Writers Mark Roberts & Richard Bari / Photographer Jack James
After eating some food and arriving far too early (or late) on Saturday 9 July to collect my wristband at the Supersonic Festival box office, I’m eager to make my way to 7SVN for the first musical act of the day.
The NADJA’s set is well attended. A sea of heads already reaches forward as a wall of bass shudders to greet us (Jack James and Mark). Barely audible vocals loom, cavernous yet forlorn over the apocalyptic soundscape. Cat videos are playing on the back wall, no one really knows why.
The doom-drone band, NADJA, are a perfect opener for this chaotic Saturday line-up. It should be noted that earplugs are a must at Supersonic. Seemingly everything is intense and loud and as we all should know by now, loud is more good.
After NADJA blows my brains out, I head to The Marketplace, which is situated in a backroom at The Mill. Big Brave, who are set to do a set tomorrow, are DJing, hauntingly beautiful electronic swells around the room.
Books of all leftist persuasion are on sale. Some Noam Chomsky, a book called Russian Counterrevolution and the more simply put ACAB are on display.
Posters line-up behind the wall with messages such as “Solidarity Not Charity” and “Already Against The Next War”.
On other tables are beautiful pieces of art, record stalls, and beautiful T-shirts. Brelliot, a local pedal manufacturer, is selling one of their pedals with unique artwork options from Mutartis, who is selling T-shirts next door.
As a guitarist, I can’t help but try out the pedal (The TODP) and I would recommend it to any guitarist that wants an all-out versatile overdrive. It really cuts the mustard.
At this point I bump into Richie, who is about to cover Tat Vision’s workshop.
Tucked away in the corner, Tat Vision prepares for his ‘Felt Tip Workshop’ in the courtyard by unloading a literal suitcase full of felt tip pens. Half of which brandish mismatched lids to their original colour of course.
Like a makeshift tobacconist, he transfers a load of pens into a hawker tray, and we get going. We roam around the sunny beer garden and one by one pick subjects who don’t mind getting immortalised in colours such as “mouth pink”.
I ask: “Well, what separates the felt tip pen from other mediums?”.
“It’s cheap, easy and nostalgic”, Tat says. “No pretension, just scribbles”.
Slowly he accosts a small army of felt tip ready artists and the portraits start rolling out en masse. Everyone on the recipient side seems happy, too.
“Show THAT to the Art Council”, says the man of the hour.
After catching up with Tat, I sit down on a fold-out chair in the marketplace, and on the stage in front of me Rosie Solomon is interviewing JR Moore. Both of them, I admittedly have never heard of.
Despite my ignorance however, there is a good amount of people around, who are attentively listening to JR – author of the recently published Electric Wizards.
Discussing the history and evolution of heavy music, he raises very interesting points. Going as far as looking into the influence that George Clinton and Neil Young’s methods had on the development of the genre.
And the man seems to know his stuff… I mean, he has written a book after all.
There is time for questions and audience members name drop bands that don’t seem to make the grade in JR’s eyes.
His simple definition of what constitutes as heavy gives great context for what’s to come during the weekend.
“At a punk concert you’re jumping, that’s an upward motion. You might spit at the singer, that’s an upward motion, too. Heavy stuff pulls you DOWN. Headbanging goes downwards. It’s the difference between the downward and upward motion.”
Next up for me is Buñuel, but Mark is covering Rachel Aggs’ set first as part of Decolonise Fest’s takeover. The rest of our Decolonise Fest coverage will be coming from Jasmine imminently.
Aggs has been described on the bill as post punk. I can’t say I agree, firstly post punk is restrictive for what Aggs is doing, their sound is too diverse and bold. Playing a completely solo set with drum machines, keyboards, a guitar that sounds as if it just floated ashore, and a violin, they open the set with a wobbling guitar that has an antagonistic relationship with the key of the song.
It sounds amazing.
There is ‘hope’ refracting through Aggs’ music, but her experimentation throughout really draws a punk aesthetic to it, even if not necessarily punk in terms of the genre. Complex rhythms of electronic variety inspired by West African highlife bound about the audience. It’s the first danceable moment of the festival for me and I savour it.
Aggs tells me they’re inspired by the sun in their music, and you can feel that. Every song is sun drenched but complicated in its emotional range. As the set ends, Aggs moves away from the mic singing directly to the audience with no auditory aid, a clear glistening voice with a London twang. The screams of the audience are deafening.
For the next act I wait in The Mill before the set, but I know Richie is about to listen to Buñuel at 7SVN.
Quartet, Buñuel, has my heart from the get-go. Eugene S Robinson, on the front line, walks on stage in a leather shirt, skin-tight tiny purple shorts, a star of David around his neck and gaffer tape pinning his ears down.
What follows is a glorious mindf*ck of genres and sounds. By the time you can point your finger and pin them down to a defining category, Buñuel are already onto something else.
They kick the show off with a classic, slow doom track.
Next, razor-like blips pierce your ears. Then, a barrage of drums kicks off a high-speed stomper. Crazy stuff, but it’s a mix that works very well.
I can’t tie the pieces together and suddenly the room is flooded with smoke that turns red from the stage lights. Powerhouse drumming, the guitarist literally ramming a metal slide into his pick-up, Eugene looking wild as ever… The sound of the apocalypse is only hindered by the multicolour paper balloons hanging above the stage.
Next, I swear they break out into an AC/DC song.
In a manner typical to the Aussie outfit, the guitar builds up before the drummer gets into a heavy backbeat swing. I can’t tell if my mind is placing the words over a familiar riff, or someone is actually singing.
Nevertheless, they do it again. Completely out of nowhere, another unexpected turn but with total conviction and a bad boy delivery.
Mark must be about to start Bloody Head at The Mill.
The room is mostly empty to my surprise but two minutes before the set time everyone arrives. Bloody Head takes the stage, the singer with closed eyes as they all stand motionless for the opening moments.
Scratchy guitars reverberate around the room, echoing and shimmering off the walls and floor. A dark Floydian song unfolds from within the space, the pace brooding and powerful.
The trancelike stature from the band’s lead singer suggests something is coming. All at a crescendo the singer’s eyes open as spoken word style speech explodes from his mouth; the words are out of reach, but the depth is there.
Long drawn-out chords transport me to a new plane, through interdimensional space, the guitars and bass collide in a cacophony. This is doom psych, it feels like I’m having a moment of sudden, catastrophic realisation, like I’ve found out a horrible truth.
Some of the crowd start moshing to the rhythms as it picks up and reaches a punkier tempo. The songs descend into absolute filth as the lead singer chucks a half downed tinnie into the audience, hitting and shocking an unaware older gentleman in the chest. The metal and psych blend into a phosphorescent blade that cuts through my ears.
The set reaches its climax as Bloody Head’s lead singer almost garrottes himself with the mic wire whilst screaming “and so it goes”.
Next up, it is Pharaoh Overlord and Arron Turner with Richie over at 7SVN.
I stand on the side-line 7SVN’s stage when the band emerges, and I’m quickly taken aback.
Slowly building their sound up, they create spacey, repetitive sonic landscapes mixing live and digital instrumentation.
Despite being described as having elements of krautrock in the festival programme, I find them reminiscent of a half-speed, real heavy Depeche Mode – minus the vocal delivery and battery powered pink rabbit.
What strikes me the most is the drumming. Throughout the set, the drive and impeccable timekeeping of the drummer keeps me from peeling my eyes away, placing me in almost a meditative state.
A practically flawless, hour-long nod inducer.
They deliver a mix of instrumentals and vocal-lead numbers, during which the frontman growls and chants with the delivery of an ancient mage. Not to take away from his ability at all, but I find the vocal delivery clashing with the music.
But this ain’t my band, so power to them.
I had already spent some time listening to Thou’s material a couple of days before the festival, after finding their promo poster very striking. So, I’m somewhat prepared for the last band of the evening.
Finding myself quite far away from the stage, I don’t get to see them in the flesh. But boy are they loud.
I lean against a wall in the far back and upon looking down at my phone, the screen goes fuzzy from my eyeballs rattling – the band makes the whole room shake. This bass could rattle a kidney stone out of an ale drinker.
Thou create an interesting mix of a heavy sludge sound and vocals with black metal sensibilities. The shrieks and screams making the words hard to distinguish.
Despite that, it is a combination which I think translates better in this live setting rather than on record.
I’m off home to get ready for tomorrow, Mark’s in the crowd across from me and says he’s got a little bit more left in him.
After saying bye to Richie, I join in with the head sways for the next couple of songs before heading back to The Mill.
I end my day of reviewing by lying down on the roof of The Mill to some beats so large you could stack them, provided by UKAEA for The Quietus. A juxtaposition between my prone body, the heat, and the pounding music.
Supersonic Festival, Saturday 9 July – Jack James
For more music from NADJA go to: www.nadja.bandcamp.com/
For more from Tat Vision go to his website: www.www.tatvision.com/
For more music from Rachel Aggs go to www.r4ggs.bandcamp.com/
For more from Buñuel go to: www.brunel.bandcamp.com/album/smash-on
For more pedals by Brelliot go to: www.brelliott.com
For more art by Mutartis go to: www.boswellart.bigcartel.com
For more music from Bloody Head go to: www.bloodyhead.bandcamp.com
For more from Thou go to: www.thou.bandcamp.com
For more music from UKAEA go to Hominid Sounds’ page on Discogs: www.discogs.com/label/1049310-Hominid-Sounds
For more music from Pharaoh Overlord go to: www.pharaohoverlord.bandcamp.com
To find out what’s happening at 7SVN got to: www.7svn.co.uk
To find out what’s coming up at The Mill go to: www.themilldigbeth.com
For more from Supersonic Festival go to: www.supersonicfestival.com