Phoebe Bridgers spoke candidly between songs, somehow making the packed Roundhouse rotunda feel intimate. Her reflective Elliott Smith-influenced lyrics were visibly mirrored by audience reactions: during the devastatingly sad ‘Funeral‘, listeners swayed gently under the blue light beams holding onto themselves or friends, in reveries of their own. The warmth of the crowd’s reaction momentarily broke this reverie as Phoebe smiled and whispered, “Fuck yeah Mirrors Festival, this is sick…”
Mirrors Festival was headlined by a starkly beautiful and haunting set from Phoebe Bridgers. Opening with the excellent ‘Motion Sickness‘ before drifting through favourites from 2017’s Stranger in the Alps, this was an ethereal and transcendent treat for the hushed crowd. Fans were delighted with a debut outing for a suite of new solo material, including a track from EP – boygenius.
After researching beyond the initial stand out names from the line up, my friends and I were surprised by the sheer volume of great bands involved right from the starting gun. This left fest goers with difficult choices to make: between the indie pop of Barrie and justifiably-hyped Irish band Just Mustard, as well as between Cass McCombs and Sheer Mag (sorry Cass!)
Anyone who rocked up at 9pm just to see Phoebe seriously missed out… Diving from the crisp Camden air into the sweaty embrace of Dingwall’s front row is already up there among my best decisions of 2019.
Early highlights included the soulfully heart-wrenching Winnie Raeder, an endearing and playful set from the catchy pop-punkish Lauran Hibbard (the best artist to venture forth from the Isle of White this century) and 16 year old Alfie Templeman, whose Mac DeMarco-indie and virtuoso guitar playing you should definitely catch on December 5th at the Forum in Kentish Town.
The standout performance of the festival was a much-anticipated UK appearance from Philadelphia’s Sheer Mag, led by the leering presence of powerhouse vocalist Tina Halladay. From the opening caterwaul scream to the closing triple Gibson guitar growl, hard rock banger after hard rock banger were emitted with nonstop volume and energy.
Although difficult to pick a standout moment from a consistently high-octane set, ‘Nobody’s Baby‘ was fucking amazing and left the audience baying for an encore. Stumbling deafened and grinning out into Camden Food Market in search of street food, we were served well with a chance to come back down to Earth in preparation for Phoebe Bridger’s contrastingly intimate collection of songs.
Being Mirror festival’s first time in its new Camden home (having relocated from Hackney this year), there were bound to be a few minor teething problems. With many of the main draws alternating between the Roundhouse stages and Dingwalls, the distance between venues did make keeping up with a tight schedule feel like a bit of a mad dash. Also, the lack of festival presence in the streets outside may have left those unfamiliar with Camden a little reluctant to head out from the dry warmth of the Roundhouse main stage.
Having said this, my group ended up splitting off into three different factions several times throughout the day, getting drenched in the process, so we could catch everything we wanted to see. This is something that has never happened to me at any other of London’s one day festivals. The curators behind Mirrors Festival seriously know what they are doing
I’m looking forward to gazing back into the mirror next year, for sure. With a slight fine-tuning of the festival experience for gig-goers, Mirrors Festival is primed to become one of the jewels in the Camden crown.