By now, it's old news that All Tomorrow's Parties' Jabberwocky festival was cancelled just three days before it was due to commence at London's ExCel Centre. Some furious ticketholders instantly took to the Internet to lament lost funds and good times that would never come pass. But while the wronged were busy venting, some would-be Jabberwocky performers were busy trying to schedule new gigs throughout the city. In no time, there were a handful of "Jabberwocky fallout" offerings lined up for the weekend, most in unusual or unorthodox locales. I was fortunate enough to secure tickets for two such events, and had the opportunity to see six bands in far more intimate and nuanced contexts than the cavernous ExCel could ever have provided.


Friday the 15th - Ace Hotel Shoreditch: Amen Dunes, Ought, and The Van Pelt

A sedate atmosphere belied a frustrating few days for music fans at Shoreditch's Ace Hotel on Friday night. Granted, nothing less than stoicism seemed appropriate with Amen Dunes onstage. Jabberwocky would have been the final date on the trio's four-and-a-half month tour in support of their newest record, Love. Instead, they played to a small crowd in the confines of a hotel basement on a platform barely raised enough to be called a "stage". The intimacy of the space exposed a few cracks in the Dunes' technical veneer--an issue with a guitar cable took guitarist Jordi Wheeler out of commission for a frustrating few moments in the middle of the set. The band opened with a shaky rendition of 'Lilac in Hand' and didn't manage to achieve the kind of ethereal synchronicity omnipresent on Love until their final few songs. But when the sounds and vibes came together, which they did with 'Lonely Richard', the Dunes proved to be positively incandescent. Wheeler is captivating to watch--he uses his hand to half strum, half claw his guitar strings like some kind of lanky, harp-playing mystic. To top it off, singer and principal songwriter Damon McMahon has a touch of Jeff Buckley's otherworldly vocal prowess. By the time they got around to the final track, their record's title feature, Amen Dunes had conjured up something ambient and awe-inspiring. It's difficult to tell whether or not a venue the size of the ExCel Centre would have been hospitable to an offering as nuanced as the Dunes'.

Ought, on the other hand, could have done with a bit more space for their energy to diffuse, perhaps then it wouldn't have been so lost on most of the crowd. After a meticulous (and drawn out) soundcheck, Ought resumed proceedings at the Ace with 'Today More Than Any Other Day'. Frontman Tim Beeler commanded the utmost attention throughout with the sole force of his enthusiasm. He spent the whole set running around in his socks, gesticulating wildy. As it is, Ought's recorded tracks rattle to apocalyptic conclusions. In the flesh, numbers like 'Gemini' go from cohesive and coherent to utterly deconstructed: they're pulled apart bit by bit, and what's left is a galvanising racket. It's a shame that the audience didn't seem to embrace that spirit in a unified way. Some jumped around a bit, while others seemed hopelessly underwhelmed. To be fair, the bill at the Ace was an unusual one. You wouldn't necessarily put '90s favourites The Van Pelt onstage with the likes of Ought and Amen Dunes. Though, the Jabberwocky fallout gigs were all disparate affairs, thrown together at the last minute and put on for frustrated and disappointed fans--anything other than confusion or disorientation was pretty hard to muster.

However, The Van Pelt finally managed to captivate the restless audience with a few classics. They began with 'Nanzen Kills a Cat' and 'The Good the Bad and the Blind' from Sultans of Sentiment and ran through a 17 song best-of compilation set. With Neutral Milk Hotel--the other major reunited act that Jabberwocky managed to snag--also playing on Friday night, fair-weather fans were sure to have passed the Ace Hotel gig by. Which is to say that not a soul was present who would rather have been listening to a live rendition of 'The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One'. The feeling of reverence that The Van Pelt inspired in the cramped basement made it obvious that their emotive brand of sonic dissonance still resonates with audiences nearly two decades since the height of their powers.


Saturday the 16th - The 100 Club: Hookworms, Speedy Ortiz and Cloud Nothings.

Early Saturday evening, a young crowd loitered outside Oxford Street's 100 Club. Some, barely of age and fumbling with tobacco-stuffed Rizla, looked thoroughly out of place among the throngs of shoppers and tourists. This was a rather inconspicuous location for a fallout gig. One guy, casually brandishing a "Fuck ATP!" cardboard sign, captured the undercurrent of indignant energy that would characterise the whole event. Hookworms started things off with a rapid-fire set. They opened with the spacey 'Away/Towards' from 2013's Pearl Mystic and then scarcely paused to address the audience. The thin, rectangular stage in the club turned each musician into an island, isolating them where they stood. With limited opportunities for band interplay, all eyes were on guitarist MB (band members prefer to be known only by their initials) who was easily the most animated of the Hookworms. While their performance was consistent and compelling, it wasn't wholly stirring. Each track bled into the others, with differentiation made even more difficult by singer MJ's incomprehensible reverbed vocals.

Speedy Ortiz followed with a set that proved exponentially more rousing. They took to the stage among exasperated cries of "fuck ATP" and "fuck Barry" [Hogan, ATP's founder]. The audience was growing agitated, and Speedy's tongue-in-cheek take on 21st Century grunge both stirred and placated the dissidents present. New tracks, 'Bigger Party' and 'Doomsday', fell somewhat flatter than old favourites like 'Basketball' from 2012's Sports EP. All it took were a few familiar licks from singer/guitarist Sadie Dupois to kindle some mosh-y sentiments in the young and disenfranchised. Hecklers repeatedly urged the band to "play Taylor Swift", the song that launched them to prominence. The crowd at the 100 Club was hungry for something recognisable, and understandably so. With Jabberwocky tickets still not refunded, and additional money handed over for tonight's gig, fans spared no requests of the performers. Luckily, the sinister whimsy of Speedy Ortiz proved satisfactory. Lyrics like "how I wanted you/like a ghost wants revenge on the living" from 'Casper--1995' appealed to the collective spirit of dissatisfaction, and prepped the audience for the aggressive onslaught that followed.

Ultimately, Cloud Nothings provided the definitive push into total mayhem. Within a few seconds of 'Stay Useless', the crowd dissolved into an almost all-encompassing mosh pit--only those on the periphery managed to avoid collisions. And the set continued at a relentless pace. There was virtually no posturing or showmanship on the part of frontman Dylan Baldi: it was as though Cloud Nothings were merely providing a soundtrack for the catharsis that so many disappointed Jabberwocky ticketholders craved. Baldi was positioned to the far left of the stage, diverting all attention from him while the entire band orchestrated sonic chaos. 'Now Hear In' and 'I'm Not Part of Me' from the band's most recent release, Here and Nowhere Else, provoked particularly strong responses. The Nothings managed to maintain a manic intensity throughout their performance, not once opting into a lower tempo song or stopping for a breather. Cloud Nothings managed to channel the energy of an aggrieved crowd; when they hit the final note of 'Wasted Days' the tension that had been released into the room was almost palpable.