Set Times @ Old Blue Last.
Superfood’s on stage set list! (TV, Like A Daisy and Bubbles being the standouts)
//SUPERFOOD // \\ NIGHT ENGINE \\
Location: Old Blue Last, Shoreditch/Old Street
So, this week I returned my favourite place in East London to catch live music, Old Blue Last. Many others who I’ve spoken with or know consider it quite the mini-institution for live music and promoting upcoming acts or artists alike and this week would prove no different.
The night would be headlined by B-Town Indie up-starts, Superfood. Superfood have popped up with the Indie wave that has been noticed streaming out of the Birmingham/Midlands region in the last 18 months with bands such as PEACE, Swim Deep and JAWS having seen relative success, all having their fair share on the festival circuit and recognition from notable magazines and radio stations. In support of Superfood was Night Engine, so we’ll begin with them now.
As with my last review, Reem Kelani, I knew nothing of Night Engine. Actually, I was expecting more of DJ duo to be honest. This would certainly not be the case. Night Engine, a four-piece band, after arriving 10 minutes late stormed the stage and burst into song. What proceeded were huge bass line riffs, funky synths and a lead singer who brought the best of Bowie to Shoreditch. Taken aback by what I was witnessing I couldn’t help but start moving and dancing to what I could hear; the disco influence was clear and it certainly proved popular with the crowd, many chiming along to the choruses. A very short set, Night Engine produced a perfect set up for Superfood. Whether or not this band can progress into something greater is yet to be seen. They have a sound that is perfect for a night out of classic Bowie-esque vocals and Chic inspired dance beats, no complaints there. But can they try to be just slightly more nuanced and diverge from such a typical Bowie sound? It was literally all that ran through my head. I’ll have to go to another gig to find out, they certainly have my intrigue.
To the headline, Superfood. I first heard of this Indie/collage like band several months ago but never really thought to give them a listen until a friend of a friend mentioned their EP, ‘Mam’, was at least worth a listen. So I did and next thing I knew I was front row at Old Blue Last indulging in the ruckus that was to ensue with young teens swelling over the stage and faithful followers of the band screaming lyrics aloud carelessly. The opener, ‘TV’, felt like a blaring throwback 90s track from a collage dorm room, which was well received by the obvious student attendance in the room. 3 of the 4 tracks taken from ‘Mam’ were played and all exceeded their expectations when performed live.
The audience fed Superfood with it’s buzz and rising fever from a packed to the rim Old Blue Last and in return from Superfood we got grating guitars and lashing vocals to bounce and shove to: exactly what everyone had come for. It’s not quite the Indie-pop you would find at the moment from Birmingham. Nor is it a Nirvana-angst-ridden-grunge-fest from the barrels of some 90s Seattle basement as they did bring their own harmony with tracks like Right On Satellite and Like A Daisy, which surely will be included on their upcoming debut album. But who cares if they sound out of place from their contemporaries (PEACE, Swim Deep etc), when performing live we all had a treat to days gone by and lapped up the energy from this young band and Superfood clearly had an awesome time.
They even had one last trick for the crowd, producing a foam machine and loaded the room with foam for the final two tracks, which provided the perfect excuse for everyone to go nuts and leave foam in every crack within Old Blue Last.
Location: Rich Mix Arts Centre, Shoreditch.
Well I can be perfectly honest in saying that 2 weeks ago I had no idea who Reem Kelani was or even guess what field she was involved with. However, after witnessing this inspiring performance from the Palestinian artist, I was beyond determined to delve deeper into her catalogue of work and to grasp on to her contemporaries work.
Reem Kelani, as I found out with some brief Internet surfing prior to the performance, has brought the music world’s attention to Palestinian music. And what a joy it is. Reem stated during the performance that tonight we were to be brought into the Palestinian village; to be able to experience culturally through her music, what the Palestinian life could be. Performing in an intimate lounge/bar/gallery room Reem’s dramatic flair varied with each note she sang. Her movements on stage matched the emotional pull, caressing the air with her hands and tapping her shoes, she was painting us all a picture and with each layer you moved with her. All this sounds quite overly dramatic. Possibly because this is my first experience of such an occasion and to a seasoned person of Middle Eastern music this may be their daily muse. Yet, for someone who has been raised in East London where Middle Eastern culture is a daily part of your life whether you like it or not, this performance was inspiring as insightful.
As Reem went through her Sprinting Gazelle album, which found international acclaim, and into her upcoming material to be released her backing band provided a glorious mix of jazz and subtle Middle Eastern rhythms that left the audience hooked on the double bass riffs. Most exciting about the whole performance was Reem’s interaction with the audience. Throughout the evening she talked through her songs in both English and Arabic while getting the audience to clap, sing and laugh with her. A true performer throughout, her over arching presence on stage kept all eyes on her while she sang of Palestinian love, despair and ancient history. Even further interaction towards the end saw various members of the audience given laminated cards with factions of the Palestinian people marked on them. With Reem propelling the emotional resonance of the room to its height, the audience members called out their faction. I had my moment calling out my faction and once all had been stated Reem gave a round of applause and hummed her way back into song. A brilliant moment and reaction from the crowd followed in appreciation.
The room provided the perfect space for such a performance where the artist and audience had strong intimacy and play off one another. Rich Mix’s Main Space room proved to be very enjoyable for the event with the setup, lighting and sound always on par. Although, the one draw back was, being a multipurpose venue, Reem briefly pointed out some disturbances on the floor above to which she had to pause a highlight the issue before she could continue.
Reem continued to satisfy leading to the inevitable a standing ovation by the end. From newcomers to loyal fans and from those speaking Arabic to those who don’t, Reem Kelani achieved what seemed to be her goal all night – to enhance the spread of Palestinian culture to all and to bring people together through Palestinian music.
Location: Victoria Park, East London.
Every year Victoria Park never fails to portray what East London’s music scene is all about. Such festivals like the chic of Field Day to the Dance driven party that is Lovebox bring together a colourful mix of music to get lost in, move with or to simply admire while basking in the unusual British summertime Sun.
This year was my second visit to Field Day and my third for Lovebox; and I can safely say it has been by a long shot the most fulfilling year which left me wishing I had gone and bought the 2 day ticket rather than just the Saturday for Lovebox. So Saturday, despite the scorching weather and wall of humidity, the atmosphere around Vicky Park was fervent and lively – possibly still on an electrical high after Friday night’s headliners Chase and Status, who I have witnessed previously (Reading 2013) and know well of their pervasive energy on offer. DJ sets dominated the day from the mid-afternoon and well into the evening. My appreciation for DJing and Dance music in general has developed immensely in the last 12 months, so I made it my sole mission to sweep up as many sets as I could, beginning with Breach on the main stage. BenWestbeech, aka Breach, certainly helped to bring that party island atmosphere early on with his latest single Everything You Never Had (ft AndreyaTriana who was fantastic performing this live)
standing out and getting the ‘let’s wear as little as possible’ groupies swaying across the field.
Further DJ sets from Ben Pearce (What I Might Do) to Scuba (Boiler Set with George Fitzgerald)
and Huxley (Love Lost) each provided me with the full deep house and techno infusion I had been waiting for. I have to give huge credit to Lovebox for their site design. Barring the main stage which had it’s own ‘arena’ separated by the trees all the other stages were very close and hopping between sets was incredibly easy with each stage having its own resonance and appearance that varied from the previous. Notable examples of this were Huxley on an industrial or warehouse looking Distrik stage, to the Manor where Ben Pearce and Scuba led the ‘house party’ precessions.
The final DJ to which I drove through the fluorescent, Ray-Ban clad hordes was German producer, Tensnake. Fresh off his first full-length album (Glow), which was released earlier this year, Tensnake raised the feel good factor with his disco infused set. It was very clear to see how disco legend, Nile Rogers, was included in Tensnake’s debut album (Love Sublime) and even more distinct to Lovebox was how the Dance music on offer covered a wide spectrum of genres and not just the current trend of deep house and trap.
Away from the DJs was a pleasant surprise from a refreshingly new girl band under the name Juce. I had the brief knowledge of this band from a Sound Cloud snippet I found a couple of weeks back and with that intrigue I ventured into the Big Top to see this trio of girls from London. To get straight to the point, I was left wanting so much more from this set in the most positive sense. Juce would prove to be the most exciting act of the day, their sound easily filling the Big Top tent and backing the recent hype surrounded by their name. In recent memory I have struggled to think of a girl band THIS refreshing. Quick thoughts jump out to Haim and even the heavier hitting Pop Noire group Savages. However, those two groups respectively being more guitar driven don’t match up to Juce’s grooving pop flow and soul that was displayed so well the crowd inside the tent tripled by the end of the set. Juce were great at what they were trying to do. The track Burning Up which was recently debuted on SoundCloud
just two weeks ago proved to be the standout, with lead singer Chalin Barton’s eloquent voice proving extremely delightful and mixed in with Cherish Kaya’s stirring bass play and Georgia Lee’s funky synths the chemistry of the band was infectious. The pop and funk sound Juce put out is something that should garner much talk going forward and I will be looking forward to seeing this girl group grow in popularity in the months to come.
To the West Stage where I picked out Field Day favourites The Horrors, for their set in support of their most recent album Luminous. (The band actually has a connection with Juce in that both lead singer of The Horrors, Faris Badwan and Juce bass player, Cherish Kaya worked together on a Black Lips cover that was released as a B-side)
. Back to Luminous and the album has been up there with my most treasured releases this year showing the band’s diversity going from post punk drudgery to the shoe gazing Skying into an almost neo psychedelic and dream pop that Luminous provides. The band burst on with Chasing Shadows to open the set and mixed it up from old tracks to mostly Luminous on display. There were some issues with the sound quality however, with Faris Badwan microphone seeming to be turned down and his voice failed to travel at times. However, the band still proved to be a must-see on the day with their all black-skinny jeaned couture significantly standing out in the fluorescent jungle of Lovebox.
Speaking of the jungle, next up was Crystal Fighters who look very much like they were stranded in a feverish Amazonian jungle having the time of their lives. There was nothing short of feel good happiness, spinning, clapping, laughing and dancing throughout the set. Their dreamy lyrics provided the crowd much to sing-along to and I found much of the crowd to be loyal followers of the band. With the majority of the audience recognising every track with glee, they responded to Crystal Fighters’ call for one big cave rave. If multicultural influences were on display at Lovebox that day, Crystal Fighters were on par with M.I.A for epitomising this. This was clearest with the Basque folk (loved the use of txalaparta) and dubstep/electronic sound lining up next to each other, from Europe to London, the mix was perfect for the occasion. I’d advise those looking for a mesmerised night out of joyous dancing which steps away from the current trend of techno, house and trap that Crystal Fighters would provide a great alternative. The only negative aspect was once again the sound quality from the West Stage. My fears of it just being The Horrors and Faris Badwan’s vocals being the issue were squashed when the same problem arose for Crystal Fighters.
My evening had finally led me to the headline act: M.I. A. The rain had held off despite some dark over-looking thundershowers approaching and the London native M. I. A had garnered such anticipation that scores sprinted to catch her set. M. I. A. has always been able to draw attention on and off the stage and Saturday night was no different. Portraying her global yet distinctly London sound was an excellent choice from Lovebox – tracks such Bamboo Banger sent the glow stick wielding masses into a frenzy and M.I.A. lapped up all the energy despite once again the sound problems that became a theme with everyone except the DJ sets. Repeatedly, M.I. A. had to beckon for her mic to be turned up and this all culminated with disaster for her when half way through Hussel and dozens of fans being brought on stage a power outage with the sound equipment happened. Stranded on stage with no sound, a clearly aggrieved M.I.A. walked off as they cleared the stage. It would be another 10 minutes before she returned but the overall set would be cut half an hour short. Such a disappointing way to end the day but M.I.A., and credit to her, recovered to perform three final tracks for the Lovebox crowd.
The trap infused Double Bubble Trouble and Middle Eastern swagger of Bad Girls brought the party back to life. M. I. A. would obviously end the processions with Paper Planes, allowing everyone to wield hand shaped guns towards the night sky. Although marred by an awful power outage in a headline slot, M.I.A still brought the noise to East London in a day that clearly demonstrated the Dance culture right now and the appreciation that Londoners have for various Dance genres. The sunshine reigned throughout the day and the music left everyone searching/wanting for the after party.