- Matt Unicomb pulled few punches in his review of last year's Club To Club festival in Turin, criticising the sound at the festival's large main venue and certain aspects of the bill. He concluded that, based on his experience, C2C's "world-class reputation" may not be deserved. His wasn't the only testimony I've heard that suggested that last year's event had its share of snags, but this year it seemed that the sound and lineup issues had, for the most part, been dealt with. Repeat attendees seemed happier overall, though the consensus among most was that Club To Club still has some work to do if it's ever going to be one of dance music's top-tier festivals.
As a first-timer at C2C, I was a little hazy on how literally the "club to club" idea was taken by the festival these days. (It turns out the name is largely a legacy from its club-hopping early years.) Side-events were largely confined to the festival's fancy HQ at the AC Hotel, plus a couple of spectacular old theatres in the city centre that hosted full-band live shows from Apparat and Floating Points on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. The hotel also hosted discussions with artists and live radio from east London's NTS. As is the case with most electronic music festivals, this part of the programme was to be dipped into sparingly, but NTS's presence was a welcome addition, with appearances from Mumdance and Lorenzo Senni the highlights.
Of the two opening concerts, Floating Points' at Teatro Carignano was the best. Sam Shepherd's wonderful debut LP was one of the weekend's main talking points generally, and his ten-piece band, including a seven-piece brass and strings section, captured its beauty brilliantly. Apparat's six-piece show at Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi the previous night also had its moments, but too often felt dull and self-indulgent. (This wasn't helped by a seemingly endless bowing session once the performance was over.)
For those still out and about after Floating Points, C2C had scheduled a pared-down bill in the smaller second room of the festival's cavernous main venue, Lingiotto Fiere. (This would become the RBMA Stage later in the week.) Tired from travelling the previous day, I went there with low expectations, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the week. SOPHIE and QT's live show was as weird and delightful as anything I saw, while Mumdance's rampant set started with a barrage of his own kinetic grime before veering into the ecstatic '90s rave of Vamp's "Outlander" and Human Resource's "Dominator."
As with recent editions, the main Friday and Saturday action took place at the Fiere. The first half of Friday's bill on the main stage brought a couple of strong performances. First, the brilliantly abrasive Carter Tutti Void, and then Four Tet, whose live set leaned heavily on propulsive bliss-outs such as "Morning Side" and "Digital Arpeggios." Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes show justified the hype and the crowd crush, while Todd Terje's solo live show on the RBMA Stage was as rolling and buoyant as ever, if, by now, a little overfamiliar.
Saturday at Fiere kicked off with Oneohtrix Point Never's live show, which transformed from bitty, unsatisfying beginnings into a trancey treat. Andy Stott's live set, while far more abrasive, felt like a natural follow-on, while over at the RBMA Stage LA Priest reminded us how fresh "Engine" still sounds after eight years. The weekend's Fiere activities closed with an impressive DJ set from Nicolas Jaar and Jeff Mills' methodical, pounding techno.
Club To Club wasn't quite over yet, though. In some ways, Sunday's day-long block party in the city's trendy San Salvario district was among the high points of the weekend. The atmosphere was jubilant, helped by a blistering set from Kode9 only partially marred by a half-hour power cut.
Right now Club To Club is a solid, well-run festival in an underrated city. Its programming, though, could in places be more imaginative. I had seen many of the same artists at half a dozen other European festivals over the summer, and a few just a couple of weeks previously at northern Italy's other major event of this kind, Bologna's roBOt. The way the crowds responded to some of the more out-there bookings—Carter Tutti Void and Omar Souleyman spring to mind—is evidence that the appetite is there for such artists, although it's worth pointing out that Club To Club did host seven Italian debuts.
More could probably be made of the city, too. Take Krakow's Unsound, for example. Its willingness to explore the city's venue possibilities has been a major factor in establishing its world-class reputation. Aside from a solitary DJ set in a subway station, C2C had little to offer by way of innovative performances. Turin must be rich with nooks and crannies that could be used in interesting ways—it wouldn't hurt the festival to seek some of them out. If they do, the organisers could take an already very good festival up to the next level.
Photo credit: Andrea Macchia (Floating Points, QT, Thom Yorke, grey crowd), Matteo Bosonetto (Kode9)