Live: Hackney Wonderland Festival. A Musical Feast In Hackney.

A Musical Feast In Hackney.

The third annual Hackney Wonderland Festival took place in the heart of Hackney on 15th and 16th October. This year it evolved from one-day event to proper weekend festival. In short – Hackney Wonderland could be described as two days of music, five clubs and over 40 artists.

With the headliners like Mystery Jets and Lucy Rose, the festival was already set for success but it’s not only about the main acts. Every ticket holder was given wristband and could freely roam between  Oval Space, Sebright Arms, The Pickle Factory, London Fields Brewhouse and Mangle. All five clubs are within a short walking distance and packed with new and upcoming indie bands. Photojournalist Edyta K found out more.

Saturday brought my favourite Saint Agnes playing in London Fields Brewhouse – a small venue next to London Fields Station. The band recently released their new EP – Sister Electric and I was hoping to hear the new material again. Instead, they choose to play some well-known tunes from previous records. It worked really well. Saint Agnes on stage are a thing that has to be experienced and their energy is contagious. They took the small venue by the storm with tunes like A Beautiful Day For Murder and left the audience breathless, speechless and craving for more.

As the next venue was just on the other side of the road and I had bit time ahead of Mystery Jets headlining Oval Space  I went to check Hooton Tennis Club playing in Mangle. I had to admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the band’s name but wasn’t really familiar with their songs. Saint Agnes set the bar high but Hooton Tennis Club was not to disappoint . The first thing that came into my mind was Iggy Pop and The Stooges. Some raw energy and garage shaped guitar tunes along with intriguing vocal made a surprisingly addictive mixture. It is that type of band that makes you want to google their albums once you get back home after you saw them live.

As a cherry on the top of the cake, on top of my list were Mystery Jets headlining Oval Space on Saturday. The venue was just 10 minutes walk from Mangle so pretty optimistic with lots of time ahead I walk down the road. My optimism and hopes died that night, when I saw nearly three hundred people already queuing outside Oval Space. With a policy, one in as one out it didn’t look promising.  The venue opposite, The Pickle Factory, was already closed and it looked like everyone from there joined the queue to Oval Space.

Feeling let down I accept the truth that I will miss the band I have fallen for. I felt like someone stole my cherry from the top of my cake, leaving me with plain icing.  But the end of one story is beginning of another and with festivals that have got more than one stage the night is never done until the music stops playing.

After checking my options I decided to go back to Mangle and check what is on offer. Birmingham band  Swim Deep. I had to admit, that it was the best part of my night. As a fan of The Cure I was pleased to see the band singer dressed alike Robert Smith. I had a feeling that the music I was about to hear won’t be disappointing.

It was, in fact, an overwhelming mixture of honeyed and heavy music, with a well balanced funky trumpet. A bit of indie psychedelic rock with a sweet touch. Definitely a band worth checking and surprisingly my Saturday’s night highlight.

Sunday brought the second day of the festival with bands like Yuck, Cabbage, Johny Lloyd and Lucy Rose headlining across four venues. Mangle wasn’t open on Sunday and my options were limited to three of the club venues. From tune-smith Jake Isaac, guitar funk-rock served by Theme Park at Oval Space through to almost intimate sets from Paradisia and Tempest at The Pickle Factory the Sunday was looking more than good.

My personal choice for the day was Electric Child House. The band played twice that day, opening at Oval Space and doing set in the middle at Sebright Arms. The tiny stage at the Sebright wasn’t made for the five piece from London, they were cramped and the small venue with a low celing made it look almost claustrophobic. Despite the size of the club the band put on one hell of a rock show. They were loud, noisy, intruiging, passionate and energetic.

If you are a true rock fan that’s the next band you need to check out! They played couple of their own songs and finished the show with Born To Be Wild  dedicated to a recently deceased band member. Their strength is passion and free spirit, reflected in everything they do.  It doesn’t matter if they play their own material or a well known cover, the band stays on top of it all and thrills the audience.

Another band not to be missed on Sunday evening was Kitty Daisy & Lewis performing in Oval Space. This is a band that will make you question everything you ever knew about a band. You might think that every band has one drummer? Or maybe two? That the girls in the band are the one’s that sing and sometimes play guitar? Wrong, wrong and wrong again. Forget about that. Throw away all the stereotypes. They will question everything you thought you know and prove you’re wrong.

All band members exchange the instruments and roles they play. The girl who sings in one song will be the one who drums in another or play harmonica or keyboard. The same with other band members. This family band, full of multi instrumentalists, is fun to watch and listen to and they know how to interact with the audience.  Their music combines the best parts of rock ‘ n ‘ roll, swing and blues with a hint of R&B.  They will soak in your ears and you find them the next morning playing a tune in your head,

As the night goes by once again the Oval Space become packed with a crowd hungry for a headliner. Sunday nights belonged to Lucy Rose. The young British folk singer was looking bit shy and overwhelmed by the size of audience awaiting her. Her soothing voice and guitar made a perfect close up for the festival. It was her job to send people home happy and she definitely made it. Warm voice and silky melodies brought a bit of unexpected magic to Hackney. It was truly a Wonderland. And if you missed it,  grab your pen and mark it in calendar for the next year. The Hackney Wonderland will be back and once again will bring new and upcoming bands right to your neighbourhood.


Hackney Wonderland Festival, 15th – 16th October 2016

Review and photography by Edyta K

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