Four years on from the first Reverence festival, Club AC30's three-day event just got slightly bigger and ridiculously better. As well as attracting a line-up that throws together some of shoegaze's most feted artists (both past and present), they've also taken the venture into the more upmarket confines (not to mention selling pints of Leffe on tap) of the ICA. Although viewed as something of a precursor to My Bloody Valentine-curated ATP: The Nightmare Before Christmas soiree in Minehead, Reverence 2 proved every bit as successful in its own right.
With all three nights sold out weeks ago, the ICA was undoubtedly the place to be, whether it be on the grounds of nostalgia or just to catch some of 2010's potential breakers.
One thing that always causes confusion for the more northern correspondents of DiS is finding the venue, and with six exits to choose from as we leave Piccadilly Underground Station, we naturally take the wrong one and end up having to politely ask a newsagent for directions. We make it just in time for the dazzling opening performance of Brighton's Air Formation on the first night (Thursday 26th). Having long been considered something of a mysterious anomaly, largely due to their reluctance to play more than a handful of gigs anywhere further north than here, their set - consisting entirely of new material from forthcoming album Nothing To Wish For (Nothing To Lose) (due in March 2010) - was as blissfully aesthetic as one would expect from a band previously responsible for 2007's underrated Daylight Storms. Lead single 'Low December Sun' shows a more poppier side than before, while the gorgeous finale of 'Distant Silhouettes' is simply mesmerising. Next spring really can't come soon enough.
Ulrich Schnauss can often be something of an acquired taste. The last time we caught him it was little more than just the man himself plus a laptop, and in terms of a spectacle was pretty non-existant. Tonight, however, supplemented by the catatonic vocals of Kirsty Hawkshaw and projected images of skylines and tall buildings, he treads a fine line between Maps' ethereal beauty and Air's subtle ambience and for the most part comes up trumps. We even get a gleaming smile at the end, not to mention an all-dancing ICA that resembled a rave party (were one to be held in a school assembly hall).
For the opening night's headliners Chapterhouse, playing their first big show in fourteen years, it feels like something of a homecoming despite their Reading roots. One-time pin-up boys of the original scene that celebrated itself, frontmen Stephen Patman and Andrew Sherriff don't look a day older except for maybe a few extra pounds here and there, while musically they actually sound tighter than they did the first time round. With a set largely drawn from 1991's debut Whirlpool and the three EPs that preceded it, Chapterhouse are simply incredible and although it's a nostalgic interlude for some, to others it simply reaffirms their place in shoegaze legend as one of its most celebrated incumbents. 'Breather' and 'April' bring the house down, while 'Pearl', which features the ever-versatile Ms. Hawkshaw on backing vocals, sounds just as angelic today as at the much-revered Slough Festival back in the day. Stage curfews mean they only return for one encore, a blistering reverb-laden blaze through The Beatles' 'Rain', but no one feels short changed. Instead, talk of their triumphant return is on the tip of everyone's tongues long into the evening.
Video: Chapterhouse - 'Breather' (live from the ICA 26.11.09)
Day two of Reverence 2 is DiS' turn to get behind the decks for six hours, meaning that we miss out on the evening's live musical activities. However, we did manage to catch The Depreciation Guild's awesome (and extremely LOUD) soundcheck and spend the rest of the evening pining as punter upon punter informs us how great they were. A similar case of deja vu occurs at the end of Swervedriver's set, which makes us want to try twice as hard to ensure their ATP show takes pride of place on the "things to see and do" list.
Onto the final night, and we've already encountered some strange things in the capital en route to the venue, none more so than a man kneeling down on Pentonville Road appearing to attempt having a conversation with a dog. It sets the scene admirably for openers The Tamborines, and their thundering scuzz-rock goes down a treat; 'Be Around' and 'On Yr Own' standing out in particular due in no small part to singer/guitarist Henrique Laurindo's decision to expand the noise levels between songs and Luciana Grave's spacey keyboard excursions. They also win the award for possessing in their ranks the most manically hyperactive drummer of the weekend. Congratulations.
Texans Ringo Deathstarr might not win any awards for being the most appropriately named of bands but their delicious blend of harsh dynamics and subtle asides is a joy to behold. 'Starrsha' sounds like My Bloody Valentine's 'Sunny Sundae Smile' deep fried in ketamin, while 'Summertime' is both lavish and brutal in equal doses. Focusing mainly on the dual boy/girl vocals of guitarist Elliott Frazier and bass player Alex Gehring, Ringo Deathstarr's set is one of the most enthralling we've witnessed in a long while, and without doubt one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Although making predictions can sometimes have an unholy knack of coming back to haunt you, we suspect this won't be the last you'll be hearing from this quartet anytime soon.
Indeed, if any of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (main picture) were watching the penultimate act, they must have been slightly daunted at having to follow in their footsteps. However, despite a nervy start, it's pretty much business as usual, with the now-expanded five-piece line-up featuring new guitarist Chris Hochheim tearing frantically through 'Come Saturday' and 'Young Adult Friction' in typically enthusiastic fashion. Current single 'Higher Than The Stars' pitches itself somewhere between The Cure and The Field Mice while they also play a brand new song that sounds like the rebirth of Postcard seen through the eyes of 21st Century New York. 'Stay Alive' meanwhile is poignantly anthemic, while their self-titled signature tune exonerates any fears of them imploding under the weight of their own increasing popularity just yet. It's an ecstatically fitting end to an excellent weekend that even the torrential downpour we encounter on the way home can't detract from.