Supersonic 22-24.10.10

Birmingham's "foremost purveyors of what is interesting, exciting and invigorating about music in the twenty-first century" strike gold again at this year's Supersonic festival

Oct 26th, 2010 at The Custard Factory, Birmingham / By Gareth Main
Supersonic 22-24.10.10 There’s not much that could make East London electronic darlings Factory Floor sound like an over-hyped, one-dimensional experiment in banality and predictability, but Supersonic Festival managed it on a frosty weekend in Birmingham.

To be frank: that is the greatest compliment you can give any festival, and Supersonic is one of the few precious festivals left in the world that educates as much as it entertains. With artists from across the globe performing music so intricate, so layered, so mesmerising, Supersonic isn’t a lesson in how experimental and interesting music is written, developed and performed, as it is an entire doctorate. Anybody staggering drunk on the sheer levels of splendour encountered from the Khyam Allami and Master Musicians of Bukkake performance into the middle of the Factory Floor show must have had the same epiphany – that whatever is cool or fashionable will not truly be tested until it is put into an event organised by Capsule: Birmingham’s foremost purveyors of what is interesting, exciting and invigorating about music in the twenty-first century.

It’s not just about noise either – often a grave misconception from those who spot Napalm Death headlining the opening night. The velvety tones of Pierre Bastian’s machinery goes hand-in-hand with the brutality of legendary Japanese prog-hardcore band Zeni Geva or the spookily dubby genius of Hyperdub’s King Midas Sound. Supersonic is about great music, not about a particular genre or a particular art form, and it shows in the variety of its audience, and the openness for the person bruising kidneys during the Stinky Wizzleteat show to be drifting away into a special place whilst sat listening to Barn Owl.

All of that is nothing different, but the festival itself has gone through a number of changes since 2009. The move from July to October has proven to be an inspired move. Taking it out of the over populated summer festival calendar and putting it towards the back-end of a freezing cold October has given the event the feeling of one-last great weekend before the winter arrives. The more structural changes of moving stages is fantastic in theory, but a little poor in execution, with the Old Library in particular having the feeling of a constant bottleneck. In general though, and attributable either to more organisational time or more experience, the entire weekend seemed to run like clockwork, with the Master Musicians of Bukkake / Khyam Allami show the only black spot in schedule skewing – undoubtedly due to the sheer scale of setting up multiple drummers and checking levels to optimise the phenomenal highs and delectable lows of the sound of gong versus Oud. Needless to say, the result was well worthy of the wait.

As for other memorable performances of the weekend, Saturday headliners Melt-Banana were spectacular, 2009 highlight for many Nisennenmondai returned with a set to rival last year’s unforgettable performance and Devilman – the incarnation of Shigeru Ishihara (DJ Scotch Egg / Drum Eyes) and Gorgonn (Dokkebi Q) – ripped into many people’s Friday night with a set of unbelievably heavy dub beats – without doubt the one new name that will be on the lips of many who were unaware of the band beforehand.

Elsewhere, notable mentions for Gum Takes Tooth, Hallogallo, Peter Broderick, Cave, Chrome Hoof, Dosh, Voice of the Seven Thunders and Dead Fader - all worthy of hyperbolic praise after fantastic performances.

And therein lies the best praise that you can give Supersonic over any other festival on the UK calendar – that the consistency of fantastic artists is unrivalled by any other event in the country. The only festival comparable is SXSW in the fact that you can attend, pick every band you see at random, and come away with a notebook full of incredible artists you never knew you loved and the only question being that how could any festival provide so much to you again. The answer being, simply: see you again in twelve months.