A Fistful Of Fandango 2009: day one

United Kingdom United Kingdom | 17 September 2009

Like a large musical conscription, seemingly two thirds of the population of London de camped to Isle of Wight over the weekend for this year’s Bestival. Left behind lovers, family and friends found themselves frantically scrabbling around for any welcome distraction, rather than wallow in self pity at home in front of E4.

One such distraction was the Fistful Of Fandango festival at the superbly located 229 venue. Running for four consecutive evenings, this odd little spin off from team Fandango certainly has an attractive line-up. Those expecting the usual spoils of a festival might have been disappointed, there didn't seem to be much to indicate one was at a festival. But while it lacked overpriced food stalls, long distances between stages and trade offs between watching your favourite bands, Fandango made it's location a strength: two perfectly formed stages back to back and bands on stage at alternating times so you wouldn’t miss a single beat.
Heading to the dedicated Artrocker stage An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump set is well underway. Channelling the spirit of La Tigre, these three girls with attitude seemingly emanating from there perfectly formed, matching fringes, certainly had a lot of drive. But while the instrument switching usually denotes a multi facet, talented bunch of musicians, it just left the band without a focal point and why would you switch lead vocals when one of the girls clearly has the lungs of a mighty Ditto/Karen O hybrid? With only guitar, drum (not drums) and vocals, the sound is sparse and melody doesn't appear to be high on the agenda. This doesn't phase the crowd though who seem to enjoy the girls energy, which in the smaller room goes along way.

Time for a quick drink before heading to see the master of ‘Monsters Under the Bed’ himself Eugene McGuinness only it isn't Eugene we’re watching tonight, but rather his new out fit The Lizards. If they ever make a biopic entitled ‘The Shadows: The Teenage Years’ then they should give these guys a call, the likeness and sound is uncanny. Storming through a set of Beach Boys tinged summery tunes, the performance is tight despite the band looking like they're still struggling with there GCSE's. The set is a pleasant one, and while the songs are very much in the style they’re imitating, they certainly do it well. People expecting a few Eugene classics though are left disappointed, as he doesn't seem to play any of his better known hits.  

More punk inspired antics on the smaller stage with Neil’s Children and waiting for them to start a quick glance around the room to gauge audience attire implies that everyone here is in some sort of band. A gang of indie dressed rebels near the front of the crowd prove the theory right as they step up onto the stage through the audience and immediately start sparking off feedback and fiddling with the stage lights. Making themselves at home on the stage Neil’s frontman is the last to join them, the group of ‘This Is England’ looking trouble makers immediately plough into there first song. Being driven by the beats of an additional drummer, the band performs a tight set of sporadic indie punk tunes. Owing much to the likes of Gang Of Four and of course Artrocker idol Ian Curtis, the Children don't seem to stray to far from there influences. But then catching a wiff of an ex-girlfriends perfume in the air as lead singer John Linger dives into the refrain of 'Sometimes it's Hard to Let Go', maybe the point isn't about originality but delivery and they certainly don't skimp on the passion.

Headlining the evening we’re treated to a rare UK performance of Herman Dune. Arriving onto the stage with a beard that probably contains a wealth of anecdotes and wisdom alone, he begins the set solo. With gentle strumming and a warm, caring voice, his style is instantly at odds with all that has come before it tonight, but he immediately captivates the audience with his charming tones. The band joins him after the first track and set is a joyous one. Heman’s conversational style apparent on his recordings translates fantastically live as his perfectly balanced French tinged accent delivers his infectious melodies and profound lyrics. Stories from recent tour incidents merge with the tales of loves and lives past contained within his songs. The atmosphere in the room is jubilant and people find it hard not to gently sway with the music (much to the displeasure of a militant bouncer at the front of the stage) it's almost a shame that the feeling has to end when the last notes ring out of the final song. Leaving the stage Herman takes to the mic one last time: “Thanks everyone and we very much hope to see you all again soon,” and never has someone meant it so sincerely.

By Ben Mercer.

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