Festival Review: Yard Party 2013

on Friday, September 13, 2013
Yard Party (15/16/17 Aug '13, The Yard Theatre) // Words + Photos: Saam Das

The folk over at Upset The Rhythm have been putting out obscure records and putting on leftfield acts for a number of years now and such things come together quite neatly with this 24 band showcase they put on at The Yard Theatre in East London. Yard Party is unlike any other festival I've ever been to - not simply in terms of relative diversity of acts - but also in that, it's mainly a sitting down affair. A unique and ever engaging festival.

The line up went from the earnest folk of Rob St John through to the rapid noise-pop of Year Of Birds by way of many more experimental acts. Oddly, the variety is something I began to welcome - having taken the unusual approach (from a personal perspective) of avoiding looking up the series of bands on offer - I often found myself pleasantly surprised by both the talent and style of bands on offer.

One band that were particularly surprising - this may be a severe understatement - were Fat White Family Band. The confusion began almost immediately as one of their entourage began singing before taking a seat in the front row for the remainder of the set. Their myriad of sounds proved equally confusing, taking in everything from the psychedelic to more Pearl Jam-esque moments. Yet they are a band that demand attention, without caring for your approval or disapproval.

An increasingly noticeable trend was the "all business" approach of many of the bands. Indeed, few even bothered announcing who they were. From the grungey lo-fi of Sauna Youth to the Latin-influenced Halo Halo, there seemed a little lack of personality being brought to the fore. Other acts proved more endearing such as the slacker rock of Scott & Charlene's Wedding, who seemed genuinely pleased to be playing the event and overjoyed that they'd finally concluded their lengthy current tour.

Similarly, the one man experimental outfit Apostille seemed like a nice chap. It just happened that some of his songs were actually pretty good, with touches of Peaches, Aphex Twin and Animal Collective all coming through. Admittedly, other songs weren't as palatable but he was apologetic for the fact ("let's see what this sounds like") and despite a sedate audience, employed a headbanging style straight out of the Andrew WK school of enthusiasm for almost the entire set.

It wasn't all plain sailing at Yard Party. Portuguese duo Yong Yong suffered technical issues - a danger any time a cassette player is brought on stage - but also suffered from having a fairly meandering sound better suited for an art installation than a live spectacle. Later on, Emeralds guitarist Mark McGwire's set had to be brought forward by several hours, although his darkness drenched, spoken word-infused set was somewhat entrancing. Not for the person sat in front of me though - he fell asleep.

Manchester's screeching Sex Hands found themselves followed by an altogether more Northern offering, or at least more North American, in the form of the Canadian Terrorbird. A one woman project built around Nikki Never's sultry vocals, the set up was perhaps the most minimal of the festival. But certainly not the least effective, with a strong Blondie vibe - although Nikki herself saw a different influence, asking whether "...Kate Bush will sue me?"

And that was about it for me. I didn't necessarily think I'd be saying this before attending Yard Party but I suspect I may well be attending next year's offering. Should it happen. Either way, it should happen. A triumph of experimentalism. Find more info at upsettherhythm.co.uk.

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