Hard Rock Calling might feature three headline acts with decades of experience amongst them, but it was a different story at the Hard Rock Rising tent, tucked away in the corner of Hyde Park. Friday’s lineup, which largely featured unsigned acts from around the world, was curated by the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt.
Van Zandt, who also fronts his own US radio show, Little Steven’s Underground Garage, has listened to his fair share of new music over the past 12 months, having been on the panel of judges for the global battle of the bands run by Hard Rock.
One of the first bands chosen to play on Friday were Indonesian rock outfit called F.O.S., who proved that coming from Jakarta doesn’t exclude you from the influence of Aerosmith. Coming to London via the final heats of the Hard Rock Rising new band competition, they looked right at home.
Also playing on the stage were Oslo-based act Koo Koo Kitchen, who came to Van Zandt’s attention when frontwomen Eva and Marianne personally sent him some demo CDs.
California-based duo Deap Vally (one of NME’s recent Radar picks) later took to the stage, showing off just why they’ve drawn comparisons to The White Stripes. Singing guitarist Lindsey Troy casually knocked blues rock riffs out of her guitar whilst drummer Julie Edwards smashed out time on the drums.
Saturday saw Fyfe Dangerfield of Guillemots bring a deliberate change of direction to the sound.
First up were an eight-piece folk group from Lisbon who, again, had won a slot via Hard Rock’s global band play-off. Brass Wires Orchestra had more than a touch of Mumford & Sons about them, and when they came off stage they serenaded Fyfe with one of his own songs. Flattery may get them everywhere.
Multi-instrumentalist Tanya Auclair then brought her looped vocals to the Hard Rock Rising stage before Anglo-Ghanaian group Konkomo bought the highlife sound from their recent self-title release.
Headlining the on the night was Dylan LeBlanc. Signed to Rough Trade, the Louisiana singer-songwriter brought a touch of Americana to the UK as he played tracks from his forthcoming LP ‘Cast The Same Old Shadow’.
Going one step further than his colleagues, Sunday’s curator James Walsh headlined his own line-up to effectively turn the Hard Rock Rising tent into a one-day mini-festival for himself. Molly McQueen started the day with her hard-edged pop before Scotland’s answer to Vampire Weekend while Bwani Junction played their take on the sound that Sunday’s mainstage headliner Paul Simon first bought to Western ears.
Changing the pace were one of Walsh’s favourites, Sadie & The Hotheads, before he closed the weekend with his own headline set (before Paul Simon’s started, he told NME, as he wanted to catch his performance). Playing to a packed tent, the Starsailor frontman played songs spanning his entire musical career, with ‘Four To The Floor’ rolling back the years.