Dotted around 35 different venues across “shabby chic” East London (think Shoreditch, Hoxton, Old Street, Brick Lane etc), Concrete + Glass is a new festival concept in its first year. The idea behind it is to combine alternative and cutting-edge music with a range of contemporary art installations and exhibitions, combining two branches of the avant-garde into one two-day package of culture.

To my regret, I didn’t manage to make my way up to London in time to take in any of the more than 20 specially commissioned art exhibitions in the area (which ranged, we were told, from shop windows made into ad hoc gallery spaces, a bandstand being used for a seismic sound exhibition, a virtual record store and a panel-judged art exhibition featuring 25 new and established artists), but if the breadth and range of the musical lineup was any indication of the quality of the art, then that is definitely something I will rectify for next year.

On both days (Thursday 2 and Friday 3 October), a variety of curators had chosen the line up in each venue for all or part of the evening. So, on Thursday, for example, Steve Lamacq, Blanktape Recordings, The Stool Pigeon, Drowned in Sound etc all presented three or four bands that they are currently championing, making for an interesting and diverse line up, ranging from the already familiar (Goodbooks, Wave Machines) to the lesser known (wonderfully-named Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Blood Bath Disco, Flash Guns).

On Friday, the night that I was there, SWN (the Cardiff festival that is the brainchild of Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens) were in the driving seat for the early part of the evening in Brick Lane’s Vibe Bar. First on was solo artist Sweet Baboo. He started things off in delightful fashion, despite playing to only a handful of people at the beginning of his set, with his deep and tuneful voice delivering simple, quirky, alternately comic and touching tales. Singing of everything from the exorcism of a girlfriend’s devil-posessed cat (‘Bernadette’) to falling on his head when in the USA and becoming, as a result, “slightly slower”, and throwing in the odd unexpected cover version (Lulu’s ‘I Am A Tiger’, and what sounded like a traditional folk song,‘Rambling Boy’), this was a hugely endearing and entertaining set, culminating in his “hit” (described as such on the basis of it having had “four or five radio plays”) ‘I’m A Good Soul’.

Next it was a quick hop over the road to 93 Feet East for the Wichita record label’s residence. Sky Larkin were a little disappointing: despite having all sorts of good elements, combining, as they do, a kind of Breeders-ish grrl-fronted rock with Justine Frichmann vocals, and grungey backing, an indefinable element was somehow missing. Energy? Really hooky tunes? The spark, for me, unfortunately just wasn’t there. Spark aplenty, however, was to be found in the next band on the bill who were the evening’s undoubted highlight act for me. Port O’Brien are from California, and this was their debut UK show. Their heartfelt melding of Americana, folk and grunge (without the self-loathing) was rousing, upbeat and just downright infectious. With vocals reminding me at times both of Neil Young and Kurt Cobain, their songs were, underneath the shambolic fun, cleverly paced and structured to build in intensity and lift the spirits as they progressed. An Americana party band? Who’d have thought it could be this much fun!

After this I caught the beginning of Wildbirds and Peacedrums’ set at Café 1001 (again just a short distance away off Brick Lane). Whilst the gothic, dramatic voice and vampy presence of the singer was certainly intense, it was perhaps more “impressive” than actually very “enjoyable”, and built up to become a little oppressive by about three songs in. Back to the Vibe Bar I trotted, now in the hands of its second set of curators for the evening: Fife’s Fence Collective. Rozi Plain were blessed with a sweet-voiced front woman, but their pretty country music had to compete against an ever-increasing bar-room buzz from the loudly talking audience and sound bleeding from the room downstairs, which was a great shame and proved rather distracting. Perhaps for this reason, their better songs were the more upbeat ones. Occasional bits of brass thrown into the otherwise folk-country mix broke things up nicely and added more interest, but overall this felt like rather too low key a set for this stage of the evening: I probably would have enjoyed them more if they had been lower down the bill.

Headlining, and rounding the evening off for me, were Pictish Trail, the band fronted by one half of Fence Records, Johnny Lynch and featuring, tonight, the other half King Creosote on backing vocal and synth duties. They opened their set, tellingly, with an acoustic cover of Hot Chip’s ‘Boy From School’, which worked surprisingly well in this folk-strum version, and this highlighted the band’s own unexpected slyly danceable aspect, which runs alongside the more overt folk and acoustic influences. ‘A Rhythm Like A Drum’ exemplified this well, with an interesting counterpoint of bleeps and glitches that insinuated more and more as the track went on. ‘I Don’t Know Where To Begin’ was a good old fashioned foot-tapper, complete with whistling, then more low-key danciness ensued with another synth-led track suggesting “let’s have a disco with all these people in our front room” with a laid-back, understated, almost lazy groove. On the quieter, folkier tracks, the lovely quality of Lynch’s vocal (and how well it was complemented by King Creosote’s almost matching voice on backing duties) showed strongly through. The night ended with an on-stage Fence Collective love-fest as Pictish Trail were joined by members of Rozi Plain and other friends and things descend into an amiable chaos.

I would strongly recommend this festival to anyone with more than a passing interest in both musical and artistic creativity. As well as offering an interesting and varied choice of musical performances, the range of venues in this bohemian and almost village-like part of East London made for a friendly and easy-to-negotiate festival experience. Combine this with the opportunity to appreciate some eclectic and challenging art works, and I’d say you’ve got a pretty special event. Here’s hoping that they are back next year.