refreshment, I feel the call of Brighton’s many excellent hostelries. Instead though, I drag myself back to Hub stage for Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip – basically Mike Skinner for art students. The tent is patently too small and predictably rammed. I squeeze inside just in time to hear: ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, the ten commandments for the achingly-hip (hop) crowd, recently hammered by XFM’s John Kennedy.

Listening to a long-bearded Mr Pip declaim from a book labelled ‘The Bible’, I begin to suspect that Loop is in fact one big episode of Nathan Barley (Chris Morris’s Hoxton-trendy baiting sitcom) and now I’m being ranted at by Nathan’s nemesis The Preacherman.

Glancing outside at the drizzle and long queues to get in, I decide to stay put for The Bays, a dance act who claim to never rehearse.  They only play live and apparently never play the same thing twice. I expect tedious jamming, but get a glorious dance frenzy, starting with a standard 4/4 beat (beefed up by live drums and bass), shifting up a gear as a touch of squelchy acid is dropped into the house. Suddenly it’s like an old-school rave in here, with plenty of arms in the air and dancing like its 1989 – especially when the drum and bass really kicks in.

Over in Futures, I catch enough of Shy Child’s New York Nu Rave to decide that it’s not a patch on Brighton’s old dance scene. There’s just enough time to grab a double vodka because the drinkable lager’s already ran out. I get some chips and join the humungous queue snaking from the Hub to see Beta Band offshoot The Aliens.
Note to Loop organisers: queuing in the rain behind some bogs for 40 minutes, entertained only by the sound of Meatloaf played ironically in the nearby beer tent, does not make a good festival experience.

Once we get in The Aliens’ not instantly accessible space-rock is bound to be an anticlimax. However their melodic side kicks in with ‘Robot Man’ and it all starts to make sense, especially to the mosh pit that’s developed at the front. Frontman Gordon Anderson performs with acid-casualty intensity and their previous single ‘Happy Song’, an irritatingly cheery ditty on the radio, becomes a pogo-tastic rocker. By the time they shamble off stage leaving the Close Encounters theme in their wake, I’ve been converted against all odds: I believe in Aliens.

After them it’s back to the Futures tent for a taste of The Foals’ highly effective, if highly derivate, 80s punk-funk before checking out headliners The Go! Team. Getting the mix right for a six-piece, including two drummers, isn’t easy.  Combine their rocking guitars, hip-hop cuts and sampled soul and it suddenly sounds nigh on impossible.

Then tonight, through no fault of the band, the sound is just plain horrible. It makes it hard to tell whether material from their forthcoming album lives up to the day-glow party splash of their ‘Thunder, Lighting, Strike’ debut.

You have to feel for singer Ninja as she still gives it her all.  “Stay with us,” she exhorts to the crowd but chants of “turn it up” soon drown out the music. They struggle gamely against technical hitches and temporarily divert us with a thrash guitar work out and an unaccompanied solo song. But they’re fighting a losing battle. Eventually Ninja returns to reveal the true villain of the piece: Brighton council, who have put a limit on the sound levels. Boo hiss!

A wealth of Loop-branded club action is continuing across town tonight, but the train back to London beckons. There’s been plenty here today to keep space rockers, indie kids, arty types and Brighton club scenesters happy - but those technical hitches and queues for ridiculously undersized marquees have driven me slightly (ahem) loopy.   

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