State is in a foreign place. Not just literally, as we are in London’s East End, but musically too. In front of us, a group of young men with ridiculous hair and extravagant make-up are busting some serious moves to their electro / emo soundclash. They are playing on a bandstand, while in front of them a row of excitable young girls are mouthing every word while filming every move on their cameras. Behind them a mosh pit of equally excitable young boys are having a rare old time. The band in question is called MY PASSION. No, we haven’t heard of them either. Nor have we heard of XX TEENS, POLLY SCATTERGOOD OR CHEEKY CHEEKY & THE NOSEBLEEDS. As we said, State is in a foreign place.
That place is the second outing for the Underage Festival, taking place in Victoria Park in Hackney. A well used venue for large outdoor shows, this nevertheless works on an entirely different set of criteria to any other show. Yes the security are checking ID on the way in, but to make sure that no-one over the age of eighteen gets in (the lower limit is fourteen). Kicking off at the ungodly rock -n’ roll hour of 11am, a queue has formed by nine o’clock and the first bands appearing across the seven stages are all met with some sort of audience, all wildly excited just to be here. The brainchild of sixteen year old Sam Kilcoyne, the initial aim was to provide the first festival of its kind anywhere in the world, where parents have to drop their kids at the gate and let them run free for the day.
Those who have experienced some of the less enjoyable aspects of Oxegen may well shudder at such a prospect, but the reality is that Underage is a perfectly fine place to be. With a capacity increased to this year’s seven thousand, the prospect of more than a few idiots to spoil the party would seem to be high but State genuinely comes across one worse for wear group all day. It helps that the security on the event is watertight but also that the kids here have clearly come for a musical experience as opposed to a chance to get wasted in a park.
Musically, the day throws up more than the odd surreal moment. The generally undersubscribed Domino stage climaxes with BONDE DO ROLE bumping and grinding while a handful of teenagers look embarrassedly on. Across the field on the main stage, it appears as though a trio of fourteen year old girls are playing Ramones tunes. On closer inspection, New York’s CARE BEARS ON FIRE have a rhythm section who are twelve years old. That’s twelve years old. To be honest, there’s a lot of landfill indie on offer and its all very London but the enthusiasm of all involved carries the day, lus there are some great performances from the likes of FLORENCE & THE MACHINE and TEAM WATERPOLO. The big names realise the wisdom of being here too, with GLASVEGAS and FOALS turning up to do it for the kids. By the time big underage favourites DIZZEE RASCAL and GALLOWS absolutely rock the place (the latter bringing LETHAL BIZZLE along for the ride) State can only admit that this is an absolute triumph. Could it happen here? Could it work? Stranger things have happened.