If I was looking for a word to sum up the inaugural Cro Cro Land Festival, the first that comes to mind is ‘special’…
Three different venues, all a hop, skip and jump from each other. Three stages free from sound bleed. Three stages free from queues to get in and out. The bill was gender-balanced, and, as far as I could tell, this balance extended to the production crew too. Never mind the fact you could also get a slab of rainbow cake to complement an actually quite reasonably priced beer.
There was a mild panic on discovering there were only two women’s toilets (we found some additional portloos later on), and one venue, Urban Xchange, felt strangely clinical as you entered through a hotel reception. There was also the Concrete Playground, which felt like watching bands in your local boozer. And yet, someone had put a lot of love and care into curating a day to showcase new talent, and to showcase Croydon. If you care about small independent venues, the lifeblood of the music industry, then Cro Cro Land felt like a platform for tomorrow’s headliners to play a festival crowd. You know; the ones who haven’t necessarily come to see you but who fall in love with your band regardless.
Speaking of falling in love with a band, I fell for Nova Twins, whose marriage of punk, grime, bass and infectious energy had the crowd up and dancing from the opening bars of ‘Bassline Bitch’. Nova Twins are what would happen if The Prodigy, Sex Pistols and Ms Banks formed a supergroup, but better. As singer Amy Love joined the audience to end her set, it was hard to tell if the band or the crowd were having more fun.
If we were going to find any criticism of the Nova Twins (other than, well, they’re not really twins), it’s that they clashed with the brilliant Fightmilk. Lead singer Lily lamented that Carly Rae Jepsen’s forthcoming London date is in a tiny venue so no one can get tickets, and expressed a love for Croydon courtesy of a roller derby she used to go to nearby. Their performance was fresh and personable; Fightmilk are like us, but cooler. Self-deprecating highlight ‘Your Girlfriend’ filled the bar room, in the best way, with indie-pop-punk-with-a-hint-of-
It wasn’t all noiseniks, though. In a real ‘something for everyone’ moment, earlier in the day on the Tram Stop stage, Riya made us pause from stuffing our faces with cake with her mash-up of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ and JT’s classic ‘Cry Me A River’. Later, at Town Square, the main venue, a sequinned Bugeye brought Britpop back (and by that, I mean the good Britpop, the Elastica bit) with the synth-tastic ‘Disco Dancer’.
An honourable mention must go to She Drew The Gun. Mixing pop and politics, over sugary melodies singer-songwriter Louisa Roach grew increasingly fiery as she moved from our treatment of the homeless to overthrowing capitalism. And let’s not forget festival staples, The Lovely Eggs, who were delayed by a blown-up amp but didn’t let that stop them unleashing their lo-fi psych-punk-rock. Finally, Blood Red Shoes had our tired legs dancing away to ‘Mexican Dress’ like we hadn’t spent all day running around watching bands.
So marked the end of the first Cro Cro Land. I left with one overarching thought: for the first outing of any festival to circumnavigate the issues (queues, gender imbalance, queues) that other, more established, events suffer from is impressive enough. Cro Cro Land did all that, and they did it with rainbow cake.
Blood Red Shoes, Nova Twins, Bugeye – Jon Mo
Riya – Jamie MacMillan