Mirrors Festival 2019: London – live review

Mirrors Festival has relocated to Camden Town. Keith Goldhanger visits all six venues and reports from this one-day event.

The days of visiting churches, chapels and clothes shops in Hackney are a thing of the past for Mirrors Festival. This year’s event based in Camden Town on a wet and miserable day gives us an excuse to visit North London again on a Saturday afternoon to catch an early glimpse of the end of the market that we’ve heard about but are now beginning to see take shape, and to see a few bands we expect we’ll end up loving to bits.

Three of today’s venues are under the same circular roof of the Roundhouse. Dingwalls is the furthest we walk all day, and sandwiched in between we have the Camden Barfly that used to be called the Monarch, but nowadays is actually called The Camden Alliance and smells of fried chicken. The Monarch of today (that was once a cheap ‘Spoons and used to be where The Alliance is now) is also hosting a Mirrors Festival pop quiz and a show by LOS BITCHOS, a late addition to the proceedings.

We’d like to think that the people who put this year’s event together thought very carefully about putting the band that some of us wanted to see more than any other on first (thus maybe justifying the name of the festival itself?). HOPE are named last on the posters too. This Berlin-based quartet have visited the UK a few times now and their debut album is one we want you to hear. Hope is the band that is more dramatic than Savages, cooler than Bauhaus and as cool as Siouxsie and the Banshees were without actually sounding like them. This is arty-sounding, dark Goth music that reminds us of a genre of music that was magical, raw and inspiring before it became a dirty word when bands such as Sisters of Mercy or The Cure got lumped into the same category, causing fans of these bands to turn every event into a fancy dress party.

This was a headline-type performance by a band who can mesmerise the audience with quiet intense moments before bursting out into a collage of noise that you never want to end. A half-hour set is never enough from Hope but one we’re always grateful to receive whatever time of the day they appear.

Over in the Torquil’s Bar (on the first floor of the Roundhouse) we catch the terribly named STONER who are great. But they’re called Stoner and they’re not an electronic droning, trippy, one-note plodding self-obsessed wankfest as their name might suggest. Dual male/female voices that glide between the synth, bass and drums are a fabulous bonus that we take a chance on. We can’t tell you much about them though because there are twenty seven other bands called this and when we get home we quickly become fed up listening to awful Eastern European rock bands that share the same name.

Mirrors Festival 2019: London – live reviewA quick peek downstairs into the packed ‘Sackler Space’ (down a slope just to the right as you enter the Roundhouse) and we catch a couple of tunes by ADA LEA but we’ve stayed in the building to finally get to see the glorious LAURAN HIBBERD  (right pic). She keeps us thoroughly entertained in between the songs as well as during them, keen to point out the Salisbury’s backdrop behind her through the glass walls and keen to allow a photographer capture the big crowd so her family can see that travelling from the Isle of Wight on a Saturday morning has all been worthwhile. Her catchy well-crafted Indie pop songs are all tunes to savour and not tire of and she’s a huge highlight of the day.

JUST MUSTARD just don’t cut it for some of us. This is another in a shortlist of bands that 2019 has introduced us to that everyone seems to love apart from one or two of us that are after something a little more terrifying and inspiring. We’re still swaying our bodies slowly to this though, which does make us wonder how much we’ll regret not getting in early and to the front. A band we’ll certainly come back to though.

PORRIDGE RADIO on the other hand are offering us the sound of early 80’s Brighton without realising it. Dana Margolin’s voice seems to get stronger the more we see them, Keyboard player Georgie is the most enthusiastic person in a band we see all day and Give/Take is a glorious song, the best pop song we’ll hear all day and already being pencilled in as one of our tunes of the year.

LOS BITCHOS over at the Monarch are displaying some fabulous garage, psychedelic, rhythmic South American instrumentals that go down well with the late afternoon revellers now two or three pints down and with a tendency to chat their way through much of it. Then we’re back over to the Roundhouse to see the day out watching the remainder of the bill.

Mirrors Festival 2019: London – live reviewThe name ROSBOROUGH (right pic) has been written on bits of paper for a while now on the desk we write this from. (This is how we -try to – succeed in not forgetting music we’ve heard whilst washing the dishes or feeding the cat.) We get a wonderful rendition of a Daniel Johnston song (True Love Will Find You In The End) and by the time we get reminded of the brilliant Burn Blue we’re as smitten as we were when this guy’s music first crossed our paths a couple of years ago. A truly stunning performance.

There’s one man in charge of the main arena inside the Roundhouse once the clock strikes seven and that’s CASS MCCOMBS who glides through some very laid back tunes he drives with his guitar, and crooning almost-whispered voice that again gets drowned out by those in attendance happier to chat away not realising that some of us are here to listen to the music as opposed to strangers’ conversations about their broadband suppliers.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL are performing for many of us who may not have had the chance to see them before. With one of the simplest but most effective light shows we’ve seen for a while (eight banks of twin white lights) and opening with Silhouettes we’re hooked from the start. Uncomfortably Numb comes half way through yet we still find ourselves walking casually around the venue trying to escape those that would rather be having a chat with their mates.

This gets worse during PHOEBE BRIDGERS (main pic) which can’t be helped by the fact that she’s airing mostly new unrecognisable songs, for those of us trying to listen. Phoebe played Visions two years ago and is now back inside one of London’s largest venues and sounding epic but it really shouldn’t be too hard to start putting up some signs nowadays asking folk to shut the fuck up at a large gig such as this surely?

It’s been a long day: nine and a half hours of fabulous bands playing fabulous music that anyone keen to experience something they may not have had the chance to witness previously can experience. Mirrors continues to serve up the goods providing enough variety for anyone happy to wander amongst the allocated venues in the hope that they’ll get to see what they know, what they feel they should know, or even the bands they’ve no previous knowledge of.

We had a great ten hours which isn’t something we often say when wandering around Camden Town for this long on a Saturday – a day when some folk had been up since dawn to watch the rugby and on a rainy day such as this when a day in front of an open fire could have been more tempting.

Words & Photos by Keith Goldhanger. More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).

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Keith Goldhanger -- Spent the 90's as a frontman with London noisemerchants HEADBUTT - spent the 80's in "Peel favourites" BASTARD KESTREL. Spent a few years mashing up tunes and remixing bands as HIDEOUS WHEEL INVENTION. Is often out and about getting in the way of things and bumping his head on low ceilings - drinks real ale, takes photo's has made a few short films. Will give your band the time of day but will dislike any band that balances full pints of alcohol on the top of guitar amps (Not keen on lead singers that wear hats either).


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