Live Review: CroCroLand Festival

When Angela Martin of Croydon band Bugeye and excellent local culture site Croydonist told us that they were putting on a festival we expected a fairly small affair: a dozen or so bands in one of the town’s few established live music spaces, and readily agreed to DJ the event.  Imagine my surprise when a three stage, forty band extravaganza taking over an entire floor of The Lansdowne Hotel (recently re-christened Urban XChange and relaunched as an events space) was announced.

Not ones to do things by halves they secured the backing of The Arts Council along with a list of collaborators that should be familiar to anyone with their ear to the indie underground (The Zine, Get In Her Ears, Benumu and many more amongst them).  Both the line-up and crew are gender balanced and impossibly nice and money and awareness are being raised for the excellent Lives Not Knives charity. And it’s completely sold out!

As such I make my way back to my old hometown, drift into the venue and receive my golden wristband in a somewhat otherworldly haze, which is deepened by the appearance of Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something in the cavernous confines of the main Town Square stage.  Conjuring spacey psych rock visions from their instruments in a fur-collared jumpsuit and a full face of greasepaint, they provide exactly the wake-up call that any gig-goers unaccustomed to the midday start-time might require.

Across on the Concrete Playground Stage, Werecats are kicking up a shouty glam-punk fuss.  Their track ‘My Boyfriend’s a Werewolf’ is exactly as much trashy lo-fi B-Movie fun as the title suggests.  The next hour is spent ping-ponging between the two main stages – at the Town Square we catch Drusila‘s 80’s inflected electronica and Tiger Mimic‘s catchy indie pop, while over at the Concrete Playground Kath & The Kicks tear through a fantastic set of rip-roaring garage rock before handing over to Useless Cities’ beautiful melancholic indie.

It’s almost time for my first DJing slot of the day on the Town Square stage, and as I hastily assemble and re-assemble my playlist (gender-balanced in keeping with the spirit of the festival) Pink Cigar are strutting their way through a set of rabble rousing glam punk.  As they draw to a close and my finger hovers over the play button, I notice a familiar bespectacled face amongst the crowd – it’s Radio X’s resident champion of all things independent John Kennedy.  Thankfully he doesn’t walk out the moment I start.

Job done for now, it’s off to the Tram Stop stage, where a selection of students from festival partners Croydon Guitar Tuition and G4 Guitar School are mixing in with more established acts in the relaxed café environment.

I’m back on the decks ahead of London alt rock trio Berries, who put on a good show but sadly clash with Couples, who I am assured by almost everyone I meet were their discovery of the festival. Such is the way of multi-stage events.

There’s absolutely no question about which stage to watch next, as Joyzine faves Frauds take to the Town Square as the first part of a Croydon double-bill with Bugeye.  It’s been a little while since we last saw them and there are a couple of excellent new additions to the set, forged from the same twisted post-hardcore ferocity and acerbic wit that endeared them to us in the first place.  And as guitarist Mikey lollops from one side of the stage to the other during an extended-to-the-point-of-near-collapse ‘Pick Up The Stone’, they make being in a band look like more fun than anything else you could possibly be doing right now.

They’re followed by fellow Croydonians Bugeye, whose frontwoman Angela has, along with partner Julia, organised today’s festivities.  As you might imagine there’s a lot of love in the room and Bugeye do not waste it, launching straight into a triumphant set of glittering indie disco and never looking back.

Back at the Tram Stop it’s time to break out a few more relaxed tunes in the interlude between acts as the smattering of CroCroLanders not packing the main stage for She Drew The Gun take a moment’s rest over excellent tea and cake from the adjacent café.

After a quick caffeine and sugar boost it’s back on DJ duties at The Concrete Playground, where Weekend Recovery‘s exuberant garage rock is infectious enough to prevent an exodus to the main stage for Bang Bang Romeo.  There’s plenty more good stuff going on in the Town Square with grime punks Nova Twins, the wonderfully weird Lovely Eggs and festival headliners Blood Red Shoes all packing in the crowds, but my DJing duties keep me at the Concrete Playground, and with a host of Joyzine favourites seeing us through to closing time I couldn’t be happier with the situation.

First up are Fightmilk, who have an incredible knack of pitching everything just so.  The jangling guitars and vocal harmonies are catchy and danceable rather than twee, the cutting lyrics fall on the side of hilariously sarcastic rather than bitter, and while there’s a hint of nineties nostalgia in the mix, it never threatens to overwhelm the fresh baked indie pop goodness.

A tough act to follow for labelmates Chorusgirl, but they’ve got the tunes for the job, packing a set full to bursting with an idiosyncratic mix of reverb-heavy surf rock, jinking indie, the odd touch of grungey distortion and the ghost of a perfect sixties girl group that never existed.

Penultimate act Sisteray have been on our radar ever since Caffy St Luce of The Zine started shouting their name from the rooftops.  In our experience she’s rarely wrong, and true to form, Sisteray’s firebrand indie punk has the potential to ignite dancefloors and open minds.

Finishing off our night are another Caffy recommendation MOSES. You’d be hard pressed to find a more energetic and impassioned frontman than Victor and their anthemic indie rock keeps the crowd dancing right up to kicking out time.

From personal experience I know how hard just putting on a three band show at your local boozer can be, so for Angela & Julia as first time festival promoters to have pulled off a show of this magnitude is incredibly impressive.  The bands were excellent, the venue was sold out and perhaps most importantly of all the vibe was one of the friendliest, most inclusive and happiest of any event I’ve been to in a long while.  Here’s looking forward to CroCroLand 2.

Review by Paul Maps
Photography by Chris Patmore: chrispatmore.co.uk 

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