Live Music + Gig Reviews

Supersonic 2010: Day 3 @ Custard Factory, Birmingham

24 October 2010

With this particular festival beginning late in the afternoon, Supersonicees are free to recover from the night before, or explore the heady materialistic delights of Birmingham’s Bull Ring. But, after Sunday lunch, it’s time for the charming acoustic fingerwork of Peter Broderick. And, by that, we mean not just the guitar: this hugely gifted 23-year-old plays piano, violin, and the saw – all while singing beautifully. Thanks to loop technology, he’s practically a one-man Grizzly Bear (though he was once part of Efterklang). The audience is suitably quiet (rapt in awe we suspect), and the incessant gas click from the bar makes for an unwelcome percussive addition. we have to say that the song he says his “Dad used to play” was so affecting, it actually broke hearts a little.

If we couldn’t have survived on the psych rock from Cave‘s amiable American journey just hours ago, it’s across to Voice Of The Seven Thunders who are actually just four young men (including Broadcast‘s Chris Walmsley) doling out heavy psychedelic doom. Their sound is snarling, pressing, but restrained. During an extended tuning session, the guitarist recalls the time someone threw a piece of cheese at him on stage. He replied, “That’s not very mature.” And so we leave.

For Jailbreak, take one pedal steel guitar and distort. Add one three-piece jazz kit and amplify. Give Chris Corsano some sticks, and Heather Leigh Murray a few steel fingerpicks and a vocal mic to warble into. Let free noise commence. Whether you enjoy the result or not is entirely up to the individual. Personally, we don’t get it.

The Old Library is the site for Ruins, but it was more uncomfortable in there than a one-carriage tube serving the entire Northern Line at 7am on a Tuesday. Space 2 was empty for Mothlite and the vegetation wrapped around their mic stands. When they started playing their form of new romance, it became apparent why. In lieu of music, it was good to spend some time sat down in the Theatre with music legend Michael Rother as he chatted with The Quietus’ John Doran about influences, Kraftwerk, LSD, the development of Neu‘s sound and not working with David Bowie.

It’s worth noting that at this late stage of the festival, the toilets are still being adequately looked after. The handful of food stalls outside sit nicely with the option to buy tea, cake and records inside. With few places to sit and now that the festival has moved into autumn (possibly to allow access to more acts), chilled, damp concrete is often the tired reveller’s only option.

The Old Library has emptied a little since Ruins, and a single spotlight is trained on a white, plastic, folding chair. James Blackshaw‘s 12-string Guild is to the left of it and his can of Becks is to the right. As Blackshaw begins to cycle through his arpeggios and single string melodies, the audience remains seated. Tuning between pieces, understandably, takes ages, though that also seems to be appreciated by the audience. His soft, protracted pieces are all similarly played out, but enjoyable nonetheless.

There is some delicious psychedelic funk being played before Khyam Allami & Master Musicians Of Bukkake‘s set. There is much pointing and waving of incense on stage, and whatever the effect is meant to be, nothing is happening. A lot of cold people are looking at a stage of confused men. Finally, 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, the band come on, but are now wearing nomadic headwear. Supersonic 2010: the masked festival. Some drone, some gong action, some theatrical lighting, some oud, some nonsensical pseud-Arabic gestures, and we feel like we’re not the only ones wanting to scream, “Just get on with it!” The Bukkake boys are centre stage while the star of the show Khyam Allami is sidelined without so much as a spotlight to pick him out. That’s unfortunate because in this limited light, he looks like Adrien Brody with a perm. Allami’s oud is prone to losing out against the thick, synthetic drone pouring from the speakers, but is perfectly audible when dueling with Timba Harris’ violin on Iraqi Maqam Nawa. Allami switches to the Buzuq for the second piece (based on the Maqam Segah) which finally gets things cooking. The group finishes victoriously on People Of The Drifting Houses.

Mugstar, a rock-based crossover complete with out of tune vocals, are rocking out in the Old Library. In this sense, they’re reminiscent of Three Trapped Tigers, but without the technical ability. Their music sounds very much like something The Chemical Brothers threw away in 1996, and as their efforts continue in much the same vein, and we seek out another music donor.

Back in a packed out Theatre, and we can’t even see Barn Owl, but we do find the only public radiator on site, and hold it to ransom – even from Robert Lowe whom we fail to realise is standing next to us, until he leaves, taking the best hair on site with him. Radiators: they’re what most festivals lack. Barn Owl’s music, meanwhile, is all bells, twin guitars and effect. Their electronic Gregorian lull serves as a glug of earwash post-Mugstar. From what we understood from the watching, non-radiator owning audience, most people fell asleep. We believe that is a good thing.

As the refreshed leave their seats, we seize the opportunity to sit down and watch Matthew Barney’s extraordinarily weird Guardian Of The Veil. Impossible to describe, or understand, seek out the film if you want to have your mind ruined.

Images of roads penetrating countryside flash on the screen at the Outside Stage as a smartly dressed Michael Rother starts Hallogallo 2010 with a soft synth wash and a delayed guitar panned heavily from left to right. Neu’s motorik beat rumbles out of the PA courtesy of Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and the trio open on to Hallogallo. You get the impression Rother could play one note for an hour, and the audience would lap it up. Some people desperate to publicly shame themselves for the music legend attempt to crowdsurf to the incessant beat, before ending up falling, laughing, to the floor. It’s a confused end to an otherwise wonderful festival.

  1. Supersonic 2010:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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