Supersonic Festival 2017 – Birmingham – Friday Night Review

supersonicSupersonic Festival 2017
Digbeth Birmingham
16th June 2017

Fighting Boredom’s favourite festival returned to Digbeth, Birmingham last weekend. So of course Adrian Bloxham and Martin Ward were there. We went expecting to be suprised, entertained and to come home with at least one new favourite band, we were not disappointed, read what we thought of Friday night below, then peruse the picture galleries too.

Fighting Boredom exists because of Supersonic Festival, specifically Supersonic Festival 2010 when the Home Of Metal meant that Godflesh reunited and played on the Saturday night. That night myself and my friend Martin discovered a whole world of music that we didn’t know about, hadn’t even heard of, from King Midas Sound to Blue Sabbath Black Fiji and all in between we found a whole world of music waiting for us. So we listened, bought, hunted and kept coming back to Supersonic because every year we came away with some new band and sound that blew us away all over again. It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that Supersonic is our musical home. The festival means a lot to us and judging from the lineup this year we were due more of the same.

Friday night for us starts in the pub round the corner, for a chat and discussion on who we would definitely be seeing Supersonic_16062017_Fighting-Boredom-15and who else we could catch in between. The gates open and we head in. The bands are in three spaces, the first one we go to is Wild where Mothwasp are just starting. Mothwasp are a duo from Birmingham, a pretty perfect place to start really. They begin with a  fast beat and a guitar drone. The venue is small, cordoned off from a larger space, a brick built industrial building that matches this sound well. The skylights let the last of the evening sunshine through as the beat remains constant and the layers of guitar build an oppressive and dark sound. The drums turn to understated and jazzy, the guitar gets louder and more grinding in contrast. The rolling jazz drums carry on and the discordant music repeats over and over, it gets heavier and harder giving us music to riot to. A great start to the evening and the weekend.

We head to Boxxed, another Industrial space but bigger and the roof is higher, it feels less oppressive than Wired and is a trifle cooler. At thirteen Nicholas Bullen was one of the founder members of Napalm Death, since then he has done a mass of projects and bands, not least the latest Rainbow Grave,Supersonic_16062017_Fighting-Boredom-29 but tonight he is going back to the start. Supersonic festival have commissioned a piece of music based around the original Napalm Death rehearsal tape and the first side of the Scum album entitled ‘Universal Detention Centre’. When we heard about it we thought it sounded both intriguing and unmissable. There are technical problems to start with, his mixer has died and is replaced by the technicians onstage, it’s good to see how well everyone fits together and helps out. When he is set up he starts off and the thrash of Napalm fills the room. He leans forward to the mic, screams over the top and there you are, back again. The samples alone are making the hair on the back of my neck stand up, this comes from  all he made with this band and it changed music. It’s as if he made this to start with and he’s reclaiming it after thirty five years.
The sound changes to static drenched madness, there’s no quarter given here, no stopping, this is still grindcore right to the heart. He manipulates and switches the samples around but the power is undeniable, it’s utterly compelling noise. There are slabs of static falling around me with a bass that sounds like a monsters footsteps. It echoes, more static and a huge noise all built from the ashes of Napalm Death, this is so good. He then twists it into bone mashing Techno and then the song ends.
Supersonic_16062017_Fighting-Boredom-20The bass and cymbals build the sound back up letting it grow, his vocal over the top is mostly drowned out but that doesn’t detract from the sheer power of the performance. The music slows and broods and Nic uses the broken vocal he used for the piece at an earlier Supersonic. The music creates an atmosphere of beauty broken. The sound is broken, fucked up and incredibly compelling.
A massive looping electro hook now comes from the desk and Nic sings over the top again. Is this where the most extreme metal band of its time would or should have ended up? Is this what anyone expected that sound to have evolved into? I’d like to think so.
He ends with how it started, thrashy grindcore and screaming, perfect. A fitting tribute and a performance we can only hope will happen again.
We stay put, wait for the room to empty and go right to the front and lean on the barrier, something I’ve not done for many years. Melt Banana are from Tokyo, they are slight and, I hesitate to use this word, cute, they are a duo and they smile. They are also noise mentalists of the highest order.Supersonic_16062017_Fighting-Boredom-52 He plays a worn guitar and every effects pedal made to man all going off at the same time, she plays what looks like a games console controller covered in square coloured buttons, and they play them like there is nothing else that matters in the world which pretty much sums up how everyone in the space feels as they play. The guitarist has an air filter mask taped onto his face and his guitar is distorted to the point of painful, then he starts shredding. She waves her arm and the bass, and beats kick in with a discordant mess of sound, it’s a riot of psychedelic punk rock noise which blows my head clean off. She sings and it’s hard core punk with thrash metal full on and fucked up. It is utterly awe inspiring madness. I’m not sure anything else could have followed Nic Bullen quite so perfectly.
They are creating the most unbelievable blasts of noise and she is singing like she’s a mega famous pop star in a  parallel universe, this band should be superstars. I am lost for words.
Supersonic_16062017_Fighting-Boredom-55They play fast as you can imagine beats, then thrash, then stop start noise and then it just gets madder. Imagine the most hard core punk band you have ever seen in the same room as the most extreme metal act you have witnessed and in the corner is a bunch of techno animals with a sound system the size of your house, while a bunch of pop stars are fighting each other for the microphone then imagine that they have all eaten a jar of ultra high caffeine tablets and used a drum machine pushed to the very edge of it’s programming and you can almost picture what I’m watching. They have broken me in the most marvelous way.
Then she introduces seven short songs with a smile. They prove to be unstoppable unstable thrash with ultra fast vocals, they express themselves in the noise and it’s truly mindblowing.
They go back to longer songs and almost play a classic punk sounding song except for the blistering  drums and noise splattered all over the top. Then they announce they are going to play a  cover, someone in the audience shouts Toots and the Maytells and they completely obliterate Monkey Man, Utterly brilliant and sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before. In the best way possible.
Melt Banana, the band this year at Supersonic that made me realise I should have seen them a lot sooner. A pulverising riot of technicolour noise that is excellent in every way. Perfect.
We leave to the sound of PCM, their excellent strain of drum and bass rolling out into the night.
First night is over and we have had two outstanding performances, the rest of the weekend is going to have to be pretty special to top that.
Mothwasp

Nicholas Bullen

Melt Banana

Supersonic Festival are on Facebook and their website is www.supersonicfestival.com

Melt Banana’s website is melt-banana.net, they are also on Facebook.

Nicholas Bullen’s website is nicholasbullen.com

Mothwasp’s website is mothwasp.com, they tweet as @mothwasp

 

Adrian Bloxham

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