In their new Camden home, the 2019 edition of Mirrors was an undisputed success…
Camden is already a bustling hub of art and culture, but as this year’s edition of Mirrors Festival descended, that feeling of escapism that comes with hearing great live music in the big city was palpable. Back from a year-long hiatus, and having moved from their previous location in Hackney, Mirrors returned bigger, brighter and better than ever in its new north west London home. For 2019, the festival was spread across three Roundhouse stages, Camden Assembly and Dingwalls
At the latter, Big Joanie were a highlight, delivering their unique brand of DIY afro-feminist indie punk; the crowd was captivated. A lone curveball in their set, mostly pulled from their debut album Sistahs, was a rousing, if unexpected, cover of Solange’s ‘Cranes In The Sky’. A thunderous headline performance from Sheer Mag followed, with front person Tina Halladay displaying unrivalled energy and stage presence.
Kicking off proceedings on Roundhouse’s main stage were Virginia Beach emo outfit Turnover, whose fourth album Altogether dropped the day before the festival. Recent singles ‘Number On The Gate’ and ‘Much After Feeling’ went down well, but it was when the band reached deeper into their back catalogue for tracks from Peripheral Vision — the one-two punch of ‘Dizzy On The Comedown’ and ‘Super Natural’ — that the crowd were most receptive.
The unmistakable glockenspiel in the opening bars of ‘Silhouettes’ marked the beginning of American Football’s early evening set. Pausing only to take swigs from a bottle of beer, fast becoming a trademark move, Mike Kinsella was full of energy, despite having given an Owen performance earlier in the day, when he packed out the 400-capacity Camden Assembly.
The emo titans’ set in the Roundhouse proved more expansive — literally and figuratively — as they drew from their cult-classic 1999 self-titled record, and and their critically-acclaimed American Football (LP3), which arrived earlier this year. Across a set of nine tracks, ‘My Instincts Are The Enemy’ was the only selection from 2016’s American Football (LP2). The show included a guest appearance from Rachel Goswell on ‘I Can’t Feel You’, with Nate Kinsella ably handling the Hayley Williams vocal on ‘Uncomfortably Numb’. American Football closed with ‘Never Meant’; sparking a huge singalong, it was of the festival’s most euphoric moments.
There seemed to be a lighthearted respect between the two headliners; American Football introduced themselves as “The Phoebe Bridgers”. Bridgers would later respond in kind, by relaying a story of getting tickets to see American Football with an old boyfriend, only for them to split up before the show. “I went anyway, there was no way I was missing that,” she laughed, much to the joy of the crowd.
Phoebe’s audience were treated to a Halloween-themed set which weaved old favourites in with new material; some of which she was debuting at the festival. With her tongue placed firmly in cheek, Bridgers and her band took to the stage in skeleton costumes as Disturbed’s ‘Down With The Sickness’ blared through the PA and two possessed trees with glowing green eyes looked on from either side. The Roundhouse crowd was firmly with her as she began with her signature song ‘Motion Sickness’ and ‘Garden Song’, played out for the fifth time since it was debuted in Japan back in February.
Fans were enthused to hear Bridgers play ‘Me & My Dog’, a song taken from her much beloved Boygenius project, a collaboration with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. Choice cuts from her 2017 debut Stranger In The Alps also went down a treat, with the crowd more than happy to play the role of backing choir when Bridgers played ‘Smoke Signals’. More new material like ‘Kyoto’ and ‘Graceland Too’ gave fans a window into what to expect from her eagerly anticipated follow-up.
This was Phoebe’s last appearance of the year, one she flew all the way from California to be there for (she’d played the Bootleg Theater in LA just a few days prior). As ‘Scott Street’ rung out and Bridgers took her bow to massive cheers, it was clear her set was as well-received as the festival itself; Mirrors, and Phoebe, were an undisputed success.
Words: Alex Ekong
Patrick Gunning – Lead, American Football
Piran Aston – Sheer Mag, Phoebe Bridgers