“It’s just like Shoreditch, only they’ve moved it to a big field.”
This was one of many quips made about the clientele flocking to Norfolk for the Tales of the Jackalope festival, an ‘intimate 24-hour party’ set in the gorgeous surroundings of Kimberley Hall. Judging by the number of art kids and hipsters around us, the Old Blue Last would probably be on the relatively quiet side this weekend.
Things got off to a somewhat sour start, when having eventually found the site tucked away in the deep Norfolk countryside, we discovered that NYC post-punk heroes ESG have pulled out due to ‘flight issues,’ while mash-up legends 2Many DJs are nowhere to be seen, with no explanation as to their disappearance. Disappointing to say the least, but onwards and upwards as there were still dozens of acts to relish over.
It’s a promising kick-off, with Ebony Bones marching onstage dressed-up in pink wig with plastic food products draped around her neck. Her band’s sound is incredibly tight, drawing recollections of X-ray Spex and a certain trio who we had thought we would be seeing later in the day. The encouraged call-and-response however falls flat, mainly down to it still being mid-afternoon and the tent being barely a third full. A shame, given that it was easily one of the day’s strongest performances.
It’s a similar tale for The Real Heat, whose mischievous catchy beats fail to drag many people away from the shade provided by the trees outside. A closing Hearts Not Innit brings the spacious marquee somewhat to life, with the chant of “Wanna fuck but your heart’s not innit,” greeted with grins upon the faces of the Hoxtonites, something Devonte Hynes is certainly familiar with.
Under his new guise of Lightspeed Champion, his soft melodic arrangements are light years away from his days in Test Icicles. The accompanying strings provided by Michael Siddell (ex Hope of the States) add a touch of heartbreak in more prominent moments. With tongue firmly lodged in cheek, Hynes delivers a cover of Weezer’s Buddy Holly, introduced as “a song I wrote in my old band,” gaining the first sing-along of the festival.
Isle of Wight electro duo Get Shakes follow quickly afterwards across the field, providing minimal Vitalic-esque bleeps whilst brothers Darren and Matt Farrow sweat violently over their equipment. Autokratz are more intense affair, with camp vocals that would make Marc Bolan blush being smashed against a wall of dirty bass. The crowd have also found their dancing feet from somewhere but this is closer to nu-grave than nu-rave.
There’s a significant lull in proceedings, with the likes of Late of The Pier, Friendly Fires and Neon Plastix playing consecutively and while none of these bands are particularly bad, the depressingly similar sound that has spawned in this Klaxons / Rapture / !!! age grates far too easily when the beginning of the day’s proceedings was so enjoyable. These New Puritans don’t fare much better, though Jack Barnett is clearly a proficient front man, their standard indie fare is far too trying on these gradually tiring legs.
What I need is some screaming girl guitar action and whadayaknow? Comanechi arrive just in time, with Akiko (a.k.a, Exceedingly Good Keexalso, also of London noise delights PRE) sat at a drum kit with nothing but paper stripes to cover her nipples whilst screaming as if her life depended it, brings along the excitement of seeing Melt Banana or Afrirampo for the first time. Guitarist Simon (a.k.a. Von Klinkerhoffen) brings further intensity to events, delivering almost Motorhead-heavy riffs before throwing his guitar against the following bands drum kit.
This sets things up nicely for The Fall, who are on tremendous form this evening. Mark E Smith graces the stage and immediately takes the position of leader by turning his band’s amps up as high as humanly possibly with a smirk across his face throughout. The Theme From Sparta FC is rapturously received (though greeted with caution by far too overbearing event security) whilst Smith proves compelling to watch. Wandering around the stage to inspect his forever-changing backing band before leaving with nothing as much as a goodbye. Tremendous.
Arguably the festival’s biggest draw, Dizzee Rascal packs out the tent across the field an hour later than scheduled. He sticks to a greatest hits set, with only a few tracks from recently released third record Maths And English rearing their heads. Whilst I Love U and Stand Up Tall still remain indispensable dance tracks, you can’t help but feel Dizzee is not playing to a home crowd here. His shout outs to “all the old-school hip-hop heads” couldn’t be more out of place in a tent packed with white middle-class hipsters.
The East London rabble pack into a tiny tent for Uffie & Feadz’s 2am show shortly after, but again disappointment is only around the corner. The beats are near inaudible and whilst Uffie tries to pluck up some enthusiasm for her first UK show in six months, it proves a difficult task when the crowd can barely hear the track they’re trying to dance to. As a result, the usually brilliant Pop The Glock limps along weakly and having watched an evidently charisma-free Uffie prance around the stage for 30 minutes, it’s almost a relief when she finally exits the stage.
Not all is lost however as there’s still nine hours of partying to go right? Right? Wrong. It seems the organisers forgot to mention that some of the tents had 3am curfews and as a result New York quartet Gang Gang Dance, who have been taking up residency backstage all day and were due to be playing three hours earlier, are told they can’t play and have to face the punters at the side of the stage to share the bad news. Unsurprisingly this does not go down handsomely and talk of a rip-off and lack or organisation soon ensues. This is even more mind-boggling when you consider that some acts were asked to perform twice earlier in the day.
So that’s it and the journey back to London begins several hours earlier than expected. What promised to be a unique and diverse event all ends on a frustrated note and the groans of exasperated festival-goers will be remembered long before the memories of Mark E. Smith turning his amps up to 11.