Turning Point Festival – The Roundhouse, London 8-10 May

May 20, 2009 by  


On paper this is a super exciting event: the Roundhouse, a proper music venue in North London, hosting a festival that pans fashion, workshops, live music, circus acts, dancing. The whole event has been planned by a collective of young people with an aim to highlighting the capabilities of young people, in spite of the pressures of contemporary living. There are some tasty established acts on the bill, some thrilling up and coming acts besides, the tickets are admirably good value and the weather?s looking promising.

Sadly it goes a bit wrong once you take the lid off. There?s been scant promotion; even the cause of the festival seems obscured in what press it has had. Consequently the ticket sales have been sparse, despite the crisis tactic of 2 for 1 tickets being made available at very last minute. The line-up lacks cohesion, and is too eclectic to get weekend ticket sales. Aside from the few big names, there seems a lack of draw with the bill. Walking through the (largely underage) crowds, it?s clear the venue is far from capacity, and although that makes it pretty pleasant to move about, likely puts a gloomy question mark over next year?s event.

Despite these gripes, the real tragedy of the event, for the music fan, was something far more distressing. Artist and consumer alike had to contend with a frightful sound system in Roundhouse. It feels impossible to connect with the music, like you?re merely observing rather than absorbed in the music. The calibration meant the bottom end boomed uncomfortably loud until your eyeballs shook. Middle range and lyrics were impossible to make out. Watching genius lyricist Scroobius Pip was just upsetting, you could barely make out a syllable of his insightful rhyming.

Logistics aside, there were genuine highlights; Friday night?s stand out act, neo-musical genius Beardyman took centre stage for an exhilarating exhibition of his groundbreaking skills, devoting the first half of his set to class A beatboxing, before being joined by scratch-tastic turntablist JFB. Incorporating the use of a Kaoss 3 pad he builds huge sonic soundscapes, creating loops and layers with his voice, all infused with a live saxophonist and guitarist to en-mass jaw dropping effect.

Qemists follow with their frenetic fusion of drum and bass and rock. It?s love it or hate it fodder that divides the drum and bass fan camp. They give a rowdy and energetic performance, and it makes for a heady culmination of the night?s programme.

Saturday?s bill serves up some super choiceness in form of Dan Le Sac v Scroobius Pip. Scroobius Pip is clearly the coolest man to ever walk the earth and I yearn to stroke his iconic beard. Their set is short but riddled with greatness, and the guys are clearly relishing the stage after a three month hiatus from performing live.

There?s just time to catch a little of Pulled Apart By Horses before the Noisettes, and it?s well worth the shuffle outside. It?s shouty, squawky rock ?n? roll, just the way you like it, underpinned by some thrilling disco tinged drumming. It deserves your love madly.

The Noisettes, the headline act of the festival it seems, give a victorious performance. To the disappointment of some they?ve evolved from their first incarnation with it?s post punk roots, but they?ve become a credible pop act during the interim and they?ve done it with style. Singer Shingai is a vivacious firecracker, with personality and voice to pervade every inch of cavernous Roundhouse with her exuberance.

Sunday?s best brings a degree of calm to the itinerary, thankfully. The inevitable hangover dictates it?s a sunglasses day, but it?s not long before they?ve been pocketed so better to peer at VV Brown, the sprightly young nipper with a suave sense of dress who?s readying herself for a certain onslaught on the summer?s charts. It?s an enjoyable and admirably energetic performance. She?s our very own Janelle Monae and hurrah to that.

The Pipettes are a playful end to a weekend of incongruities and mismatches. Their cutesy 50s inflected groove was lustrous enough, although possibly not the knockout punch the festival close needed. ?Pull Shapes? garners a minor rug cut out of even the most weekend weary of us. It?s an early close, tomorrow?s a school day (no, really) for most of those here, so it?s off home for a quick bit of homework before bed.

In this frosty festival climate, where insolvency and bankruptcy are real fears for festival organisers, let?s hope Turning Point learn from their errors for next year. If they could pull 2010 together with a little more vim it would be a smashing addition to the Camden calendar.

By Hannah Lanfear