Supersonic Festival 2018 – Friday – Live Review

Supersonic Festival

Birmingham Custard Factory

Friday 22nd June 2018

Fighting Boredom’s favourite festival is here again. Set in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, Supersonic festival is where we come to hear old favourites, discover new inspiration and immerse ourselves in the best place ‘for curious audiences’. Martin Ward and Adrian Bloxham can’t wait to see what this year has to bring us.

It’s the day after the Summer Solstice so the sunshine’s going to last a while. Fighting Boredom are once again embarking on our annual pilgrimage to the wonderful Supersonic festival, new venues this year for two of the stages and an old faithful for one. There’s a lot of people about tonight, My Bloody Valentine are playing an unexpected but very welcome date just around the corner and it’s also party central for groups of teenagers heading out for a Friday party.

But we’re here for Supersonic, it’s our festival of choice and to not make too much of a deal about it, Supersonic Festival is the reason that we set up and keep Fighting Boredom going. It’s what shocked us into discovering all the mad and underground music that we spout on about all the time. It’s where we go to discover sounds and as I have said before it’s pretty much our spiritual home. I’m not sure how many years we have come now but it never gets tired and it never gets old. Supersonic Festival is where you come to find stuff, listen to music you already know and discover things you never expected.

We are at Stage 2, which is a wide open warehouse space with picnic benches and skylights across the roof through which the light is streaming in. Croww looks young, thin and focused as he stands behind a table full of electronics and wires. We walk into a room already full of heavy beats, squelches and an unutterably deep bass sound. His music is intense and mesmerising, you absorb it. You take it inside yourself and digest it, nobody is dancing to the claustrophobic massive sound. The track slides effortlessly into something that sounds like he has taken Heavy Metal and distorted and messed with it to make a sound like thrash electronics. Like the guitars and screams are distilled, focused and distorted into something new but almost recognisable.

The noise moves between high and low staying steady and repetitive until all the strobes go off at once and we head into the metal wave again. There’s a smooth pop interlude that is broken by the sound of buildings falling into darkness so intense that you can almost taste the brick dust. He slips into creepy crawly horrorshow sounds that have you looking over your shoulder and cringing. An excellent start to the weekend.

Wetware are a one woman mosh pit in the middle of the crowd and one man making a throbbing electronic groove that plays under her ranting, talking and raw emotions.  She is giving it her all as he stands and creates the growing sound. It’s an intense shifting behind her intense loosing of fury. The music hits more of a groove and then shimmers away into more throbbing and pulsing drum patterns that is both exotic and infectious. It brings to mind the spirit of the brilliant Slits, not with the music but more with the rawness and abandon that is taking place in front of me.

She is all the way across the floor of the space now, people are joining in and the claustrophobia in the music grows. This isn’t music to dance to, it’s insular and dark. The throbs goes lower and suddenly they are both singing. The music stops, she shouts ‘Fuck You!’ and static and radio interference scream in along with the strobes again, faster and faster. They are only the second act we have seen and they are stunningly good.

Goat are on stage one, this is the air conditioned black space that we know well from former years, especially the unbearably hot weekend last year when we took refuge from the temperatures outside in it’s cool darkness. Goat are the band from Japan. They are setting up, as most of the bands here, they take a moment to check the sound and their equipment.
They then stand around in a square and bow their heads. The crowd slowly goes quiet, to the chorus of shushing that echoes around the room.
Then they look up and you realise that there is a drum in front of each of them, they play notes, very precisely and very carefully to create a rhythm of repetition that is a warm flow that just goes on and on. They finish that track and place themselves behind or with other instruments. A drum kit and bass guitar and saxophone. The music turns menacing and bleaker being led with what sounds like a hardcore US punk bassline, loose and hard. The drums join in and you think of Fugazi and the  Dischord bands. It’s subtle as it repeats, intricate and so very precise. It sparks interest, it holds your attention and then when everything kicks in to make it louder it makes you jump. The drumming starts getting harder and along with the stabs of noise from the sax the music is mesmerising. An interesting and attention grabbing set.
The Ex have been around since 1979 and have released a good many albums, becoming a highly acclaimed post-punk outfit. They take the stage with a smile and start to play, they build up a guitar drone that slowly gets louder and stronger. The drums kick in and they use repetition and odd time and arrangements to make their music. It’s odd but it is very effective. The three guitarists stand at the front of the stage, well the vocalist stands, stock still and plays as he sings, the other two never stop moving, the one on the left rocking backwards and forwards in a rolling motion that becomes a constant in the music too. Even when the music calms they still have an aggressive edge. The rhythm turns to be drum led and the guitars build up a massive sound over the top of the beating heart of the band. They deserve their status as headliners and you can see how they have kept going through the years.
On the second stage we find Giant Swan.  Who have all the strobes on, all of them, all at the same time. There’s a topless guy on one side of the pile of equipment dancing like a nineties raver and another on the right side who is marginally less manic, marginally. The music is a crescendo of beat, beats upon beats upon beats. Mad swooshes of electro and stabs of noise rise up and are swallowed by the beats. Drum and Bass grooves are smashed into us and it goes on over and over and over. They slide into a madder and badder kind of Underworld vibe, which, trust me is a compliment. Then get even harder and even faster. We’re all dancing now. This is utterly infectious and the crowd are joining in with the two of them bouncing around onstage by bouncing just as madly on the floor. The visuals that are lighting up the stage make it look like a shop front for hallucinogens and fireworks and it fits perfectly. They just keep playing and it’s glorious, on and on and on.
It’s been an excellent start to the weekend, my heads buzzing and I can’t wait to see what we will find tomorrow. Supersonic Festival 2018 is off to a racing start.
CROWW
WETWARE
Goat (Jpn)
The Ex
Giant Swan

Giant Swan are on Facebook and Tweet as @GiantGiantSwan.

The Ex’s website is www.theex.nl. They have a Bandcamp page, and are on Facebook.

Got (Jpn)’s website is goatjp.com, they have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.

Wetware have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.

Croww’s record label The Death of Rave have a Facebook page

 

All words by Adrian Bloxham, all pictures by Martin Ward

Adrian Bloxham

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