As the lights in the backroom of Dalston’s Victoria pub dim to red and Wolf Alice’s ‘Giant Peach’ blasts through the speakers, we are finally ready for Flying Vinyl’s contribution to the Oxjam Takeover weekend.
Oxjam is Oxfam’s annual charity music festival, showcasing bright new acts in a series of fund raising gigs. In Dalston on 15 October, Oxjam teamed up with Flying Vinyl, the innovative subscription service which picks the best indie releases each month, presses them on vinyl, and sends them out by post. Apart from their altruistic side, Flying Vinyl was keen to get involved with Oxjam because, as founder Craig Evans explained, “any opportunity for us to shout about the artists that we’re working with, I feel like we should take.”
Yassassin are headlining tonight, but everyone in the line-up is worth more than just a mention.
First up is Pavan, a psychedelic duo who quickly cast a dreamy spell over the early arrivals who braved the dismal weather this Saturday evening.
As the venue gradually fills, it’s time for the bouncy guitars and funky backbeat of Sugarthief, probably the youngest band in the line-up (under-18s playing an ‘adult’ venue!). This only underlines Evans’s statement that “we don’t care if an artist is new or has been around for a while, it’s all about quality of music for us”. The respect is reciprocal: Sugarthief take time in their set to thank Flying Vinyl for pressing their new release, pointing out that “we wouldn’t be able to do this ourselves.”
Getting music released on vinyl is as important for up and coming bands as it is for the audience here. It makes you wonder, what is so special about the vinyl format? Flying Vinyl’s Evans believes it’s because “indie music sounds a lot better on vinyl than it does digitally. The human race is tuned to constantly chase perfection, but really it’s the scratchy imperfections in music that often make it connect.”
Following Sugarthief is Honey Lung: thundering drums infused with noisy guitar. Though the band are admittedly “very drunk”, it does not show. The soaring melancholy that clings to their more fragile chords lifts Honey Lung out of the hazy cloud of noise, giving them a special edge. Afterwards, lead-singer Jamie Batten is pleased with the set: “I thought it went really well, I was in a very happy mood, surprisingly, before the show.” Though it may have had something to do with the booze.
While the next act is preparing to come on, we get to hear some records by The Magic Gang, the darlings of Flying Vinyl (and Rising East), who starred in the label’s own festival hosted in Hackney earlier this year.
Free Money is what we all want, right? And they sure look the part as the indie dreamboats hit the stage with an unapologetic opening tune. Upbeat, joyful, crowd-charming and tight while they’re at it, the East London boys of Free Money certainly pay up. “Dance, maybe, please,” lead singer Harry Edwards hints, and the crowd duly oblige. Finishing off with a tune that sparked enough to cut the power, Free Money leave the stage in an anarchy of exposed body parts and a roaring crowd.
Still buzzing with post-gig endorphins, I assemble the guys off-stage for a quick chat. Free Money released their single, ‘What did I Miss?’, through Flying Vinyl, and Edwards says, “then they were like ‘yo – come play this gig’.” Though the band delivered a triumph of a set they hadn’t had much live experience – all the more remarkable that they have been so confident on stage tonight. “There’s loads of great bands playing here and it’s an honour to be a part of it. Every band that played tonight was sick. Flying Vinyl nailed it and it’s a good venue,” Edwards explains.
It’s true, The Victoria has been a beacon for gig goers for more than three decades, helping to ensure that the music scene stays grounded even as gentrification and the influx of hipsters have made this more difficult. As Edward’s put it “East London is cliché as fuck”, yet it’s all about “living the cliché, loving the cliché.”
All Flying Vinyl’s events to date have been based in the East London area, and the second edition of their festival is set to take place at Hackney’s Oval Space in April 2017. Evans elaborates:
“We feel that it’s the most culturally important music hub in the capital currently, maybe even in the whole country. We are looking at doing a few events in other areas of the country but as a starting point for us, East London is great.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Last band of the night is the badass girls who make up headliners Yassassin, tangling the audience in with seductive vocals and thundering basslines. This all girl group has an attitude even Jessica Hopper would be proud of, and their bold and energetic style sends out Riot Girrl vibes for days.
As instruments get packed away and the DJ takes us into the night. We can safely say that Flying Vinyl has added a few bands to our playlists this evening, and maybe given us a glimpse into the future of indie.