Visions is one of London's premiere one day events, a multi-venue feast of new music – with some stellar names thrown in for good measure. Rapidly growing, the festival occupies a tight-knit corner of East London, managing to eschew growing pains by keeping close to the DIY, devoutly independent ethos which spawned it.
The mid-afternoon sun is glistening by the time Clash arrives on site, with a neat craft beer market providing a roaring trade outside the historic St Johns at Hackney Church. Sexbeat DJs kick off proceedings at a sweltering Brewhouse, before making way for 4AD newcomer Pixx. Freshly signed to the label, the one-time BRIT school student has undoubted promise, with the rippling notes of her vocals matched against a deliciously sparse backing. With just a solitary EP to her name it's not the most substantial of sets but there's more than enough there to warrant further investigation.
Oscar close a fiery set at subterranean venue the Laundry, before making for Irish group Girl Band. A terrific, awesome, ear-splitting noise, the Dublin band open with their savage take on Blawan's UK techno bombshell 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?' and then just seem to get louder. Fresh from recording their debut album, Girl Band seem to be in supreme control of every sound, every utterance – obeying their own whims and desires, each song crackles with electricity, feels alive in a very real sense. A powerful performance from a band who are quite simply one of the finest live acts around.
Completely sold out, fans trooping between Visions venues make for an interesting spectacle. Crossing between indie kids and punks, hipsters and club heads, it's an audience who seem to thrive on embracing the new, on uncovering the unexpected. Merchandise play a frenetic set at the Laundry, before Loyle Carner and Torn Hawk play well received sets back at the Brewhouse.
All eyes, though, are on Jens Lekman. Agreeing to play a church venue, the combination of weather plus artist plus impeccable hall makes for an enticing one – and everyone else seems to agree. An enormous queue thwarts our efforts, forcing a retreat to the Laundry for Ceremony. The Matador signings have rather swapped their punk origins for a Joy Division sense of the noir of late, but the group re-capture the noise for a feral set inside a sweaty basement.
Luke Abbott's teasing, playful set inside the Brewhouse is a particular highlight, with the Border Community mainstay pulling out all manner of curious sounds amid an avant techno framework. Visuals are kept to a minimum, but this under-stated approach simply underlines the continually inventive output the producer can lay claim to. Peaking Lights Acid Test follows, but the American psych duo's choices are rather too outre for some – dubbed out disco crate-digging clearly not the order of the day.
TOY preview new material at the Laundry, having opted for a short break to focus on their third album. It's a curiously unsatisfactory experience – sure, singles such as 'Motoring' can still thrill with a uniquely English, motorik charm, but there's a lingering feeling that the group are in two minds as to their next move. Some aspects of the set feel heavy, others slight, with TOY only really coalescing on those early gems.
Finishing in some style, Visions manages to force fans to pick between the shock charms of H09909, the grimy psych-punk strut of The Fat White Family and the stately indie pop of Scotland's Camera Obscura. Clash, though, opts for Canadian juggernaut Holy Fuck and - recently unleashed from the studio after completing their first new album for five years - the band clearly relish every second onstage. A visceral, deeply physical live experience, Holy Fuck play a batch of fresh material but manage to take the Oval Space crowd with them every step of the way. It's a riveting set, one that matches florid noise to all out groove, before finishing with early gems 'Milkshake' and 'Super Inuit'.
And with that it's off out into the night, the air still moist to the touch following a sweltering, humid Saturday. The Cave Club seize control of the Laundry, while White Heat, Kissability and Kanada do battle across two arches in the Brewhouse. It's a confident return from Visions, one which matches clear ambition with a solid sense of identity, a broad-minded bill with a real sense of fun. As Visions go, it could hardly look better.
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Photo Credit: Emma Viola Lilja