United Kingdom | 28 July 2009
In spite of the rain, 1234 Shoreditch is one of the finest uses of £15 for a day of festival fun, writes Suzanne Knight.
It’s the second 1234 Shoreditch Festival in Shoreditch Park and getting into the site is a challenge to the brave, through a forest of skinny black jeans. In a slightly stereotypical London style there are few punters waiting at the box office paying entrance, but a vast queue snakes from the one at the other side marked ‘VIP’. Progress is slow and initially a very slow trickle of people make it in for the start of the festival.
Ox. Eagle. Lion. Man are taking the scattering of seated punters who made it through the gates to a full rock opera odyssey, without a hint of apology or irony. They have moments of The Cult about them, with added seemingly endless guitar meanderings. Part way through singer Frederick Blood-Royale suddenly appears in a full-length leather coat, unwittingly executing the first costume change of the day on the main stage. “Eyes just as closed as your heart and your mind,” he shouts in deep tones and there’s an obvious Depeche Mode parallel to be made, before they burst into SOAD-style screeching breaks. They certainly ensure that not one person lounging on the grass is left sleeping.
The Electronic stage is emitting sufficient bass and crowd noise with Lung Rotter And Seven starting innocently enough, beckoning people in with rude bass and cheeky mixing, forcing people to bounce a little in spite of the early hour. Sudden brutal electronic fractals force through the drum and bass, and it’s ear-splitting enough to sort the ‘men from the boys’, as some break into huge grins and others near run for the nearest exit. Just as the squeal threatens to become unbearable it breaks into pure eighties space invaders and more fractal shapes are layered in. It’s the stuffed green olives of the dance world, real love ‘em or hate ‘em stuff, but most of the surviving crowd continue grinning.
Kennedy proudly occupies the total other end of the dance spectrum in mash-up heaven. Crystal Waters ‘Gypsy Woman’ merges with ‘Flat Beat’ and then there’s a dash of Prodigy and the tent is rammed and everyone is bouncing. There are a surprising number of families and they’re dancing alongside ladies with oversized YSL bags in Chanel sunglasses.
Polly Scattergood looks fabulous on the main stage in a slinky silver dress with a thousand lime green beads and huge pink feathers blossoming from her shoulder, threatening to catch in the wind and swing her small frame round. She has a soft vulnerability, almost whispering “we had pennies in our pockets/we had hope in our eyes,” she has something of a fragile Kate Bush about her lyrical style at first. As the set progresses she seems to harden, melding into a more thrusting Karen O does folk, on the aggressive ‘Untitled 27’. Her new single ‘Bunny Club’ invites fans to “spit on my French knickers,” and with strong lines of electro spiking from behind her she’s a growling Marilyn Manson electro Barbie.
In the second stage tent the floppy haired singer of Crystal Fighters looks a little like Axl Rose dipped in tie dye and is bopping like a dad at a wedding to their unique dance-meets-folk sound. As he shakes his tambourine into a crescendo chunky drum and bass slides in and the crowd wave their arms appreciatively. And as if this wasn’t already doing the job their sound moves towards The Go! Team doing the Notting Hill Carnival, delivering chants of “I love London” over dirty bass. They’re way out of their original planned slot on the dance stage, but they are absolutely in the right place.
LoveFoxx of CSS is keeping the main stage crowd warm with a classic electro and pop DJ set. Bronski Beat ‘Smalltown Boy’ and Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ are jiggled in place and in spite of the drizzle happy Londoners are umbrella dancing, acrobat-ing, swinging each other round and ready for more good times.
Finally, after much roadie electrical jiggery pokery, the stage is ready for Patrick Wolf. But is the crowd ready for Patrick Wolf? A gaggle of obvious fans at the front are, the rest can only stand open mouthed as he busts onto the stage to Gary Numan style electro, resembling Brian Blessed’s hawkman emo son in a white wing cape he discards later to reveal a grey union jack catsuit. His confident electro calls to mind Eurythmics hardened with a little Nine Inch Nails with surprising elegant violin elements, his vocals are wide ranging and effortlessly on tune, belted out in a full on Freddie Mercury-style strut.
‘Damaris’, a song ramblingly but endearingly described as a gypsy love song sees Wolf take up the violin too and create really lovely sweeping violin rock. He transcends his obvious musical references to produce a truly powerful, elegant piece that boldly escalates into a vocal crescendo chorus of “rise up” and his soaring anthem ‘Hard Times’ makes Muse seem a bit silly for not making regular use of live strings. He is a genuinely gifted and unique artist that you can’t help be surprised and charmed by, hilariously executing an actual full on costume change into some sort of white owl face that rattles around his skinny frame to his final tune ‘The Magic Position’. “When I was younger I wanted to be a pop star,” he reminisces. You are Patrick, you are.
The roadies bustle wildly around the stage as Tim Burgess of The Charlatans DJs with hs cheeky smile occasionally visible through gaps in his epic black fringe. He has a good feel for presenting an eclectic selection of classics including 80’s classic ‘Electric Dreams’, keeping the now chilly crowd moving.
As a result of fairly constant changes and over-running there is little time left for The Rakes, although it arguably favours them bearing in mind the huge performance that preceded them. They’ve barely half an hour left, but explode their punk fury over the remaining crowd - it’s messy but fun. In the Electronic stage there’s a frenetic mix of Primal Scream’s ‘Swastika Eyes’ and the second stage is filled with space age disco from Chrome Hoof in glitter haz-mat suits.
In spite of the endless lazy rain, the quality of the acts on offer as well as access to after show parties at various venues until 4am make 1234 Shoreditch one of the finest uses of £15 for a day of festival fun. 1234 Shoreditch knows how to party when the Wolfman cometh on white wings.
By Suzanne Knight