Live Review: Hackney Wonderland 2016

Originally posted on Music Festival News

Returning for its third year and expanding across two days, Hackney Wonderland 2016 provides the perfect antidote to post-summer festival blues.

With the sun setting earlier and a cold autumnal chill in the air, the summer festival season feels an increasingly long time ago. However, wet weather fails to put a dampener on an electric weekend of live music featuring Swim Deep, Mystery Jets and Lucy Rose, as well as a host of new and upcoming artists.

Modestly priced at under £30, a ticket to Hackney Wonderland grants punters access to five different venues across the borough, all within around ten minutes walk of one another.

Despite a small bottleneck preventing some attendees from gaining access to Oval Space on Saturday evening, well equipped and appropriately sized venues result in a pleasantly intimate festival environment.

Saturday kicks off in style with the likes of Electric Child House, The Confederate Dead and Syd Arthur. 

An early highlight is Brooklyn-based group, Beverly. Led by the formidable Frankie Rose, their high-octane brand of indie dance rock is well received by those in attendance at The Sebright Arms.You Said It, taken from their 2016 album, The Blue Swell is an emphatic set highlight.

Immediately afterwards is the turn of Half Loon. Whose trippy, distorted rifts and high-pitched vocals are charmingly catchy and equally quirky.

Back at Oval Space, things are heating up, quite literally, ahead of the arrival of New York trio We Are Scientists. Sauntering on around twenty minutes late, the silver-haired Keith Murray and co. deliver an ear-splitting mix of old fan-favourites and new tracks, including Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt, After Hours and Buckle.What they lack in on-stage banter, they certainly make up for in gusto and commitment, hurtling through their set at an almost breakneck pace.

Leaving Mystery Jets headlining Oval Space, we head to the intimate Mangle to catch Birmingham shoe-gazing starlets Swim Deep. This being their last major show in the UK before heading off to record their third album, Swim Deep prove irresistible with their mix of awkward charm, and deliciously infectious synth-pop. Lead singer Austin Williams slopes about the stage with a lazy swagger, drawling out lyrics to tracks from the band’s 2015 sophomore album Mothers, and 2013 debut Where The Heaven Are We.

Sunday brings a more relaxed but no less enjoyable atmosphere. Charmingly humble and enthusiastic singer-songwriter Jake Isaac steals our affections early on at Oval Space. Performing tracks from a nearly finished debut album, Isaac’s booming, gravelly voice has an almost gospel choir quality, which when combined with upbeat, catchy guitar rifts, makes for a winning combination.

Next up is London four-piece Theme Park, back on the block after a promising but ultimately unsuccessful debut album. Their brand of upbeat, funky and almost tropical pop sound couldn’t be more out-of-place in a cold Hackney warehouse in October, but nonetheless they manage to stir an impressive reaction from the audience. Hits such as Jamaica and Milk still ooze with glitter spangled rifts and dreamy synths. New single You Are Real is a welcomed change of pace and direction.

Across the street in Pickle Factory, Hackney born-and-bred Yuckdesperately try to avoid deafening their audience as they battle a series of technical problems, plaguing but not ultimately spoiling their 45-minute set. Feedback issues aside, the four piece thrash their way through hits such as Get Away, Hold Me Closer and The Wallwith abandon, stopping only to acknowledge the benefit of Hackney Wonderland pretty much existing in their own backyard.

Closing the weekend to a slightly depleted but no less enthusiasticOval Space crowd, is the talented and lovely Lucy Rose. Cementing her reputation as one of the industry’s friendliest performers, the singer songwriter is unapologetically grateful to her audience, thanking them “from the bottom of my heart”, and offering to play requests. In a set featuring the hauntingly beautiful Shiver and punchy Like An Arrow, Rose’s new material stands up admirably, justifying her decision not to quit the industry after admitting to having doubts since releasing her second album.

On reflection, it’s hard not to call Hackney Wonderland 2016anything other than an unqualified success. A broad range of musical talent across five small venues at an affordable price is not to be sniffed at, and we can only hope the festival was profitable enough to continue to grow.


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