Various Venues, East London
Saturday 8th August, 2015
Now in its third year – and having sold out every edition thus far – the eclectic and inspirational festival that is Visions returned to the London Fields area of London last weekend to take over all the warehouse venues, art spaces, courtyards, rooftops, churches and outdoor areas it could find. Louder Than War’s Keith Goldhanger sallied forth and on his return he filed the following report.
It’s a hot sunny day in the capital as we pass groups of people in their replica football shirts arriving for their early afternoon pints leading up to the start of the new season. Brushing aside the small matter of the tiny tin pot the English cricket team have just won in what was basically only a two horse race some of us have opted to stand around all day in dark rooms being screamed at over the sound of wailing distorted electronics and feedback.
It’s a tough life.
Initial knee jerk reactions to the first posters that arrived earlier in the year announcing the line up for VISIONS FESTIVAL made us more giddy than some of us have been for a long time. However, once the schedule landed on our doormats a week or so ago some of us felt like a 12 year old waiting for our lift to our first Premiership match and then discovering we were only visiting Bournemouth or Norwich. We’re disappointed and do eventually come to terms with this and accept we can’t be in four places at the same time (yet) so a couple of weeks trying to choose which of the four headliners we wanted to see was a tough one.
And that, as it turned out was the only gripe we had with this event.
Yet again, we learn that events such as this are not based around a couple of named acts with a few fillers spread around East London for the day but a well thought out and well executed event that included acts we’d seen previously and liked, bands we’ve read about, artists we’d briefly flirted with on our YouTube channels and one or two things we simply had to leave to the gods and hope we’d be in the right places at the right times. For some of us these places are venues we’d not even visited before so the schedule made on the comfy sofa at home involved a plan B.We were only a bus ride away, the gig goers arrived all at the same time in their droves and all of a sudden some of us realised we had to be on the ball in regards to making sure our pre-arranged plans would not fall foul of venues overspilling with people wanting to all see the same bands.
We begin at The Moth Club, or to give it the full name The Memorable Order of Tin Hats Club, a small ex-serviceman’s drinking establishment with a bronze glitter coated ceiling, pictures of the Queen in the hallway and war memorabilia nailed to the walls that may not have seen so many people crammed inside it for many years (if ever).
This is soon to become a new venue in London and one we will look at in months to come hoping to see the same people patronise this establishment who use block capitals on their Facebook accounts berating the demise of the similar sized venues we’ve recently lost. Locals reading this can note now that it’s in the small street behind the Wetherspoons pub that’s opposite Hackney Town Hall. The beer is nearly as cheap as it is in the aforementioned Wetherspoons and it’s already one of our new favorite places in this area after today.
CLAW MARKS (pic, above, right) are up on stage, or rather four fifths are because the singer is perched on a table by the door or rolling around on the floor. This is a superb start to the proceedings and this is a superb band who are just as exciting and raucous in the middle of the afternoon as they were when we caught them earlier in the year just before bedtime. If you haven’t heard “Soul Food” yet then hear it now, one of our tunes of the year and a band whose 21st Century punk rock is made of twists and turns (and feedback) that’ll have you gripping the side of the nearest table in order to maintain any balance left in your body once you start experiencing it.
GIRL BAND had been seen and heard before as well and when we say something about worth another look then these are the times we mean. A fast moving queue in the blazing sun leads into the depths of The Laundry where a large crowd are nodding frantically and, it appears, going through the motions of clapping in between songs they have been talking all the way through beforehand. We’re not sure if this is what Girl Band are meant to sound like to be honest. It’s all bottom heavy droning with slabs of feedback and intermittent shouting. They’re replicating the sound that your kitchen would make if you placed stones inside each appliance and turned everything up full with the window open in order to hear the sound of your neighbour shouting at you above the racket. We’ll still have to give these yet another look one day when it’s all calmed down a bit especially to see if the hundreds in attendance in this room are here to get their first band of the day chalked up or attempt to dance through the tracks they already know from their debut album due out soon.
We hang around to chalk our third band up and five songs in, Florida-based MERCHANDISE leave us craving for the sunshine and something a bit more challenging to watch and listen to.
Back at the Moth Club, where it’s decided we’ll remain for the rest of the day, GAZELLE TWIN (pics, top and below right) have won us over within the first five minutes. This male/female duo, dressed in red/blue hoodies, faces concealed and throbbing electro remind us of the days when we danced frantically to Factory Floor. Whispered vocals are also slightly concealed under the electronics and one feels this would work on a larger stage as well as it does here. Our legs are shaking, our heads are bobbing and we’re inside a tiny venue that’s selling cheap beer during one of the hottest days of the year. What could possibly go wrong we think but don’t want to say out loud.
BLANCK MASS (pic right) have us standing still for ten minutes listening to some ear splitting electronic distortion and we stand patiently, hoping and praying that soon this will turn into something as wonderful as we get when East India Youth does the same in our presence.
We’re encouraged by seeing at least one punter dancing in a way that suggests it will and once the beats arrive we’re punching the air and mentioning our favourites “Fuck Buttons” so many times that it gets pointed out to us that this is Benjamin John Power, one of the founding members of that band. As with Fuck Buttons, it’s also about the simple bold visuals as well as the superb instrumentals. Our minds wander throughout the droning bits and imagine a few of those brilliant Apollo mission samples from the late 60s early 70s that Public Service Broadcasting have got hold of. Those samples have been surely wasted and once I actually prise that album from my own CD player and move onto something else I’ll try and make sense of the argument that time, space or inclination does not allow right here right now. This has more than made up for deciding to give another of our favourites, Holy Fuck, a miss elsewhere in East London this evening and we’re feeling a little smug now that seeking out the new has proved fruitful once again. A stunning performance.
That smugness turns into delirium on the arrival of Ho99o9 (pic above and four below) who give us one of the most thrilling, exciting and invigorating experiences some of us have seen for years (yes, that fucking good). We came expecting some angry intense brutal hip hop and got a lot of angry intense brutal punk rock. We expected to come away comparing this trio to Death Grips or Clipping and came away reminiscing about Bad Brains, Flux of Pink Indians and Black Flag. During a weekend that coincides with Rebellion festival up in Blackpool it’s noticeable that here’s a band that would have and should have been taken to that event. If Rebellion did contain stuff as brilliant as this (maybe it does, I’m sure someone will be able to tell me) then one or two of us would probably be at the seaside with our mates but they’re not so we’re not.
What’s noticeable at gigs like this that we have stumbled into recently, and I’ll compare it as to when we saw Thee Oh Sees at Liverpool Sound City a couple of years ago is that nowadays at gigs, the experienced and alert, the old in the tooth gig goers who still sneak towards the front to get a decent view are never prepared for this mayhem until there’s a dozen people lying on top of them spilling their warm beer onto each others cheap clothing that’s being ripped and torn to shreds before the first chorus whilst others are hanging from the ceiling being photographed by anyone fast enough to draw their phones out of their pockets.
When we were 25 we could spot all the tough or the self destructive types a mile off (Mohicans, studded jackets, band T-shirts of a similar nature….). Today, well tonight (and in Liverpool) the polite young men and women we chatted to outside on the pavement who looked like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths are also the same people dry humping each other back inside once the gig is in full flow, stage diving and attempting to snog the singer whilst simultaneously dragging him down off the stage and into the mosh pit whilst he’s still trying to sing the rest of the last verse. The inhabitants of East London have caught some of us out a few times recently. They look like you, they look your mates and they look like the people on the buses and trains who also dressed casually for a hot day. You can’t really tell on a day like this whether these people on public transport around Mare Street, jumping on buses to go two stops between venues are off to sit by the Thames with an ice cream or about to find themselves in a position where they will be struggling to release a trapped foot that’s been caught between the pole holding the (swinging) stage lights and a bronze glitter-covered ceiling in an old serviceman’s club that usually hosts bingo and karaoke.
Six gigs in eight hours, a sneaky last pint in Wetherspoons and a night bus home. It’s been a success we squeal and thoughts of actually missing The Fat White Family have been forgotten.
Check out Ho99o9 if you haven’t already. It’s taken one or two of us too much time to take notice of the people who have been mentioning this trio this year and when they return to the UK I think we’ll make sure you lot are coming with us.
I’ll sort out the transport.
Oh and before you ask – it’s pronounced Horror.