Review of Visions Festival 2013

In my younger and more vulnerable years a hippie gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

Visions Festival

"Whenever you feel you need the toilet at a festival," he told me, "just remember that the ones inside the arena get cleaned right after 11:30 so try your best to bake it until then."

And thus begins my memory of festivals: endless fields strewn with discarded baggies and cardboard cups. Herds of pink-coiffed punks and dreadlocked crusties impaled with a thousand miniature stainless steel objects, all bogling together outside a legal highs tent shaking in the wind. My own innumerable psychological breakdowns inside hot portaloos of a harrowing state, the image of which has been indelibly tattooed onto my consciousness. All this to the backdrop of countless bands whom I have varied recollection of actually seeing.  In this way, just as remembrance and the fiction consumed amalgamates into one shapeless blob, so do the festivals of my youth all fuse into one long, undying gestalt festival in my mind.

Then I got older. Festivals got more expensive. The acquisition of tickets got more competitive.  And suddenly, standing for days in a rain-sodden field, the wind whipping hair into my eyes, wearing 'wellies' fashioned from discarded Iceland carrier bags seemed somehow less appealing.  Hooray then for ventures like the inaugural Visions festival which took place on 10th August in London Fields, allowing battle-scarred Glastonbury veterans to swing with the zanily moustachioed and vintage spectacled in three nearby, weatherproof venues (Netil House, The Oval Space and The Brewhouse) to a harem of mainly newish bands (thus wisely, given the setting,  making them hipster-proof - it's hard to prefer the older material of a band yet to record their debut album) before sleeping in one's own bed.

The line-up is undoubtedly a fine one too. Having christened the day with the obligatory cocktail kindly provided by the peeps at Sailor Jerry's on Netil House roof, we ventured below for our first band of the day, and indeed the one I had been most keenly anticipating, The Wytches. Happily, they do not disappoint, the horror-woven dark psychedelia of Beehive Queen and Crying Clown turning the dimly-lit cavern of a venue into a funeral beach party, Kristian Bell's Cobain-esque screech and chainsaw guitar bloodily lacerating its way through the crowd. I suspect their forthcoming album may be very good indeed.

Sail Jerry's Rum ShackAtmosphere at the wonderful Sailor Jerry Rum Shack held on the Netil 360 rooftop

Next up are Public Service Broadcasting over in the huge Oval Space. PSB's audio-visual show very smartly taps into a nostalgia for the classroom video - in this case one seemingly directed by David Byrne. It is a certainly an entertaining show, but will the recorded, digitally-voiced inter-song 'banter' stand up for multiple viewings or is it a gimmick that might grow tiresome? Time will tell, but band members  J. Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth appear to have the chops to evolve what is certainly an engaging initial concept. Hey, if Gorillaz can manage it.

Another highlight are Echo Lake, whose album 'Wild Peace' found plenty of play on my iPod last year, particularly the excellent single 'Die Another Day'. They are a band who went through plenty over the past twelve months; nothing more so than the tragic death of founding drummer Peter Hayes just days prior to the release of their record. They return to the stage with a line-up slightly altered around the main pairing of Linda Jarvis and Thom Hill, but otherwise it is business as usual with their ephemeral, swooning dreampop. Again, the interesting thing here will be how this band evolves beyond their My Bloody Valentine roots and a couple of new tracks suggest that there may be something exciting ahead.

Paisley trio Paws are next, cheerfully blasting through an enjoyable set steeped in the mid-90's fuzzy guitar pop of Blink 182 and Weezer, whilst Copenhagen's Iceage who follow look to a faster, thrashier, less bubblegum and more twitchy version of punk. Iceage's set is full of energy and their stagecraft seems considerably more honed than many of the acts on today's roster.  Cloud Nothings continue the trend with their lo-fi, college powerpop. The songwriting is strong albeit down a well-trod path, allowing the thirtysomethings in the room to party like it's 1994.

Topping off the bill is the eminently danceable funk of !!! , lathering the partygoers in the Oval Space up into a frothy climax with choice cuts from their new LP Thr!!!er.

All in all, Visions can count its first year as a very strong one. A cracking line-up of bright young things and good organisation bodes well for the future. It is also about as different a festival as you can get to the ones I remember in my teens; but then the best way forward for festivals, much like their reviews, is often the novel way. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Next up are Public Service Broadcasting over in the huge Oval Space. PSB's audio-visual show very smartly taps into a nostalgia for the classroom video - in this case one seemingly directed by David Byrne. It is a certainly an entertaining show, but will the recorded, digitally-voiced inter-song 'banter' stand up for multiple viewings or is it a gimmick that might grow tiresome? Time will tell, but band members  J. Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth appear to have the chops to evolve what is certainly an engaging initial concept. Hey, if Gorillaz can manage it.

Another highlight are Echo Lake, whose album 'Wild Peace' found plenty of play on my iPod last year, particularly the excellent single 'Die Another Day'. They are a band who went through plenty over the past twelve months; nothing more so than the tragic death of founding drummer Peter Hayes just days prior to the release of their record. They return to the stage with a line-up slightly altered around the main pairing of Linda Jarvis and Thom Hill, but otherwise it is business as usual with their ephemeral, swooning dreampop. Again, the interesting thing here will be how this band evolves beyond their My Bloody Valentine roots and a couple of new tracks suggest that there may be something exciting ahead.

Paisley trio Paws are next, cheerfully blasting through an enjoyable set steeped in the mid-90's fuzzy guitar pop of Blink 182 and Weezer, whilst Copenhagen's Iceage who follow look to a faster, thrashier, less bubblegum and more twitchy version of punk. Iceage's set is full of energy and their stagecraft seems considerably more honed than many of the acts on today's roster.  Cloud Nothings continue the trend with their lo-fi, college powerpop. The songwriting is strong albeit down a well-trod path, allowing the thirtysomethings in the room to party like it's 1994.

Topping off the bill is the eminently danceable funk of !!! , lathering the partygoers in the Oval Space up into a frothy climax with choice cuts from their new LP Thr!!!er.

All in all, Visions can count its first year as a very strong one. A cracking line-up of bright young things and good organisation bodes well for the future. It is also about as different a festival as you can get to the ones I remember in my teens; but then the best way forward for festivals, much like their reviews, is often the novel way. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Nathan Leong


Official Site - http://visionsfestival.com

Sailor Jerry - http://sailorjerry.com



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