Concrete + Glass Festival 2008

The new addition to the surge of city festivals which attempted to merge art and music over a weekend in Shoreditch.

Music Incoming
Kid Harpoon photographed by Masatoo Hirano
Review by Charlie Jones:

2008 has been the year of the city-bound music festival, and Concrete and Glass, coming on the heels of two similar solid if not mind-blowing events last month, has to have more than a few decent up-and-coming bands to really make a mark. The festival’s purpose is to fuse future-forward indie with experimental sound and the leading lights of contemporary art. So, full of bagel and Moleskine in hand, I headed down to one of Friday’s first gigs – the all-girl trio Pens, who play that shitgaze stuff, but with something really nice and “after school drama club” about them. As the room slowly filled, I headed over to see Finnish experimental accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen confuse at Café 1001, before catching shoegaze-pysch band Artefacts for Space Travel at the Macbeth.

After a brief conversation about “fidget house” with the manager Jessie, I decided to stay put for Let’s Wrestle, who were  superb: a pub singalong band full of witty lyrics, lurching drums and ripped-up riffs – a fun, genuinely funny band somewhere between Husker Du and Half Man Half Biscuit and the first genuine thrill of the evening. Kid Harpoon at the OId Blue was as good as ever – a swaggering, bleeding charismatic, waving a beat up acoustic and singing his heart out. He hit the nail on the head when he said, three songs in, “I thought this was going to be all posh and ‘cultured’, but it’s just a normal gig with people getting pissed, isn’t it?”

The final three gigs of the night, see, Telepathe and TV On The Radio, now within the confines of Cargo rather than the relative expanse of Hearn St Car Park, bring this out. While I’ve never been much of a fan of Delay (he’s got neither the aching emotion of GAS or the exhilarating severity of Basic Channel, and always sounds a little tepid), his gig was quietly transfixing, a pretty little experiment in sound-as-form. Still, the line between “transfixing” and “really boring” gets blurred before very long, and it was fairly obvious who the majority of the crowd were waiting to see. Telepathe, a band that have always sounded better on record than live, were not quite capable of commanding a crowd the size of Cargo’s TVOTR-hungry hundreds, slightly, though the barrel-chested emotion of "Chrome’s On It", the set’s closer, gave a glimpse of the heroic, masterful band the EPs have suggested, and the band that they doubtless will become.

The headliners TV On The Radio predictably took the biscuit: on a bad day, they can seem lacklustre, nebbish and unenthused – on a good day, they do nothing less than show power and grace of music; all music, all at once. And it was a great day for the band. One sight that stays with me: about 20 people were using high-specification digital SLR cameras on the front row to take pictures of the band, but as the show’s internal dynamic took hold, the photographers were ripped into the moshpit, arms desperately keeping their cameras out of the fray, drenching the stage and dancers in xenon light while Tunde Adebimpe laughed and wiped sweat from his glasses. I’m not sure how, but it seemed to sum up the night.
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