Sunday, 3 August 2014

Live review and pictures: Visions Festival, London 2/8/14

Now in it's second year, Visions Festival is a diverse musical festival with added food, art and various other activities (including an arm-wrestling competition refereed by Andrew WK!). Set in various locations around London Fields, it's almost like a mini SXSW, with punters changing venues between bands, popping into the local shops, bars and markets, or just hanging out on the sun-drenched rooftops at The Oval Soace and Netil 360.

Cheatahs rocking The Laundry basement 2/8/14
First up for me was a trip to The Laundry (no prizes for guessing what it used to be) to see Cheatahs. They played with loads of energy despite their early afternoon spot, filling the basement venue with reverberating guitars and melodic hooks.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi at the Oval Space 2/8/14
Emerging blinking into the sunlight it was time for a brisk walk round to The Oval Space to see Finland's Jaakko Eino Kalevi. His brand of minimal electro-dance-pop perhaps deserved a darker, more intimate setting but I'm sure he gained some new fans.

Songhoy Blues live in London 2/8/14
Next it was time to hotfoot it round to the New Empowering Church to see Songhoy Blues from Mali. Having seen them at last year's Africa Express I was keen to catch them again, and they didn't disappoint. With the temperature inside the venue matching the African vibe they played a fantastically energetic set. If you can get a crowd to dance wildly to songs they've mostly never heard before in the middle of a Saturday afternoon then you must be doing something right. They've got heart and soul in abundance, not to mention a fantastically gifted guitar player - make sure you see them next time they're in town.

Dirty Beaches, The Oval Space, London 2/8/14
Back to the Oval next for 2 acts in a row. First up a man I've admired for some time but never seen live before - Dirty Beaches. A thoroughly engrossing set saw Alex Zhang Huntai hitting bits of metal, playing the saxophone, singing distorted vocals and finally donning leather gloves to punch the air during a closing song that wouldn't have sounded out of place at a Factory Floor gig. Two other things about Alex - he's taller than you might think, and he's a very nice man (I had a bit of a fanboy moment later in the day when I spotted him outside & went over to tell him how good he was).

Sun streaming into the Oval Space
Between acts everyone made a beeline for the Oval's terraces and staircase (who'd have thought that pale-skinned hipsters liked the sun so much?) causing a bit of a log-jam in the doorway but the vibe at the festival was so laid-back that no-one got heated  and everyone just went with the flow.

Young Fathers at The Oval Space, London 2/8/14
Young Fathers are a band that are just getting better and better at the moment. I saw them at Glastonbury a few weeks ago, but this was another step up in terms of performance and crowd appreciation. Their live show is a sweltering, intense, seething mix of spoken, shouted and sung vocals, writhing, dancing bodies and pounding beats that you really have to abandon yourself to. Definitely one of the highlights of the day, and one of the best bands of the year (possible Mercury Prize winners perhaps?).

Jacco Gardner, live in London 2/8/14
The New Empowering Church beckoned me again to worship at its altar of musical loveliness, this time in the form of Dutchman Jacco Gardner. His at his best when things get a bit loose and he trips over into some Syd Barrett-esque psychedelia, but he's also got some good melodies that are a bit more mainstream.

Perfume Genius, London 2/8/14
Headlining the stage was Perfume Genius, who currently seems to be everyone's darling (including me) due to his fantastic new single 'Queen'. Despite this I'm not sure he completely connected with the audience. Maybe it was the wrong venue, or the fact that there were (annoyingly) lots of people talking throughout, but I wasn't really feeling it, so after about half his set I headed round to the London Fields Brewhouse to finish off the evening with Nathan Fake.

To summarise: 4 venues, 8 acts from almost as many countries, sunshine, good vibes, good organisation, and all for £25. Visions Festival, I salute you. See you next year

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