Live Music + Gig Reviews

Stag & Dagger 2009: @ Shoreditch, London (Part 1)

21 May 2009

Stag & Dagger 2009:Part 2

The Camden Crawl began as a midweek one-nighter. Shoreditch and Hoxton hit back in 2008 with the Stag & Dagger, now in its second year and still on a Thursday, throwing down the gauntlet – anything NW1 could do, Hoxton could do edgier.

Unlike its rival, S&G’s inevitable expansion isn’t into a second night in the same place, but north, to Leeds and Glasgow, making this year’s festival more of a multi-venue tour over three nights and locations.

But for those of us in London it still felt like a one-nighter. Miss bands tonight and you wouldn’t get the chance to catch them tomorrow – they’d be long departed up the M1.
Brighton’s The Great Escape has venues out on a limb in Hove, while the Camden Crawl’s locations around Mornington Crescent are also further away from the bulk of the action than they’d ideally be. The Stag & Dagger’s equivalent is a clutch of venues on Brick Lane, a surprisingly long walk from the Hoxton end of the evening. Careful planning would be needed to avoid spending much of the time available hoofing east and west and seeing little but busy roads, traffic lights and frantically hurrying Staggerers.

Bizarrely, despite Rough Trade East hosting a set from Vieux Farka Tour right in the middle of the festival’s stomping grounds, the record shop isn’t included on the bill, so we only hear about Farka Tour’s appearance once he’s started. At this moment we’re sipping our first drinks of the evening over in Hoxton at the Legion, where a long-haired lady with a guitar called Silhouette is doing her best to create a noirish thrill despite an obvious need for backing tracks. Or a band. Or anything.

We head over to Brick Lane’s 93 Feet East for Everything Everything. They offer harmonic vocals over guitar noise and, for some unknown reason, a gold gramophone speaker pokes out from atop an amp stand behind them. Singer Alex introduces the Manchester-based four-piece to the busy room as the “four stages of Elvis”, to bemused titters.

At Hoxton Bar + Kitchen Californians Lemonade were presented with an enormous and incredibly eager crowd. This shocked us as much as it did them – we’d never heard of them until a respected source told us to check them out, and despite milking the swelled audience for all it was worth, the band’s old skool jungle never really lifted itself above sub-Prodigy. Yet there were people waving glow sticks by the time we fought our way out of the place.

Meanwhile, upstairs at the cavernous Vibe Bar, Trailer Trash Tracys experimented with what might have been if Howling Bells had been asked to score Twin Peaks. A quite filthy bass backed the girl-fronted foursome, whose sound deserved further investigation.

At least they could be heard, unlike Yorkshire lass Laura Groves, better known as up-and-coming experimental folk artist Blue Roses, who found herself stuffed into a corner of the Spread Eagle and absolutely drowned out in the braying din. The Luminaire this place is not, and it made for one of those semi-acoustic sets that cause one to wonder how artists cope without machine-gunning the chattering hordes arrayed before them. With a gorgeous debut album out, she struggled to exert any power over the noisy audience who seemed more interested in each other’s haircuts than the ethereal, tender songs coming from just an inch or two from their elbows. It’s everyone’s loss; when we could hear (or see) the poor girl, songs like I Am Leaving sounded utterly heartbreaking.

Much has been written already about diminutive but Tardis-lunged chanteuse Marina And The Diamonds, who we caught last month at the Camden Crawl. As this was pretty obviously the Marina show, we’ll forget about the three chaps shuffling around nervously behind her at Bar Music Hall. Suffice to say, she’s something pretty special, and while this show didn’t perhaps display her finest attributes in the best surroundings, the Welsh singer seems game for anything and Obsessions sounds as lovely and as barking mad as a hundred Florences (and her Machines, obviously).

Stag & Dagger 2009:Part 2

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