STA is now Ten Years Old

Subbacultcha Review This Ain't No Picnic

'Horseshoe moustaches - why was there so many of them?'

Smalltown America is a wonderful, wonderful label. They’re in it for the right reasons - passion and music - and they continue to give us some truly awesome bands and releases. In the past they have delivered a yearly all day celebration of their favourite bands and their ethos, previously held at Brick Lane’s best venue 93 Feet East. Sadly, last year there was no all-dayer. To make up for it, this year there is a two day festival in an even bigger and better venue - Kings College London Student Union. For those that have never been, KCLSU is an amazing place. The bar overlooks the Thames, the main venue is pretty big, and the upstairs room ‘The Sweatbox’, whilst a little cramped, distracts you with the view over the south bank and the London Eye. So combine the attractive venue with the awe inspiring label and add some pretty neat bands - Future of the Left and Polysics were the headliners - and, well, what a weekend.


Firstly, the fact that two separate rooms was on offer was most definitely utilised - when one band finished downstairs in the main venue, another started upstairs in the ‘Sweatbox’, which meant it was literally non stop music from 1pm until whenever the last bands finished. The downside of this idea was the torment of “when do I go to the bar?”, “when do I go to the loo?” and “when do I go for a cigarette?” Such trivialities can be ignored when such an amazing plethora of bands are there constantly to discourage you from cigarette breaks. The first band to make an appearance were the elusive Instruments who make a delicious brand of math rock that is somewhere between French Toast and Cap’n Jazz, and they were a great start to the weekend’s shenanigans delivering a technically tight performance that everyone on stage, especially the erethic bassist whose admirable efforts to not keep still were duly noted. Up next and upstairs was my weekend favourite Jam on Bread.  Now, Jam on Bread, despite being a tasty breakfast food (although I prefer toast), is a solo young gentleman who makes what he describes as “lo-fi ukulele pop” about things such as wishing he was a manatee and his more than epic facial hair and everybody should go and listen to his music.


Also worth noting, is Tropics who only played their first gig in February and are already booked to go on tour with These Arms Are Snakes. Tropics bought a sound to the stage that is not to be taken lightly; delivering a unique brand of post-hardcore that perhaps could be compared to Gods of the genre At The Drive-in or pretty much anything released by Dischord Records. A well deserved Saturday shout out also, naturally, goes to Chris T-T who not only is absolutely lovely but puts on an awesome show. Chris T-T has a shed load of confidence and stage presence that a lot of other performers lack these days as well as a whole host of awesome songs that almost sound like a more political Graham Coxon. Writing about Mr. T-T brings me nicely on to The Deidres who talked rudely through his whole set and were oblivious to the death stares coming at them from all directions for being so loud. A lot of people sang The Deidres’ praises, but I must say I simply don’t get it. When they performed earlier in the day, they seemed to simply be drama students’ gone wrong, fancy dress included. Another disappointment was Superman Revenge Squad who has all the devices to be something special - he is poetically astounding, incredibly well written and the collision of his stripped down guitar and sung-said vocals worked beautifully - but sadly he is let down by his over-bearing cynicism. Future of the Left, as per usual, were a phenomenon. Despite the first sector of their set seeming a little slow paced they soon picked it up and despite it being the same set as when I saw them in August (with the addition of ‘I Need To Know How to Kill a Cat’), they were ridiculously good, not to mention chaotic, with a ten to fifteen minute dismantling of the drum kit session at the end of the set, whilst Kelson went to play with the boys and girls in the crowd.


Ah, Sunday bloody Sunday.  Let Our Enemies Beware were the first band I caught, with a massive sound akin to Melvins or perhaps a more directional Sonic Youth, maybe even with some pAperchAse thrown in there. Now on to the Retro Spankees, a band I always enjoy. They are what The Deidres should aspire to, because the do the whole dressing up, nonsensical, fun fun fun thing, but they actually do it well and, as my boyfriend said, “they can actually play”, plus they have a song about Cyclops fancying someone. Genius.


Gracing the stage next was 4 or 5 Magicians, who were almost good. They had a Built to Spill or maybe even Husker Du vibe about them, but they did the one thing guaranteed to make me cringe - cover their English accents with American ones. The magic bought to us by Alan MX more than made up for the dodgy accents, however. Alan has a boyish charm, innovative songs and the right mix of pop and dirty electro. Hopefully, he’s going to be big. Other exciting acts of the day include the noisy and energetic Popular Workshop. Next to their name in my notes, I have simply written “f*ck yeah!” Uh. The Young Playthings were another weekend favoutite, with a quirky Pavement vibe, endearing stage presence and fun pop-come-indie songs. The only band I was slightly let down by on Sunday was The Strange Death of Liberal England. I enjoyed their energetic indie rock and their interesting sound, which was a little like Canadian rockers Wolf Parade, but a lot more like (read: ripped off) Arcade Fire. I did not enjoy the pretentious political signs that were held up at intervals during their set. Equilibrium was thusly installed with a hearty, good set from Polysics. I must say, they gave one of the best performances I have ever seen. There was an abundance of energy, character and, well, gimmicks, Orange boiler suits, glasses, pom poms… It’s okay though, gimmicks work for some bands (not you, Strange Death…). I have never seen a happier man than Polysics front man Hayashi who ran around and around, threw more shapes than a play-doh set, and was just amazing.


One other thing worth mentioning: horseshoe moustaches - why was there so many of them?
www.smalltownamerica.co.uk
www.thisaintnopicnic.co.uk

- Sara Curtis, Subba Cultcha