Mind the gap - the Sound Tracks Festival

As the unofficial live music correspondent for Brockley Central, we felt it only right we try out London's first ever Overground-based music festival, Sound Tracks, which took place on Saturday night.

Picking up our wristbands at the Amersham Arms at about 7.30, we were met with a wall of sound that we can only imagine was Eighteen Nightmares of Lux. It was pure rock n roll but a bit much for our ageing ears at that time in the evening, so we took refuge in the main bar while we waited for the rest of our group to turn up.

Planning to return to the AA later (we never did), and keen to try out the party train, we headed to the station at about 8.30 to make the journey to Cafe Oto in Dalston. The platform was silent, but various hi-viz vested folk were lurking so we knew we were in the right place. Once on the train we located the Sound Tracks posters and watched Toodar belt out a number of acoustic and Casio-accompanied tracks all the way to Dalston. Despite some mild heckling from a Millwall fan (at least, we think that's what he shouted?), the reaction was brilliant, with people coming down the train to watch and record it on their phone.

Toodar playing the priority seats

We'd never been to Cafe Oto. A wide frontage spills out onto a quiet side street by the station, surrounded by red brick warehouses and bikes chained to anything screwed down, this place is Hackney meets Amsterdam.

Although bands had been announced at each venue, set times hadn't been published online, so it was pot luck. We turned up to Elen Tamara on stage, who was great, and keen to see some more of the same we decided to hang around for the next group. It was a long wait, made longer as we knew we had precious little time to try to get to all the venues. Finally Shabaka & The Sons of Kemet came on, and pushed our musical boundaries with screaming saxophones, wobbly tuba-driven basslines and two drummers battling for supremacy.

Our friends were keen to catch Fantastic Mr. Fox at Concrete (on at 11.30, as relayed to us by some mates already at the venue). We were happy to tick off all of the stops, so, at about 10.45 and mid-saxophone solo, we made the move, hoping to be entertained on the way down. At Dalston Junction we boarded a train bound for New Cross, but it was eerily quiet - where was the party? There was no band or even revellers to be seen. At least it's only a 5 minute journey down to the 'Ditch.

We'll fess up now, Concrete isn't our favourite Shoreditch venue. It's a soulless box underneath Pizza East, minimally furnished, lacking identity and a coherent music policy, meaning that its normally either hosting a private function or full of Shoreditch tourists who weren't sure where else to go. Tonight was no different - a random mixture of curious Pizza East diners, and East End wide boys, this is where we hit upon one of the Sound Tracks problems. The venues are still open to Joe Public, so you don't always get that 'united by a wristband' feeling like other festivals. How was Fantastic Mr Fox? Well, we gave it until last train time (12.15), by which point there was no sign of him. Should have stayed in Dalston.

And here lies a logistical nightmare that even the East London Line can't solve - the distance between the venues (especially from New X to Shoreditch) meant that changing 'stages' was a big decision, especially if you're trying to rally a large group of people with beer in their hands. With the festival only lasting for a few hours that evening, there wasn't really time to go back should you decide you'd made a bad move. We couldn't help but wonder if we might have better spent our night choosing our own venues, and simply making the most of the live music on the ELL trains. A day-long festival would have given more scope for moving up and down the line, exploring the venues, or a wider distribution of artists at different venues might have made it easier to hop up and down the line.

We don't mean to sound negative. Brockley Central knows exactly how difficult it is to organise a live music event, let alone a festival, so we can appreciate these teething problems, and we also appreciate the obvious time and effort that the organisers put into it. The branding was slick, the all important 'feel' was generally spot on, and most of all this was a massive success in terms of concept, so bravo to the organisers and TFL for actually making it happen. This was a positive start to what we hope will become a larger annual event, that might well spread to some other stops along the line - next stop, Brockley?