The moment a dejected security guard has to wade through his fourth mosh-pit of the night is when you realise that Hackney’s Visions Festival is onto something.
South-east London’s Elf Kid flips rickety venue London Fields Brewhouse on its head as those who have endured an otherwise tame line-up are in for a pleasant surprise. “Where’s the energy crew?” 19-year-old Elf Kid calls out before lurching into his hit ‘Golden Boy’ where he’s joined by fellow grime friend, Blakey. Amerie, Jamie xx and 50 Cent all get the Elf treatment and the crowd, including Wolf Alice’s Theo and Shura, are swept away by grime’s most promising prospect.
A one off performance, but not the first of the day; London six-piece, or seven-piece (we lost count), Drones Club, have the crowd held by their throats for half an hour. They’re a hypnotising art piece, blurred in sound and vision as boiler suit-donned members take turns to float through the crowd in never-ending acid trip ‘Shining Path’. They’re part Hot Chip, part LCD Soundsystem, with the once upon a time mystery of Jungle.
Continuing the perplexity are less terrifying than their name would suggest, Let’s Eat Grandma. The 17 year-old girls look like they’ve just burnt down the local school and sound like two test-tube Bjork babies. You have to question the point at which they turned to one another in class and went “fancy screwing with pop perceptions?” Whilst maintaining pop clichés by wearing matching outfits and practicing dance routines, there’s something more eerie about them. Their ritualistic routines break down in the bubble-gum sweet ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’ as Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth switch between synth and drums by the minute, proving that they’re more than just recorder-wielding show ponies.
Pumarosa also take pride of place below St John at Hackney Church’s stain-glass window, with lead singer Isabel Munoz-Newsome referring to the impressive venue as “sanctity and a lion’s den all in one” before merging into ‘Lion’s Den’. Munoz-Newsome is the focal point of the quintet as she mesmerically dances around during the catchy ‘Cecile’ and brooding ‘Priestess’.
Whilst Visions throws up some surprising new names, it’s just as much about the established acts higher up the pecking order. Gengahr return to their place of birth and play a handful of new tracks including one which is faster and furious than ever, ditching the delicate vocals of Felix Bushe for plummeting psychedelic groove. The real treat comes from Young Fathers though, who reignite Hackney Church with their gigantic gospel cries ricocheting among a captured crowd. Law Holt joins the Scottish trio on stage for an erratic rendition of ‘Get Up’, Kayus Bankole left sodden to the core by the climax. A few glares into the crowd and Graham Hastings raises a cheer from the crowd after telling them “Black lives matter. If you don’t believe that you can go fuck yourself”. He gets the trio back underway with a solo beatbox into ‘Rain or Shine’ before the Edinburgh outfit close on ‘Shame’. Another small triumph on Young Fathers’ journey to turning heads wherever they go, and another nod in the direction from forward-thinking Visions Festival.
Words by Josh Shreeve