East London’s annual spring festival once again returns to take over the bars, clubs, basements and holes of EC2. Taking place tonight on a Thursday rather than Friday night and with a distinctly weaker line-up, the streets and bars are noticeably bare of the drunken bodies and spiralling queues of last year’s rammed festival. Even for Shoreditch on a normal Thursday evening, it’s disturbingly quiet.

The Village Underground for Mazes is cavernously empty, you could literally run from one side of the venue from the other without hitting a body. Mazes, bathed in a red glow, tentatively take to the stage and unfazed and rattle through tracks from their debut A Thousand Heys. ‘Bowie Knives’ is buzzes with distortion for the tumbling-down-stairs chorus, although the lulling sway of the song is nearly broken as lead singer Jack’s guitar strap comes off, but the band keeps it together. Current single, ‘Summertime’ echoes around the venue and makes it seem more of a shame that the few static bodies here are rooted to the floor. The band slip new song, ‘Do Remind Yourself’, a Beatles’ ‘circa ‘Help’ era meets Guided By Voices track complete with ‘oos’, before closing on the ‘Cenetaph’.

Dashing across the road to the Old Blue Last it’s clear where all the people are, in the upstairs’ bar for Post War Years. A completely different atmosphere to the Village Underground, the band combines icey synths and loops with white boy soul harmonies. Although, well-received by everyone here there’s something a bit soulless about the set-up as the sound vapidly washes over the room.

Running back across to the Village Underground, No Joy are pushing out wave upon wave of distortion. The band play with a mass of head-banging hair with dirty roots as they all stare at their feet for the pounding of ‘Haiwaii’ and the hazy feedback glaze of, ‘No Summer’. The girls are from the Kim Deal school of cool, cut-off denims and baggy ts, whereas the bassist is looking like he got straight As in math occasionally pulling a strange sex-face. The band finish on a mournful drone cover of the Shangri-Las ‘He Cried’ that bleeds more sorrow that the original, before hastily packing away their instruments immediately after closing the song.

The room packs out for the anticipated headline set of Wire, but the mood is quickly deflated. The band is plagued by technical faults and shun what everyone’s been looking forward to, tracks from Pink Flag. Hurrying back to the Old Blue for one last band, The Patterns is equally disappointing feeding everything through laptops and synths as one person is even overheard questioning if they’re playing live.

Like the sponsors Red Stags’ cherry rum, Stag and Dagger promised so much and delivered so little leaving a bitter aftertaste and a nasty hangover. Here’s for a return to form next year.