London Popfest is a skillz idea – four days of indiepop fun brightening up dull old Feb. So big cheers to Spiral Scratch, Fortuna Pop! And WIAIWYA for putting the whole shebang together.
Fearing we might come over all unnecessary if we overindulge in the pop, we confine ourselves to attending the centrepiece event, The London Popfest Alldayer. We’re in The MacBeth, The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut have just kicked things off, playing at least two songs that feature the bassline from ‘Never Understand’. We are surrounded by familiar faces with nary a Hoxton twat in sight (that comes much later when we have to negotiate the Sat nite streets of Shoreditch. The buggers are even spilling down Bethnal Green Road now!) There’s a (yum!) record stall and a mix tape CD swap and up on the smoking roof The Loves are trying to recreate a Monty Python photo.
Ahh, The Loves. They’re on tip top form today, maybe because this is bassist Danielle’s (sob!) last gig, going out with a krang! blamm! sprang!! not a whimper. These Loves are goddamn nasty, crunching out a v. rock ‘n’ roll set sprinkled with Simon’s amusingly offensive banter. They start with a two song mash-up: ‘The Sound We Make Is…Little Girl Blues’ and crash through a popart set: ‘Ode To Coca Cola’, ‘Xs and Os’, ‘Bubblegum’. Simon slathers on the geetar, pulling his finest, windmillingest rock moves all over The Loves’ delirious freakbeat psych out mod pop topping it all off with Os Mutantes’ ‘Bat Macumba’. Yeah!
The Smittens aren’t afraid to call their music ‘tweepop’. And Goddamn they’re twee. Twee enough to turn one into Steven Wells, or at least make a shy bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder. Today The Smittens are just three-strong, and incredibly smiley. In fact they’re insanely happy to the point of being sinister. I find their hyper saccharine playgroup pop a little hard to stomach, but there are two boys at the front of the crowd jumping about, hugging each other and singing along soo ecstatically that it would be churlish to begrudge them their pop joy. And slowly, I’m won round, especially when 6 ft 4 Max gets on the mic and sings in a bottom of yer boots voice. There are some intriguing pop gems to be found amongst the candyfloss here, and by the end I’m singing along merrily with The Smittens’ cover of Beat Happening’s ‘Cast A Shadow’.
Prior to this we are rocked in a very bubblegum punk way by Town Bike. The key to Town Bike is the ‘High School Musical’ sticker on Janey’s bass and the fact that they have a song that is an ode to Dougie from McFly. They are the essence of pop encapsulated in its simplest form; fast and fun. They even have a song pointing this out, “Three chords, three notes. That’s all we wrote.” At one point drummer Gabby is called upon to perform a drum-roll. She looks most surprised to have carried it off and it makes us feel good to have witnessed it – twice! Town Bike are tumultuous and gleeful and you can either let yourself get swept along in their enthusiasm, or you pretty much have to fuck off.
Action Biker has laptop probs for ages, but eventually gets things going. She stands alone centre stage looking gorgeous in a fab dress, swaying and dancing to her blippy beats, singing sweetly along to the pattering, twinkly, glowing songs. After a while we have to go for a bit of a sit down. It’s tiring work all this Popfesting.
Help Stamp Out Loneliness provide us with a big pop rush. I’ve only seen the band once before, so I’m surprised to find their songs bounding up to me like long lost friends. Cor, they’re catchy. Big, shiny tunes that recall the best kinds of eighties pop. The kinds of tunes that are ubiquitous and eternal and crucially still cool, like stuff by Blondie or The Pretenders. There’s also a bittersweet yearning to the songs that recalls The Organ and by extension The Smiths. Singer D.C. Lucille radiates fuck you poise and glamour and is wearing an excellent pink mini dress that even the Sounds XP fashion correspondent couldn’t object to. There should be a legion of teenage girls styling themselves on Ms Lucille, in the same way that lots of mini Kate Jacksons erupted in the wake of The Long Blondes. Meanwhile, the rest of the band hammer out the songs with gusto. So much so that the drummer nearly dislodges the fake stone wall (MacBeth – castle, see?) behind him. Sterling work.
Milky Wimpshake generate a crazy popkid moshpit with their songs. A band of boys and girls all babble the lyrics, fluff the words, punch the air and land heavily but happily. It’s sweet and communal and makes The MacBeth feel even more of a tiny indiepop microcosm swirling in an unlovely world.
Comet Gain are a beautiful chandelier in our hearts. At least that’s what David Feck would like us to think. He says as much as his band’s set rapidly crumbles around our ears. And in a way they are, albeit that chandelier on ‘Only Fools and Horses’ that crashes to the floor and breaks into smithereens because Rodney’s holding the blanket to catch it under the wrong one.
The band have brought a wee bloke with an oil slide projector with them who busies himself in a corner dropping ink onto the slides to little effect as the projection is kind of blotted out by the band. It’s the thought that counts though. The first time I saw an oil slide projector in action was when Pink Floyd, I mean Felt played the Doin’ It For The Kids Alldayer, their track ‘Ballad of the Band’ being one of the highlights on the accompanying compilation LP. Spookily, Comet Gain start their set with a rather fab cover of ‘Ballad Of The Band’, “Sometimes I feel like giving in” sings Feck, perhaps ominously.
A few tatty but happy songs later, things is going wrong, but Comet Gain don’t give in. They plough on through a set that rapidly becomes an insane car crash shambles even by their standards. And we can’t look away. In my notebook I have written “Slade’s look of surprise”. I can’t remember what this was referring to now, but really it could have been any one of a host of things, not least his guitar packing in. Meanwhile Rachel in best show-must-go-on style, dances and claps, hauling the crumpled wrecks of songs along in her indie testifying wake. She is a star shining amidst the rubble.
Towards the end, with any hope of playing actual songs with notes in the right order gone, Feck is just going wherever his shellshocked ‘muse’ takes him, wittering out indie savant bollocks, “I can go on singing like this all night… I know lots of records…Godstar, Godstar, uh oh oh oh…And that’s just Psychic TV’. This is clearly poetic licence of a genius kind and certainly a memorable end to an oddball day.