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There’s an art to fitting in in Hoxton, one that involves wearing silly clothes and looking disinterested, or mean, or both. Beyond this, the insatiable need for the musical new, unsigned and undiscovered hangs heavy over the vintage-clad vanguard of Shoreditch, as the marker of those who have it and those who don’t. For over four years now, Levi’s Ones To Watch have made it their job to sift through the up-and-coming in indie and present to the impressionable east end with their own special ‘fit for consumption’ seal of approval. Never one to be taken in by marketing tricks, Virtual Festivals went down to the first in their 2008 ‘Five Day Revue’ to see if the music stands up to the hype...
First up, Sky Larkin’s set contains a handful of fairly same-old fodder that has some kids dancing, and others looking especially disinterested, even for Hoxton. Frontwoman Katie, a little breathless behind dark hair, has perfected the slightly-off-key-at-all-times indie-girl vocal in the Los Campesinos/Jemina Pearl vein. One punter is overheard saying “she’s not even hot.” There are those that happily subscribe to the splashy generic indie-pop of their more recognisable singles, but on the basis of this performance, this Leeds-based trio have some way to go before they’re worth watching again any time soon.
This is especially apparent when Bombay Bicycle Club take to the tiny stage some moments later. Though barely out of school, their music belies their youth as both commercially astute and intelligently created, complementing the savvy verdure with which they execute their set. Two guitars allow them to embellish standard guitar progressions with alternately jangling and drifting riffs, adding a glinting playfulness and glossy texture to hook-friendly melodies, as in ‘How Are You’ and ‘Ghosts’. The latter of these encompasses dystopic guitar work and the ethereal shimmer of keyboard effects, that provides the ground from which wandering counter-melodies and splashy cymbals emerge.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s ability to goad the audience through changes in tempo, snapping back into percussion-led riffs with enviable precision, strikes of the infectious energy of early Maccabees gigs. Meanwhile their sound combines double-guitar effects suggestive of a very British take on The Strokes, or the synthetic keyboard textures of Tokyo Police Club. But it is the ethereal, quivering vocal of frontman Jack Steadman that distinguishes them, complementing hebetic lyrics that are endearingly innocuous rather than juvenile or ignorant. Yet to record or release an LP, the London four-piece rattle off a polished performance ending on ‘The Hill’ to a jubiliant hand-clap reception. And though they are bent double over their guitars as they dance around each other on stage, Bombay Bicycle Club cannot conceal their delight at the unexpected, word-perfect enthusiasm of their audience, who no longer look so apathetic. Ones to watch, indeed.