East London's emergence as the musical - if not cultural - hub of the capital has been duly celebrated for the past six years (bar 2008) by 1234 Shoreditch, a festival that prides itself in consistently strong line ups that are, as described by the Evening Standard, "so hip that it's bands will probably be out of fashion by the time they leave the stage". Approaching a festival branded as such can be daunting, but the sense of a snobbish 'trendier-than-thou' attitude amongst the attendees was almost non-existent this year, with families
and - to almost extremes - young and old uniting on this overcast Saturday.
With a true community spirit (the most heart-warming moment of my day being a Thin Lizzy Jailbreak t-shirt sporting drunkard dancing with a cooperative policewoman), a day of great music was nicely set up ahead of me. First up, I saw Vision of Trees on the Streets of Beige stage, whose dark powerful dance music was frankly lost at half one in the afternoon. The clash between Porcelain Raft and Regal Safari was a painful one, but having seen Porcelain Raft back in February, I opted for the latter. I caught a couple of songs by Porcelain Raft whilst Regal Safari set up, and Mauro seemed in top form, with Yuck drummer Johnny giving a helping hand. I grabbed a halloumi wrap from the Salad Days food stall and returned to the Streets of Beige stage see Regal Safari's airy field recording-based electronica as my first full set of the day - and a good one it was! I then headed for Gross Magic, who played a heavy set of their fun Garage-Glam throwback to a packed out tent. Having heard and enjoyed début album Badlands, I was intrigued to see how Alex Zhang Hungtai - aka Dirty Beaches - would translate his unique sound to stage. A drone-filled set was what I found, with Hungtai's growly vocals arguably better suited to a metal band - as he had previously been in. The set, complete with several new songs, was bizarre and engaging in equal parts from start to finish, and was arguably the pinnacle of the diversity on show at the festival. San Diego garage rockers Crocodiles followed Dirty Beaches, the highlight of their set being the title track of their latest record, Endless Flowers. I managed to catch one song from Bo Ningen, whose incredible energy made me long to see more - if only out of sheer interest.
By the time Buzzcocks were due to come on stage I felt content, be it due to the numbers of new upcoming acts I saw in such a small amount of time, or that Buzzcocks were about to take stage, and couldn't possibly do any wrong. - And that they didn't. An energetic, comprehensive set from a legendary band who looked genuinely ecstatic to be there. Guitarist Steve Diggle's aged performance clichés were most welcome and Pete Shelley's vocals were on-point, recapturing the essence of Buzzcocks' original punk selves. The set, fast and tidy, was packed with hits, and obvious or not - the highlight came in the form of beloved single Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have).
My other London festival this season, Field Day, had set my standards high, and The 1234 Shoreditch maintained these standards: a quaint little festival that somehow felt both relaxed and overbearingly buzzing, unaffected by potential sound leaks (how can the tents be so close to one another!?) and undoubtedly likely to boast an equally - or even more-so - strong line up this time next year.
Photos by Grady Steele
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