The dirty stained banner that adorned the very first Upset the Rhythm show still hangs at the merch desk for the last day of Yes Way Festival 2011. With this being their 401st show (Saturday being the 400th) the staff are looking shattered after two full days of festivities, not to mention the lead up. It’s a bit colder today with the grey threat of rain, plus that looming danger of another Monday morning being only hours away. The hallways are not so much abuzz with the excitement of a Saturday night piss-up, instead there’s a mood of relaxed absorption in the bands on show, while people take time out to enjoy the Randy Newman artwork backstage.
A one-man band, Waverley Way, revolts against the rhyme when he’s put on the similar-sounding ‘Way’ stage (as opposed to the ‘Yes’ one downstairs) by plastering ‘Yeskerley Way’ across the front of his laptop. An overly neurotic person wonders what the ‘k’ means and imagines it’s an even more complex joke than they thought, before Waverley Way switches on one of many nonspecific track samples on his LCD screen only to play discordant guitar chords over the top of it. It takes some time for these two disparate streams of sound to come together; sometimes coming across as that familiar, perversely thrilling internet affliction of opening several youtube music videos at the same time. There are times when he gets it right though –a tropical dream or a 70s detective drama theme with guitar, sometimes a clarinet, burrow through it all.
Comparisons to American lo-fiers Vivian Girls and Best Coast are inevitable and appropriate for Brighton’s La La Vasquez. A stripped-back three piece with schoolgirl vocals, often shared, and solid drumming, guitarist Freya Watson politely beckons the crowd to fill the space front of stage (“You can come forward, if you like”). This attitude is in stark contrast to their possible male punk counterparts Let’s Wrestle the day before; they insist rather than supplicate.
Along with John Maus, one might expect more people to have shown up for Dublin’s Patrick Kelleher, his ‘Cold Dead Hands’ and minimal techno that comes with it. He’d made the long train journey south to take the ‘Yes’ stage but with the mostly English lineup, some confusion with delayed playing times and a sound check from the popular Proper Ornaments, Kelleher delivers to a small but appreciative crowd. Yet, the subtle cheese of disco sampling and android vocals of his cosmic pop just can’t compete with the punk rock assault of other bands as he fails to translate the nuanced delivery of his modest bedroom electronica on a live stage. As he prances around unperturbed by the surplus of free space before him, it’s then that one realizes that Kelleher is the same guy who’s been dancing most passionately to most of the other bands and his own average set does little to dull his enthusiasm for the tribal assault of Maria & the Mirrors.
Despite the harmless name that brings to mind images of the Shangri-Las or The Crystals, this drum-sparring duo, plus their industrial noise ringmaster, are anything but cute. The racket produced by the three-piece –dressed in vinyl raver outfits and appalling hair extensions –threaten to destroy your hearing, while the almost physical distress they manage to elicit tonight is almost unbearable. A lot of it has to do with the fact that this would probably be one of their worse sets.
Keira Fox’s second mic isn’t working –nor her percussive match Chrystabel’s –and the former spends most of the time quite openly freaking out about it. This might be painful to watch but fitting considering the tension and volatility of their aggressive sound anyway. The two girls’ drums face each other from across the stage as they play, not so much in conversation but in all out war. An obvious but still appropriate creative comparison can be made to eminent New Yorkers Throbbing Gristle as the sheer violence of songs like ‘Travel Sex’ send the audience into involuntary paroxysm.
An uncomplicated, primal thumping is united by the bedlam elicited by third member Charlie Feinstein’s impressive electronic set up; holding fort between the two screaming, gesticulating harpies. If this Maria & the Mirrors set was a technical failure, I shudder to imagine a successful one.