Cold War Kids, Dananananaykroyd, Tubelord, Carl Barat, Lovefoxx - Stag and Dagger 2009
James McDonald 24/06/2009
Now in its second year, the Stag and Dagger is the latest one-ticket-enters-all festival to hit our shores, hoping to pierce that bracket currently monopolised by the likes of the Camden Crawl. Benchmarked by the likes of SXSW in Austin, events like the Dagger and Supersonic are becoming an increasingly effective way for revelers to enjoy a myriad of acts whilst savouring the urban areas in which they are held. With its growing size and budget price, I was only too happy to descend upon East London for the Stag and Dagger with an unrelenting malice, and assess how far the festival has gone towards troubling its peers.
This years dagger is stretching across three major cities; with Leeds and Glasgow to follow, the London leg had been assigned to a Thursday evening. Collecting passes at around 4pm from Shoreditch church, the area itself was eerily quiet. The calm before the storm perhaps? On inspecting the timetable, an obvious hindrance become noticeable - of the two hundred or so acts confirmed to play across the borough, all had been assigned into a 4 hour period. Attending festivals of this nature in the past, it has to be accepted that the inevitable clash or two will occur. However, with the exception of a few DJs, the majority of the music itself finished 11 sharp; an obvious compliance with licensing laws in the area. Generally, the best way to attack such problems is to find yourself a venue and remain there, drinking heavily, until you're swept off the floor and back out onto the streets. However, it was becoming increasingly obvious that my journalistic obligations would result in many a crystal maze style dash across the east london area.
Nonetheless, shoes tightly fastened, I began the adventure as I often do with most nights in Shoreditch, at Vice's HQ The Old Blue last; a trendy pub with a room on top for trendy bands. Tubelord (a band whose level on the trend-o-meter is open to debate, however no doubt benefiting from a recent article in the New Musical Express) seemed an apt way to start on the musical path I had mapped. They do what they do enviably well, and with Joe donning a horses head for much of the set, tonight they did it with an extra stylish ease. A hardcore base of fans were in attendance, clapping without prompt and singing from the hymn sheets of their itunes, all of which added to creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the early days of Biffy. Post show the band confided in this zine, admitting they'd enjoyed the set although it was 'pretty standard' by their own measures. Helping load assorted kit into a modest van, resembling a tardis in capacity, Joe revealed that they were immediately driving up to Leeds to carry on the saga, with no time to savour the London leg. This was a shame, but of notable importance in my evening, as it sparked a reminder in my inebriated mind that I had to be on Brick Lane to sit-in on GIITTV faves Danananananaohwhatever.
Covering the distance in an admirable 10 minutes, I was still just too late to catch the start of their set, but this barely mattered. Having not caught them live before and having heard shining tales from those who had, expectations where high as I snuck into a rammed 93 Feet East. The set was a mess, but an enjoyable one at that. The two drum kits on stage added a mammoth kick behind each track, which went far in holding the sound together. I had the same problem with seeing Death From Above some years ago; although I was more than familiar with their songs from repeated record playing, they were hard to pick out through a distorted wall when sampled live. However, here the energy on stage was effectively transferred to the sizable crowd, none more so when the band paused mid-set to encounter the sea of faces before them, and indulge in a break-dance contest. Smiles widened and cameras flashed, and that was the end of that.
Another sizable distance then needed to be covered, as I sauntered, occasionally dashed, from Brick Lane back to the high street, namely Cargo, to catch arguably the biggest name on tonight's bill, Cold War Kids. As is customary with the crowd pullers at these events, access to their sets usually only comes around from arriving at the venue a good half an hour in advance, or, in the case of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at this years Camden Crawl, a good 2 days early. Arriving 10 minutes late, and spending another 5 minutes explaining to the bouncer than my wrist band was pink, as opposed to the usual white, and that this entitled me to getting past this 'ridiculous cue of disgruntled faces and through the doors you are so gracefully guarding', I finally found myself cock-to-elbow in the sweltering venue. Just in time too, as the unmistakable bass bellow of Hang Me Up To Dry rang through the speakers and bodies in situ. The remainder of the set was equally gruff, with the material from new album Loyalty To Loyalty sounding as meaty as the old, although not as openly received from the crowd. Hospital Beds ached with blissful aplomb- an effective cure for my aching legs, and a closing chorus of St.John was easily the best way of utilising a crowd of this magnitude.
After this spectacle I treated myself to a well earned pint and cigarette whilst plotting which directing to take next. On doing so I ran into Carl Barat, and took the opportunity to exchange a few words on his thoughts of the whole debacle. The discourse wasn't of too much merit, but his mood was good and he was quick to point out that he was enjoying his evening 'thoroughly'. I bit my lip before pressing him on the 'L' word, and instead left to catch a glimpse of Lovefoxx just up the road at Catch. Again there was a sizable cue and the venue itself looked to be at capacity. Consequently attempts at flaunting a pink wristband quickly became futile, and I reserved myself to the conclusion that the evening was over.
From what can be drawn out of those hazy few hours along East London side-streets, it would be fair to say that the Stag and Dagger as a festival is growing in the right direction. It offers a suitable alternative/add-on to the Camden Crawl, with a ticket costing a mere tenner, and for the quality of bands on show that's more than a reasonable deal. Akin to the Crawl, the trekking involved isn't for the half-hearted, and even for those with a sound knowledge of the area can be somewhat of a chore in order to see the acts you've highlighted from your line-up the day before. However this is part and parcel of these kinds of events, who by their very nature offer a diverse range of experiences condensed into the blink of an eye. Long may it continue I say.