White Hinterland by Abigail Daker.
Having picked up my two Stag and Dagger press passes, two booze vouchers and a free lighter – yeah! – my first port of call on the circuit got off to an inauspicious start when I cashed in my free drink ticket, to be presented with a *small* bottle of Becks. Not even a pint! Better not to bother with a free drink at all, me thinks.
Taking these photos permanently damaged my ears.
We were at the Macbeth to see psychedelic rock band Teeth of the Sea, who’s tunes I had been listening to on myspace earlier. They provided a howling start to the evening’s entertainment, and left me wishing that I had remembered ear plugs (again). Most of the punters sensibly lingered close to the back of the bar but I took a step too close to the speakers for a photo and blew my eardrums right out with the very first band of the night.
The Macbeth by Tim Adey.
My conclusion? Bands like this are best enjoyed in the privacy of one’s own home… where I can safely choose whether I want to suffer from permanent tinnitus in exchange for the momentary pleasure/pain inflicted by an insanely loud wall of noise.
Teeth of the Sea by Kevin Bradshaw.
Next up were a band that I discovered a few months ago when I heard their catchy single Icarus on 6Music. White Hinterland are a boy and girl from the hipster end of Portland, Oregon. Framed by candles he fiddled around with knobs and a *trendy* old school cassette player on an Indian carpet. She played uke and keys in turn, all the time nimbly leaping on and off her loop machine in bare feet, all the better to create rich textures with her mellifluous vocals.
They ended on a real highlight of the evening: a soulful minimalist cover of Justin Timberlake’s My Love, though this youtube version doesn’t do it justice. Shamefully I didn’t recognise it, but I was soon put to rights.
There was a strange character there. I think he was chanelling the Joker.
Then it was time for fun part of the evening number one: Use Stag and Dagger map to find next venue. And instead miss most of next band due to extremely crap over-simplified map which ensured that we followed the wrong trajectory into deepest darkest Hoxton. By the time we made it to the very traditional east end pub The Stag’s Head – which still retains it’s curved glass rack above the bar and numerous nooks and crannies of the kind that every trendy bar rips out as soon as they can – we were just in time for one last song from Little Death, and to marvel at the extremely cute and leggy bassist, always a surprise in a predominantly male indie band I find.
Little Death by June Chanpoomidole.
We stayed on to watch Baby Monster half an hour later, straight out of LA via some white zinc facepaint. Two men making love to their keyboards: this was pure Erasure for 2010, and an unexpected highlight of the night. By now I was thoroughly bemused by the Stag and Dagger crowd; a few indie kids swamped by townies out on the lash, more interested in ogling short-skirted blondes than serious beard stroking.
Baby Monster by Kevin Bradshaw.
We dashed back to The Legion in Old Street via the shrine to school girl Agnes, now reduced to a depressing pile of wilted flowers. Ironically I was to be within yards of another random shooting in London Fields only the next day. Thems the breaks in Hackney these days.
The Legion has been enlarged and *improved* since I regularly used to attend Jen and Mikes’ Hot Breath karaoke nights. Oh wowser, this was Shoreditch central on a Friday night indeed. Let the fun part of the evening number two commence: I pushed my way past the pissed idiots lunging cross-eyed for my boobs to wait near at the front for The Radio Dept, a Swedish band that I have liked for many years. After half an hour of jostling and beer spillage as men crashed towards the ill placed toilet behind the stage I was more than ready to leave. The DJ played a series of high energy tracks whilst The Radio Dept looked stressed as they fiddled with their instruments on stage.
Eventually the crowd began baying for the band, but as I looked around the bar I thought “You know what, I reckon about ten people in this room even know who The Radio Dept are; the rest don’t give a shit so long as they can get twatted and pull.” An unfair appraisal? As a young friend of mine commented “It’s just like my usual Friday night out: except today I’ve had to pay £20 for the pleasure.” With an abrupt disregard for the music due to follow him the DJ cut his rave tune for The Radio Dept, but within moments I had decided that the sound was so incredibly bad that I had to leave: it was just too depressing to hear such incredible music massacred. So, The Legion has widened its area to encompass more drinkers and more dollar, but doesn’t ensure decent sound for its bands. Shameful.
Instead we went on down to the rave in the grimy environs of Hearn Street Car Park. We stayed briefly, enough for me to realise that we only listen and enjoy industrial music for fun because most of us don’t have to work in noisy conditions in our post-industrial society. Those who do would surely think us mad.
The Stag and Dagger, in summary? I think this year’s attendance may have been affected by the huge queues of last year that prevented people from getting in to watch the bands they came to see. In their place we had a bunch of drunken city twats. I’m sure there were many more hidden gems to unearth on the eclectic Stag and Dagger line up, but frankly I’d pay good money to stay away from the Shoreditch hordes. I guess I should have known better. It’s an ambitious concept that champions some excellent little known bands, but the organisers can’t control the crowds who choose to come. I don’t think I’d bother going to the Stag and Dagger again: for value for money and comfort I would recommend that you simply pick a good line up of bands in one venue on any day of the week.
Abigail Daker, Baby Monster, Erasure, Hot Breath, June Chanpoomidole, Justin Timberlake, Karaoke, Kevin Bradshaw, Little Death, Macbeth, Old Street, shoreditch, Stag and Dagger, Teeth of the Sea, The Legion, The Radio Dept, White Hinterland
- Stag and Dagger 2011 review: CocknBullKid, Our Mountain, Marques Toliver, James Yuill
- Coming up: Stag and Dagger Music Festival
- Babyshambles supported by Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong
- Music Listings