Call me Russ L

Supersonic Festival 2006 – Saturday

Posted in Music by Russ L on 13 August, 2006

After a short recovery period at home it was time to again sally forth, out to The Custard Factory for the second part of Supersonic. Rain streamed from the sky and left me a touch worried about the outside aspects of this, but it soon cleared up and had no effect other than making some of the steps a bit scary and providing some puddles for people to avoid/play splashy-splashy in.

Main/outside stage openers Una Corda were already on by the time I arrived, but I didn’t miss too much of their set. They’re a band I’ve liked to varying degrees in the past, but this was without a doubt the best set I’ve ever seen from them. Rock-leaning post-rock with (at their best, like here) a huge epic sweep to them, perhaps made to feel even more epic by size of the stage. Fantastic, and they went down really well too.

Hanne Hukkelberg and band followed on the main stage, providing the best set of the festival to my eyes. I’m not sure I believe her claim that they had lost all of their instruments and replacements had been provided by the people of Birmingham (a saxophone? Fair enough. Accordion and glockenspiel? OK. A prepared bicycle, though?) but the music was captivating. Her general air of restrained lunacy and magpie approach to sticking bits of allsorts together seems to get her compared to Bjork a lot, but sonically the closest comparison for some of this was the jazzier bits of Carina Round’s first album (oh yes), albeit far less intense. Hanne has a gorgeous voice infused by both folk and jazz, and beautiful songs. I really enjoyed her performance, often closing my eyes and drifting off into a reverie and being reminded of happier times that may or may not have actually happened. Plus she played a prepared bicycle. You can’t beat that.

Still on the outside stage, I watched about half of Michael Gira’s set, with the ex-Swans geezer now doing his own thing. It’s a typical sound with just him ‘n’ his guitar, but there’s gravitas in his voice and his songs seemed to be interesting Nick Cave-esque tales of retribution and vengeance.

I was sad to leave him, but I definitely wanted to see Final in the Theatre Space. The room was far too full, to an absolutely ludicrous degree. I watched peeping over the top of a little wall (yes, indoors. This is too hard to explain if you don’t know the layout of the Theatre Space), and during the early part of the set found my cheekbone crushed against it whenever anyone behind me moved. It was worth it, though. Ambient drone is very fashionable of late, but the music of Final has a soul and elegance so rarely seen within the style. Justin Broadrick (pale face and hoodie giving him the look of no-one so much as Ingmar Bergman’s Death) solemnly rang sombre but bright waves of reverberation from his guitar and electronics, a physically dense sound but with a lightness of touch that could elevate the listener above the similarly physically dense surroundings. Beautiful.

Back to the main stage for the Modified Toy Orchestra. They’re no longer “Brian Duffy And The Modified Toy Orchestra,” which is apt as they definitely seem to have transformed themselves into a proper band over the three times I’ve now seen them. Thoughts that they might be a one-trick pony should be abandoned – their electronica/tuneful glitch played on doctored toys presents some fantastic songs, and the projections onto the screens behind made for a fantastic visual element (combined, of course, with the five of them lined up and immaculately dressed). Their cover of Kraftwerk’s “I’m The Operator With My Pocket Calculater” absolutely rocks, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the interpolation of Beethoven’s Ninth finale with which they open their set. It was interesting to note Michale Gira watching from the sidelines with a pleased-looking air, too.

US Maple are very heavily feted amongst certain circles, and prior to this I’d never ‘got’ them. Their supposed deconstruction of the basic rock band has always left them sounding to me like… well, a basic rock band. The bit of their set I saw in the Medicine Bar left me with no different impression. Slightly noisy American rock, by no means bad but nothing special. I didn’t dislike the bit I watched.

Out into the fresh air again next, for Broadcast on the main stage. Very pretty sixties influenced electronics with plenty of unusual squiggly ‘n’ wobbly bits layered over the top and the occasional depth charge of powerful bass, but never losing a human element as singer Trish held sway like a stern-but-loveable schoolmistress. Heartening stuff.

Isis followed on in the US Maple mould, in the sense that for all of the hype around them I formerly quite liked them but didn’t think they were amazing, and their set here changed nothing. Their proggy expansive metal *cough*secondrateNeurosis*cough* lark does have some fairly interesting songs, but none that fully justify the alternate auras of ‘lots of bluster, but it’s all really serious, honest’ and ‘bow before us for we are cooler than thou’ that they project. In the ‘more-or-less likeable’ range, albeit going on for far too long.

I thought I’d have a look at the rest of Zombi’s set in The Med Bar, having heard good things about them from a fair few people. Mad, but excellent stuff – traditionally prog keyboards combined with drums playing weird rhythms, and bags full of energy. Not in the least bit what I’d expected but a lot of fun. On the downside, my tiredness and drunkenness really kicked in at this point.

High On Fire were the last band I attempted, back out on the main stage. Just like the last time I saw them, HOF were pure headbang, for good or ill. Motorhead-come-Slayer with doomy bits, completely mindless but massive amounts of fun. I watched a fair bit but had to leave before they finished, lest leaving it any longer led to me collapsing by the roadside somewhere while trying to get home.

I cannot possibly emphasis how great Supersonic 2006 was. Not a bad band all weekend and plenty that were a hell of a lot more than just ‘good’. Be there next year or be really, really stupid.

Another account of this can be found here, and a bunch of ‘em are linked from here. There are photos here and here.

~ Russ L, saluting the Capsule girls and everybody else involved in making it happen.


13 Responses

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  1. nailz said, on 14 August, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    Hey, good review although I missed a lot of sets that weekend for one retarded reason or another. US Maple were fantastic but I’d say that…wouldn’t I?

    Anyway, email me. I miss you x
    If not, come to Kings Heath this Friday for the Palehorse/Red Stars Parade gig!

  2. Russ L said, on 14 August, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    Just for you, I’ll do both.

  3. throughsilver said, on 17 August, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    You know Nailz? Cool.

    Also, walking out of a Gira set? Man, I couldn’t do that. Fest sounded good, though. I’ve seen shit-all this summer.

  4. Russ L said, on 18 August, 2006 at 6:02 am

    For Final, my dear boy. For Final.

    Everyone knows Naila, anyway. She exists primarily for her existence to be recognised, like a MySpace profile. She’s like Descarte’s worst nightmare.

  5. throughsilver said, on 18 August, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    Oh, Final! I knew that name rang a bell. Bloody Jizzle Kizzle Brizzle!

    Guess I should have kept reading the review, then…

  6. Russ L said, on 19 August, 2006 at 10:15 am

    Let that be a lesson to you. My blog may seem like the ramblings of a man desperate to be listened to by someone, somewhere, anyone… but no. Much wisdom is contained therein.

    And, on an unrelated note, Palehorse’s set last night was the best thing evaaaaah.

  7. throughsilver said, on 20 August, 2006 at 12:36 am

    ‘Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.”
    – Hamlet

    But seriously. I’m ‘watching’ the C4/E4 ‘coverage’ of the V festival and I can confirm that I loathe Kasabian. I would fight them.

  8. Russ L said, on 20 August, 2006 at 8:44 am

    All at once?

    Are they the Primal Scream-y one? I forget. I don’t mind the few of their songs I’ve heard, if they’re the band I’m thinking of.

    From Supersonic to the ‘V’ Festival. How strangely this has digressed.

  9. throughsilver said, on 20 August, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Yep, all at once. I don’t care. It’ll be like that time Nick Oliveri fought Terrorvision, but with less pointy beards.

    And yeah, they are the would-be ‘Scream. There’s some serious payola going on there, Russ. It was essentially the Kasabian Show.

  10. Russ L said, on 20 August, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Nick Oliveri fought Terrorvision? I hope they won. It’d be a crime if an American with a silly beard was able to beat up some lads from Bradford. I imagine your Yorkshire self would feel that sentiment even more strongly than I do, QOTSA fan or not.

  11. throughsilver said, on 20 August, 2006 at 8:43 pm

    He won. He’s bloody hard, for one thing. Unfortunately for my countymen, I consider myself a rocker foremost and everything else comes after that.

    And in that context, it has to be said that Kyuss, The Dwarves, Queens of the Trust Fund and Mondo Generator are slightly more compelling than the ‘Vision.


  12. Russ L said, on 21 August, 2006 at 6:43 am

    I like T’Vision considerably more than any of those bands. Considerably.

    What is wrong with the Yorkshire youth of today? I ask you.

  13. Russ L said, on 16 September, 2006 at 9:55 am

    There’s another account of the first night of Supersonic here:


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