Stag and Dagger 2008
More current than a pack of raisins
Photographer: Michael Gregory19 May 2008
Just like its two more established peers, the brand new festival aims to transform an already hip area
into a full-on festival by linking up more than 20 venues and inviting fans to scurry round desperate to outdo
each other by seeing the best new acts on offer.
It being the event's first year, it's no surprise that the early choice of bands is highly questionable. Around only 20 people turn up to see Bristol's electro-rock fuzzers Turbowolf in fashionstas haunt The Macbeth. Presumably the rest are still glamming up. Despite a highly energetic performance their light hardcore sound simply fails to rouse the crowd as much as it does the band. Elsewhere Moshi Moshi, the label that's given many a striving young indie act a leg up, are hosting their party at the faux Brazilian hotspot Favela Chic. But the try-hard tastemakers are making us wait to find out the next big thing because "They haven't finished soundchecking." If the East End is so far forward in music and fashion why does it feel like everything is running late?
Vice pub Old Blue Last is packed, sweaty and dark as Shitting Fists take to the stage. Choosing to watch them on name alone is probably a mistake, especially seeing the lead singer already has his t-shirt off before he's even had a chance to work up a sweat. The quartet don't seem to play a full song, instead they stutter and start bits of songs before stopping and launching into something else. The bits they do get through encapsulate Iron Maiden chugging basslines and Cancer Bats riffs, but they're too sporadic in delivery to make them enjoyable. Maybe they should lose the 'ting Fists' from their name.
Back downstairs X-Box are showcasing their new Rockband game, just like the popular Guitar Hero only this time with drums, vocals and guitars. Does the glorified karaoke game make you feel like a real rockstar? In short, yes. Under the moniker The Stripe Whites we lift The Strokes' 'Reptillia' into a finger-flicking phenomenon before, like many of the boozy greats of the past, we a drag it to an inebriated-induced early grave, one that’s glorified by the huge screen flashing "Failed!" behind us.
Not only does Bar Music Hall sound like it’s been named by a simpleton, but it's clearly run by one as well. If you have a square bar, don't just serve from one side, and if you’re sort of expecting a busy night, don't just have three bar staff on. Unfortunately we only manage to catch the end of theocknbullkid's set as we mistake the line of smokers outside as the queue. Listening to her final track her sound clearly slants towards the quirky RnB pop that's making Santogold and MIA popular at the moment, but it still feels slightly lightweight and not as polished in comparison.
Natty's reggae soul combination proves popular in Bar Music Hall as the venue begins to fill. Named after the Bob Marley album 'Natty Dreadlock' it's easy to see a slight similarity between the London youngster and the Jamicia's best ever export. Depsite aural differences, both of their sounds make the reggae brand more accessible for an overseas crowd, hence why nearly everyone in the bar is skanking, grooving and cheering. 'Bedroom Eyes' borrows as equally from Prince Buster's sixties ska as it does Jay Sean's modern soul. He croons "As she looked at me with her bedroom eyes, I broke in to my ‘come here’ smile," over heavy bongos and flicking acoustic guitar. A girl in the crowd requests 'Collie Weed' a track that, in keeping with the dubplate tradition, steals the bassline from Barrington Levy's 'Murderer'.
The Ed Banger night at Electricity Showrooms proves difficult to get into so we join those with and without wristbands for a little dance outside the open windows of the long bar before heading back to Bar Music Hall for the 'next Erol Alkan' - Primary 1. The three piece have drawn the biggest crowd of the night so far with their LCD Soundsystem-Calvin Harris pop hybrid. 'Heart Rate Rapid' sound’s a lot like LCD's 'Time To Get Away' provoking the singer to slam into full arm thumping elation like an Alan Shearer goal celebration as he dons the edge of the low stage.
The sweaty and inebriated hoards leave the venue out into the cool night air looking for the next party. We try our luck with A-Trak in the Cargo, which is hidden beneath Phil Mitchell style arches, but the Modular party isn't letting allowing anymore punters in and the Vibe Bar down Brick Lane simply feels too far away for our drunken legs.
Unlike the Camden Crawl, Stag and Dagger doesn't quite grab the atmosphere of a festival and instead it feels like any other busy Thursday night in the East End. Of course, being based in Hoxton and Shoreditch the music is more current than a Hadouken worshipping raisin, but getting from venues at opposing ends of the area feels like a Himilayan trek and there are the inevitable queues for the top acts, of which there are actually not that many. Still, it's only Stag And Dagger's first year and it shows promise. Sometimes you just have to suffer in the name of fashion.