October 13th, 2012 | Published in Articles
Dolly Dollycore – Dead Pets Society, A Band etc
Supernormal is beautiful. All joys in sounds. New people. Wider tribal decamp. Shimmy explosions into firey rituals, calm walks through fields, endless conversations that discover knots and may untie them, winding rangly, circling kites, cosmic noises and comic questions.
My favourites (and so much of this came through the wonderful Bang the Bore) often being momentary awe inspiring and fun collaborations like Krishna and Kosmicheboy – gorgeous cosmic ramblings on Friday night, Thee Bald Knobbers and Bolide with their afternoon joy parading ritual into the woods, our own Dead Pets Society invoked Saturday midnight wild drums and wind improvisation – a gaggle of improvisors from across the festival that so many people danced with and a few mistook for the A Band. We weren’t, on this occasion. I find these things to be both ultimately special and necessary. It is great to have a get together where they can occur and be encountered.
Space in many forms with the meteor showers overhead. To explain, I was there pulling together the space disco on the Saturday night with The Dead Pets. Hard work but a remarkable experience, and an honour. I am so proud of all the performances, was bowled over by Emu’s delicious remarkable alien burlesque show, disco sets, Binnsclagg, Lonesome Cowboys, everyone who played/worked with us and Liz and Myra making the bar into a galactic adventure, games.
A beautiful, wasted, traumatic, vital, compelling poetry reading in the loverly barn early Sunday evening. Quite.
My one year old friend walked for the first time at the sand pit. Yes!
A safe, yes, floatsome hangout. Creating and playing without having to worry about the day to day idiocy ideas that so often nudge at getting in the way. By that I mean that the place is filled with good open people. Open space. Space for human discoveries. Jump in encounters for potential new ways of looking at art. And life. Is that too much? I truly don’t think so. The best kind of home holiday, Supernormal – I love you!
Verity Spiders – Poet, Binnsclagg, A Band (etc)
1) Rather than a dispassionate list of bands and descriptions of their noises by proxy of a load of other ones, i.e. Yeah man buzz in the space throbbing.gristle limbfucking futureheads and THAT bad, let’s try: I spent the weekend limping the balance of ecstatic joy and precious fear. First of all, I felt very aware that the Bang the Bore lineup was always going to be pretty smart, well crafted and difficult. Being a part of this lineup in a no music capacity had its challenges. Especially following some of the free improv and Earth Creature. Holy moley I liked them. Then again, that’s how the whole festival felt. It’s probably my duty to get all muso cross. I saw one band that I would have liked to hurt. But it was too easy to escape! But yes. Bands. What were/are we actually doing at Supernormal? What are we trying to make? I’m entirely unsure. For a while I’ve been trying to create a dialogue between poetries and musics that seem at least able to keep up. Often a decent ‘noise’ gig gets ruined by a collapsing quasi punk performance poet spouting williams and burrr oh’s! To be joined on site by some of the country’s most innovative poets was a rare delight.
2. The festival seemed to have improved in every manner. A personal highlight was the explosion of Free Improv in the Dead Pets Space Disco. The whole evening was excellent. Pin pointing to the improv in particular because it felt like a genuine collision of musical brilliance and ground shaking sillyness.
3. I missed a lot of things I would have liked to have seen. In fact, this was happening most of the time. That denotes a stunner, eh?
4. The Bang the Bore lineup seemed to showcase some of the creative discourses I have been lucky enough to be part of and observe over the last couple of years. To brilliant and unpretentious effect. It was certainly an indicator of things to come as opposed to anything as upsetting as a conclusion.
5. I wasn’t sick.
Barnabas Yianni – Composer, It’s a Lunken, Xulsigiae, Fresh Milk
I missed a hell of a lot. My bad. I had the most neon-green cold I’ve ever experienced. No excuse, really.
I listened to Team Sports , in the long grass – prostrate within it. My vista of sky framed guilelessly by seeding sheafs dancing in the ticklish wind, I felt impeccant beneath my years, not half due to the intense maturity of their explorative performance approach. I can’t imagine why music would ever take place in any other place; I can’t imagine why music would ever be so argumentative as to nail itself down, and shout about it. As quiet as the grass, they made me feel ‘plugged in’: I watched a red bug, made larger by the unusual position from which I watched it, scale a green waving wand and take off at its tip, grandiose and ponderous as a colony ship to sirius; within the world and without it. Like the music was the soundtrack that the bug might’ve chosen itself, under the knowing guidance of mother earth. No seriously.
ANTA were totes mazeballs, as anyone who saw them on the Saturday must attest. Groovy, heavy, infinite, irreverent, unpretentious, and with many more tricks than a pony, a more than welcome rock-out to accompany my first pint of the festival. Word.
I have framed and back-lit a beautiful etching created as though 2 swings were 2 drawing pendulums – X and Y of the graph. 3 tipsy participants, some engagingly relaxed assistants, a luminous night sky, a slight dizzying effect, and the reflective solitude experienced when swinging, alone, even if in parallel with another, combine for a situation that needs no afterword, justification or explanation, and seems endless. The saturation of these unto a blackened transparency through which a deeply organic and continuous shape glows in loupe-able detail, that you get to take home, was a total bonus. No sign of the free carrot stew though…
A kindly gentleman saves me from the mortal error of applying curry sauce to a sausage when ketchup was clearly intended. Oh unknown benefactor, I owe you a settled stomach, and a pleasingly easy going morning evacuation.
Kev has amazing hair – has anyone noticed this? No less verdant than the anemone forests that flourish by volcanic geysers on the tropical seabed. And put to impressive use during his own happy hardcore set, which, despite that bloody remix of that bloody coldplay tune, which I quite like but still completely disapprove of, was extremely entertaining, informative, and pumping.
BTB’s 12 tapes was similar to kev’s hair, if only by aquatic analogy: immersive as the unlit seabed, dust risen by sudden unseen animals flashing into the distance, dust frozen just as suddenly in the weightless water, a huge living thing, blocking out the light, cruising above and over you, a blimp silhouette, on its way to a place that does not concern you – does it know you exist? Possibly. But the fact alone is not important. Its trajectory is longer than time – you are confined to the moment, for now. And the dull aching throb of experience.
Also, seeing naked people is always fun, even if it IS for serious art porpoises.
Zali Krishna – Raagnagrok, Krishna & Kosmicheboy
FRIDAY: Arrive on site. Somewhat surprised to discover that it was relatively easy to find and that people at the gate and in the production tent are aware that I’m supposed to be there. Well done, admin! Pitched tent and muttered platitudes at various friends and acquaintances who had already arrived. Kev was located. Established a general sense of bonhomie and secured a promise of beer tokens at a vague point in the future. With this promise in mind surveyed the Juke 2000 tent with a view to setting up gear for my set at five. After the set looked at Gigantes on Stage Two for a while before wandering off to get drunk. Sometime later enjoyed The Zero Map at the Cinema Tent to such a degree that I failed to coherently describe what they did to anyone I spoke to during the weekend. More frivolity and bed.
SATURDAY: Rose early, slightly surprised to find myself in a tent. Wandered around the woods discovering various man-made artefacts suggesting the presence of artists in the area. At some stage breakfast became available. Pancakes and fruit having been delayed, a fry up was purchased. This was only feasible or desirable due to the generally availability of water throughout the site to eliminate grease and pollution. This also made it possible to refill a single water bottle over the whole weekend, which was utterly necessary in such scorching conditions. Spent most of the morning and early afternoon around Braziers house and gardens to avoid loud doominess from the festival site. There was a very nice bouzouki and guitar duo in front on the house. I think I could have watched a lot more stuff like that. Afternoon tea in Braziers House was also very agreeable. At some later stage a lot of people played nice things out in the long grass and a choir from Stoke Newington were absolutely dreadful in a good way. Most of the rest of the afternoon, after my partner and most of her band Gertrude arrived I was busy with this and that. Ran into Kev at various points, at one of which the promised beer tokens were gratefully recieved. Helped Black Tempest to video their performance on the Juke 2000 stage. Easily the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen since Hawkwind. Caught the beginning of the Dead Pets party but was called away to see Blurt on Stage One. Sleepy. Go lie down. Snore.
SUNDAY: Spent most of the morning and early afternoon practising and reinventing a set for Gertrude later in the day. Late brunch involved fish and rice. I was desparate to break my pork habit: fry up the previous day, followed by sausage in a roll for lunch, followed by hog roast & crackling for dinner. All very nice but quite pig heavy. Tried to spend as much time as possible enjoying the flowers and cooler climate near Braziers House which were unfortunately polluted by new-agey shamanism. Unavoidable, I guess. Before long it was time to soundcheck the expanded six-piece Gertrude. A celebratory pint post-gig and then it’s time to take the tent down and catch a lift back to London.
IN GENERAL: It felt well-organised and programmed although I was slightly mystified that the glut of pedestrian doom and post-rock bands had to play quite so loudly. Saw less that I would have liked to have seen through some combination of putting on two sets, general laziness and trying to avoid the scorching heat. However to lay my cards on the table, I don’t like festivals very much in general. Fewer arseholes around the festival than you might expect, but also less (visual) art than you might expect. Congratulations to Kev and the organisers who put in a lot of hard work in making a properly uncommercial alternative festival.
Matt Lovett – Team Sports, Society is Possible
SN 2012 was my 2nd Supernormal, having played last year at 6am on the Saturday in the field by the fire, then at various points during the day around the site in the woods, in the ditches and then finally as darkness fell by the 2nd stage. That was a mindblower, and it was particularly cool that the good people at SN were into our take on outdoor performance, so what with some incredibly enjoyable improvisations alongside the 36 hour set from Hakarl, SN 2011 was going to be pretty hard to beat – it felt like the ultimate festival, what events like Glastonbury had lost sight of in the quest to get the biggest bands and build the highest fences…
However, from the moment we arrived on the Friday evening for SN 2012, getting straight into setting up for an AV improv in the Brazier’s barn I realised that this was going to take the SN experience one louder…
One of the things about SN that really marks it out is that none of the musicians and artists seem to be on some kind of bullshit career-advancing, festival-as-notch-on-the-CV hype – there’s just lots of people both making and watching / listening to things. It feels to me about as close as a festival can get to Attali’s vision of a society of composition, where music becomes a tool for understanding and collaborative play, a move on from Debord’s society of the spectacle where we’re all just dumb witnesses to media emissions from centralised bases of corporate control
The barn proved to be the venue I returned to again and again throughout the weekend, from the blissful ethnotronic improv of After the Rain, to the Serialist folk reimaginings of Mary Hampton and the photo-electric dronescapes weaved by Ginko – just the perfect venue to get lost in
My own contributions to SN 2012, including another outdoor Team Sports performance, participation in a couple of discussion groups and the afore-mentioned AV improv of Society Is Possible, once again proved to give me more than I felt I was giving back – definitely a recurring theme of my SN experience. Hearing Tom Glaister talk about his Grandfather, Norman Glaister’s work in the 1940s to establish the community at Brazier’s, coining the term ‘Supernormal’ along the way in his book ‘Greater Things’, was great – there’s obviously a long-held commitment at Brazier’s Park to finding alternative solutions to living and learning
The Team Sports performance on Saturday afternoon is up there with my favourites for that group – minimum sound levels so that the instruments, the wind and the crickets in the grass all became part of the same soundscape – very R Murray Schafer I know, but it gets me every time… and on this occasion it seemed to get a few other people too
The rest of Saturday was spent flitting between being literally blown away by Kogumaza, drawn inward by Ginko, mesmerised by Mary Hampton, being totally blurted by Blurt and finally going back in to the 90s courtesy of the midnight woodland rave
We were on our way on Sunday morning, so sadly missed out on the final night’s goings on, but SN 2012 moved the game for me in its ongoing commitment to celebrate the celebratory – doing for the sake of doing. I think it’s a challenge to everyone that’s at SN, participating in whatever way they are, to bring something new to the party. This year, Sn really reminded me of Deleuze’s thoughts on the nature of festivals – ‘the apparent paradox of festivals: they repeat an “unrepeatable”. They do not add a second and a third time to the first, but carry the first to the “nth” power’. SN 2012 proved to have the power of the unrepeatable-yet-repeating to the nth degree… all the way up to 11
Aidn Taylor – Ginko
SUPERNORMAL is a non-for-profit event, and is relatively small when compared to your average camping festival, that said there was a healthy number of people attending; I don’t think I experienced one act that felt underpopulated by an audience, but I didn’t feel a space was overcrowded at any point either. This year the tickets for the festival sold out, but I’m not sure how many people attended in total. Someone told me that more than half the crowd were actually involved in an event of some shape or form at the festival!
Some videos posted on the various tubes of the web have informed me of the many great things I managed to miss over the course of the weekend, however I did manage to catch some great acts including Tom Bugs‘ modular synth sonic tour, Team Sports outdoor improv with crickets, Sylvester Anfang II, and Rameses – also not forgetting the giant march of the Bald Knobbers which seemed to involve most festival attendees armed with whatever instrument they could find (or voice otherwise). I went there with a plan to see lots of stuff but it began to fall apart as soon as I arrived; I spent much of the time wondering around just enjoying the sights and being outdoors in a field on a sunny day with surrounding woods.
A highlight of the festival for me were the people involved and attending; I managed to meet a number of individuals that I had only previously had contact with online through forums and the likes. There were also a couple of surprises, like briefly meeting Jack Chuter behind SIGNALVOID – would have liked to have chatted more! I also managed to meet up with some of the key players behind Bang the Bore who were curating a chunk of the festival this year.
It was a very comfortable atmosphere to play in, I was nervous but didn’t feel out of place. There was plenty of other noisey and droney stuff going on, and an appreciative audience. Definitely heading back next year! I didn’t plan on recording the set but Ian Watson (Team Sports) filmed with a pocket camera (Ian has also written a good review here), whilst the film didn’t come out so well – some of the recording was ok so here are some extracts from Saturday night:
Seth Cooke – Bang the Bore engineman and too many projects to list
I’m a massage whore, right? Used to be the case that on any night down the pub I could get whole groups of friends and strangers rubbing each other’s backs. I give at least as good as I get – if I’ve ever pressured you into palpating those places I can’t see then I’d consider it slander if you claimed I didn’t reciprocate in kind.
So at Supernormal there’s someone offering healing services. Reiki, some kind of Michael Harner informed/misinformed shamanism… and massage. I’ve got no belief in her ability to do anything other than give my back a vigorous seeing-to. So on that basis I make an appointment.
I arrive on time and sit in her tent, waiting for her to finish the previous session, a yoga workshop. During that time someone in the healer’s entourage asks me to donate to a project to build a shamanic hospital in the Amazon. He shows me the healer’s designs for the place. It looks like it was drawn by Ewoks who are trying to remember what an imperial mint looks like. There are lots of wooden wind chimes drawn around the perimeter. They’re the only piece of the puzzle that seems achievable.
Waiting. The healer interrupts the overrunning yoga workshop she’s teaching to field a call from one of her associates – who may or may not be her son – who wants her to duck out of her evening’s bookings so that she can pick him up from a nearby wedding. The healer uses the opportunity to take a fag break. Her yoga students wait patiently. Two other associates volunteer to pick him up. Despite having written directions and a sat nav she explains the route to them at least four times before she allows them to leave.
Still waiting. A woman turns up. She seems genuinely distressed. She tells the healer that she has a migraine, no painkillers and no respite from the noise of the festival. She asks if the healer can do anything for her. She’s desperate. Of course, the healer says yes, and asks her to wait in her tent until my massage is finished. Now, I don’t believe this person can cure migraines, but the poor patient looks so stricken that empathy overrides any other concern. I tell her she can have my place in the queue. In this way I invest myself in the healer’s imaginary skill and lend my endorsement to the whole enterprise. I wonder whether my seeming approval might help the healer’s non-treatment perform better than a placebo. I’ve gone from cynic to enabler in one fluid movement.
Have mercy, I’ve been waiting for my massage all day. The healer breaks off her migraine treatment to speak to a guy who turns up on behalf of his girlfriend. It seems she has a migraine too. Again, I’m sympathetic – who wouldn’t be? – but the girlfriend in question isn’t present and, frankly, the most anyone could ever expect from this healer is a decent back rub. This time I don’t give up my place in the queue. Is it because I can’t see the poor patient’s suffering, and as such feel sufficiently removed from her pain to be selfish? Can it even be called selfish if I’m one hundred percent sure that I’m the only person in the queue that the healer is capable of treating? The healer instructs the bloke to return with his girlfriend in an hour and a half. His parting shot, directed at me: “Enjoy your massage.” I’m now sufficiently invested in this fiasco to feel utterly rotten for keeping his hapless girlfriend from her snake oil.
Miserly enabler. Miserly enabler. Miserly enabler.
I run out of time. Food is being cooked for me back at the tent. The migraine treatment shows no sign of reaching a conclusion. Without making a sound, I stand up and try to sneak away unnoticed. After one step the healer turns round, breaks off the migraine treatment and tries to convince me to stay.
I can’t, I tell her. I’m out of time. She asks whether I’m free the next day; I reply that I’m not. I tell her I’m performing all day, which is true – I have to be up early for a solo performance of a Michael Pisaro composition, then pack up our campsite, then perform Twelve Tapes with members of the Bang the Bore forum, then hamfist my way through some free improv with Masterly! & Farewell and my trio with Clive Henry and Kevin Sanders, then drive back to Leeds in time get a full night’s sleep ready for work at 7am on Monday. So Sunday is full. I’m not hustling for my original place in the queue; I’m not trying to bump myself up in her list of priorities. I’ve written off the massage and I just want to get away.
She expresses her dismay and asks whether she can give me a hug to commiserate my lost massage. I let her. I feel her arms wrap around me…
… and she starts rubbing my back.
She’s lost interest in her migraine patient. I try to remind her; she bats away any suggestion that, by her own criteria, her priorities are skewed. All arms are on me. She is massaging me without my consent. I consider raising my voice, walking away. But she’s convinced she’s going to treat me and I have no idea how far I’ll have to push this until she takes no for an answer. It’s easier to comply.
She grabs my shoulders and turns me around, facing away from her. She orders me to lie on the ground. She grabs my arms, puts her foot on my back for leverage, and gives me a good yank. She picks up my considerable body weight and bends me backwards. What she lacks in time she makes up for with violence.
The migraine patient lies in the tent, ignored. Possibly whimpering. I don’t know, I can’t hear.
Three minutes later and the healer seems sufficiently impressed with her own savagery to call it a day. I’m no stranger to savagery, but even a Doubting Thomas like me is impressed.
I make a donation and leave for the campsite. I’ve tacitly endorsed a charlatan; refused to sacrifice my place in her dubious queue to someone so desperate for a cure that they’ll resort to fiction; unintentionally disrupted a fraudulent migraine cure; been massaged without my permission. And I’ve paid money for the privilege. Probably best to call it quits.
The next day the healer turns up in the barn, where we’re halfway through our performance of Twelve Tapes. Her healing tent is a stone’s throw away. She’s in conversation with someone in the second row. I’m stroking the surface of my steel sink with a couple of dildos (quaintly referred to on eBay as “massagers”) so I can’t hear what they’re talking about.
I wonder whether she’s come to complain about the noise, and whether it’s keeping the spirits away.