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8 out of 10
With live sets sprawling across 22 venues, and crowds multiplying as the night unfolds, Stag and Dagger's second annual spread in Shoreditch, London, gets underway.
The Old Blue Last's run of bands begins with subtly uplifting offerings from Pens: an all-girl outfit whose lo-fi tunes have seen them grouped with acts in the DIY scene and hailed by some as the UK's alternative to Times New Viking. Though at times their seemingly introvert stage charisma makes the show appear as though it were a private jam-session in a garage, or bedroom perhaps, the trio still manage to make an impact on the audience. Moving along the bill and to another venue, Bar Music Hall, local quartet Animal Kingdom are taking to the NME-sponsored stage. Despite being melancholy in parts, due to the vocals of front-man Richard Sauberlich, the band somehow evoke the sunshine of outside inside within the walls of the venue as their melodies weave through songs such as Signs and Numbers, and Tin Man.
On the other side of Shoreditch things are suddenly turning dark upstairs in the Vibe Bar, with the gloomy punk-rock of An Experiment On A Bird In the Air Pump, an all girl-trio who are neatly referred to as A Bird In The Air Pump. Sporting matching fringes, C-Bird, D-Bird and X-Bird seem to simultaneously excite and scare the crowd as they project powerful vocals over beat orientated tunes. Attractive yet menacing, and therein lies their appeal. By contrast, in the room downstairs, Glasgow six piece The Phantom Band appear to channel dawn during their set, using multiple melodicas in Crocodile, and metal percussion-blocks in their finale. The intensely glaring spotlights, which seem to emulate the sun's rays only adds further smoke to the group's smouldering indie-rock sound. Though the moog sounds amid The Howling brings movement from the majority of people in the room, the real shape-shifting demonstrations do not arrive until We Have Band's performance.
All three members of We Have Band bassist and guitarist Thomas, percussionist Dede and sampler-operator Darren, all share vocal duties in this energetic performance, which contains infectious synth-loops, throbbing bass-lines and beats-a-plenty. The Local trio's former single, Oh, triumphs as a set highlight.
Of the numerous artists involved in this generous collection of live music, two acts are on the majority of attendees' wish lists, Californian quartet Cold War Kids and Texas trio, White Denim. With the likelihood of eager attendees exhausting capacities for the two venues involved in these shows, Cargo (Cold War Kids) and the Hoxton Bar and Grill (White Denim) running high, it could be assumed that the few hundred who managed to get in are fortunate indeed. However, as a result of seeking alternate performances to the oversubscribed shows, some people will have been surprised by the sets of bands they might not have normally come across.
Due to the range of venues involved in The Stag and Dagger, the options for revellers to end their night by way of finales inevitably varied too, from dance and club-styled shows to intimate street performances: Slow Club chose to do just that. The Sheffield boy-girl duo were aided by members of the audience who had followed the band out of The Spread Eagle and clustered around them on the pavement for an intense sing-a-long to Christmas TV. An intimate end to a night among the music scene's masses.