A trend that is still to take off here, the one day urban festival is alive and well in the UK. London in particular, with its mass of parks, is proving a prime spot and while no-one could claim that Shoreditch Park is one of the city’s great beauty spots, it serves the purpose of The 1-2-3-4 perfectly. With no obviously massive names on show (although as we shall see there are a few moonlighting musical bigwigs) the event offers four stages over nine hours plus a series of aftershow clubs for twenty quid. That’s what we call value for money.
The early hours invite you to simply pick a new name at random. On the main stage we stop due to Action Beat having three drummers and four guitarists. We stay because they are quite, quite brilliant. Playing the most exciting version of instrumental music we’ve seen since And So I Watch You From Afar and with a live show to match, we have to face the fact that we may have seen our band of the day by two o’clock in the afternoon. Someone get them to Ireland now.
Elsewhere there are more variations on the noise theme. Invasion combine metal guitar, garage rock drums, no bass and a female soul vocal but aren’t as much fun as they could be; similarly NY duo Von Haze are far too cool for their own good; Sharks are far more fun in a tribute to the Gaslight Anthem tribute to Bruce Springsteen sort of way and Random Impulse is yet another invigorating UK grime MC, albeit one fronting a rock band. None of them drop our jaws in the manner of Maria and the Mirrors. Made up of a man with huge earings making electronic noise, a trumpet, two women beating the crap out of drums and screaming plus two more women dancers wearing fruit, they are either genius or the worst band ever – or possibly a bit of both.
Dum Dum Girls are the first major draw on the main stage and respond to that status by doing very little. It’s as if the entire area has had a charisma bypass. If they had better songs they’d get away with such an apathetic approach or if they were a bit more entertaining we could gloss over their average material. They’re not helped by ongoing sound problems but as it is they are just dull. They could certainly learn a lot from Comanechi, who make up for their shortcomings by giving it socks in a singing Japanese girl drummer with a massive bow in her hair sort of way.
A few weeks ago State watched Bad Lieutenant’s Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris huff and puff in Manchester and tonight we get another glimpse of the post-New Order world with Peter Hook performing Unknown Pleasures. It’s all very odd. Hook sings as opposed to playing much bass and while these are fine songs without a doubt and worth celebrating but you can’t help but feel that there are two other people who should be up there with Hook doing it.
Wandering the compact site, every stage reveals something – although it’s not always good. Thrush Metal seem to be a bunch of models playing at being a punk rock grrrl band and are a tedious joke, especially given that the festival has promoted so many female musicians. Vivian Girls are an exquisite throw back to classic American alternative rock, Le Volume Courbe are buried in the VIP area but prove a welcome acoustic diversion until they have a row with the sound man (“he couldn’t mix a fucking cake”) and Rolo Tomassi create an almighty buzz on the tiny New Bands Stage. Such a buzz in fact that we can’t get anywhere near them and have to make do with watching people climb the tent’s central tower and listen to what sounds like a female fronted Napalm Death. Rumours of Wavves‘ new polished approach are slightly dismissed by their late arrival, inability to play their songs properly and petulant strop when asked to stop playing.
What we need now is a set of old men playing a few covers. No really. The Silver Machine is a one-off band put together for the festival by Bobby Gillespie, Glen Matlock and Zak Starkey. Although it’s hardly a set chock full of chart toppers they do approach their task with gusto and show quite a few of the younger bucks a clean pair of heels. Then it’s headliner time. After a long day the choice between These New Puritans and Fucked Up is hardly an enticing one, but the former’s no show on the Rough Trade Stage makes it an easy call. And what a good, if forced, decision it is. The Canadians are an awesome spectacle and far more musically interesting than we might have imagined. Pink Eyes spends the majority of the show down with the audience and their set is a perverse mix of sheer aggression, experimental noise and warm humanity – the very ingredients that have made The 1-2-3-4 such a great day.