The X-Posure Summer Party Live Review
Flat Iron Square/Omeara | 17th August 2019
Today marks the 20th anniversary of John Kennedy’s X-Posure show on Radio X, a place where the presenter champions new artists to late night indie listeners. Kennedy has ensured an eclectic mix of acts play to the punters in Flat Iron Square and Omeara to celebrate the occasion, while the man himself frolics around the stages before settling down intermittently in Apres (the wooden hut ski-bar) to talk with the likes of Ed Lay and Russell Leetch of Editors and Felix White of The Maccabees, among others.
Brooke Bentham ★
Brooke Bentham seems vastly out of her depth. It’s tough being the first act to play at a free party as no one’s really inclined to listen, but it’s even difficult to notice when she is actually playing and isn’t just delivering background music under idle chatter. The turn of the century has seen countless bedroom pop singer/songwriters covering everything from Sia to Ed Sheeran on ukeleles and Bentham feels no different. There’s nothing objectively poor about her voice or playing - apart from it not standing out and the lyrics being indistinguishable - but it’s a struggle to understand what made Kennedy pick her out as a fresh, hip new artist; this has been happening since 2009.
Calva Louise ★★
Calva Louise played 229 The Venue a while back, supporting Strange Bones along with Breed, who are here as fans and have already been recognised by a few onlookers in the crowd. Calva Louise were energetic and daring then but with their debut record Rhinoceros finally out, it’s exciting to see how far they’ve come. The answer is unfortunately not very far. The strength in their material isn’t enough to command the attention of the audience and bar a few choruses and notable riffs (like the one paired with millennial whoops on ‘Tug Of War’), there is little to set them apart from the abundance of muddy post-punk revival bands of the 2010s. However, it is apparent now that the sound in the garden is mediocre. It’s bland and the instruments just blend into each other, meaning anything less than a shriek from the microphone is inaudible. The sound engineer is visibly stressing and is constantly seen scratching his head and hiding his face in his hands. They’re a fun band to watch but the jump from Bentham’s moaning over airy guitar to a jumpy, upbeat thrash crash band is odd to say the least. They were just much better in Great Portland Street with Strange Bones; perhaps they’d be better off playing in Omeara, but the first band to have that honour is The Mysterines at 7:00pm.
The stressed sound engineer is now bickering with his crew and Marthagunn are stuck with the same flooded murmurs that the past two acts had to endure. It’s not all down to the sound - their songs are all over the place, with Abi Woodman’s vocals just not mixing with the music at all and instead sounding completely separate to everything the others are doing. There are examples of this working wonders; just listen to Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Some Velvet Morning’. The two singers are universes apart and yet it comes beautifully together in stark contrast. It’s one of the greatest songs of all time and that was in 1967; there’s no excuse here for continually uninspiring semi-alt rock. Still, to give them credit, they’re playing on a cramped stage under an awning and for the entire time it feels like their sound isn’t being properly realised. Or, they’re just not that good.
Mosa Wild ★★
On the whole, Mosa Wild sound like Coldplay meets Foals. The only interesting thing (and the sole event that sets them apart from everybody else who’ve played so far) is that they perform a cover of ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ by The Waterboys, an irritating pre-Britpop number which receives regular airplay on Radio X. Hats off to them for picking the perfect song to cover today, but the fact is their songs just aren’t groundbreaking enough to carry them alone. It’s tough trying to break as a new band and the pressure is certainly on when John Kennedy picks you to play at the anniversary of his two decades-running show, but the overall consensus is that these fresh new faces of the indie world are not as weighty as their 90s counterparts.
Babeheaven ★ ★
Listening to the group before arriving here, frontwoman Nancy Andersen generates a kind of shoegaze cross neo-soul vibe in Babeheaven’s music. Where the cloudy, whirling guitars glide just underneath poppy synths, Andersen’s voice provides the melancholy that is usually achieved through mysteriousness in contemporary guitar music. The trouble is, there is little direction; the music just kind of happens, with no real build to anywhere. This can be done well, like in BADBADNOTGOOD’s ‘In Your Eyes’, which sees Charlotte Day Wilson supplying a truly ethereal notion throughout. Here, like in the groups’s own ‘Heaven’, there is little to go on except a sort of sun-drenched neon BGM. The fact they’re on after the abundance of guitar-led bands today is a testament to Kennedy’s eclecticism, but the interest is wearing thin. Hopefully, Omeara will demand a better reception from the crowds into the evening.
Omeara has been open for most of the day, where a few individuals have realised it’s faster to get served here (and with more choices on tap) than in Apre. Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons designed much of the venue, from the aged feel of the walls to the kitted out green room on the second floor, featuring a bed, shower and changing screen. People begin to file in past the corridor plastered with posters depicting incredible lineups of old, including one night at Electric Ballroom which showcased, wait for it: The Clash, Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Talking Heads and The Smiths. Fucking hell. Born too late or what. Still, next up are The Mysterines.
The Mysterines ★★★★★
It does feel a little bit like the lucky witnesses of Sex Pistols at Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1976 - the “I Swear I Was There” gig. Nothing exceptionally revolutionary is happening here, but if any movement were to come from this it’d be some kind of garage rock revival (a second one, at least). Bass Drum Of Death and Death From Above 1979 are everywhere, but singer Lia Metcalfe is something else entirely. She fuses this Caleb Followill meets Kurt Cobain throaty snarl in each track, littering In Utero and Bleach-era Nirvana through their set. They’re urgent and impure as they are an embodiment of refined angst, reaching Bauhaus level desperation with ‘Bet Your Face’ (which sounds remarkably like the gothic rock giants own ‘Dark Entries’). Thankfully, the sound in Omeara is unimaginably better; it constitutes the first and only use of earplugs to counter The Mysterines’ plodding, Sonic Youth ne’er-do-well droning.
Mystery Jets ★★★
Written by Charlie Hall, Contributor.
The closing headliner for this small birthday party is Mystery Jets or, as some drunken idiot screamed when they where an hour late due to set issues earlier in the day, the ‘Mystery Aeroplanes’. This is the third time I’ve seen the boys from Twickenham and by far the worst. The only thing that saves the set is the music itself. Firstly, you can’t see any of their lovely faces due to adverts plastered with John Kennedy’s grinning face all over them displayed on a big screen behind the band. This ensures that all that is visible are silhouettes holding guitars, having what looks like a wonderful time on stage yet oblivious to their blind audience calling out to them. As all the fake fans leave, it becomes apparent that the vertically-challenged sound guy that had been running around all over the place all day trying to make everyone sound good has all but given up. By the time Mystery Jets are in full swing, he has packed it in entirely and the sound is so unbelievably quiet, all that is audible is the general ramblings of the square. To top it all off, as the band play their final and newest song ‘Hospital Radio’, which is a track dedicated to the fine work of the National Health Service, a delightful woman in front of me receives what I can only describe as a sad nude from a questionable gentleman, where she replies to his posing question of “Would you suck this?” with what I like to call modern day romance: “Yes Daddy”.