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Good Friday, 14th April 2017
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Gig Review

1-2-3-4 Festival: Buzzcocks, Crocodiles, Lets Wrestle, Bo Ningen, Holograms and more
Shoreditch, London

Article written by Lewie P - Sep 4, 2012

Now in its fourth year, the 1234 Festival is located, as always, in its spiritual home. Slap bang in the middle of its stereotyped demographics stomping ground in Shoreditch Park, it’s a hive of small tents, smaller bands and all the people-watching you could want in any trendy part of East London for a week condensed into one small park on one long day.

The notoriously disorganized opening times and queue management system mean that we only catch the last two songs of London post-rockers Bleeding Heart Narrative’s set. With two Cellos driving the Frightened Rabbit meets Lanterns on The Lake build and release of their material it only takes these two songs to lament missing them play and marking Bleeding heart Narrative down as ones to watch.

Over on the main stage Deptford siblings Drop out Venus are a discordant, noisy collision of angular guitars and breathy female vocals. While sometimes falling into the trap of empty sloganeering (“satisfy my cunt, Satisfy my cock” is one of the more clumsier attempts at lyrical confrontation) they are loud enough to warrant attention from the scattered crowd watching and make the casual listeners wandering from tent to tent stop and watch.

Staying on the main stage Porcelain Raft are simply stunning. With spectacularly haired drummer Jonny Rogoff on Loan from 90’s alt rock “Borrowers” Yuck, Porcelain Raft main-man Mauro Remiddi makes the assembled crowd swoon with every washed out, dreamy guitar chord played. As the sun makes its first appearance it makes for one of the most atmospheric moments of the whole festival as Remiddi loses himself in Porcelain Rafts hazy guitars that drift over the audience sprawled out in the grass.

In a park full of people who have spent the best part of four hours trying to look like they have just rolled out of bed, Nashville’s Jeff the Brotherhood actually have probably just woken up. Stumbling onto the main stage in a beer bong haze the brothers Orrall and their stoner rock meets Weezer pop are a scuzzy lank-haired joy to watch. Songs such as the ode to drunken summer that is ‘Sixpack’ and the fuzzy, mid tempo chug of ‘Mystic Portal’ win over new fans with their infectiousness and lack of pretension.

Whist making our way to the Artrocker stage to secure a good viewpoint for hotly-tipped Swedish punks Holograms a stop is made at the dance tent to watch Patten. Playing to a handful of people in attendance Patten’s glacial, swooping electronica seems sadly apologetic in the face of such a sparse crowd. Going from a severely under-attended tent to artrockers already packed-out tent Holograms spend ages setting up. A recent Diabetes diagnosis keeps Filip Spetze from manning the Korg that takes centre stage and it’s a baffled stand-in (a wonderfully lank haired, moustachioed teenager called “Axl”) that mans the vacant keyboard. Working through various sound problems that dog their set the young swedes plow through a fantastic collision of post-punk and Fugazi-esque gang chants that justify the attention garnered towards their recently released Self-Titled album.

Seeing Holograms through to the end means that the start of Dirty Beaches much anticipated set is missed. No longer working as a solo entity onstage Dirty Beaches frontman Alex Zhang Hungtai is now backed by two black clad, solemn faced musicians working drum machines and guitar. Moving away from the pitch-black, reverbed surf noir that was ‘Badlands’ Newer material is electronically dense, with clinical drum machines providing the menace instead of the Sinister treble of ‘Badlands’ guitars. For the fans in attendance more familiar with Zhang-Hungtai’s performances the yelps and growls that punctuate his singing still sound like the audio track to David Lynch Documenting Elvis Presley’s final moments. Even though his main stage performance is drenched in menace and unease there is an unshakable feeling throughout that maybe this would have fared better in the Gloom of the cavernous Loud and Quiet tent where the shadows illuminating Dirty Beaches would have made for a perfect visual accompaniment.

Staying on the main stage, San Diego’s Crocodiles are the first major disappointment of the day. With new album ‘Endless Flowers’ showing itself to be one of the highlights of the year expectations are sadly not met as the vibrancy of Crocodiles huge pop songs are reduced to a dull thud due to some shaky main stage sound issues. This combined with Crocodiles singer Brandon Welchez being one of the most annoying frontmen of the day (his affected rock star drawl and complaints of not being “wasted” and hating playing sober annoy from the start) makes for a frustrating half hour. When Crocodiles bring out ex-Pistol Paul Cook to run through a cover of ‘Bodies’ (that actually isn’t as atrocious as it sounds on paper) Welchez gets a chance to live out his punk fantasies even more. Aping John Lydon’s singing it makes for a spirited high point of an otherwise dull set.

As the early evening tiredness sets in for many of the attendees there seems to be a lull of good acts. The Duke Spirit still manage to reaffirm their position as one of the dullest live acts on earth with a set of lumpen rock that makes us head for the Rat Pit tent to watch a few minutes of uninspired garage rock courtesy of Charles Howl. Luckily the evening is saved by Japanese-London noise banshees Bo Ningen. Fixtures of the 1234 festival they are a visually stunning mass of immaculate long hair and sheets of vicious Melt Banana/Merzbow Art-Metal. With Front-entity Taigen throwing shapes like a Demon with a bass- guitar strapped to its body, Bo Ningen ignite the crowd from the first screech of guitar. Staying on the right side of cacophony and compelling to watch, Bo Ningen make for the festivals highlight.

Unfortunately hotly-tipped Post-Punks Savages who play after Bo Ningen in the Loud and Quiet tent prove themselves to be more hype than anything else as their whole set seems to be one song, one song that came out on Factory records 30 years ago. Lead singer jehn’s attempts at emulating Ian Curtis are at times painful to watch. Even Fat Bob from Rough Trade West stands at the back looking unimpressed. Deflated, we leave before they finish and catch Lets Wrestle in the Rat Pit tent. The band is unabashed fun, mixing Superchunk pop-punk and joyous harmonies together with great songs and like Bleeding Heart Narrative, a feeling that we should have gotten there five songs earlier.

As with every year the nostalgia acts veer from great to awful (Peter Hook murdering the whole of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in 2010 always springs to mind). This year The Buzzcocks fall into the former category. With a full crowd watching you realise that a lot of tickets have been sold to middle-aged men and women who have paid £20 to just watch The Buzzcocks, maybe staying for the whole day or turning up before and going home straight after their set. The ‘cocks are best watched from a safe distance where you can hear perfect renditions of classics like ‘Orgasm Addict’ and obviously ‘Ever Fallen in love’ without being too close and seeing the ageing punks throwing shapes like it was ’76 all over again.

If the Buzzcocks are the representation of the elder statesmen of punk rock at the 1234 festival then Iceage are sadly representing the new school. The Danish quartet shuffle onstage and demand the screen behind them be turned off and then proceed to play a lazy set of Faux-Hardcore. Admittedly there are not many watching the first half of their set as Citizens! are playing a packed out Artrocker tent at the same time and the mass of people who watched The Buzzcocks are busy exiting the park. This doesn’t excuse the sullen foursome to play so half-heartedly. With singer Johan either mumbling or apathetically screaming through each song Iceage might be seen as the second coming of hardcore to a park full of twentysomethings whose knowledge of the genre extends only to the Black Flag logo adorning their T-shirts but a lack of stage presence and the sense of a band not wanting to be there ends the day on a low.

As with every year the 1234 festival is a mix of anticipated performances and the discovery of new talent and this year is no exception. For music fans you would be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a Saturday in the park.


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