“I want to live there. And make you a workhorse for eternity.” (Bang the Bore at Supernormal, part 1)

September 2nd, 2012 |  Published in Articles

Bang the Bore recently did a spot of curating at Supernormal festival. And in the spirit of all things Bore, it made as much sense to get the musicians who played to write their own reflections on things. I was anticipating that people would be more on the side of parity, but itr transpires that everyone had quite a lot to say – so this is going to be split into at least 3 parts. What you’ll get: some personal reflections on massages, wildlife, advertising of vegan food, drinking, visual pendulums, naked people, my hair, crickets, defective tents, piles of poo, hardcore pornography in a forest… and there might be some mention of the music as well.

First though, I (Kev) just want to send out masses of thanks to everyone who took part – playing, punting, arting, working – and double masses to everyone who played under the BtB banner. You’re super-awesome and, if there is any cosmic justice, you’ll all own golden space horses before 2012 is through.

(Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

The title of this post is taken from a quote supplied by Kevin Sanders (Petals) – see the bottom of this article.

Dan Powell of Nil at Supernormal - photo by Pier Corona

Dan Powell of Nil at Supernormal

Chris Parfitt (Safehouse Brighton, Nil, Noteherder and McCloud)

Supernormal – words can be arranged in any order:

Oxfordshire / countryside / sun / music / noise / silence / birds / crickets / fields / creativity / friends/ colour / light / food / drink / manor / discussions / talk / think / walk / play / dance / life / art / people / bread / barn / woods / poems / tent / no tent / sunrise / rain /  sunset / ideas / shooting stars / laughter / spontaneity / sleep / coffee / film / performance / singing / games / kindness / respect.

Joe Henderson (Mothers of the Third Reich,  Amniotic, Thee Bald Knobbers)

As a casual avoider of all-encompassing social situations it’s no surprise to learn that I’m also not really a festival enthusiast either (Bloodstock and all the other tantalising metal festivals I didn’t go to being the exception). So, in the build-up to Supernormal I kinda surprised myself with a personal energy for the event. I’d never been to a smaller arts orientated festival before anyway – so, after arriving flattened by motorway and motorway car heat with Jase Williams (Also Mothers of the Third Reich) I cracked open an empty stomach on rum and set up camp with Plurals/Wondermentable/Hexenverforlgung folk for what I knew was gonna be an eye opener. And to be quite honest: that’s exactly what I did. I observed the festival as a hybrid punter/performer/drunk person.

Thee Bald Knobbers & Bolide

Thee Bald Knobbers & Bolide

Acts (which seemed more like activities to me) came and went. They seemed to blend together at points – disco became party improve (Dead Pets Society), hanging around became communal improv excursions into the woods (Thee Bald Knobbers) whilst bands were clapped away and new bands became audible (those being any on the little isolated stage huts); bleeding into. I could never ascertain at all how many people were present at Supernormal. It seemed as though the artists/musicians/volunteers/organisers and punters formed a continuum that only ever broke as events took place and then dissipated.  I was constantly astonished to find new pockets of activity opening up for me at the seams of the main field. I felt as though a spirit of exploration was well explicit in the festivals programme to the extent that whole new continents were discovered day by day. No one person could have experienced the sensory platter that was on offer; nice looking food (that I didn’t eat), playlands (that I was too sluggish to foray into), rave (uh; no. hell), delicate sound (please), bands of music (please even more), discourse (I tried), participatory workshops (which I missed), unmowed grass and grottoes of forest (next year, oh yes). It was almost as if only a community could experience together the wholeness of what was offered at Supernormal.

For that reason I hope it continues to grow from the inside and serve me tea exactly as I like it (Earl grey with a dash of soy). Well done to Bang the Bore lads for a welcome rest-bite from the gnawing of sensory overload. Cheers to Colin for putting on some fine bands. And a most humble congratulations to Kev Nickells for being well on it all weekend. I’m inspired. . . I’m inspired to join the continuum. And that’s perhaps how it should be.

Carl Anderson (Nil by Nose, Thee Bald Knobbers)

Carl did this lovely video vignette from the festival – also worth watching his recent video showcasing Splitting the Atom in Brighton.

Clive Henry (BtB janitor, formerly littlecreature, hard man of HNW)

that was a good festival, i think :-)

the bad – never enough sleep, the heat, the damned heat, dj scotch egg covering seefeel in horrrrible bass sounds, sunburnt AND bitten arms

the medium – kids, drink, kids and drink :-)

the good – saw lots of old faces, no-one (and i mean NO-ONE) was a cock, the lights on the path thru the forest

joy was obtained from the following:

caroline weeks – always impossibly beautiful. she maintains my attention where similar make me a bit vomit-y
team sports – truly an honour to listen to. simple as that
sauna youth – brilliant urgent garagey punk. much needed. AND played a good sized set – nearly everyone i saw played WAY too fucking long. seriously guys.
nil – amazing. funny, playful but also really “spiritual”. really good.
ANTA – totally blinding. my nice surprise of the weekend. seen them before and they were good, but at SN they were staggering. wasn’t even going to watch them to be honest. incredible sound and performance. like everyone else, they played too long – but they got away with it :-)
at the end of their set a woman came up to them and asked if they had any records for sale, they replied they had cds, to which she asked “would you LIKE to have a record out?”. turns out she had a label and was smitten..!
so they you are… there IS a god

i was worried that the btb stuff might play to no-one, but there was always a good audience (and respectful appreciative audiences at that) and a few things overcame all expectations.

seth’s early morning (8am – read it and weep) performance in the woods was great. truth be told, the pisaro score hadn’t set me alight before the weekend, but the actual playing of the piece was “ear-opening” :-) really enjoyable and interesting.

Only – Michael Pisaro by Seth Cooke

team sports – played in front of braziers house, up to their necks in long grass. really amazing performance, from the players and the environment! there was a wonderful moment when i became aware of the wind rushing thru the trees, and everything came together for me. incredibly sensitive and restrained playing from all three TS-ers. probably the best thing my ears heard all weekend. and a big audience too!

the bald knobbers/bolide – i’m going to stick my neck out and say “moment of the festival”?! there was an air of chaos around it – electricity didn’t arrive to the performance area (off the forest path between the main field and the barn) until ten minutes into proceedings; but what a sight! ha. i was still trying to get electricity sorted as mr mystery lesson finished his dj set in the juke tent, so i saw and heard the knobbers starting to process across the field towards the forest. i saw a quick glimpse of the procession leader (they were all clad in black robes and masks) as i ran to bolide in the forest to warn them of an imminent arrival. so i waited there, and couldn’t really believe my eyes as this line of black figures weaved down the path with maybe hundreds (?) of people following. AGUIRE, WRATH OF GOD. ha. visually impressive, and from a BTB point of view, SO MANY PEOPLE! :-) the knobbers clanged and banged for a good while, and then bolide played whilst people stayed and watched. all good.

le barn
BTB had the barn for sunday afternoon, and twas a nice venue
i really really enjoyed twelve tapes. it felt like a really solid performance and composition. nil were glorious and fun. i was worried that we might be playing to ourselves a bit, but all the barn stuff was well attended; and well appreciated.
tho one person was disappointed that the sanders playing in one of the trios was kev and not mark… ;-)

i missed the poetry, for which i apologise profusely, but i’d been in the barn for at least 6 hours by that point; and my fragile sanity was hanging by a thread :-)

i think BTB totally justified its presence at SN, and i think we fulfilled the “art” remit of the fest whilst still being fun and inclusive. i really think we added something to proceedings. i also think, if i might start preaching, that we created opportunities for people to watch and listen to stuff that they might never have before. AVANT-EVANGELISM. in this respect, i really think that nil and the knobbers/bolide contingents did us proud. the latter for getting people involved in communal music-making that was FUN, and the former for really grabbing peoples attention with a playful, mischevious performance that remained sonically interesting. the child laughing at their playing was the critic of the weekend for me

Ignacio Agrimbau – After the Rain

I arrived at Supernormal one day before it started, and I really liked the setting. Location, toilet facilities, ethos, fire regulations, they reminded me of the Santosa yoga gathering. The difference here is that instead of having a number of yogis, tai-chi specialists, self-proclaimed shamans and long sessions of mantra singing, the place was about to be populated by a very interestingly diversity of music lovers, all of them sharing the fact that the music that they came to see was outside the main musical mainstream, which always inevitable carries connotations and associations regarding lifestyle, political views and ways of seeing society. A listener of exploratory approaches to contemporary folk singing or writing will probably share with an admirer of tom Bugbrand and a Doom Metal fan a lack of interest (or at least an interest that goes beyond) mainstream pop music, and also possibly the social habits associated with it.

Iggy playing in After the Rain at Supernormal - photo by Pier Corona

Iggy playing in After the Rain at Supernormal

From the beginning I could tell that there was a fair amount of nervousness and a bit of tension amongst the people running the event, and some things were not going on as planned. However, that never translated into people being unkind, unhelpful or grumpy with me. It was always in their best interest to help out and negotiate a solution to whatever issue could come up. In other words, they were a very friendly bunch of people who were under some stress due to the complexities of running an event like this, which inevitably would to some extent rely on the collaboration of good willing people that might not always have the professional skills and organisation that are necessary. These issues always happen in events like this and they sometimes take the worst out of people, but here it didn’t, and despite the fact that there were probably challenges for them to stand up to throughout the whole festival, once the participants arrived and the festival got going, the atmosphere was generally friendly and trouble-free, which is quite rare in festivals.

In ‘arty’ festivals (supposedly left-to-centre) the effects of festival party hysteria, alcohol, drugs and lack of sex can combine quite badly with arty-type narcissism, adolescent eccentricity and general unimaginative stupidity. I have experienced that in all the ‘arty’ festivals that I have been to, but Supernormal was an exception. There was the odd show off here and there, but entirely trouble-free. What was foolish was charmingly foolish, and eccentrics were colourful and fun in most of the cases, rather than snobbish or bigoted.

It was also refreshing to see a variety of age groups, but it would benefit the festival if they could get more over 35s. A very important thing for the organisers to bear in mind is that, now that the festival is appealing to a larger number of people, they must have designated areas for camping, so that those that want to stay up being loud and tripping over other people’s tents, they can do so in an area where that is expected, and those that either just want to chill in silence or sleep, can have a reasonably quiet space.  A lot of families came to the festival with kids, which is absolutely brilliant, but they need a place to camp where there will not be loud, drunken swearing conversations next to them at 4 in the morning.

I am not saying this as a criticism, but just for future reference. The average £5 for a meal I would say is about normal in festivals; of course there are places where they will rip you off, but you can get a decent meal for £5 in most festivals, particularly small festivals. At the aforementioned festival Santosa, there was also a claim that food was available at non rip off prices. That meant a massive communal pan of quality vegetable stew being cooked for hours, and you could get a good bite for £2.

For me it was a very good opportunity to discover some new music and to enjoy some very pleasant performance situations. I think that probably there will be some more ‘identity- defining’ happening in future events. I would suggest cutting down a bit on guitar dominated bands, and make a point out of giving some more personality to the bar tent, which was the only part of the festival that felt average. Trashy music and stupid fun are cheerful and enjoyable, but we know we can get that anywhere all through the year whether we want it or not. It is just fed to us all the time. Making a point our of constantly playing alternative pop music, obscure electronica, or having a variety of DJs that can play hours of Jazz, old movie piano scores, or any other thing that can easily create ambience and also provide other points of references for people interacting.

Kev S, Seth, Iggy and THUMBS - photo by Sara Sowah.

Kev S, Seth, Iggy and THUMBS

I don’t know where this is something that the festival is in any way interested in, but they could consider having performance areas dedicated to music that is less attached to Western aesthetics. You can easily find musicians from all sorts of backgrounds who can play either modern or ‘modern-traditional’ music, fusion, or solo instrumental performances of music from other parts of the world. From the vibe that I got from some participants, I think it could go down well. Some might appreciate it as cheap exoticism, others might get into it more profoundly, and others can have their musical views and tastes changed dramatically. I recommend it. There is already some of it around, but it could be taken a step further.

I played on Friday night with After the Rain and I really enjoyed it. There were a few scheduling issues but they did not affect us, and we got a lot of support from organisers to make sure that that was the case. Sound was great, the sound person a lovely and flexible guy, and the performance space really good. I don’t like classical concert spaces so a place like this felt great, it was very musical in its own very individual ways, and created a great, intimate atmosphere, ideal for the kind of music that we do.

I saw some quality weird as fuck films at the pentagram cinema, I enjoyed a very friendly and well planned workshop with Tom Bugbrand. I think it was not appropriate for whoever was running a talk at the main house, not to allow for Team Sports to play there, as they were setting up at the right time and it was not their fault if the talk was either running late or planned to overlap with a music performance. I think the understanding of how communities cooperate and develop was one of their discussion topics.

However, that led to the Team Sports gig happening in the garden, which was very beautiful, one of my favourite moments of the festival. Other highlights were to discover Mary Hampton, an extraordinary performer, Bilge Pump, the best rock band I have seen live in years, Tom Bugbrand’s awesome improvisation, Seth Cooke’s rendition of Michael Pisaro’s ‘Only’, Plurals, the Bang the Bore curated Sunday afternoon at the barn, and a few other acts which name I can’t remember.

I know that some people said that there was not a lot of art this year, but for me that was not a problem. Usually when there is art in festivals I don’t bother looking at it, as I am more interested in catching up with the music. It is great to have some live art happening as well as some workshops, but I would focus my energies in developing further the musical life of the festival.

It is great and very important  to have living poets doing live performances of their work, but I wonder what it would be like to also have some narrators/actors reciting poetry from other eras to an ad hoc improvised soundtrack. Or in general, to have more interaction between the poets and the musicians.

Kevin Sanders (Petals, Cooke/ Henry/ Sanders trio)

For reasons that are entirely of my own making, I missed all of Friday, and a lot of Saturday. Upon arrival there was something very exciting in the air as lots of people were also dragging bags and gear on to the site. This practice ordinarily tends to feel really lonely (and excessively stupid), so it was nice to see others experiencing the same endurance test at the same.

Once I’d pitched my tent, I was pretty hungry. Having had a quick scan, the vegan options appeared to be rather nominal. As I found out on the Sunday, some places simply weren’t marketing themselves as vegan. In theory, this is great as they shouldn’t have to, but it meant that I was chewing pita bread and peanut butter until I’d decided to see if the salads that I’d seen on the plates with burgers were purchasable, at which point I found out that the burgers were. This is probably more my (conditioned) responisibility than the caterers, but a sign with “V” or something might have been useful. (The burger was absolutely lovely, as it happened, so hats off to ’em!)

I saw a few ‘rock’ bands and was pleasently surprised at the gender balance (and how good Black Octagon were, just what the doctor ordered.) Indeed, this was also the case with the BtB stuff. Far better than most bills, which is a good place to be at, and could hopefully be developed. Incidentally, I think it is notable that there was no ‘sacrifice’ in quality or anything that might be argued (by bigots, granted) as all the stuff I saw was evidently there on merit and pulled in good crowds in terms of response and size, however one measures the quality of an act. The audience did appear to be mostly white. Lots of socio-cultural stuff, and I’m not too sure “how” to approach the issue of inclusivity (presuming it is one,) but a more reflective mix would be ace. Autonomous off-shoots around and about over the year, to encourage a communbity ethos a la Bang the Bore, or something, perhaps? Don’t know, I’m just shooting from the hip.

There was a really good vibe about the whole site. Lots of smiles, fun, appreciation et al. Met lots of ace folks. Drank too much, ate too little and had way more fun than I’d expected. Which was nice. I really wish I’d not missed the talk/debate thing, as I’d loved to have been involved in that whole shebang- again this is probably just my fault for arriving as and when I did, and it probably would be a bad idea to programme it when everyone is leathered.

Overall, it was an inspiring event that tickled my ears and rubbed my brains, which is basically ideal. I want to live there. And make you a workhorse for eternity.

(Part 2Part 3Part 4)

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September 2nd, 2012 | by | Published in Articles