Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'll Be Your Mirror Festival, live @ Alexandra Palace (London, May 4, 2013)

The music festival season is upon us; next week we'll be attending the Plisskën Festival here in Athens, but last week Cool Music Central was in London for I'll Be Your Mirror, the sister event to the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival which usually takes place in holiday resorts. IBYM instead takes place in cities around the world and this May's event, which was curated by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, took place at London's iconic Alexandra Palace venue (the People's Palace!).

The event featured some of Yeah Yeah Yeahs favorite artists playing live in two different rooms, the huge Main Hall and the more intimate Panorama Room, plus special screenings of films and documentaries for the film buffs including Les Amants du Pont-Neuf, Rumblefish, The Devils, Taking Off and Breadcrumb Trail (an in-progress Lance Bangs documentary about Slint). The 12 hours of great music on offer didn't give us the chance to visit the cinema but we did take notes on what we need to check out in the future. Here's what we did get to see and listen to during our Saturday at Alexandra Palace:

After a hasty browsing of the records on sale at Rough Trade's pop up shop in the venue's Palm Court (there was plenty of time for that during the rest of our stay in London), we headed straight for the Panorama Room were Anika was opening the festival with her seductive, laid back dub grooves. Unfortunately we didn't catch all of her band's set but we were there just in time for two of her best covers from the recent eponymous EP, The Shocking Blue's "Love Buzz" and Chromatics' "In The City". In the video playlist at the end of this post you can watch "Officer, Officer", the track that closed Anika's set.

First band of the day at the large (and rather too luxurious for rock 'n' roll) Main Hall of Alexandra Palace was New York City five-piece K-Holes. The band was formed by ex-Black Lips guitarist Jack Hines but their sound is more no wave than garage rock, with singer Vashti Windish stealing the spotlight with her energetic performance and sax player Sara Palmquist adding a certain James Chance element to the proceedings.

Big Freedia performing "Azz Everywhere"
Over at the Panorama Room, Big Freedia was housing a highly entertaining New Orleans bounce rap party, while the Divas demonstrated how to properly shake your booty:

The Divas shakin' it - anything goes at a Big Freedia party!
And continuing our frantic to and fro between the two rooms, we're back in the Main Hall where we stumble upon a different kind of party: New Yorkers Prince Rama present the future dance hits of the End of the World (which, frankly, sound a lot like a cross between '80s electropop and '70s disco-funk) and judging by the zombie invasion that happens at the end of their show, the End we're talking about is the infamous Zombie Apocalypse! Prince Rama may not have the best tunes of the day but thanks to their joyous performance and relentless positive energy, they certainly delivered one of the most fun sets of the festival.

Prince Rama
...and the zombie invasion of the End of the World!
The party at the Main Hall continued with the repetitive, experimental electronic grooves of The Field (perhaps better suited for a late night than a mid-afternoon performance) and with the always entertaining garage rock of the Black Lips who were surprisingly very well behaved given their hell-raising reputation (perhaps the influence of the stately Alexandra Palace?).

The Field
The Black Lips
Between these two Main Hall performances, we got the chance to catch up with Dirty Beaches at the Panorama Room (it's been a year and a half since Alex Zhang Hungtai's Bios performance), who informed us that they have just flew in from Russia while their tip for the most happening city of Europe right now is Berlin (apparently the place to be for beautiful babes and free drugs - it seems Merkel's policies are working very well for some European citizens after all!). The intense 30-minute performance combined electric guitar with electronic noise and percussion bringing the Dirty Beaches' lo-fi sound closer than ever to that of Suicide.

Dirty Beaches

The Locust
The noise intensified back at the Main Hall with a rare performance by The Locust and the triumphant return of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion who played at lightning speed and maximum power an hour-long set with material from all their albums. It's twenty years since the first time I saw them play live (a few miles south from here, at the now sadly defunct London Astoria 2 venue) and I can verify that they haven't lost anything from their incredible showmanship!

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
Mick Harvey
After a bit of relaxation with Mick Harvey giving his interpretations to the hits of Serge Gainsbourg, it was time to head for one last time to Alexandra Palace's Great Hall for the headline performance of the festival from our hosts. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have taken us into their world with the music acts and films they have chosen for this day, now it was time to bring their music into the mix.

Oh yeah, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs!
"Sacrilege", their fine new single, made for an excellent opening of the set even without the gospel choir. Karen O came on stage in a funny hat and large round glasses which were quickly replaced by a mosquito-styled pair for their second track (no prize for guessing its title), "Mosquito". The first blast from the past came immediately after with "Bang", taking us all the way back to their legendary first EP, which was also represented by "Miles Away" (check it out at our video playlist along with the mighty "Heads Will Roll").

The 15-track set featured selected highlights from all their three previous albums, with "Zero" going down a storm and "Maps" along with an explosive "Date With The Night" forming the perfect encore. One-third of the set was made up of "Mosquito" songs, which stood up well against the celebrated older material, proving that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are standing the test of time better than any band of their generation. So, there you have it...Q.E.D.: the theory of evolution applies to music as well and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are the living proof!

The evolution has begun: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs played: Sacrilege, Mosquito, Bang, Cheated Hearts, Under the Earth, Soft Shock, Subway, Zero, Gold Lion, Despair, Y Control, Miles Away, Heads Will Roll. Encore: Maps, Date with the Night

Half-hour of live music from I'll Be Your Mirror festival, starring Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mick Harvey, Black Lips with King Khan, Dirty Beaches, Prince Rama, Big Freedia, K-Holes and Anika:

IBYM video playlist

Other performers in the IBYM festival: King Khan and the Shrines, Jah Shaka, J.G. Thirlwell's Manorexia, DJ Jonathan Toubin.

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