Supersonic Festival – Digbeth Birmingham – 2nd September 2023
2023 marks ’20 years since the first Supersonic with an ambitious programme of mind bending music, sense shifting art and life altering experiences. Nowhere else will you find a festival experience quite like Supersonic’s’ The bottom line, and what they have been doing for twenty years is to ‘craft extraordinary new work for curious audiences.’ Read what I thought below.
I didn’t get to Supersonic last year, wanted to, but didn’t make it. This year I’m doing the Saturday and have been looking forward to coming back. It’s two different venues this year, I’ve seen various bands in one over the years but not been inside 7svn before. Turns out it’s the usual Digbeth repurposed warehouse, brick with glass skylights that anyone who’s been to Supersonic before is very used to. There are eyes and hands all over, some dripping tear drops of blood red, some not. All making you very aware of where you are and what you are part of. Because Supersonic is all about being part of something. It’s where the seeds for this website were sewn in the beginning, it’s where I’ve found music I’ve never even heard of and loved. It’s where you know half the lineup and know about a few more billed but still come because you know if they are here they are worth checking out. I know this feels like I’m gushing praise, but come on, I’m happy for recommendations for other events, this is mine.
I say hello to Lisa in passing in the marketplace and she asks how the kids gig was and if my daughter enjoyed it. It matters you see, all of the pieces matter and combine to make the whole. I don’t buy anything from the Marketplace this year but the people I’m with make up for that. I only had one beer as I was driving, but it was very nice.
Music, oh yes, the reason I am here. The massive revelation this year, the band that everyone came away from saying how good they were and where did they come from? This year that band are Taqbir. Exiles from Morocco where their political and sexual views mean persecution and probable death, Taqbir play in full Burqa and it’s not clear if any of the members of the band are male or female. Except the singer who is female, coiled up like a spring ready to explode and very very angry. She talks between the songs about what they stand for and why they do this and then they play and you move. It’s hardcore punk but it has depth and space, when the singer shouts let’s go you want to go, because this music is infectious. She never ever stops moving either, prowling along the stage, dancing across the others, bending over to sing, she makes me want to move too. It’s all about inclusion and when she makes a statement about sexual predators and that we shouldn’t feel scared to be ourselves on the streets she ends with ‘They should be scared’ and the hair on the back of my neck rises as the music blast through again.
Divide and Dissolve are like a raging sea, troughs of quiet delicate music and then intense masses of heaviness crash and form on top of you, Enveloping and making you forget everything else. They talk about friendships and love, their sloganed t shirts that are meant to spark debate with loved ones who won’t just ignore you and the music just destroys you, breaks you down and then raises you back up again. It’s truly beautiful. I’ve never seen them before and I will be seeing them again as soon as I can do.
Then we have Oxbow. It starts with a film, flickering images and quiet sound, just places and objects, a hand running along a cobwebbed shelf, grass, a door opening into light with an odd figure standing. Oxbow are dapper and cool and the music is crystal clear, jarring and diamond hard. The bassist stays put, just putting the deep foundations into your head and the drummer is solid and locked. The guitarist is everywhere, he plays with his face as well as his hands, emotions wrung out of the guitar as he leaps and moves around the stage. The sound drags you kicking and flailing into it’s embrace, you can’t resist, moving away is impossible, then there’s Eugene. I’m not sure how long it takes him to take off his jacket and shirt and put on the waistcoat, it’s all relative anyway. He sings like there’s no time left and then moves around the stage only just contained, God help us if he decides that the space is too small. It’s music to live and die to, a sound to love and fail to, it’s the best damn band I’ve seen this year.
Finally we see Godflesh, the sound improves no end after Justin shouts at the soundman. It gets less muddy but just as sodding heavy. The screen plays visions of all encompassing fire and water. I can barely see the two of them but that doesn’t matter, I can feel them, the wall behind me is vibrating and the sound is grinding itself into my ear. There are less vocals than the last time and this is clearing out my soul, burning me clean, making me feel the noise.
Roll on the next Supersonic gig, whether it’s for kids, grownups or the next festival, it’ll be worth coming to.
Godflesh are on Bandcamp.
All words by Adrian Bloxham.