Hackney Wonderland 2016: Mystery Jets and We Are Scientists headline day one
Who said music festivals were the preserve of the summertime? Swapping rolling fields for urban sprawl, the third Hackney Wonderland hit London this weekend to prove you can still get your festival fix long after the British sunshine has faded.
With the backdrop of Bethnal Green’s disused gas holders, the arches of the London Field Brewery and spaces such as the basement of the Sebright Arms and the old school Mangle Nightclub, the two-day festival serves to show an eclectic crowd the lesser-known corners of the increasingly popular borough.
With a distinctly rock thread, if anything the broad bill of up-and-coming, as well as established bands, dispersed over five different venues, offered too much of a stretch to ticket holders – leaving some solid performances a little light on the ground and a frustrating bottleneck outside the Oval Space as all and sundry flocked to catch Mystery Jets and We Are Scientists.
Striking a brilliant silhouette on stage, with Blaine Harrison atop a stool playing a keyboard with one hand and holding a guitar with the other, surrounded by the rest of his long-haired crew, Mystery Jets brought an unashamedly feel-good sound and atmosphere. With the crowd thoroughly fired up by We Are Scientists, their utterly joyful bohemian blues, left-field psychedelic indie and poppy choruses swept up a storm in a packed Oval Space. They had the audience wailing out lyrics to their 2008 Two Doors Down and the you-can’t-help-but-dance-to-it Bubblegum but also hit a more poignant note with recent track Bombay Blues of their Curve of the Earth album. Ending their UK tour in the place they call home, Mystery Jets gave the Hackney audience their all, with the band and the crowd leaving on a euphoric high off of their distinctive sound.
We Are Scientists
Despite some supremely American chat, We Are Scientists hit all the right notes with a wildly energetic performance. Keith Murray flew around the stage flashing his silver hair with each head swing – at one point jumping right in and performing from the limb-swinging crowd. They played a fan-pleasing mix of their old material – Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, The Great Escape and After Hours to roaring playback of the lyrics from the audience – as well as newer Buckle, Too Late and Classic Love from latest album Helter Skelter. The stuff of pure indie, the New York trio had Hackney’s throng of revellers rocking out every minute with them.
Saint Agnes’ frontwoman Kitty Austin brought some serious edge to a unique blend of goth and psych-rock as the four piece seemed to be having a better time than the rest at the London Fields Brewhouse. With a sound as dramatic as her black lipstick, their particular brand of dirty blues rock’n’roll is delivered via a raw and electric energy between Kitty and Jon as they hurl out chorus lines like: “I feel dangerous around you.”
Aside from the headline acts, there were Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind delivering some heavy-handed modern rockabilly from an early evening Oval Space.
Electric Child House blasted out some masculine, adrenaline-fuelled rock from a cloud-soaked darkness at the Pickle Factory and slick-looking Crocodiles delivered a noisy indie sound at Mangle.
Photos: Silvia Sternardi