United Kingdom | 15 July 2009
Been forced inside due to some strangely unseen weather, Loop Festival is aimed at those in but the hedonistic seaside town so quiet and subdued, writes Kevin Mason.
Overall - 5/10
A festival in your home town is a bit of a misnomer: a festival starts with a road trip, a sweaty run to the train station with a full backpack, trying to pick the ticket barrier with the smallest queue and least likely to appeal to a sniffer dog. The growing excitement the closer you get, the ‘straights’ disappear and the festival-goers begin to mass. In a car there’s the compulsory service station meet up for your last clean and comfortable shit for the next three days - and stocking up on lighters, toilet roll and those big candles that suddenly got popular when they started putting out fires.
When you can see the venue from your own home, well let’s just say it takes the edge of it - not in a hefty gin in the afternoon kind of ‘edge off’ way, but in a ‘that’s totally just cheap metal painted gold’ kind of way.
Is this relevant - well maybe? Loop seems to be aimed at those in Brighton and its satellite city London, for most people it’s a short walk away - and the line-up, well would you travel from Birmingham for Sqaurepusher, The Glimmers and Datarock? It’s priced accordingly though, at just a shade fewer than 30 notes for a day pass.
There is also a room with a few thousand pounds worth of technology in for exploring. It has everything room interactive games to touch screen samplers and to really emphasise the locals-only point, an interactive map is projected onto a wall to draw where you’re from, the map doesn’t even extend past central Brighton.
The Venue - 4/10 (just not suited to festivals)
Loop, now in its 3rd year, is held essentially on a big roundabout surrounded by a busy one-way system, a site usually home to the drunks and junkies and once every year the Ladyboys Of Bangkok and their carnivalesque travelling show. A few days before the big launch, it was announced that this year had been forced inside due to some strangely unseen weather. Logistical nightmare? Maybe it was, but there was no sense of panic from the Loop team - but sadly there was also no sense of ‘festival’. It’s spread over three venues: The Dome, Corn Exchange and Pavilion Theatre, which are all part of the same site with interconnecting areas, but bizarrely all adjoining doors are blocked off.
To get to the Corn Exchange festival-goers had to leave the venue and walk out into street, show a wristband and wait for the photographer to have his bag searched yet again, sure it’s a very short walk, but anything that breaks you out of a ‘festival’ kills that warm fuzzy I can get munted feeling and having to do it between every act just gets very boring. The venues are too big, never more than half full, except for the headliners and the seating area was left open leaving a very empty, detached feeling.
Atmoshpere - 2/10
In the right venue Loop works, the promoters genuinely care and handle the venue change well, but it was dead in the water from that moment on. Less a festival, more a day of disconnected gigs without any atmosphere or cohesion. Some form of announcer or MC to guide us through the confusion may have been a benefit.
The hedonistic seaside town so quiet and subdued, which is a shame as this music needs a live outlet and DJ Shitmat, Tim Exile the whole Wrong music crew showed Brighton exactly the way to do it live few years back. Maybe the promoters should take one of those long rumbling trains to Berlin and drag them back to curate next years event.
Heels Catch Fire - 7/10
The Dome, a cavernous venue if you’re Jimmy Carr but if your Heels Catch Fire playing to 50 people, then it must be overwhelming. The band equip themselves ably, Laura’s guitar maybe gets a bit lost, but they play their songs as much for themselves as for the audience with tightly with passion – this is a band that could be great with a solid year of touring. Strange choice maybe, angular guitar music to open, but shifting time frames and songs that require concentration perhaps suit Loop. Lively and passionate, never more so when Laura sings as well, and give a convincing performance.
The Half Sisters - 6/10 (9 for effort though)
In the high tech, empty Dome bar, the Half Sisters are plying kooky, love-in classroom schtick in a losing battle against rugs, Lego for adults, face painting, yet in this antiseptic bar they are so into what they are doing. Think Peggy Sue, before they dropped the Pirates - acoustic guitar, folk whimsy-lite, just for a second its almost believable, if I could feel soft grass under my feet and a bit of late afternoon sun I’d be convinced, but in a crowd control holding area it doesn’t translate. Can’t fault their effort though and those 10 people watching seem to love them.
Casio Kids - 7/10
Casio Kids, put the energy back in to the mix plus they have a cowbell and they really really love it. Like a bunch of re-blogs from Look at This Fucking Hipster, the stylist really nailed the ‘disparate’ brief: blazers, trucker caps, tracksuits, everything is ticked and studied artifice mixes with enthusiasm and falsetto singing. One of the band, after striking several bits of percussion hurls his drum stick over his shoulder, then spends the next few minutes trying to pull it back in with his foot - from the side seats you can see every spell breaking moment.
Sian Alice Group – 7.5/10
Sounding like a mix between Explosions In The Sky and some late 80’s shoegazers, a striking lady in very bad shoes, teases a triangle and channels Julee Cruse via Valium-ed out Bookhouse Boys. With a heavy doom structure, she’s good, they are convincing and even some dancing breaks out.
Plugs – 6.5/10
Plugs bring their own Hot Chip chorus and guitar solos to Loop and the added bonus they’re not on a USB stick. Those ‘watching the band’ are taking photos and uploading them straight to Facebook on an iphone – it’s that kind of festival.
Mirrors - 7/10
Mirrors, build up the crowd with what could mistakenly be taken for the longest time ever taken to soundcheck a bunch of laptops. They make it on stage in suits and head into a Depeche Mode party with brooding synths, while the lighting guy leaves them in the dark.
Man Like Me - 3/10
This four-piece ply their community centre hip hop over carnival beats in 80’s ski pants and a suit borrowed from Mike And The Mechanics. There may well be good lyricists here, but if they can’t be arsed, neither can I.
Datarock - 5/10
Datarock: an experiment in cloning a funk band with Run DMC and the Swedish Beastie Boys all sponsored by Uniqlo’s red leather-look tracksuits. People love them and they’re the first band to interact with the crowd and the keyboardist spends more time in with punters rather than onstage, but this may be out of sheer embarrassment. The double drumming is good, their enthusiasm is infectious but more people danced during the Daft Punk track at the interval; this band are tight, well versed, and know stagecraft but this is awful frat-boy band music.
By Kevin Mason.