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FESTIVAL REPORT: Visions 2015
The Quietus , August 14th, 2015 15:50

Laurie Tuffrey, Suzie McCracken and Luke Turner get variously pit-pummelled, dance-sweaty and covered in cider at the third instalment of the East London one-dayer. Photographs courtesy of Valerio Berdini

Girl Band

You know you're a good band when you're on at 4pm and the venue's crammed. You know you're a good band when, after your set finishes, two men at the urinal separately begin replicating the Seconal slur vocals of your song 'Lawman', join in with one another, shake hands and then part ways. Hell, you know you're a good band when someone shouts "best band in the world" during your set.

Each time I've seen them, Girl Band have refined their sound just a touch more, until now it's fully primed, a fastidious deployment of lunacy. Dara Kiely's vocals oscillate between staggering drunk pointing and berating someone for "talking shit in my neighbour's garden" to wordless howl, while Alan Duggan, Dan Fox and Adam Faulkner's guitar, bass and drums mechanise around him. Sure, a pinch more volume would have hit their opening cover of Blawan's 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage' home harder, but there's no point in splitting hairs: Girl Band are unadulterated brilliance.

Perversely, for music that deals heavily in abrasion and noise, the group's performance is dealt out with subtlety - Duggan and Fox's rhythmic clanking and string-scraping create layers of dissonance that linger in the background, waiting for the tension to break beneath Kiely intimating, in a falsetto whisper, the sweet nothings of a psychopath. (The fact that we're positioned in a subterranean bunker that was formerly an industrial laundry adds a certain homicidal frisson.) Equally, the rain-grizzled, life-fucked cry of a man who screams "I used to be good looking" of 'Lawman' remains a particularly potent piece of red-eyed desperation. Matched to the sternum-thumping whipcrack of the bass line that immediately coaxes cheers, it's as fine a snapshot of the band's live powers as you could hope for. Tack yourself to Girl Band's mast now, because they're the crooked howl from the subconscious music needs. Laurie Tuffrey

The Big Moon

The Big Moon could exist entirely for me to like them: they're the same age as me (I think), and they caterwaul over galloping guitars heavily informed by early teenage years spent in a Franz-y/Cribs-y/Monkeys-y frenzy (certainly). They have the latter band's ability to swing from one time signature to another, taking your stomach with them. 'Nothing Without You' is 'Stand And Deliver' via Sleater-Kinney, while 'Sucker' - the single - sounds less anthemic live, in a good way. There is an inspired cover of Madonna's 'Beautiful Stranger', again usefully dating their formative experiences. The songs are tight, the delivery is vigorous and these girls clearly adore each other… they're all in-time grins and bass-line body rolls. My only concern is whether it's scalable - I'm enjoying it so much in the world's sweatiest, smallest room, that I can't imagine how they'll retain their charm on a bigger stage. But I'm sure I'll find out; they're probably going to be huge. Suzie McCracken

Merchandise

The appeal of the Tampa, Florida group's 2013 album Totale Nite lay in its post-punk starkness and drive, but since then, the band have added some hefty chunks of melody to their sound. Without getting too sun-stroked about it, they do seem to have dissolved the Laundry's concrete walls to a partially permeable membrane, allowing in some of the blaze that's busy pounding Mare Street outside, a much needed complement to the gnarly maelstrom of Girl Band, Ceremony and Fat White Family that they nestle in between. The band have scoped out bigger vistas for their music, 'Green Lady' from last year's After The End shaded with something of Simple Minds' big-gesture rock, while David Vassalotti's guitar-playing has Will Sergeant's ear for needling backing lines (not to mention the blazing solo he unfurls to close out proceedings). Carson Cox, upfront, looks to be enjoying himself far more than his gloriously dour baritone intonings would have you believe, and he even takes some time out to offer up general truisms: "Beware, beware, of the new psychedelia, it's just commerce disguised as psychedelia" (I mean, I'm not sure whether Merchandise could be folded into the psychedelic bracket, but certainly agreed). While the end of the set sees a rapid exodus out of the murk, there's a solid tranche of the crowd that stay behind to meet and thank the band, a fitting response to what is one of most uplifting and gratifying performances of the day. Laurie Tuffrey

Theo Verney

Like a punk One Tree Hill soundtrack, or a Brighton edition of TOTP2, Theo Verney has enough pizazz and simultaneous scuzz to keep a crowd intrigued and visibly happy. He's a modern descendant of a guy that purported to make guitar music inspired by naked women's bodies, in the sense that his pop songs make me want to lick stuff, but he's definitely not a creepy misogynist. Which, on balance, seems about perfectly pitched for a psych upstart (despite being three EPs in and all). Some of the songs entertain little 70s chunks of funk, while others are more Nirvana delivered through a vaporiser haze. He'd have a really good home on Burger. He also knows what makes a good gig - that knife edge between preparedness and terror - and he appreciates a half-time chorus. And who doesn't? We all dance enough to sweat our three afternoon pints out. Suzie McCracken

Ceremony

Visions has a fine pedigree of cramming thrash-happy rabble-rousers into tight places with a happy-to-be-thrashed rabble - see Cloud Nothings at Netil House in 2013, Andrew W.K. here in The Laundry last year and, in fact, the Fat Whites will pick up the gauntlet later on tonight in the same spot (see below) - and it's in this lineage that San Francisco's Ceremony enter. Anyone given to thinking that this year's The L-Shaped Man, an echoey, clean-lined break-up album, had bevelled off the edges of the hardcore crew will be glad to be mistaken. Instead, what we get is a pleasingly disparate set that lines up some of this newfound dwelling on hooks - 'Your Life In France' motors without the need for viscous distortion, sounding massive with its twinned guitar and bass riff - alongside bile-filled outbursts from further back in their discography. Behind singer Ross Farrar, top off and stalking the stage constantly, the band's capacity to shift from post-punk lurch to punk squall without blinking, and take the crowd with them, means that we're constantly spoiling for things to ignite. When, then, we arrive at closer - 'Violence', fittingly enough - and a circle pit joyously erupts, it feels good and proper, the rightful restoration of disorder. Laurie Tuffrey

Gazelle Twin

I'm pretty sure I'm sitting next to Gazelle Twin's parents. I could be totally wrong, of course, but they have the air of people that are out to support their daughter despite being perplexed by what she's doing. They are just a little too still, you know? Anyway, their daughter, if she is their daughter, is in her element. The clacks of 'Belly Of The Beast' ricochet around the newly Hackney-fied Moth Club venue well, her face shrouded in tights, unreal wig swinging, and head hooded in the primary-colour dementor manner of her other Unflesh shows. Her voice certainly has greater power over the dark synths than I expected. She moves with none of the emotional awkwardness or pain so inherent in the record, but her angles are otherworldly and urgent; 'Unflesh' itself could be an ambulance siren as she forewarns the crowd to stay back, I'm infectious, you'll catch the grotesqueness. She is a spitting serpent.

Afterwards I hear someone in the bathroom say, matter of factly, that Elizabeth Bernholz is "a Goldfrapp-y, Björk-y, Knife." Which is fine and all, but I feel like they somewhat missed the point. If you came out of that show being able to think about anyone or anything other than Gazelle Twin, then you were doing something wrong. Suzie McCracken

Fat White Family

The Laundry is just the sort of East London venue that gets described nonsensically as "a large creative building" that "embodies everything that is great about just what can be done with a postindustrial space" with a "unique aesthetic". This is contemporary hip waffle for "large concrete box down a ramp where they've run out of all booze save warm Estrella" and therefore a perfect spot for Fat White Family to unleash their creeping, scratching chaos. For this band embody the antithesis to everything that is beige and safe about much of the contemporary music that claims to be left field, but sounds as wet as a gurning 'creative''s £100 artisanal T-shirt after a Dalston house party 'rave' to Jamie xx.

Tonight, as ever, Fat White Family take no prisoners. Within the end of their first song I'm covered in cider, by the second in sweat, by the third being bashed about all over the place by a crowd behaving as if they're taking their cue from the venue's daft name on spin cycle. After what feels like years of Fat Whites gigs without any, there's a new song amidst the rest too, fast and snide and suggesting that their second album will be very good indeed. And of course, 'I Am Mark E Smith', 'Touch The Leather', 'Auto Neutron' and 'Raining In Your Mouth' all have, as well as a defiantly unguent whiff of amoral decay, absolutely irresistible choruses that are the pop truth amidst the grouching Fall-esque racket.

Perhaps Fat White Family are the evil Jeremy Corbyn of noisy indie rock - outdated, iconoclastic, fans of bad vests, trenchantly political, a thorn in the side of the beige. Luke Turner

All photographs courtesy of Valerio Berdini

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