L.E.D Festival 2010: Rated!

Victoria Park, London, 28-29 August

L.E.D Festival 2010: Rated!

Photographer: Michael Cox31 August 2010

Overall - 6/10
For two days, ominous rainclouds hang over the site and occasionally deliver their downpours. That’s no-one’s fault, granted.  Then there are the cancellations to Friday’s bill very late in the day - Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, Kim Fai, AN21 and Max Vangeli – which constituted the loss of an entire stage. Then there’s the general dis-organisation that see’s Calvin Harris take to the stage a full two hours earlier than planned…if indeed there was a plan. St Alban’s finest, Friendly Fires, are okay but they are not electronic and this is not their festival. Perhaps going head-to-head with Reading, Leeds and Notting Hill Carnival proves too much for L.E.D. and there are several key, avoidable problems. That disappoints, because it promises so much. Two giant performances on Friday from Leftfield and Aphex Twin do square it, but it needs work this L.E.D thing - work and effort.

Getting There and Back - 8/10

As easy as a Sunday morning. We stroll in, beer in hand, past security guards who either know this is the last Victoria Park Festival of the year, or who have taken something to help them through the day. Victoria Park is not particularly easy to get to on the best of days, though, but it’s fun to join the mass exodus out of the festival heading for Mile End come 11 O’clock. Buses are carrying most people too and from, but this is clearly a local affair and there are thousands of people here on foot.

The Site - 4/10
In comparison to the other festivals that have taken place this summer in East London’s glorious Victoria Park, the site decoration for L.E.D is poor. Almost no effort whatsoever is made to appropriate the space and define it as brand L.E.D – it could be anywhere. The addition of a few fairground rides, a couple of bars and a smattering of grimy caravans selling low-grade meat products, do not a festival site make. L.E.D must look again at what they are and want to be if this is to be genuine necessity of the summer calendar. Bars are well-staffed though and there is no trouble to speak of.

Atmosphere - 8/10
Despite the shortcomings of decor, the over-priced low-grade lager and cider, the cancellations and the lack of any kind of order, the crowd are determined to have a great time. Electronic music – long impossible to pin down as a genre, revels in its own anonymity and invites all ages, colours and species to dance together.  So it is here as well and the atmosphere is all to do with the diverse and friendly crowd and virtually nothing to do with the environment. Rained on, confused by the billing and ripped off, the crowd come through smiling and loving the music.

Music - 6/10
If this is a litmus test to display the current health of our electronic music scene, it’s time to start the obituaries. It’s telling beyond measure that old warhorses like Aphex and Leftfield shoulder the creative burden of the weekend and that egotistical DJs like Guetta and Harris are here as evidence of the current state of our dance scene. Soulwax are the only ones who illustrate that there is a pulse left. Headliners Leftfield, for all their updating, bring tunes from well over a decade ago, most of which seem lost on the younger crowd. Retro may be big, but this is ridiculous.

Uppers

Aphex Twin - 10/10

Aphex Twin's 90-minute set unfolds with the lawless logic of a dream, relentless, stark and loving. He shoulders his way through dance, delivering violent and glorious deconstructions of hip-hop, drum 'n bass and techno, making it all his own, new and fluent and relevant. This disarmingly generous performance, opens with colossal hip-hop beats rapped over by animal-costumed scallywag MCs and peaks with a version of the wonderful 'On'. He closes with ten minutes of portaloo-tipping gabba which leaves the crowd dazed and beaten. It’s bloody and brilliant; he is utterly, utterly unique.

Leftfield - 8/10
For a band that know the value of solid beat and high volume, the first half of the set cannot come as anything else than a slight disappointment. The best bits of their impressive, though small corpus of work, is not done justice by the low volume of the (rather small) main stage. Nevertheless, come time for ‘Release the Pressure’ , ‘Storm 3000’ and the crashing wave of noise that is ‘Phat Planet’, they are most certainly on song. Leftfield are masters of timing, most specifically the timing of the transition from break to beat.  On this evidence, and disappointingly for the current crop of electronic acts, they still are.

Goldfrapp - 7/10

Alison and Co fully deserve their billing here, their electro-glam credentials now being firmly in place. ‘Strict Machine’ and ‘Train’ sound funky and vital, with the band making the most of their slot. Going up against Aphex Twin in the billing is a disappointment to those who wanted to see both though.

The MC on the Fairground Ride next to the Annie Mac Stage - 8/10

For what seems like colossal periods on both days, while the two stages dither and no–one plays, an unknown MC uttering immortal  lines like – “hold tight, hold tight”, “come on girls now, scream for speed” and “round-and-round...backwards now”, proves to be the top billing. With a succession of decent hits flowing from the colourful fairground area behind him and a pretty good lightshow, he provides the only entertainment on offer while the stages sort themselves out.

Shy FX - 8/10
Drum ‘n’ Bass pioneer, another oldie who rides in to save the day and does a sterling job. The crowd are absolutely jumpin’. Tipping a hat to his recent work with Plan B, as well as his breakthrough DnB from the early nineties, this is a set to savour.

Downers

David Guetta - 5/10

Guetta is famous now, very famous, for the cheesiest kind of house music on the planet. Four number ones in the UK maybe testament to a golden, popular touch, but is LED the best place to display it? There are many here, seemingly, who would disagree, but Guetta’s brand of ‘electronic music’ is just not innovative, exciting or particularly relevant.

Friendly Fires – 5/10
Completely lost on the crowd, who did not come to see a band that have virtually no electronic music credentials whatsoever. What are the organisers thinking? It’s not the bands fault, they may feel that they are providing something different from the rest of the line-up – it’s further evidence though of the inconsistency and roughness of the whole thing.

Calvin Harris - 4/10
It’s okay to be ill as Harris clearly is as he takes the stage. It’s not okay to then cover what was clearly supposed to be a live set by playing your own records one after another. The crowd are palpably annoyed. Murmurings, people wandering off right left and centre and a feeling that Harris is simply going through the motions are not what being in a crowd at a gig of his should be like. An off day for sure.

Random Events

Laughing uncontrollably as Aphex Twin’s snarling face appeared on members of the crowd as they danced at the front – some punters clearly happier about it than others. 

Finally watching Leftfield get off the ground with ‘Release the Pressure’ and watching a crowd of ‘thirty-somethings’ at the back as they fell into some form of nostalgia driven ecstasy. 

Watching a huge security guard slip over in the mud in front of a load of policemen - who did nothing to help him. 

Realising that Aphex Twin remains the most inventive, relevant and downright awesome electronic musician in the world today.

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