Live Music + Gig Reviews

The 1234 @ Shoreditch Park, London

5 August 2007

A stork of a hipster with a paltry melanin concentration in his pores staggered in front of me. He looked like Sideshow Bob, only lobster pink, clutching a can of Strongbow, supplemented by mustard yellow drainpipes. He buckled over a 3 plastic bottle of Becks foppishly before running off with girly giggles.

Ahh, Shoreditch…

The 30 degree heat yielded more pleasant views than this thankfully. Beautiful girls in summer dresses, locals playing with their sprogs and Sunday lark in the park chatter. Everyone from Sudbury to Shoreditch was here.

The business model for The 1234 might not appeal to other festival promoters, but business really wasn’t the idea behind a free festival with a nutritious collection of emerging music. It even attracted tramps, chavs and the odd Romanian pensioner.

The People’s Revolutionary Choir, for one, are not Eastern bloc ex-pats mincing around East London. They were busy working up a sweat in the indie-slanted Weekender Records tent with some slow burn, slacker indie to a crowd who are lapping it up.

Over on the Myspace stage, Devonte Hynes seems to have found his Oberst-calling recording the Lightspeed Champion album in Nebraska. The songs are grander, uplifting and just right for this Sunday. It is quite departure from Test Icicles. Almost questionable in fact, maybe because sweeping, deeply instrumental song craft is in vogue. Hynes’ performance certainly gave the impression that his current output is something he is enjoying and more comfortable with.

Kingsize’s mid afternoon set seemed to catch a few sheepish souls trying to escape the sun offguard under the Weekender tent. Within 15 minutes they were blasting through their post-Libs indie rock at full throttle. The likes of the swinging anthem in waiting The Daze and Boy had the crowd in their palm by their departure.

Back on the main stage there is more charming folk with Florence And The Machine. At face value they look and sound like Cat Power for indie kids (Florence’s voice, Devonte Hynes on strings). Showered with extrinsic melodies and more offbeat songs, you can’t help but warm to their set as it progresses, winning an affirmative response from the large crowd they pull in.

One of the problems of parachuting a festival into a residential area are the restrictions imposed on the decibel levels. The farthest corner of the festival area was a sound mush between the indie Weekender stage, the dance tent, the so-off-your-face at 1pm sound system by the bar, and the glorified excuse for a gazebo that was the Xbox stage. This reduced Bolt Action Five’s indietronica to being buffered like a car stereo on full whack with the windows up. Hurling themselves in all manner of body popping directions a la Foals did very little to perk a crowd gathered out of interest and wanting to move.

Their bleepy, blurpy moon ride through the likes of Drop The Phone and Pressure To Come ensured Shy Child fared a little better on the Myspace stage. Much like their debut Noise Won’t Stop, it became a little too repetitive, and the techno farts that radiated from the PA left your ears in a foul state.

So it wasn’t a great idea to head back to the Xbox stage for Bono Must Die’s brand of new wave meets grime, but curoisity got the better of us. They brought to mind Hadouken! though less kiddie friendly and more deviant. Their sound was blown around like a kite and the strangest cover of Justin Timberlake’s Sexyback was aired, but they signed off having raised many an eyebrow.

No festival could be complete without disciples of lager swilling young men singing football chants about their favourite band. After one too many festivals observing a catwalk of poncey spirit guzzling new rave twattage, the atmosphere for Dogs as they headline the Weekender tent is quite welcome – the other choice was that imp Har Mar Superstar with Strokes drummer Fab Moretti.

Like I said, we’re sick of cool. Beer is flowing and flying, merry dances are being had, and it feels like an Arctics gig 12 months ago. Only rowdier, as Dogs clash of mod rock meets Pistols crossbred with Oasis styled anthems sends the tent into mayhem. The show has to be stopped twice, and the police nervously come onstage and into the crowd to exert some sort authority, failing woefully.

So it was a rousing end to an on the whole successful showing for the 1234 crew. Same place next term? Sure, just with more toilets, bins and bars to cope with 4000 people, not 400.

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The 1234 @ Shoreditch Park, London