Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I'LL BE YOUR MIRROR, Alexandra Palace, July 2011

Picasa picture album

Nearly three weeks into serious London contract I finally got a copy of Time Out .. and not for the first time was buying tickets before I fully new what I was doing, 

ILL BE YOUR MIRROR is the first of a London reflection of ALL TOMORROWS PARTIES, the alternative music version of Glastonbury Festival (remember when that was Glastonbury itself?). I've always meant to go to an ATP event but never got around to it.

I was as blown away by the venue as much as I was by the lineup. For those exposed to the coolness of Luther Arkwright, it was as if Bryan Talbot redesigned Glastonbury for a paralell Imperial Britain 2011.

I would pay 20 quid just to get this much access to Alexandra Palace, the north London counterpart to the long lost Victorian Disneyworld that was Crystal Palace. Ally Pally, (as nicknamed by Gracie Fields) was used as a BBC studio studio for first tv broadcasts (Quatermass was filmed live here) and used for crowd scenes in the movie adaptation of 1984.  I've been here before, it is used as exhibition space and is a great venue for the London Bike show inh freezing Jan-Feb every year.

We had the run of most of this, a fabulous piece of large scale Victoriana, incredible setting for a music venue and strange for summer as it could work even better in mid-winter <surely better than Minehead Butlins, the usual venue in the west for ATP>

The amount of wide open space was staggering, with the attendance probably limited by the local transport infrastruture,(the tiny nearby tube station) rather than the size of the venue itself. For those struugling with the vast penned in mobs at the major festivals this place is a very sureall dream. Drinking mojitos in a leather armchair with a vast glass and ironwork ceiling far above is not part of my usual Festival experience. In the Panorama room there is even enough room to have an area dedicated to previous music events at Alexandra Palace.

Music early on looked pretty challenging so I avoided it.
Having staggered around taking picture for the first hour or so I found myself in the cinema room, a tall anti-room of drapes and classical statutes showing the John Ford classic Western,The Searchers. ATP events are typically curated by the headline act so this would have been a Portishead choice, and a good one if you know westerns, The Searchers covers racism and the Indian war with a sophistication way beyond that of the average John  Wayne film.

The next film, Treasures of Long Gone John, was a typically eclectic art documentary by way of Bristol tastes, in that it was fascinatging and seriously lacking in the pretension you might find throughout London art subjects.

To follow the  Bryan Talbot steampunk theme, the latest PJ Harvey sound could be mistaken for a Bryan Talbot soundtrack in it's folky yet cynical steam punk. She could be playing Womad or Download with it, it's so unlike anything else I can think of. (More Peej raving can be found in my previous post).

PJ Harvey's new look is kind of the daughter of David Warner's character in The Time Bandits. She was Evil's spawn, mocking Englands military record with slicked up and out alien queen hair, cenobite dress design and playing a lyre or some other form of twisted wind (or maybe winged) instrument.
Pic ripped off from

It was a stunning setting for Let England Shake. Even late in the day light was streaming through the huge victrian iron glasswork above and through the vast stained glass window at the rear of the main hall. She did a smattering of old stuff but nothing I thought older than Stories From The City. I was a big fan of Polly's initial 'angry vagina' music, but lost interest in the mid 90s when she, as a Yeovil native, came out on the side of the Countryside Alliance in the field sports debate. The set included lots of stuff from the new album and it is very rare that new material is preferred by the audience so much over old. Her band, John Parish and co, got a massive reception and require further investigation. 

After a further explore I was able to witness Portishead materialising on stage to play their set.
To finish off my rant from previous posting (M-Shed), right now Bristol is a creative hub in the way that Manhattan was pre gentrification and London is now only in the East. Bristol a scaggy alternative mess that throws out creativity like the big bang with an amusing accent. Real art comes from edgy places not from cozy museums.

Going back to the band, likely the main reason the Festival was happening at all, I thought I'd seen Portishead in the past but I'm probably getting mixed up with Goblin, who I saw at  the Scala two years ago (Ill post that review, my return to the Scala) up here at some point.

Within about two minutes I'd realised I'd not seen Portishead before.

Even live they are like nothing else at all, broadcasting live from a phantom zone of pure damnation from where they have been banished  for millenia, since before the big bang. They have always been out there playing their live set and always will be.

When the band came on the video backdrop wasn't the direct live video feed you might see at with a normal band or music festival but but their live feed distorted with doomed black and white feedback video, producing a performance discovered by long lost members of the BBC radiophonic workshop. It was a live performance which seemingly has haunted old tv studios for the last 40 years.

Most of the material seemed to be from the third album (influenced by  80s soundtracks <hense Golbin has recently reformed>) and very roundly received by a very young crowd.

Actual highlights for me were the songs from the self titled second album. Whatever part of Hell the material from Portishead by Portishead came from, it must be a postcode that even the devil tries to avoid. Check out the amusingly skeletal wiki entry Portishead | PortisheadThe first album, Dummy, now sounds like Amy Winehouse in comparison.

Portishead | Portishead.
The title itself is a doom laden feedback loop :-)

Emphasising their cold otherworldly isolation the the video backdrop before the band came on was the BBC 70s test card. As if it wasn't wierd enough for me the girl in the vintage BBC test card always reminds me of my sister.

I left early because I didn't think Ally Pally could handle a mass festival exit. The perfection of the place as a festival venue was so total I was expecting a disaster somewhere, and I judged that would likely be in the after hours transport links, Alexandra Park tube station being barely big enough fo 30 people. I was also aware that I had to be working the next day (Sunday) on the UK Department of Energy Smart Meter specification.

To Sulveg, the Oslo archeologist, if you are ever reading this I hope I brightened up a pretty depressing Saturday...

Mojito bar sadly missed in 2013 

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