Festivals seem to come and go these days quicker than you can say ‘fyre’ so to see a festival reach its sixth birthday surely means it must be doing something right.
Set over a series of venues in the youthful and creative London borough of Hackney, you get the feeling location has a lot to do with the success of Visions. The main hub of the festival is right next to the arches of London fields along a cobbled, largely pedestrianised road like a cockney Coronation Street with the leafy London Fields park right next to it (perfect for having a sit and catching the sun in between bands).
At the centre of the road is Hangar, a fairly non-descript basement venue which to its credit does have a fairly wide stage allowing plenty of people to filter in and out of the venue. It is where London band Sorry are spinning their hypnotic grunge pop. It’s hard to get fully into and no one in the crowd is bouncing around too vigorously but a suitable head bopper in a mid-afternoon slot all the same.
The secondary hub of the festival is a 10-minute walk down the road at Oval Space studios, an enormous space with one of London's finest terraces. The much more cramped Sebright Arms is a five-minute walk down the road from there with most of the festival-goers keeping themselves to just one of the two hubs.
Keeping close to the London Fields cobbles we walk across the road from Hangar and hole up at London Fields Brewery, which with its oak panels has the feel of watching a gig in a ski chalet (despite the burning weather outside). The smooth jazz-rap of Sampa the Great gets the ears pricked while here. The set is what you could call a real hip-swayer with Sampa’s abrasive, yet smooth rapping style blending in marvellously with her tight backing band rather than taking too much of the attention.
Across the road rocking trio, Yak is making a delightful racket, a beautiful sludgy dirge that rocks your ears off the same way Iggy and his fellow stooges might have done in 1969. They also make a potent, well-placed lead into the headliners, Bristolian punks Idles, playing at the same venue. With most of the Yak crowd staying in the building, it is difficult for any latecomers to get in to see one of the main draws of the festival, as the organisers start having to abide by a one-in, one-out policy.
Despite the surge of people trying to see them, Idles are a real marmite band. To some, they’re the new caustic voice British guitar rock so desperately needed. To others their brand of snarling punk is impenetrable. The crowd divides between those from the former camp, passing their jackets to their mates to hold while they dive into the crowd, and the latter - those human coat hangers at the back trying to cover their ears and pull on through.
A speech about the NHS precedes the song 'Divide & Conquer' further polarizing the crowd between those down with the manifesto and those just wishing to have a good time. At least they feel necessary, a band that takes the anarchic spirit inherent in the best of British guitar music and repackages it for these post-Brexit Trumpian days.
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Words: Richard Jones
Photography: Holly Whitaker
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