Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Eclecticism is the key to the third Visions festival

11 August 2015, 10:40 | Written by James Appleyard

As festival line-ups go, you’d be hard pushed to find one more eclectic than Visions . Now in its third year, past forays have seen bands as diverse as Perfume Genius, Young Fathers and Andrew WK share the bill, and this year proved to harbour the most expansive set of artists yet.

Having swelled to five main venues and a handful of smaller enclaves, this year's Visions encompassed a stretch of Hackney's Mare Street along which it’s possible to reach the furthest venues at either end in 20 minutes, if you employ a full steam ahead strategy. That's is exactly what I was doing as I made my way to the upper reaches of the site to catch Claw Marks as they began their early afternoon set.

Claw Marks are a band that carry with them a reputation for raucous live shows, due in no small part to the on-stage antics and probable borderline insanity of front man Jack Lenton. Hitting the compact stage of the Moth Club, it seemed like there was barely enough room for the five members of the band to comfortably stand and perform, but that was soon remedied.

The first few bars of the opening song had barely rung out before Lenton exited the stage and stood singing and wildly gyrating in the middle of the crowd, whose expressions ranged from awed excitement to genuine terror. As the band plowed through their set of hyperactive, diesel motor punk, Lenton straddled speakers and swung from the lighting rig whilst delivering his scowling baritone like Nick Cave with Tourettes.

The day was off to a good start.

At this festival, it’s not only the bands that are eclectic, but also the venues - as was proved when arriving at The Laundry to catch Girl Band. The venue turned out to be a reappropriated car park tucked under a restaurant and entering it was an exercise in sensory deprivation as the crowd shuffled through the doors to be plunged into near pitch black. But all that changed when Girl Band arrived.

On the face of it, the Dublin four-piece look like the most unassuming people you could possibly meet, but looks can invariably be deceiving. With just half an hour to play with, the band fired off a rapid run of new material from their long awaited debut album, including the riotous “Paul”. Singer Dara Kiely was shot through with abrasive energy as he delivered his pitched yells directly into the front row, which was more than happy to receive them.

Next up was Spanish outfit Hinds who were a short stroll away at Oval Space. Well, that was the plan, but a huge queue snaking from the entrance resulted in a seriously disappointing one in/one out situation and the fact that the band were scant minutes from starting their set meant it was time for plan B. Shame too, because word on the street (literally) later on was that the band closed their set by bringing out a giant eyeball shaped piñata and smashed it, showering the crowd in streamers and candy. Next time Hinds announce a show I’ll be sure to get there early… days early, if necessary.

And so it was back up to Moth Club to see the enigmatic pedlar of sinister beats Gazelle Twin. To say watching Gazelle Twin is an arresting experience would be a huge understatement. Seemingly appearing from out of nowhere, she took to the stage clad in her familiar blue hoodie and face obscuring opaque mask.

Accompanied by a just as mysterious beat maker armed with a sampler and drum machine, Gazelle Twin delivered a sharp set of sample heavy glitches and looped vocal acrobatics. When performed live, tracks like “Anti Body” and “Belly Of The Beast” sounded even starker, more jittery and more sinister than their album counterparts. Watching Gazelle Twin was like being suspended above a carpet of spiders with the rope about to break at any moment. It was compelling, exhilarating, and one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a long time.

But Shamir was on hand to provide the antidote by bringing his wild pop party to Oval Space. It’s been impossible to ignore the rise of this fresh-faced Las Vegas native since the middle of last year and his sunset show left no one in any doubt what all the fuss has been about.

Backed by just a drummer, keyboard player and a back-up vocalist, it was hard to figure out how there was such a huge wall of technicolour sound emanating from the stage. But who cares about technicalities when an unrelenting earworm like "On The Regular" is happening? The beats were big and the crowd was in full-on party mode as Shamir ran through most of his debut album Ratchet providing the perfect soundtrack to the gradually fading summer evening.

With such a high calibre of headliners it was difficult to know where to head to next, but as the inevitable queues began to form, it was time to pick one and stick with it. So, I was more than happy to head around the corner to The Laundry to finish off with Fat White Family.

The live precedent set by Fat White Family is a huge one. The band’s on-stage antics have gone down in concert legend, from throwing a pig’s head into the crowd at one show, to the time front man Lias Saudi rubbed butter all over his naked torso at another. Tonight’s show was restrained by comparison, but it certainly wasn’t lightweight.

Fat White Family may look like they’ve just emerged from a week long ketamine party at a south Texas trailer park, but they had no problem in delivering their singular swathes of kerosene-soaked rock ’n’ roll tonight. Blasting through much of their Champagne Holocaust album, including the steady, incendiary burn of “Auto Neutron”, the crowd fully engaged in the spirit of the band’s hyperactive ethos. The band had barely begun when limbs went flying and people were being lifted up and started traveling towards the panicked looking security at the front of the stage.

Things tempered slightly when the band showcased some new material that came across as more considered than their previous output, but the underlying energy was ever present as the band headed towards the finale with live favourite “Touch The Leather”.

It may only be in its third year, but Visions is growing to be an eclectic and formidable stand-out on the festival calendar. My guess is that it’s set to come back bigger and even better next year.

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