From Friday 1 to Sunday 3 September, Digbeth will once again host ‘the mother of British underground festivals’ – as the mighty Supersonic comes back into Brum Town, with a plethora of experimental music, acts, and artists, alongside a rich programme of films, talks, exhibitions, and thought-provoking workshops.
Celebrating 20 years since local promoters Capsule took a braver step than most, Supersonic Festival 2023 will bring with it one of the most avant garde line ups on the UK’s festival scene – with another annual sojourn onto music’s often underappreciated and unknown cutting edge.
And I know some throw these phrases around as they rehash the blindingly obvious, but Supersonic Festival is no ‘WHEEL II’ – it’s a challenge to your comfort zones and senses on several levels, not all of which you’ll like, but as damn near guaranteed as anything can be to give you a bone rattling new experience.
Put it this way, where else can you start your night with an ‘ecstatic and unruly’ poke of the pop ribs from a ‘fiercely DIY’ San Francisco ‘noise act’ (Deerhoof), before being blown apart by some Baltimore based hip hop infused polemic poetry (Infinity Knives & Brian Ennals), then round off with some locally sourced sci-fi tinged experimental jazz electronica (Un.Procedure).
I’ll tell you where, nowhere. And that’s just a few hours on Day One. But if you’re still up for a wager, I’ll earmark you my first born if you can find another bill in Birmingham that has such adventurous variety (you won’t).
In fact, perhaps the biggest mountain to climb with Supersonic Festival is cherry picking what to see/hear/viscerally react to in a smoke filled room. Or for us scribes, what to write about in the previews and pre-event promotion.
So, in a self-declared sidestep and prostrated sign of respect to the festival’s PR team, I’m going to paraphrase their press release below.
But if you fancy your own goosy gander, which we heartly recommend, then click here for the full programme – or click here to download a super handy Supersonic Festival 2023 timetable.
So, what’s going on then…? Alongside all the aforementioned, Friday 1 September will see Supersonic present the hypnotic energy and unique spectacle of Ex Easter Island Head and Hey Colossus – with both celebrating two decades in the game, so expect a top draw performance from each UK spawned act.
Elsewhere, experimental supergroup Ondata Rossa will be combining music and 16mm film from four renowned and wildly experienced musicians – namely Valentina Magaletti (Vanishing Twin, Moin, Holy Tongue), Agathe Max, Dali De Saint Paul (HARRGA) and Yoshino Shigihara (Yama Warashi).
On Saturday 2 September, sounds get heavier with Backxwash, Godflesh, and the avant-metal of Ashenspire. There is also a set of black metal from the queer and antifascist idiosyncratic Ragana, alongside the ‘absolutely vital’ post punk band Taqbir, who use their music to create a space to empower North African women.
Day Two will also welcome back Divide and Dissolve, returning to Supersonic with a new album, Systematic, after being a highlight of last year’s event. Festival favourites and old friends Oxbow will also be back on the Supersonic bill for 2023, shaking things up with their electrifying and visceral embrace of distortion and volume, foreboding emotional timbres, and tension-baiting restraint – celebrating their first new album in six years, Love’s Holiday.
Saturday will also bear witness to the airtight grooves of Horse Lords, Blacks’ Myths’s meditative free jazz exploration of the history of blackness, and an improvising lyricist, producer, and sound artist Elvin Brandhi (Yeah You).
Sunday 3 September will see the debut live performance of Silver Moth, an atmospheric noise-rock collective including Mogawi’s Stuart Braithwaite, Elisabeth Elektra, Steven Hill, and members of Abrasive Trees, Burning House, and Prosthetic Head.
Critically acclaimed Irish quartet Lankum will be performing too, celebrated for their tight vocal harmonies, impactful on-stage storytelling, and instrumental interplay.
The festival’s final day will also shine a light on the new wave of dark folk artists, including Slovenia’s Širom – born from the country’s rural free festival scene. Supersonic will also welcome back the nine piece Shovel Dance Collective, who use traditional folk songs to uncover proto-feminist narratives and queer histories.
Day Three, will also see BIG|BRAVE perform a special collaboration, exclusive to Supersonic, with fellow Montreal-based violinist Jessica Moss (Thee Silver Mt Zion, Black Ox Orkestar) – after Moss performs her own solo set earlier in the day.
Sunday at Supersonic 2023 is also looking forward to welcoming Colorado’s playful storyteller, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Josephine Foster – touring the UK with her latest album, Domestic Sphere.
There will also be a special ‘in conversation’ with legendary punk poet John Robb as The Membranes founding member discusses Goth music, culture, and his new Book, The Art of Darkness – The History of Goth, with Head at Music for Nations at Sony Music (and fan of a good cloak), Julie Weir.
Phew… and that is just a tiny taste of all the music, subjective madness, and genre bending rabbit holes you could fall down at Supersonic Festival 2023. Better get yourself a ticket before they all sell out too.
For full festival details and more information on all the acts, artists, exhibitions, and events at Supersonic 2023 visit www.supersonicfestival.com
For more on Capsule visit www.capsule.org.uk