Posted by: pascoesabido | June 4, 2009

The Return of the Stag and Dagger

Not Just Any Old Festival in Shoreditch?

Stag and Dagger in Shoreditch, London – 21st May 2009

published in Data Transmission ( see original article 3-06-09  ‘The return of Stag & DaggerWritten By: PascoeSabido )

I know, yet another festival around Shoreditch, boring. Every week seems to bring a new incarnation. But having said that, if you logged onto the website or spoke to someone who went last year, you can’t help but feel tempted. The line-up is quite literally drowning in names: bereft of armbands, it can’t stay afloat, little oxygen bubbles floating to the surface as it sinks to the bottom; 188 separate slots for music, 145 artists to fill them, and 26 venues to host them – Pow! It feels like old school Batman has just sent a left hook into your eye, followed up by a roundhouse from Robin – “SMACK!” – too much to take in; so many artists, so little time.

The first acts kick off at 7:00pm (clearly not the good ones) but the doors are already closing at 1:30? A little over five hours to cram in the newly-electrofied Jack Peñate (missed it – fuck), Lovefoxxx from CSS (nowhere near catching it – shit), Skull Juice (nope – bollocks) and Casio Kids (scheduling’s fault, not mine). But that still leaves another 141 artists! Despite copious amounts of wandering around, waiting around, and generally fannying around, it’s still amusing – unless you ask the poor sods left in the queue outside Herbal.

So the scene is set: venues from Hoxton Square down to Brick Lane are jammed with music and musicians, and it is our job as the purveyors of talent to lend an ear. First things first, tickets: to give it that real Shoreditch ‘lets defy convention’ feel, wristbands are distributed in a church. The vestibules are lined with cheque shirts and skinny jeans; wacky glasses and partially-shaven heads dot the horizon. Were there a God, what would he be thinking? “Get some originality you twats!” or “get the fuck out of my house of worship, you godless sinners!” or even “have a wicked night guys, and remember to always use a condom”? I’ll ask him on my way back.

Wristband attached and clemency-granting god above, a stagger down Shoreditch High St (with neither a stag nor dagger as I thought them too conspicuous to bring with me) brings Vibe Bar and its three stages. Upstairs in the No Pain In Pop room we just miss a band called An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump. According to the programme, the “all-girl trio from London play lo-fi gothic post-rock”… clearly; stupid me, should have got it from the name. However, downstairs on the Kill ‘Em All Stage the Anglo-French disco-rock trio We Have Band (See their Myspace page)return an electro tinge to proceedings, their simple yet catchy sound pushing against the brick walls. Reminiscent of New Young Pony Club but with a darker edge and eerie harmonies, the live set brings new single You Came Out and jump-up anthem Hear it in the Cans. But it’s packed and sweaty and there’s always the next venue to get to – god knows where though? Who wants to pick this time? Expectedly poor time-keeping in the Vibe Bar means a rethink.

The Horse and Groom. Crystal Fighters. Decided. A pub that consistently plays good music, the Horse and Groom delivers. Downstairs, up and coming electronic new boy David Sugar brings a jazzy ‘80s edge to tech house and broken beats; upstairs, after various sound checks and pubescent jostling, three of the Crystal Fighters emerge. Despite being two members down (passport issues), energy is not a problem: their nu-rave tempo whips up the audience while acid-splashed synths infect your head. Bassline is obligatory. Frenzied front man and lead vocalist Sebastian thrashes and writhes before a frenetic audience as the sweet-looking but clearly far-from-innocent Laure belts and screams through harmony, edging away from convention and embracing the Crystal’s cacophony. Whilst incomparable to their havoc-wreaking performance at last summer’s Secret Garden Party (read the review), it’s still sufficiently manic to pulse with their unique energy. Yep, wicked.
Keep moving.

A sardine-can Favela Chic plays host to Micachu and the Shapes (cool ukulele), and what was supposed to be Andrew Weatherall but sounds more like a crap imitation of a bad indie DJ – has the man changed genres or are the set times up the spout? Either way, Casio Kids are supposed to be playing at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. Gone. Alas, the Norwegian electro-funksters are not there (where are they?!), but some random Scandinavian compatriots offer consolation with a flask of red wine. Tasty.

Too many venues, too many acts, too much walking and too little time-keeping has ultimately doomed it to failure, but ending the night at Herbal with Rusko is a partial remedy. Slight problem – everyone’s got the same idea so no-one’s getting in. Once past the palaver, it’s a pleasure to hear DJ ED-DL and MC Gusto tear apart the upstairs dance floor, bringing out the old fashioned Drum & Bass. However, the people have spoken with their feet and the crowds are amassing downstairs, waiting for Rusko to abuse the sound system with his bass-warped dubstep. Whilst loving the filthy rumble that plasters grins from ear-to-ear, I’m still not a happy dubstepper. Rusko plays a predictable and fairly commercial set, sticking to bassed-up remixes of boring tunes. Just being grimy doesn’t cut it. Neither, seemingly, does N-Type, supposedly on 2:00-3:00 but robbed of his chance as everyone’s chucked out before 1:30. Pity to leave potential unfulfilled, but that’s becoming the moto of the night. Coulda been, shoulda been, never was.

Same goes for my after party: there is officially no joy in waking up on a Tottenham sofa at 9AM and having to go to work. Definitely not wicked.



  1. Good review, sums it up nicely

    I had a wicked night out in Shoreditch but despite S&D, not because of it (unlike last year).

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