There are many options for Londoners to fill their leisure time on a sunny August bank holiday weekend. There’s the Reading festival, where you can lob bottles of piss at emo bands while feral kids on snakebite rage through the campsites making fires out of piles of polystyrene takeaway boxes. There’s the Notting Hill Carnival, where you can hear all the latest soca, bashment and dancehall sides played at colossal volume, as long as you don’t mind surviving on cans of warm Red Stripe and constantly pushing your way back and forth through the teeming crowds to reach the toilet while hyped-up loonies blow whistles in your ear. Then there’s the traditional option: making a trip to B&Q to buy some planks of wood that won’t quite fit in your car properly so you have to tie the boot open with bungee ropes, before sitting in traffic on the A23 and eventually returning home to undercook some burgers in your garden that end up tasting of the petrol firelighters you had to use to get the barbecue going in a hurry because it was already getting dark.
Suffice to say you need a sizeable posse to make any of the above truly enjoyable and I didn’t put the bat signal out in time, so it was with some trepidation that I wended my way to King’s Cross for the TDK Cross Central Festival, which unites nightclubs Canvas, The Key and The Cross. Last time I went to this festival a couple of years ago, the organisers had screwed up bigtime by putting the only acts anyone would feasibly want to see all in the same room, which made it unbearably rammed and if you wanted to go to the toilet you couldn’t get back in and had to go and watch Mr Scruff or something. This time they’d shrewdly avoided that eventuality by failing to book any headliners.
‘Franz Ferdinand!’ Shouted the posters. ‘DJ set!’ Read the smallprint. Sneaky, huh? But as the place gradually filled up with a curious mixture of new rave kids, bridge-and-tunnel gurners, students and ageing ravers, it was left to some local London DJ heroes to steal the stage. Rory Phillips and Skull Juice represented. Tapedeck owned the terrace pagoda with a ruffneck free-for-all that took in Kate Nash, So Solid, Daft Punk and No Lay’s grime classic "Unorthodox Daughter"—and the longest spinback known to mankind.
Down in The Key, where the lack of functionality on their flashing dancefloor made it even more cave-like than usual, the ever-reliable Gucci Soundsystem were serving up some seriously skewed disco platters alongside Paris’s Joakim. Highlight of the night was another Frenchie, Chloé, whose meaty minimalism, embellished with gothic details, was devoured by a rabid crowd in The Cross. She is about to release an excellent album of crepuscular techno tinkering called The Waiting Room on Kill The DJ, which comes highly recommended.
There were some live bands but nobody paid much attention: saddest sight of the night was seeing two legends of ’90s spliff-rock, Steve Mason (ex-Beta Band) and Simon Jones (ex-Verve), making fools of themselves as crap comedy electroclash outfit Black Affair in front of about ten punters. Otherwise, though, against the odds, Cross Central was pretty fun. I was all amped up for coming back the next day to see Holden and Villalobos, except they ballsed up my ticket allocation. At least it gave me the chance to go and buy some wood.