For one day a year XFM take over the Camden Barfly to put on the XFM Xposure All Dayer; a whole day dedicated to the up and coming artists that are expected to do great things by the end of the year. It has quite a formidable history of guests with previous years exposing artists such as Peace, Foals, Pulled Apart by Horses and Miles Kane. This year I expected no different from the 1 day indoor-festival—I was expecting to be impressed.
The day opened with Atomic Suplex—a throwback to the rock’n’roll generation of times gone by. Given our current obsession with indie rock, it was refreshing to see something so different, which included their approach to the set. A blindingly quick whiz through their debut album included v-shaped guitars being dropped and wielded, their lead singer singing through an air-force helmet and reckless abandon aplenty.
Francobollo were a last minute surprise addition to the line-up and quickly became one of my favourite acts of the day. Despite being a member down and having a singer with a cold, they still put on a great show. Standout track of the set was definitely latest single ‘Basketball’ which drew together simplistic falsetto vocals with guitars that veer between indie and something grungier. They also proved to be quite entertaining to watch, with the size of the stage seeming to be the only obstacle between them and a full on frenzy.
Unfortunately the success of the previous two acts could not be carried over to Norwich duo Balaclava Kid & Dad (also known as BK & Dad). Relying solely on drums and a guitar they needed to pull something out of the bag to keep the audience engaged—and they failed to do so. Their stage presence was appalling, disappearing into the furthest corner of the stage never to be seen again. Their music more closely resembled noise than anything else, with vocals getting lost in amongst erratic drums and guitar that was constructed with the intention to be loud. The only thing I found I took away from their set was a headache.
Nadine Shah took to the stage late, but perhaps that was a good thing as her music was probably best displayed by this fleeting exposure to it. With just her and piano she spun a sultry, melancholic world to life that captured the audience’s hearts and mind. Closing with a cover of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’ Shah provided extremely clever and well executed set— knowing exactly how to be endearing, menacing, powerful and soft all at once.
In a change of direction again, This Many Boyfriends bought back the fun and energy that had seeped out of the room by the time they arrived. Sounding like a band from the 00’s indie heyday; they feel slightly nostalgic. Their songs were dappled in catchy guitars and a sing-a-long lightheartedness which meant within minutes I felt 14 again (which was simply brilliant). Lead singer Richard Brooke decided to finish the set in a similar fun manner by going for a wander through the crowd—leaving a distinct impression that the band is as much about their enjoyment as yours.
My most anticipated band of the evening, LULS played a set of only 5 songs and yet made a lasting impression. Their heavy indie rock with electronic dabbling sounded far too monstrous to be contained by the Barfly. Everything about their set was atmospheric, lurking and grungy—almost breathtakingly intense. Feeding off the recent interest in psychedelica nostalgia, Temples showcased songs made for a 60’s summer. Their set was full of catchy gems that showed a well refined songwriting capability alongside a technical ability far superior to what you would expect from such a new band. Despite being covered by beer by keyboardist Adam Smith’s bottle exploding for no reason, I found myself lost in the music.
Drenge showed exactly what a drummer-guitarist duo can achieve (take note BK & Dad) when they put their mind to it. The brothers looked a little lost and skittish on the stage between songs whilst all the attention was focussed on them, keeping crowd interaction to a minimum and instead choosing to let the music do the talking. They played a frantic, no-holds-barred set which was full of songs veer between making you want to mosh and dance. ‘Bloodsports’ sounded particularly grimy, with the thrashing drums and guitar that sounded more machine than it had any right to.
To finish the night was hotly tipped for greatness Wolf Alice. With all the hype that surrounds them I expected something a bit more. Certainly their set was pleasant enough—but none of the songs were spectacular enough to stand up to the acts that came before. It seemed as though the band haven’t quite settled on a direction with many different genres colliding in the space of the set. However, undeniably, debut single ‘Fluffy’ was the best on the set with its lo-fi, scratchy guitar and howling vocals.
If there was one thing the XFM Xposure showcase proved… 2013 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for music.