Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dazed Live @ Various Venues in Shoreditch and Hoxton, London

9 April 2011

Imagine what a one-day festival put on by style magazine Dazed And Confused would look like, and the chances are you wouldn’t be far off what eventualised at the inaugural Dazed Live.

A mixture of talks about multimedia issues, leftfield exhibitions and on-trend music acts featured on this sunny Saturday in Shoreditch that found young and inquisitive minds with a tendency towards the margins nosing around a variety of venues to take in these different cultural facets.

The structure of the day was neatly compartmentalised. Gigs didn’t start till 5.01 (blame sponsor Levi’s for the start times), giving people time to wander around and sneak a peak at the other forms of engagement. The stand-out attraction was at the Tramshed which hosted “Absolut London: A Celebration Of London Through Self-publishing”, an interactive installation and exhibition featuring a library of self-published work (including the attention-grabbing photo-mag “Famous People With Monkeys”). Guest speakers featured throughout the afternoon at both Tramshed Basement and at St Leonard’s Church before the music took over.

Upstairs at XOYO, Huw Stephens hosted Fiction, a four-piece currently recording their first album. With a focus on experimental percussion favoured by the likes of Wild Beasts, they added a heap of synths, filling the stage with keyboards and producing sounds that wouldn’t have been out of place on an old Heaven 17 record. As their amps melted under the dazzling glare of corporate sponsorship (boiling hot Levi’s lights do not make bands happy), they marked themselves out as a band to keep an eye on in the coming months.

Recent Domino Records acquisition Austra followed on. The Canadian band, led by superstar frontwoman Katie Stelmanis have been attracting a lot of attention, and gave the best set of the day. Bridging the gaps between the wayward style of The Knife, the banshee dramatics of Zola Jesus and the commercial nous of Florence And The Machine, their take on the current trend in female-fronted goth-pop sounded world-beating.

The evening’s entertainment was shared between the downstairs, buzzy part of XOYO and Village Underground. The latter is a breathtakingly beautiful space, but seems prone to sound issues, and tonight was no exception. Add that to everything being delayed by around an hour and the venue’s associated difficulties proved impossible for any of the bands to overcome. Factory Floor suffered a disastrous set finding them leaving the stage not long after they started, and Gang Gang Dance, a band causing ripples of excitement, sounded hollow and misshaped. Both acts’ recorded output is strong enough to allow tonight’s blips to be somewhat disregarded, but it left a bitter taste for what could have been a strong string of performances as this one-dayer neared its conclusion. As the early hours approached, it was only those with the sturdiest of dispositions who headed back to XOYO for the closing DJ sets.

So there were teething problems, and there were disappointments on the day, but overall Dazed Live worked because its identity stood it apart from other urban festivals. A focus on the tangential hipster culture associated with Dazed And Confused fitted the Shoreditch area it found itself in, and the concept and structure was a good one. It’s just the details that need tightening up when it hopefully comes back for its second outing next year.

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Dazed Live @ Various Venues in Shoreditch and Hoxton, London