Category Archives: shitmat

Supersonic Festival (22nd July 2006)

Spurred on by my Sónar I did the same with the Birmingham equivalent.  

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Now settling comfortably into its fourth year, Supersonic is regarded seriously as the
UK’s answer to Sónar. Like Sónar, its programme walks the thin line between genius and tosspot. The fun of the festival is that you’ll see something new and never be bored.
 For me, I much prefer to love or hate something rather than be indifferent. Supersonic isn’t Keane coloured wallpaper. 

Friday Even at 9:30pm when I arrive at Supersonic, it’s so hot that the Factory courtyard is the best place to hang out. I find myself standing roughly in the middle of the two venues (The Kitchen and the Medicine bar) and make my own mash-up. A combination of the high intensity Napalm Death style metal of the bizarrely named Mistress and a twisted ‘Dancing Queen’ by DJ Cheesemaster. 

Let’s extrapolate the metaphor to describe Cheesemaster. When you think of cheesy music in general, it’s usually a mild and slightly plastic cheddar – say a chunk of Will Young or a Cliff Richard tribute band. Cheesemaster is the musical equivalent of a miniature camembert that has been left to ripen in Cliff Richards Y-fronts during his leather-trousered Christian stage (to ward off suitors – or something). Perverted yet pure – and as you might expect, not to everyone’s taste. Cheesemaster is part of the Brighton Wrong Music collective. Throughout the evening in The Kitchen venue, various members parade the stage with their stinking brand of cut-up, mashed together shouty, glitchcore, paying blatant disregard to the roster. Five minutes after Cheese, there’s a monster on stage in a rain-mac whilst someone who looks like – no actually is – my next door neighbour playing with his laptop. I pop in to hear the Queen getting a Chris Morris style treatment by being spliced into saying she likes it up the arse. He kept that quiet. Someone else comes on the stage and does some gabba / techno / electro and various mashed up cottage cheese songs about, I dunno, abortions or something equally ‘shocking’ to boys with no life experience. 

Back in the Medicine venue, PCM – with special guest, Karl from Bolthrower -, is a real treat. Suddenly the assorted collection of metalheads and metalhedz make total sense. The rhythms of D ‘n’ B aren’t that far from the double kicker patter with the bass drive not being that far from the shearing sheet of guitar abuse. Karl Bolthrower is totally at home grumbling unspeakables about ‘My Lord’ and ‘You never listened mother’ (or something). Meanwhile, in Wrong Music, Moronic Dance Music Association have taken the stage and the adjacent dance floor. The lead guy is dressed as a Nazi General with a painted black and white minstrel face – See it’s funny, you see he’s a moron, look at him, look at him dancing and shouting down the microphone… Actually four drinks in, it is quite funny, especially because the venue has big glass doors. I can quite easily laugh at him, knowing that I’m separated from the minstrel and the pit of sweating white spazzing converts by an inch of toughened glass. 

I go back to the main Medicine venue and am miffed that by watching morons, I missed most of The Bug; a promising outburst of talent. Street rhymes and African rhythms are executed by Bug himself and the overtly energetic MC’s. Still it’s too hot and even though DJ Food is now serving up an interesting and expertly fused smorgasbord of delights, I find myself drifting back towards the glass doors of the Wrong Disco.    Countryside Alliance Crew is Shitmat and a few others dressed up in tweed and performing a hoe-down to a cut-up ‘Last of The Summer Wine’ with yes, you guessed it, gabba. I feel Wrong Disco is too mashed up to actually cause me to dance, these guys don’t have the patience and possibly not even the skill to hold together a decent (in the loosest sense) happy hardcore set. It’s a shame – I want to be pogo’ing like a goon and instead, I’m watching, occasionally laughing but mostly thinking “What’s the point?” I realise what’s missing is the House of God club night’s input into this year’s proceedings. 

Saturday I delay going down to the site today until the much needed rain runs out. When I get there. the large stage in the drained Factory pool is playing host to Hanne Hukkelburg a Norweigan act, typically Scandinavian in approach – like a knitting pattern from an early Cardigan out of Bjork wool. The effect is English eccentricity to the power of 10 with all band members having too much multi-instrumental talent.  Even more humbling is that Hanne announces the band lost all their luggage at the airport so everything on stage is borrowed from “the people of Birmingham.” Not bad considering they had to find two keyboards, a drum kit,  an accordion, a banjo and an old bike. I particularly like the old bike (upturned and mic’d up on the wheels) which makes me think of summer days, freewheeling through the countryside.  

In the theatre space there’s a roadie yawning into a microphone. No wait, that’s the act. Actually it’s quite impressive, looping an electronically manipulated scream as he strolls about the stage pushing more and more distortion pedals with his feet.  The theatre is rammed, so I head for calming coffee and cake world of 7 Inch Cinema. After grabbing a slice of said cake and coffee I watch a rockabilly video, a performance from Billy Childish and a
Manchester performance from Nico. I pop out again and see Knives warm up. They look quite promising but I miss them as I get caught up in the main stage performance of the Modified Toy Orchestra.
 

They should be christened Kraftplay – a be-suited five piece band which delights in playing with modified electronic children’s toys. Their performance is the strongest I remember. A well honed set of top electro tunes, given the extra frivolity by the fact that each band member is holding a plastic toy that has been perverted and plugged into the PA. In between songs various toys are introduced and demoed and soloed by a member. Orchestra leader Brian Duffy demonstrates a plastic drum machine, other members demonstrate a camera and an electric toy guitar. Closing track, Pocket Calculator even has Mike in Mono playing a Casio calculator whilst chanting “I’m the operator, with my pocket calculator.” I can imagine John Peel playing it, then adding “Quite why a telephone operator would need a calculator, remains to be seen.” I stay by the main stage to catch what I hope will be my highlight of the festival – Broadcast. Rumours that they are performing with a seven piece jazz improvisational band, are sadly untrue, though core Broadcast members Trish Keenan and James Cargill have once again got the live performance backup of an excellent drummer and guitarist. It may just be the sound mix, but the ambient electro burbling and monotone trance inducing guitar lines, only just allow Trish’s voice to push above the oomskah, there’s a certain shift towards Nico. There’s certainly less emphasis on Trish as front man, she happily picks up guitars and bizarre sounding instruments which enrich the tranced out psychedelics. In my sound altered state I’m pondering whether all instruments aren’t modified toys. As it gets darker the visuals are drawing me in further, Broadcast favour the old, endlessly stimulating method of projecting directly onto the stage, so the band are immersed in a world of Dream Machines and oil lamps – it gets my mojo working. The last song has a bass sound so heavy I fear that the energy holding my skin together might dissipate.  

After this performance I’ve kind of peaked. I feel I don’t need much more from this festival than it has given me. Besides, as the night continues it seems to be spiralling into death metal territory again. I for one, just don’t have enough actual anger or ironic tongue-in-cheek appreciation to consider it much.  I’m so convinced that Broadcast are all I really need to see that I even abandon listening to Andy Votel’s superb record collection and go back home for a warm milk and a Mark Steel lecture.  


Tapas of Sόnar (July 06)

I’m going to give the Blowback postings a rest for a while. Needless to say there’s a whole year of other articles to reconstruct and re-edit.
My work post-Blowback needs less editing as payment and pressure to prove myself on my own terms takes over. I also had a lot more freedom in terms of space as this review highlights.

The sprawl of Sόnar can be mapped out in three ways. Sόnar de Día is the day event, based just off the chaotic La Rambla, in a combination of university buildings and contemporary art museums. Sόnar de Noche is the night time event which takes place in a massive aircraft hanger outside the city. The third I like to call ‘Sόnar de Mash-up’ and it happens in the whole of Barcelona whilst the festival is on – all the beach parties, clubs, after-clubs and bar side tapas chill-outs. It’s ‘Sόnar de Mash-up,’ away from the festival but at the heart of it, which makes the event unique. The music, food and bottles of sweet lager act as a prism to fully capture and appreciate the city that spawned it. Here’s my prime cuts…

A tapas of Sόnar de Día

The lift door softly opens in the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, middle floor and we’re smashed by a CD skipping mash-up of intense electro and Phil Collins. Several angular haircuts stare into their San Miguel bottles whilst leisure suited aviator shaded loafers, hang out in ground level sofas, which resemble man sized i-Pods.

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We punch for the top floor where we i-shuffle into a cheery Chernobyl exhibition and then into the next room – Blast’s Day Of The Figurines. The room is decidedly hushed and all attention is focused on two spot-lit tables with tiny characters on them.

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One group of plastic figures wait on a grid to be chosen. The next grid is a town where ‘the chosen’ have been placed. I chose a be-quiffed chap with a tan and a rucksack whom I christen Stevey Fitzpatrick Morris. I fill in the form and Stevey enters the game. For the next few days, via text message I’m informed of his progress; Stevey gets dropped in town and heads straight to the Queen Vic: “a real ale and horse brasses pub.” He makes a friend called ‘Jazzman’, manages to avoid a riot, and a killer virus through just sitting there and consuming a pint of cider called ‘Crossbow’ – which when I picked it up for Stevey, I hoped was a weapon. For two and a half days I ignore Jazzman – who was definitely the ‘wanker’ side of Jazz

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Back in my reality we amble into the promotional area. Here I pick up an origami stork and some ‘urban-post-hippies’ explain how it will help me in business before giving me a promo CD. We exchange myspace’s and hotmails and I move on with my paper bird.

After stuffing my Adidas endorsed Sόnar bag with CDs, DVDs, art-packs and a load of magazines, it’s time to check out some more music. We walk into a darkened room on the Sόnar Complex and there’s a guy on stage with a day-glo road maintenance jacket holding a neon tube like an electric guitar. He’s running his hands up and down on the fluorescent fret and tramping on a series of distortion pedals. Behind the cordon the crowd are assaulted by yawling feedback. “Hmmm… Jazz or wank?”

These were my first impressions of the musical noodlings and artistic chin strokery over the weekend. Sόnar de Dia gives you a real feeling that something is being pushed even though it’s often deliberately acerbic, some of it is mind-blowingly brilliant. Senor Coconut and his orchestra have a smart-arse concept (a German who surrounds himself with Latin American’s to do Salsa’d up Kraftwerk covers) but made the entire crowd move their feet rather than reach for their chins. Modified Toy Orchestra follows a similar ‘name on tin’ formula (this time a bloke surrounds himself with modified kids toys and fiddles with their sound circuitry for the pleasure of adults), but again is too enjoyable to furrow the brow.

Fat Freddy’s Drop are easily my highlight. DJ Fitchie AKA Mu (a large Mauri who everyone assumes is called Freddy) adds more electronic rhythms and sonic Dub sirens for the Sόnar crowd but it’s essentially the organic translation of well crafted songs which wins them over. One vocally flexible and enigmatic lead singer, backed by two sweet soul sisters, a funky rhythm section and a three piece brass section (two who look like they were in The Specials and one who looks like a ‘special’ member of Goldie Lookin’ Chain on a music therapy course), complete the performance setup. It’s sunshine and smiles all the way. 

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A tapas of Sόnar De Noche

We wander aimlessly, following or walking against thousands of others – walking aimlessly. We drift in and out of massive air hangers chocked full with others. One Self are the first solid beacon on the horizon. Their conscious lyrics being spat with precision by Blu Rum 13 whilst DJ Vadim supplies the sharp samples, then Yarah Bravo steals the show. We catch a bit of Laurent Garnier’s crazy set which seems to be leather clad lingerie models whipping each other on stage. We wait for hours by the dodgems, and then the insanity of the night kicks in and we’re thrown into the musical frenzy. DJ Shadow introduces a new form of hip-hop that he and his new York buds call the Hyphy movement, it’s rubbish. Two MC’s shout incoherently, occasionally asking the crowd a. they’re on drugs; b. whether they’ve ever smoked weed or c. if they’re a bunch of alcoholics. I ask my mate Dara whether he’d like to go and see Jeff Mills but above the shouty movement one Chinese whisper leads to another and we fall about laughing. Jeff Mills is playing his 10th year here and suddenly, somewhere, in the middle distance, in front of millions, he slices up Techno tracks with seasoned expert not-a-finger-on-the-vinyl mixing. Somewhere else minutes or hours later, Tiga is singing a dirged up version of “When Doves Cry.” 
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I’m poised on a broken down dodgem trying to get arty shots in slow exposure. Suddenly a car hits mine and I’m propelled over the heads of the monged out loons who have come to rest here. That’s kind of it for me.


A tapas variadas of Sόnar De Mashup

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It’s about 5 in the morning, we’ve been sat on this beach for hours. A party finished in a bar earlier on, now we’re the only ones left. We’re being propped up by a portly local who comes by with a freezer bag every 20 minutes and sells us ‘Cervesa.’ We’ve just met a Danish record promoter who brought with him DJ Shitmat (from the UK.) Shitmat came over and promptly collapsed and started foaming at the mouth and has been unconscious for about an hour whilst my mate Dave argues the finer points of what makes a true artist with his Dutch representative. Is Shitmat ‘representing’ for the
UK by eating sand and unconsciously cradling his bollocks? Is this Jazzman? 

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As the sun begins to rise we meet a French guy who works locally and starts bemoaning everything. As the sun really comes up, two plastic American teenagers, one blonde and one brunette, with matching rectangular smiles join us. One of their Uncles owns the bar behind and the sand we’re sitting on.

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She talks about how Uncle hates people doing unofficial business here but buys a ‘Cervesa’ from our friend (who by now trusts us implicitly to look after his bag whilst he continues to ply his trade) and we convince her a Thai massage is the best five euros you can spend on this beach.

As even the hard drunks get replaced by older and really old people – we start to fry. We leave our spot with the French guy sleazily moving in on the blonde with the big breasts. Our ‘Cervesa’ man leaves at the same time content that he’s done a days trade mostly through us. We head along the promenade and pop into a beach side convention for old people. Here we watch a demonstration of a new Stannah stair-lift and catch performances from stroke victims miming to old war songs and line dancing pensioners. Other pensioners look on eating entire roasted animals.

It’s time to escape. We get a taxi back into the city and walk through Park Guell, mosaic dragons and Hansel and Gretal bubble-gum styled houses and columns at jaunty angles. Half way up we find a table, buy a coke and sit in the shade in silence. Sόnared.

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