Sunday opens with another highlight of the recent Angular Recordings comilation, The Swear. It is all very much garage rock incarnate and we’ve heard all this so many times before, but The Swear seem sincere and play like they mean it – a trait that raises their performance above some of their lacklustre songs. From dirge rock to Southampton’s airy fairies Black Nielson, a band who already seem somewhat out of place today, but are a welcome change until the frustration of endless two-chord acoustic balladeering, forces DiS to refuel and head upstairs for Thee Unstrung.
What to make of this lot then? Wherever your present view on The Libertines may lie, the ripples bands such as Thee Unstrung are making down The Thames are creating undeniable exciting times, and any group that can make this many kids pick up guitars, put together a band and bounce off the ceiling has definitely got my vote. Unfortunately as with all the bands across the weekend, the performances are somewhat tainted from the start due to the drastic lack of an audience. Thee Unstrung are no exception. For four people who usually whip up the sort of chaos and confusion last seen in Boscastle, this afternoon’s turmoil is unfortunately exclusive to the stage. Steve Holbrook’s grimacing tones add some necessary weight to some fly-by Libertines rip-offs, but ‘You’ and ‘Contrary Mary’ are a couple of real diamonds in their incendiary pile of rough. Yet, there is something endearing about this band that is difficult to pinpoint – and it’s not the fact that the bass player is using a blockbuster video card as a plectrum – time, I’m sure, will tell.
Rhesus take Thee Unstrungs’ clatter-punk and add more fuzz, more sleaze and more hair. They play their set complete with guttural screams, thumping bass and one or two songs that jump out above the rest, but thirty minutes later the melodies you once were humming have been erased by later tunes that fall short and fail to make an impression. Taking things down a notch or too are new Moshi Moshi singings New Rhodes who are really rather good. This band aren’t gonna start any fires, but their take on the poppy side of The Strokes insistent chord slaps and flowing melodies suits them down to a tee. Recent single ‘I Wish I Was You’ shows off the band’s tightness, and even gets a few people bopping – hooray.
As The International Karate + begin their set downstairs, the ‘Rocklands’ documentary begins to play on the screen above. The short film, set in and around The Paradise Bar in New Cross, seems to feature the majority of the people in the room, so unfortunately for The IK+ people’s attentions are drawn away from the combination of treble boosted guitars and flippant vocals that colour the band’s half-an-hour. Luckily for Ciccone, no such inconveniences are apparent. The complete surprise of the weekend, they have a slew of very catchy pop tunes that are lead by the sultry tones of lead singer Rebekah Delgado. Current single ‘Look At You Now’ with its refrain of “Give me 50p and I’ll show you a good time” is a shimmering piece of guitar-led pop that is as well-delivered as it is crafted. Like New Rhodes in their capacity to create enough hummable tunes to keep you interested throughout the set, Ciccone’s perky-pop is most definitely one of today’s highlights.
As the festival draws to close, DiS catches the psyche-punk exploits of Mika Bomb. Full of intent and disruption Mika Bomb’s set is crazed, fitful and a surprisingly welcome at 10:30pm on a Sunday. This four piece from the UK, Japan and China are also one of the only bands of the weekend to get a group of people up and dancing. After two days of very small, stationary audiences, the huge difference this involvement makes to the performance is evident for all to see. Having climbed the stairs one last time, we are greeted with headliners and final band Art Brut. As always, they consistently entertain and even though Eddie Argos is losing his voice, ‘Top of the Pops’, ‘Modern Art’ and ‘Formed a Band’ all create the sort of fizzing atmosphere this festival should have had from the start.
Thee Unstrung photo: Andrew Kendall