Ah The Hipster, detested by all, loved by none, and yet in a weird sort of way, we’re all hipsters, we’re all snobs to some extent. We all make conscious choices about who to see and who not to see, who we love and who we hate.
Musically speaking, I’m an omnivore, it comes with the territory, I love a bit of everything, but I’d be lying if I tried to deny my hipster streak. I’m an avid reader of Pitchfork and an complete and utter culture vulture, and from this position, I present Strictly’s Guide to all this artsy, cutting edge or artfully retrospective.
Kirk Spencer (BBC Introducing): The New kid on the block Kirk Spencer is already making waves and will be essential viewing on the BBC Introducing stage. Bringing all the clicking, hissing, ghostly grooves you could ever need, complete with Bollywood instrumentation and some serious deep and dirty basslines, he’s more than worth a watch.
Mount Kimbie (Dance Tent): Nero will blare, Sub Focus will bombard, but Mount Kimbie will glide and skip. Far more subtle than their peers, and more abstract, Mount Kimbie will never be described as easy listening, but their mix of looping beats and quasi-found electronic sounds should win over a few curious onlookers. They follow the James Murphy tradition of showing you how beats are built, so give them time, it might take a good two minutes for a beat or groove to truly reveal itself.
SBTRKT (Dance Tent): The man in the mask may only be deejaying but that shouldn’t stop him from stealing the show with his awe-inspiring post-dub step. He won’t mope, he loves the dancefloor, he’s got a real flare for soul, and brazen beats. Expect mind blowing futuristic beats and beautiful heart-wrenching hooks.
Unkle Sounds (Dance Tent): Don’t fancy bouncing around to My Chemical Romance? Then why not chill and reflect with UNKLE, one of the most soulful, layered, and rock friendly dance acts of the past twenty years. Unkle’s music has a real driving quality, it powers onwards, before suddenly, dropping into moments of gorgeous reflection. A genuine alternative to MCR.
Crystal Castles (NME Tent): Style over substance? Not anymore. Okay Alice Glass is ultra-cool and impeccably styled (albeit unintentionally), but this band has earned their chops. Mixing blaring, ear crushing blasts of white noise, to carefully composed grooves and evocative soundscapes, Crystal Castles are a fully formed artistic entity in 2011.
The National (Main Stage): High Violet took this band to the next level, and they will make stand time still on the main stage when they unleash the chilling “Converstation 16”. A set that simply cannot be missed, the mood will be downbeat, but the hooks will be irresistible.
Interpol (Main Stage): After a faltering performance in 2007, and with their inner turmoil put to one side, Interpol should have a real point to prove in 2011. Will it be a hit parade or gloomy mood piece? Who knows, but whether we’re rocking to “Slow Hands”, “Obstacle 1” and “Evil” or being moved to tears by “NYC”, “Lights”, and “Untitled”, it hardly matters, the results are sure to be phenomenal.
Elbow (Main Stage): Okay you caught be out, Elbow are hardly glum, in fact many of their themes are uplifting and unifying, but nevertheless they have a low key and downbeat demean that evokes a real solemn thoughtful quality. “Grounds For Divorce” and “One Day Like This” will be huge, but look out for “Lippy Kids” to take your breath away.
CocknBullKid (FR Stage): So many conflicting styles, and so much style. CocknBullKid many struggle to match the “new Lily Allen” label, but she’s the first act to get the title who a) is as forward thinking, fresh and different as Lily was in 2006 and b) who actually has a chance of pulling it off. She might not be built for superstardom, but CocknBullKid speaks to people in the here and now in a way that so many of her peers fail to do.
Cults (FR Stage): Ghostly sixties girl group pop. Cults are a little shy on stage, but that only adds to their aura. Expect incredibly melodies, and a light airy sound that’s as likely to make you shiver as it is to make you smile.
Best Coast (NME Stage): Sun, sand, weed, cats and heartache, that’s Best Coast entire arsenal in one sentence. If you after some deliciously transient surf-pop then Best Coast are for you; terminal confused, fatally apathetic, frustration never sounded so damn fun.
Anna Calvi (FR Stage): Is Anna Calvi pop? Probably not but her epic Morricone and Waits inspired soundscapes are sure to pack out the Festival Republic Stage, and that voice will take absolutely no prisoners. Prepare to be wowed.
OFWGKTA (NME Stage): Juvenile, homophobic, vulgar, violent, sexists, morose, yeah it’s all true, but if you can put that out of your mind for half an hour you’ll be treated to one of the weekend’s most visceral and high energy sets. Make no mistake, these guys can rap, and they bring the pain live.
The Streets (NME Stage): Saying farewell, at just the right time, Mike Skinner might not be sorely missed, but his revolutionary sound will never be forgotten. Without Original Pirate Materiel it’s hard to imagine the evolution of the UK’s post-garage sound. From dub-step super producers to Lily Allen and Alex Turner, Mike Skinner changed and shaped British music in a profound, unexpected and undeniably brilliant fashion.
Not So Pretty Punks
Off! (Lock Up): Nasty, brutish, and short, it’s not just how Hobbs describe existence, it’s how Punk rock should be. If a great hook, or something to say, why repeat it, spit it out, fire it out, and move onto the next point. Off play fast, coming the speed and intensity of early hardcore with Wire’s (the greatest punk band of all time, it had to be said) flair for one or two minute minimalism. Give Off! 17 minutes and they play 17 songs, and they’ll say and mean more than most bands will in an hour and a half.
The Bronx (Lock Up): The Bronx aren’t as hasty as Off! but they are no less brilliant. Favouring big booming riffs, and huge vocal hooks, The Bronx are as good as 21st Century punk gets, marrying visceral warped energy to slick hooks. You cannot miss The Bronx.
Fucked Up (NME Stage): Punk? Hardly. Post-punk, indie, arty, whatever. Fucked Up make incredibly textured music, that’s emotional sensitive, artistically intriguing, and continually confounding. Pink Eyes might look like a mindless, shirtless, beast but he’s actually an incredible thoughtful man with a truly artistic soul.
WTF? Indie? Dance? Huh?
Fixers (BBC Introducing): Simmering post-Foals indie from Oxford or pshychedelic MDMA dance merchants form a heavenly plain? Fixers are both and neither, varied, inventive, and inspiring Fixers are the most exciting new indie proposition on the entire R&L line up.
Islet (FR Stage): Fuck Buttons given a dance-able, chantable, indie spin? Oh God does that sound good? With all the swagger of Fang Island thrown into the mix, Islet make the most inaccessible end of the avant garde spectrum sound approachable, exciting and catchy as all hell.
Royal Bangs (FR Stage): I’m still not sure how to describe Royal Bangs, one minute their a glitch force field obscured abstraction and the next their the most danceable white boy funk act since David Byrne and Brian Eno discovered Tribal Beats.
The Indie We Know An Love
Mini Mansions (FR Stage): You don’t have to scare the hell out of the world to create a sound that’s truly inspiring and genuinely exciting. Sitting somewhere between Costello and Harrison these American upstarts make beautiful melodious indie that can shift moods in an instant.
White Denim (FR Stage): Ragged and yet oddly smooth, inventive and yet inviting familiar psychedelic from one of indie’s most consistently intriguing acts.
Smith Westerns (FR Stage): These guys write amazing pop songs, using wonderful 60s inspired instrumentation, and wonderful cracked warped vocals. Smiths Westerns have an air of menace, but at heart they’re a band that even the most conservative of music fans should be wowed by. Well worth a watch, whether you looking for cutting edge thrills, or an accessible swoon-along.
Warpaint (NME Stage): The sexiests melodies meets the sexiest basslines, as Warpaint bring their vital brand of all female melancholy to the NME stage. If you a fan of thick bass groves and wonderful reflective vocals, then this set is a must see. A wonderful mix between downbeat 90s alternative and 21st Century textured artistry.
Metronomy (NME Stage): Fresh from a Mercury Music nomination the brilliant Metronomy should be in the mood to celebrate as they uncork their intricately composed and insanely addictive grooves. Expect quirky synths, sexy basslines, and those oddly twee, but hugely infectious, vocals.
The Horrors (FR Stage): Blinded by the lights, blinded by the lights, you’ll damn sure be blinded by the lights by the time Faris Badwan and company are finished with you. Thankfully, you’ll also be wowed by sawing guitars, rich textures, soaring synths and those haunting hooks.
The Antlers (FR Stage): Majestic euphoria, snowy misery, cathartic heartbreak, it’s not exactly clear what direction The Antlers will take their Festival Repbulic set, but one’s things for sure, it’ll be a rush of gorgeous sounds and mind bending creativity.
Pulp (Main Stage): I’ve said so much about Pulp, I have no more to say. Pulp are simply sensational. They are fantastic live, and their songs are so specific, and so peculiar that they will touch you in an entirely intimate way, even if your dancing and bouncing like a complete idiot at the time.