Writer Ray Vincent-Mills / Photograph Ewan Williamson
It’s Saturday night at the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath, which means it’s the last event of The Joyous Thing by Outlands – a yearly festival in its fourth year honing in on experimental music in the city. This event is in collaboration with Supersonic for International Women’s Day, and the launch of Birmingham based Matters album Echolocations.
The venue teems with excitement from all angles. The room on entry has DJ’s playing in the interim of the bands with samosas and prints for sale. A night I can dance to and eat at – as Old Bort opens the night it’s a no brainer really.
Arch Femmesis kickstart the live music section of the event. A striking, enigmatic duo showcasing their talents in queer electro-pop, with lyrics that are equal parts poetic and self-aware of their social landscape, whilst also managing to uphold a playful and camp tone throughout. This makes for a performance that is fun, sultry, and thought provoking. The range of the vocalist is undeniable and captures the crowd from the offset.
The crowd goes into the next room as DJ Saima plays a feel good fusion set equipped with warm smiles.
PRNCSS enters the stage, shades and cowboy hat in tow exclaiming: “Dancers at the front.” The music, an eclectic mix of dance music and alternative hip hop, paired with distorted vocals adding multiple dimensions, adds another layer to peel back and dance to.
Her energy and commitment to the crowd’s enjoyment is infectious and she beckons everyone to come closer: “If you don’t dance and you came here, you’re a fucking idiot.” To be honest they’re not wrong. The crowd erupts into a mosh pit before PRNCSS invites the ones committed to the dance to join her on stage. Am I one of those people? Silly question. Absolutely.
“Unleash your inner party goblin,” I hear from someone in front of me and honestly I’m already one step ahead of them.
Before Matters, DJ Sadie HD plays a set which jumps from grime, to pop, to R&B. Did I give up my spot in the drinks queue to bop to a cheeky mix of 212? Of course.
I walk through to the stage and notice a Soviet inspired light installation that runs from the back of the room to the tip of the stage where Matters are playing. I keep trying to come up with succinct sentences to encapsulate the music, but I think it would be doing them a disservice. Less gig, more experience.
The sounds are celestial, dystopian, and I can’t figure out if it feels like I’m melting, tripping, or ascending. Perhaps all three.
The psychedelic visuals behind them add to the auditory storybook that is Matters. It ranges from what looks like single cell organisms to what the inside of the sun may look like if you dared get so close.
“It feels like the sounds are coming out of my body.”
I can’t help but agree as bass reverberates from my throat, chest, and feet. The set is continuous with the light display above going into full effect. It’s like the world’s ending and maybe there’s hope but maybe there’s not – either way you’re dancing it out. A nod to the 90’s rave scene and the existentialism of existence.
The sound is undeniably intricate with the crowd letting their bodies do the talking. The grandiosity of the music is more than apparent creating sections of pure beauty and auditory art. It’s surreal, sleek, and sublime. One half of the band talks about how the night before they were broken into resulting in a lot of their equipment being stolen.
Rosie from Supersonic drove to Cardiff to replace it because as they say ‘the show must go on’, and thank God it did.
After the main event, Limpid (DJ) dressed in just a raincoat plays around with experimental and jagged sounds that electrify the crowd. DJ Birthday Girl closes the night with an erratic, 2000’s inspired set that makes me feel like I’m jumping around in a computer screen.
I guess it’s called The Joyous Thing for a reason.
The Joyous Thing @ Old Print Works – 04.02.23 / Ewan Williamson