views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Eurostar Presents Traction
Granary Square
14th July 2012


Pointing the way to Traction

Comedian Adam Buxton's song about middle-class festival goers contains the lines "Load up the 4x4, it's festival time, we're stuffing out chillbags with nibbles and wine. We're going to sleep inside a collapsible yurt, we've got a nurse in case anybody gets hurt." Certainly an exaggeration, but in the case of Traction festival, not so much.

Supported by Eurostar and curated by DJ Gilles Peterson, the one-day groovefest took place in Granary Square, a new urban space just north of King's Cross. As suggested by its corporate backers, its intention was to pull together the best of European musical talent on London's doorstep.

The best of gourmet street food A favourite travel memory

So far, so poncey. Moreso when you consider some of the best traders from street food market Eat St. Kimchi Cult, The Speck Mobile, The Wild Game Co and meatball firm The Bowler were among those on hand should little Russell or Jemima get hungry. We're taking the mickey slightly, but not meaning any of this as an insult. Far from it. We'll be the first to queue for Indian puri, flatbreads and organic hummus and eat it beneath an art installation of people's adventures.

Jason Atomic's live art

Also kicking about was a light-painting booth, a pedal power peep show (which we were too terrified to enter, due to the threat of exercise) and some wonderful free ice-cream from the lovely people at Lick Me I'm Delicious. A wall of doodles from Jason Atomic also caught the guests in all of their pashmina-wearing, splash-jacketed glory.

Plugs on stage

But what's a music festival without the acts? London act Plugs kicked off the day with a unique blend of groovy, psychedelia with a touch of grime. Their experimental rhythms and electronica blended with an accessible pop undercurrent, held the attention of the crowd, even as the drizzle came down.

Benny Sings, from the Netherlands, gave us a flashback to a couple of nights previously, and our Saturday Night Fever fun. Immensely infectious, his jazz, funk and disco-inspired tunes sound like the 70s put through an 80s filter. The Bee Gees meet The Buggles with a touch of Daft Punk. It's not difficult to see why he's big in Japan - J-Pop loves all that synthy stuff - but it's hard to understand why he isn't bigger.

Congolese Baloji, hailing from Belgium, was a different kettle of fish altogether. Heavily political French rap punctuated African beats, all backed by London dance troupe Unity. It was certainly an acquired taste, but exactly in the spirit of the day.

The crowd growing at the main stage

Unfortunately, prior commitments meant we couldn't catch the later acts. These included London's Ghostpoet and Germany's Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble - a fusion of classical and jazz with more than a touch of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra about them - who are seriously worth checking out.

Most crushing of all was missing headliner Sebastien Tellier. But if you don't know him already, there's very little description that can do him justice. Somewhere in the void between music, performance art and parody, Parisian multi-instrumentalist and singer Tellier's electro-pop is second to none. Thankfully, he can be caught in London again later this year.

Despite the intermittent drizzle, spirits remained high at Traction. It's a shame that it was created solely for the London 2012 festival, but I hope Eurostar and Peterson manage to find an excuse every year to exhibit some of the best music Europe has to offer.

Eurostar Presents Traction took place on 14th July 2012.

Nearest tube station: King's Cross St. Pancras (Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Circle)

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