Keith Goldhanger reports on Visions, the multi-venue festival in East London that features breaking new acts as well as one or two more established performers all on one day.
Visions Festival 2019 starts as it does every year with a dog show in the midday sun and before you can blink we’re crushed inside a tiny venue we’ve never been in before, eight gigs attended, catching up on one band we’ve missed earlier in the evening and another we simply cant go to bed without seeing again. A SCALPING sandwich if you like but with Korean/London trio WOOZE tagged on the the end whilst in the company of dozens of music making friends crawling out of the wreckage from their own gig around the corner that was not even part of Visions.
A gig by Pleasure Complex ended up being inhabited by a few escapees such as ourselves filling the gap between PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS and a Visions after show for those of us that would still like one more liquid refreshment and a dance around our tote bags before the buses start arriving without the N prefix.
A summers day in East London and the annual Visions Festival has arrived again. Two and a half dozen bands scattered around five venues (six if you include the after show, seven if you count the one that wasn’t anything to do with Visions) separated by some hard concrete our feet are struggling to acclimatise to after the soft grass we’ve been enjoying all summer. The daytime venues for some reason have a policy of bag searching to assure no one is carrying their own water into the building or anything that those who fancy a nibble on a biscuit during the proceedings may be carrying. It’s irritating after half a dozen times but a necessity none the less we understand (It wasn’t even a bloody digestive). We could have eaten the snack or simply put it in our back pockets that for some reason were never checked but we’d decided early on that this way was more fun and thankfully it broke the ice with the friendly security.
This years event openers inside the dark basement known to the locals as Hanger are a band at least one person has been banging on about all year, SCALPING. This lot set the pulses racing for the early arrivals and can make anyone in attendance forget it’s the middle of the afternoon for half an hour. If any band around at the moment need witnessing by those wanting something exciting and invigorating then this is the band to see and hear. Band of the year in some peoples eyes and ears already and with only two tunes currently available for the hungry public this instrumental four piece manage to achieve what others have attempted previously but failed at. The difference between those that make instrumental dance music that’s rubbish and this Bristol quartet is that Scalping have pieces of music that don’t run away with themselves into any kind of self indulgent prog rock jamming session. The description live techno doesn’t even describe fully what they’re doing. Voice of America era Cabaret Voltaire sounds with huge tight drum rhythms that sound better than a drum machine could achieve and crashes like This Heat managed years ago on their fabulous eponymous debut album come to mind for the old, infirm and hard of hearing amongst us. Prodigy without any vocals for those just out of nappies or faster more intense and varied electronic noise than Fuck Buttons for anyone else.
Then it’s out into the unknown as we dip into the lucky bag of variety on offer. First up a duo by the name of BESHKEN are hitting buttons to compliment a drum machine but don’t leave us excited enough to hang around so we venture over the The Sebright Arms to moan about the lack of anything decent to drink. It’s five O’clock on a Saturday afternoon and a row of upended plastic cups at the front of the bar are indicating the only choices we have are cider, bottled Mexican stuff they’ll stick a lime in the top of to justify the expense or spirits. We have a rest and decide that Beshken will probably (typically) end up becoming another of our favorite bands now we’ve bailed out early and then discover the following morning that they are actually quite a good hangover cure (went for the spirits – bad choice).
Next up are LAZARUS KANE who leave us asking more questions than we could have ever imagined needing answering before walking down into this busy basement venue . There’s five of them on stage and just as we think the show is about to start a bloke in dark glasses and a Kimono is led onstage by a suited chap and presented to the uninitiated as some kind of cult hero we didn’t know existed. The seven piece have a drum machine and a stand up drummer hitting a floor tom. The men at the back don’t seem to be doing that much as it turns out apart from playing tambourines, looking dapper in their piano key ties and knocking over stuff whilst the guy at the front of all this opens his mouth and starts talking in what we imagine is a mock American accent. He tells us HE is Lazarus Kane thus rendering this as perhaps a solo project that’s got out of hand. Despite the room being rammed with people who (unlike us) know what they’re watching there doesn’t seem to be much going on out here in the land of make believe (AKA The Internet) to fathom out what the dickens we’ve been witnessing today. If we can be bothered we’ll find out more for another day but we’re sticking around for TALK SHOW who we know we’ve seen before, cannot remember where but do remember wanting to catch them again one day. Talk Show leave us wanting to continue investigating even more after this gig as their South London sounding tunes (Shame, Hotel Lux) give early indications that this is a band that have a bucket load of noisy guitar riffs ready to let loose on the world one day. We’ve found a couple of tunes hidden away to sound track our late lunch and tick these off as a band we know we’ll see again. They’re also the first band some of us have heard for decades that remind us a little of late 80’s New Model Army. Not a comparison too many young bands can boast in the 21st century.
ANNA MEREDITH (top picture) over at Oval Space has filled the venue out with an audience one suspects won’t be at Ice age or Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs later on. Her fabulous electronic compositions get a little lost in this room tonight and although everything sounds as though its all flowing seamlessly one cannot be totally convinced we’re hearing every string, wind instrument or gadget that we should be hearing as the set rumbles on above the loud chatter of a restless audience that doesn’t really deserve this entertainment. ANNA ‘s music is fabulous and deserves more respect than it got today. One for The Royal Festival Hall in a comfy chair one day perhaps ?
ICE AGE are completing a shouty set of songs back over at a boisterous Hanger that now seems to have a bloke in the bogs trying to sell us perfume and hand out paper towels (We still don’t understand this practice), DEMDIKE STARE are managing to get people shuffling on their feet to electronic glitchy music that is impossible to shuffle your feet to around the corner at The London Fields brewery (who confuse us by selling ‘Hackey IPA’ under the banner of U.S IPA’s), PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS go through a set of Sabbath sounding rock bangers that may probably be more adapt at Donnington on Saturday evening than it is here in this dark steamy basement in the East End of London and the after show we promised ourselves we’d be too tired to visit at the end of the day is now only an hour away.
We escape Visions for this hour to visit a PLEASURE COMPLEX single launch party because this band are one of London’s biggest secrets and have attracted a few members of bands in the audience that have been performing at Visions during the day. This is convenient for those of us (all of us it appears when we get there) who are keen to grab a late pint or three inside Dalston’s Arcola Bar for what has been advertised as The Official Visions After Party. This allows two sets of live music loving late night party people to ram themselves inside the hottest room available in East London and witness Scalping again (or for the first time) and WOOZE who only ended their first appearance of the day three or four hours earlier (they sometimes borrow a Pleasure Complex Guitarist but not today). There’s a life-sized stuffed doll all dressed in all yellow (like the band) that becomes the only crowd surfer we see all day and we later learn there’s another one somewhere doing goodness knows what somewhere in Hackney, probably propped up in the corner of a chip shop whilst someone is shouting at it and wondering why they are getting no response.
Scalping and Wooze (and Pleasure Complex) are just a small selection of exciting bands around available to us at the moment and for some us a late night knees up like this was a fabulous finale to the day.
Visions 2019, just like previous years seemed to spread the attendees evenly across the area and provide a selection of acts the curious amongst us were willing to have a look at all in one go. An annual event that always seems to make more sense a couple of years down the line once the acts involved have wandered around the country a few more times, allowed the nation to hear more of their music and started to appear in packed venues in their own right. Its also an event we wish could happen over a second day with the same schedule so we could try to catch some of the bands we missed.
So brushing away the small irritation that we haven’t seen HMLTD since last year it’s a good job none of these bands will be going away anywhere for a while then?