Preview – Supersonic Festival 2018

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Supersonic-Festival-2018 Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Supersonic Festival – 22 / 24th June 2018
The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham, U.K.

 

Disclaimer

I’ve done a few festivals. I’ve stood in cold fields being pelted with rain one day and then suffered from minor sunstroke the next. I’ve endured appalling sound mixes and low volume. I’ve smelt as bad as a medieval villain after three days without a wash. I’ve been into a festival portaloo *shudders*. I’ve also endured a set by Gary Moore (RIP). However, I love this festival. It’s all indoors. You can go to your hotel, shower and sleep in a warm, clean bed after a day’s exposure to some of the most interesting, challenging and exhilarating music around. The toilets are not traumatising. Birmingham has a great city centre you can walk around and it is 10 minutes from the venue. These are all GOOD THINGS and why I’m writing this piece. More people should know about the glory that is Supersonic.


Another Personal Note

Supersonic memories – it’s a cold-ish Sunday evening in the industrial heart of Birmingham. It’s 24th October 2010 and Hallogallo, Michael Rother’s touring band are performing an astutely representative set of tunes from the genial German’s remarkable back catalogue to a vocally appreciative mix of old skool-Kosmische fans, hipsters and the plain curious. There is a lot of dad-dance shuffling and head-bobbing from us all when the cascading synth riff from De Luxe (Immer Weider) cuts through the evening air and for a number of reasons I find myself suddenly overcome and totally teary by this experience. It’s never left me.

I then went and saw the newly-reformed Godflesh on the next stage. “Like Rats” made me cry too. Bet Justin never thought that would happen when he penned that number.


History

http://supersonicfestival.com/about/

The festival’s well-structured website does the business and covers  the history around its inception in 2003 and the “multi-disciplinary programme”  / “Curatorial approach” it takes year-upon-year to establish the line-up of experimental music and art that has earned it the recognition and praise of esteemed UK taste-makers like The Quietus and The Guardian. Give it a read, as it lays out the impetus and criteria behind Supersonic far better than I can.

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On a personal note, I have attended the festival several times as a paying punter and I’ve never come away having not fallen in love with several “new” (to these ears, anyway) bands that I’ve witnessed over the two-and-a-bit days. Supersonic introduced me to Cut Hands, Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Orthodox, Pharoah Overlord, Gnaw, Envy, Wolves In The Throne Room, Electric Wizard, Black Sun Ensemble, Fukpig, Zombi, Secret Chiefs 3, Chris Corsano, Nissenmondai, Necro Deathmort and Oren Ambarchi, all of whom have improved my life considerably.

The festival’s well-structured website does the business and covers the history around its inception in 2003 and the “multi-disciplinary programme” / “Curatorial approach” it takes year-upon-year to establish the line-up of experimental music and art that has earned it the recognition and praise of esteemed UK taste-makers like The Quietus and The Guardian. Give it a read, as it lays out the impetus and criteria behind Supersonic far better than I can.

On a personal note, I have attended the festival several times as a paying punter and I’ve never come away having not fallen in love with several “new” (to these ears, anyway) bands that I’ve witnessed over the two-and-a-bit days. Supersonic introduced me to Cut Hands, Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Orthodox, Pharoah Overlord, Gnaw, Envy, Wolves In The Throne Room, Electric Wizard, Black Sun Ensemble, Fukpig, Zombi, Secret Chiefs 3, Chris Corsano, Nissenmondai, Necro Deathmort and Oren Ambarchi, all of whom have improved my life considerably.


2018 Acts

Line up

One of the most enduring and endearing qualities of Supersonic (and Capsule, the lovely folk that organise it are the ones you must really thank) is that it gives you a line-up of artists that you never knew you wanted or even considered on the same bill until you actually experience their sensitive and intuitive programming. The fact that the stages are so close mean you can nip between them to catch something else if an act fails to spark you up.

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This year is no exception to the overarching emphasis upon diversity and challenge. These are not dirty words, The bland consumer ritual that has (largely) become the festival experience is challenged by Supersonic’s willingness to veer from afro-futurism to noise-rock to performance art on the same stage in one day.

During June 22-24th , such diverse experimental talents as the arkestral English pop stylings of Vanishing Twin, the extraordinary percussion of Andre Belfi, the noise-rock stylings of Cattle and the exploratory rap of Yves Tumor will all appear at the festival. A few others that I’d like to highlight as personal favourites I’m hoping to catch are:

Gazelle Twin

Gazelle-Twin Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Elizabeth Bernholz’s alter-ego, bridging performance art and pop is premiering a new piece at the festival. It should be an arresting and exhilarating experience.

Further Reading: LittleBig | Future Everything | MusicRadar | KitMonsters | Watershed


Wolves In The Throne Room

Wolves-in-the-Throne-Room Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Consistently overpowering in their own dark pacific-northwestern-hymns to-the-powers-of-nature way, they never deliver anything less than an ear-shredding set.

Further Reading: Heathen Harvest | New Noise | NBHAP | Spectrum Culture


Shirley Collins

Shirley-Collins Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Merely the fact that the folk-legend that is Shirley Collins is attending the festival should be enough. The chance to hear her sing again is not to be missed.

Further Reading: The Wire


goat / Group A

Two different bands but both from Japan, and I LOVE Japanese music. The former is not to be confused with the world-music collective but are a “minimal techno without the electronics” (Japan Times) whilst the latter mine the same industrial pop/ noise vein of Gristle. These should be an exciting watch. Joint highlights of the weekend for me? Possibly.

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Further Reading: The Japan Times | WORM Rotterdam | Progressive Ears | Mother Magazine


Terminal Cheesecake

Terminal-Cheesecake Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

I’ve been waiting a very long time to see these fellows and their melding of noise-rock and psychedelia.

Further Reading: IHNEchoes and Dust | Colchester Arts Centre | Revolt of the Apes


Dwarfs of East Agouza

The-Dwarfs-of-East-Agouza Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Instrumental/improvised music inspired by percussive loops from North Africa and featuring a Sun City Girls alumni? Count me in.

Further Reading: Bearded Magazine | The Attic | The Quietus


Mario Batkovic

Mario-Batkovic Preview - Supersonic Festival 2018

Accordions. We fear them. Justifiably so. I once passed a shop in Rennes that only had Accordions. “How very French” I smugly thought. Mario has blown that narrow-minded assumption out of the water. He plays some heavy, textured stuff. Wow. He isn’t French. Just thought I should point that out.

Inevitably, I know I’ll stumble upon someone/ something that will blow me away over the course of the weekend. Half the fun of Supersonic is the way it can blindside you when you least expect it.

It is also worth noting that the festival runs a Kids gig on a Saturday morning (this year, Dutch legends The Ex are playing) and that Dennis McNnett will be creating some of his scary-ass costumes and masks for the festival. There are workshops and merch stalls, a wide array of food vendors and some very nice beers indeed.

Supersonic is a great event that represents some of the most forward-thinking and innovative festival-programming in Europe. If you find yourself bored to tears by the same acts headlining the same set of outdoor gigs, then come to Birmingham and have your perceptions shifted as to what music can still mean.

Further Reading: The Irish Times | Body & Soul | Paleo | Fractured Air

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Educator (sort of), Half of  , Husband. Grump. Comic Fan. Old-School Socialist.


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