Big Scary Monsters is not a Pixar movie, well not in this case anyway. BSM is a record label from Oxford and today they are celebrating the fact that they are doing wonders by holding an all-day music festival at three separate venues in Hackney, East London.

A short ride on the W15 bus stops right outside Hackney Empire. If you have no idea about this place then book a ticket, see a play, a pantomime or enjoy what the Empire has on offer. The Empire has a bar, called Hackney Empire Bar and where the big day out begins.

Kicking off a big show is an intriguing spectacle for band or musician, today that dream slot goes to Thom Weeks (Gnarwolves) AKA BinBoy is on stage with his guitar to the already crowded Hackney Empire bar. Good sign, good sound as he finishes with an Robbie Williams cover.

Bin Boy

Natalie Evans checks her plethora of instruments for 4 pm set. Her harp, an electric guitar, a keyboard an acoustic guitar is frequenting the stage silently. Natalie isn’t a one-person band, she hasn’t the harp attached to her hip, the keyboard moulded to her stomach, guitars connected on either arm, It’s not the case.

Beginning her set, Natalie plays the harp, and every time I ever hear a harp, I like to reminisce about the past, so it coincides with the harp playing. Natalie sings softly, and you can’t hear a pin drop or a glass clang or a whisper in the back during her set. She sweeps the crowd with her gentle touch of voice, hitting us with heartfelt music, “Night Bus” and “Pavements” and ending the thirty-minute set with “Fire Positives”.

Natalie Evans

Now choices are made for us on who to see, as confusion won’t set in until 17:30 when the Moth Bar has the first gig of their night with Orchards and Nervus play 17:45 at The Empire Bar. It gets more tantalising when Paper Dress Vintage joins the fold with Bellevue Days at 18:45.


A performer I’m pleased to see is El Morgan at the Empire Music Bar. El Morgan and the Divers, but today, the Divers are not with her, so Morgan is on stage alone, just her voice, guitar and a full crowd at the bar. Morgan’s voice is strong, it catches everything I like about the strength in a tune. her soulful voice, has a touch of the country probably coming from her time playing in a country band with her dad at the local pub, also the fact she has a love song for people who hate love songs. A nice addition to my ears. Listening and feeling her music reminds me a lot of Seattle musician, Star Anna.

El Morgan

El Morgan

Now, Orchards open the Moth Club, just off Morning Lane, the pop-math-rockers set a precedent for the other musicians to appear at the Moth Club today.


Food’s needed, and Hackney has an array of food places to try. For Vegans, there’s Temple of Seiten on Morning Lane, a home of fried food of some sort, or the black Cat near Clarence road, another home of all things vegan. Hackney’s full of gastropubs and gender-neutral toilets melded with chicken shops and coffee yards.

With the area changing so much over the years with more venues opening, this event could move upwards and challenge Camden to a duel for all-day music events. The area has a cacophony of venues, not just the three used today.

Anyway, back to the music

Catching Pianist Matt Emery at the Empire bar adds a diverse touch to the event.

Matt Emery

Like the littlest Hobo, I’m off, as there’s a band I want to check out, along with the venue, the Paper Dress Vintage. First time here and knowing they have a stage, upstairs, the room is heaving already as the band come on. It’s snug, it’s tight and you can feel a heartbeat of someone standing at the front of the stage. Not sure how many it holds, but at a guess a hundred or so.

On stage are Gender Roles. They have the attention of the crowd the moment they play, these three musicians have me hooked by the end of their thirty-minute set. Properly hooked line and sinker, these guys are garage rock, dusty punk with the essence of a Cobain scream, a slight Pearl Jam hook and exactly what I like. They are heavy, the hard-hitting screamangers band from Brighton, over the years this area has given the UK scene so much and Gender Roles can carry that torch. I hear they have an EP out, Lazy Rush.

Gender Roles are my band of the day, and I’ll l be seeing these guys again.

Finishing off the evening I decided to head off to hear Doe’s last ten minutes of their set at the Moth club. Their indie pop rock music has a Wheatus catchiness to it. Their likeable persona makes the evening end with a sigh of relief. This for me has been a great event, witnessing musicians and bands I’ve not seen or heard of before and now, my collection of Ep’s and to do lists have grown.

Another great effort by the organisers of the event is giving space to organisations such as Safe Gigs for Women and Heads Above the Waves spread their own words.

To finish the live music part of the day off we had Say it Ain’t Bro, consisting of members from Happy Accidents, Doe, Fresh, Nervus and Kamikaze girls blasting out a selection of Weezer covers to a joyous crowd at Moth Club before we stumbled 50 yards up the road for a little boogie to a DJ set from the Heads Above the Waves gang,

That’s the moment it’s time for me to go to bed, the W15 bus is waiting, and a great job from the cats at Big Scary Monsters.

Photos: Helen Messenger and Vicki Bailey