Now entering into its second year, Mirrors is fast-gaining traction as a forward-thinking and ingenious London festival. Spread across six venues in Hackney, Mirrors presents a wonderfully curated line-up, with each act paired with a space that compliments them brilliantly. The excitable buzz of Mirrors is prevalent all around Hackney as the diverse and sizeable crowd drift in and out of venues, vintage shops, bars and St John’s At Hackney, which serves as the glorious centrepiece of the festival.
Durham’s finest Martha are the first band we catch, and their potent performance proudly fills Oslo, with every wrinkle and ounce of character from their excellent 2016 release Blisters In the Pit Of My Heart fizzing into life. Martha are an important and empowering band for these terrifying times as well as a passionate and irresistible live act as they continue to prove with each performance. Wonders like ‘Ice Cream and Sunscreen’, ‘Precarious (The Supermarket Song)’ and a triumphant rendition of ‘1967, I Miss You I’m Lonely’ are joyously received and set the bar high for the rest of our Mirrors experience to follow.
Thankfully, Miya Folick’s set keeps standards high, as her amazing, elastic voice and the uranium-heavy sounds of her backing band captivate the crowd that mob DIY’s Stage at the Moth Club. Whether she’s fronting rollicking garage bangers like ‘Pet Body’ or bruised ballads like ‘God is a Woman’, Folick is an undeniable and commanding presence, making Moth Club feel ten times bigger as it swells to suit her songs. The golden walls of the venue feel like they could cave in under the passion and intensity of Miya Folick’s performance and, after a stunning unreleased number ends her set, we all leave into the cold October night having being transported, transfixed and ultimately elated.
We return to Oslo to be pummelled by Cherry Glazerr’s set, as keyboards buzz and fried guitars bloom from the set, sending shockwaves through a densely-packed and receptive crowd. The band mix their winning harmonies with buzzsaw sonic to thrilling effect as latest single ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ utterly rules and ‘White’s Not My Color This Evening’ especially roars, sounding like it’s about to tear the plaster off the walls. Cherry Glazerr provide one of Mirrors’ most electrifying and idiosyncratic sets and will be looking to build on this power for their headlining show at the Camden Assembly next February.
To soothe ourselves, we retreat to the rafters of the beautiful St John’s At Hackney as Allah-Las take the stage, sending their shimmering pop singing to the ceiling. Buoyancy fills St John’s as reliably excellent hits like ‘No Voodoo’ and ‘Catamaran’ lift the crowd, providing a warm wash at odds with the brittle Halloween weather, and daft grins are worn all round.
It’s incredible to think it’s been a decade since Fucked Up’s sprawling debut Hidden World – yet here we are, celebrating both the thrilling initial document and the incredible journey the Canadian band have been on since. Fucked Up’s three LPs since have maintained the ridiculously high quality set by Hidden World, becoming essential punk milestones and propelling Fucked Up around the world and to endless acclaim. The firebrand intensity of the Fucked Up live show is an absolute maelstrom, as the band hammer out taut punk riffs shrouded with a honeyed glaze and frontman Damien howls like it’s his last hour on earth, sharing vocal duties with every single person in the crowd who knows the words, administering hugs and WWF-inspired hand signs to all. A decade hasn’t blunted any of Hidden World’s raw power, and this awe-inspiring performance does the unlikely punk milestone total justice, as Fucked Up sound totally monstrous within Oslo and utilise every spot of the venue as part of the performance. Hidden Worlds’ near-Biblical tales of soul-searching, missing gods and crushed humanity take on a tragically tangible tone as the band return for their early call-to-arms ‘Police’, dedicating the barnburner to anyone who has been harassed or harmed for being the ‘wrong’ gender, colour or harbouring the ‘wrong’ sexual preference. The audience roar in approval before charging to the stage for this finale, and Fucked Up’s outstanding set proves that shared passion can provide powerful unity in terribly shitty times.
After the physical and emotional drain of Fucked Up, Bat For Lashes provides a beautiful and bitterly blissful ending to Mirrors. With each release, Natasha Khan has grown into an even better songwriter and performer and tonight every soul in St John’s At Hackney belongs to her, chiming rapturously with every line Khan sings as she dips into a set drawn mainly from this year’s The Bride, with an outright heartbreaking rendition of ‘Laura’ and euphoric cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gypsy’ providing added highlights. Watching Khan unpack the deep well of love, loss and grief that the music of The Bride brings in a hazily-lit church is an incredibly moving experience, as hands are held and a luminous purple light engulfs all, The entire Mirrors crowd leave St John’s with a sense of cleanliness of the soul and optimism of the heart mined from an unbelievable set. May Bat For Lashes forever continue to be brilliant, amen.
Mirrors has proven itself as a smartly curated and thoughtfully crafted festival for a second year, and we're confident that its third year will build on these fantastic foundations.
Words by Joseph Fuller
Imagery courtesy of Mirrors Festival.