Friday 18 January 2013

BBC Radio 1 Future Festival

With January very much the month for new music, it makes sense that Radio 1 would get in on the act.  As part of Zane Lowe's show, some of us very lucky people were able to see the bands live at Maida Vale studios.  The offerings were a bit of a mixed bag, but some stellar performances ensured the night was a success.

The night kicked off with The 1975, the Manchester band championed by Huw Stephens.  The set consisted of tracks from their EPs 'Facedown' and 'Sex' (reviewed here) plus some new material, showing off their melodic, widescreen guitar sound.  If anything, their music was just too big for the confines of the small studio - in the best possible way.  Clearly accomplished live performers, The 1975 are a must-see live act.

Radio 1 are definitely pushing rock acts at the moment and Mallory Knox continued the charge.  The drumming was especially powerful, switching between patterns and beats to drive the music with rhythmic fury.  As a whole, the band weren't always tight and could do with some more gigging under their belts.  The songwriting is decent though and with an ever increasing fanbase, there's definite potential for the band to do well.

Next up was King Krule - something of an acquired taste.  Real name Archy Marshall and Brit School educated, his mournful songs and unique vocal have been garnering much attention as of late.  Yet despite some skilled fingerpicking guitar and the odd upbeat jangling moment, his performance was heavy and morose in comparison to the other acts.

NME darlings Palma Violets followed, combining elements of Brit-pop and indie rock.  Essentially, they look like Pulp and sound like The Strokes.  As such, they certainly look and act the part with an energetic performance, but the band weren't tight and their music is too derivative to stand out above the crowd - even with all the media attention.  

With Laura Mvula, those lucky enough to enter the studio witnessed some magic.  A true professional musician, her performance provided a hushed and intimate counterpoint to the other acts.  She sang with warmth and clarity, supported beautifully by lush vocal harmonies in addition to the strings, harp and organ.  Lead single She was a highlight of the whole event, the audience stunned to silence.  Spellbinding stuff.

As with Palma Violets, A$AP Rocky suffers from style over substance.  Ushered on-stage by a sizeable entourage, Rocky is all gold chains, gold teeth, hoodie and full-throttle attitude.  Yet he lacks the music to back up his image, with a decent flow let down by lacklustre production.  Where other rappers like Kendrick Lamar are pushing the genre into new areas, Rocky's material is looking to the earlier days of 90s rap and feels like a step backwards.

Disclosure closed the evening with the longest set of all, including current favourites like their remix of Jessie Ware's Running and a new track that will feature on their forthcoming album.  The London duo stand up alongside SBTRKT and T.E.E.D at the forefront of UK dance music and this set proved why, cutting and sampling on the fly with some live drums and bass playing.  The finale was Latch, which saw the duo joined by Sam Smith whose powerful falsetto vocals were phenomenal.  By far the biggest track of the night, the crowd reaction demonstrated that the future is bright for electronic music in the face of stiff rock competition.

More please, Mr Lowe!

Listen: You can listen to the full set and watch videos of some of the acts on the Radio 1 website, here.