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Review: East End Live

Maria Turauskis


Organised as a cross venture between the East London Film Festival and Old Spitalfields Independent Labels Market, East End Live is a new one-day festival featuring over 60 bands at 12 venues across the East End of town. Offering the cream of the East London music scene’s crop, this well-honed event provides punters with the opportunity to explore ionic East London venues such as Red Galley, Cargo and the Old Blue Last, along with a variety of off-centre and independent artists.

The line-up includes a wide mixture of bands and genres, but the trend that ties most acts together is that they are young, talented and up-and-coming. Bigger acts such as Toy and Pere Ubu are obviously notable, but it must be said that every band that I personally caught was full of interesting and accomplished musicians, and I enjoyed every performance, even if it was not necessarily the type of music I would make a point of actively seeking out for my own listening pleasure.

East End Live has provided the opportunity to discover some new favourites, such as Scott and Charlene’s Wedding, who I had heard of but not yet heard. It was additionally great to see many female musicians on stage, particularly as so many major music festivals this year (and let’s face it – most years) have shunned female artists from the fore. Indeed, at East End Live, the first two acts I saw were the all-female Skinny Girl Diet, and the nearly all-female Shopping, both rocking hard at the Zigfrid Von Underbelly.

There are literally bands playing all night 5 p.m. until 5 a.m., and while some venues start to wrap up at the traditional 11 p.m. stage, others continue right through this hot summer night. This adds to the sense of occasion, and lends a more traditional festival vibe to this indoor affair.

As the evening progresses, the popularity and success of this event becomes clear. Everywhere you go, people are touting their monochrome venue map, making the event like a curious indie music treasure trail. Students, hipsters and music fans mill around the streets of Hoxton and Shoreditch in search of their next musical hit. Every venue is packed, and the vibe is excellent – everyone seems happy and enthusiastic, with a whole-hearted enjoyment apparent, minus the snobbery and pretention you might except from a trendy East London festival.

This mellow atmosphere is no doubt helped along by the fantastic weather, but the event has also been very well organised – the lack of which could have turned it into a complete disaster. Most venues are close to each other and within walking distance, and the free map and timetable is useful, making navigation simple if you are familiar with the area (although I can imagine if you were an East London virgin you may find the logistics of the event a little hard work). There is also a good degree of light security at all venues, and the festival wristband allows you to queue-jump, which is a godsend at some of the bigger venues.

As with many of these multi-venue festivals, there is however a slight fear of missing out. You cannot get to all the bands you would like to see, and certain stages are running faster than others are, so you might find yourself arriving at the tail end of a set you really wanted to see. On a personal level, it was also a disappointment to miss headline act Pere Ubu’s live soundtrack to cult 60s’ horror film Carnival of Souls at St John’s Church on Bethnal Green. This venue, while only a short tube ride away was just too far to venture when there was so much going on so close by.

On whole though this was a fabulous, exciting festival, pulled off with apparent ease. It was clearly a popular and well-received event, and I am sure I’m not the only one already looking forward to next year’s event.