Review: Other Worlds Festival – Part One

Other Worlds Festival

As I start to try and collate my thoughts, feelings and over-riding impressions of Other Worlds Sound Art and Experimental Music Festival, I realise that I have a lot to say about the experience and therefore have requested to submit the article in three parts – one for each day of the festival.

Even though the brilliant programming ensured that it was possible to experience everything in the line-up, I didn’t make it to all the acts (I missed the headlining Krautrock act Gnod and the sublimely named Sly and the Family Drone as well as the spookily be-masked Evil Blizzard) and I’m OK with that; it’s the nature of a festival after all. However, I acknowledge that there may well have been highlights that I missed out on and, especially those who are more deeply ensconced in the genre, may find my musings trivial or prosaic, but as a complete newcomer to this field of art, I wanted to share some soundbite  responses to the things that I experienced.

After a nicely sociable start at the Grundy Art Gallery with Chris Watson, who was speaking as part of LeftCoast’s regular Golden Section in support of the festival being in town, I threw myself into the prospect of placing the aural over the visual. On Friday night, I thought that I’d pop down for an hour or so to Bootleg Social and experience the first couple of acts but as each act finished, the anticipation of what might come next kept me glued to the spot.

Third City started the night poignantly, if not aesthetically, with four guys sat around laptops on stage as a Hawkwindesque spiritual aeroplane built in improvised anticipation through vibrations via my leather-wing-backed armchair to a take-off which never quite came but which was nonetheless extremely satisfying.

Isnaj Dui took the stage next with some plinky-plonky sounds overlaid with fluting of all kinds. This was of a more traditional musical vein but challenging the rules of creating multi-layered music with just a solo performer. I enjoyed watching her artistry around the delicate balance of playing, recording, looping and layering which all combined to create a dream-like atmosphere.

Herb Diamante swaggered on next, complete with ill-fitting wig, sunglasses, beads, frock coat and glass of red wine in hand and in a voice reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan being covered in warm treacle sang something akin to Kenneth William’s all time classic Crepe Suzette. The dangerously catchy reprise of “The half-eaten hard-boiled egg on the hill, alone in the jam jar, it’s a wasp in a jam jar…” has ear-wormed its way into my brain.

If at the start of the event my head was bemoaning the lack of performance and spectacle, by this time my thirst for theatre was fairly quenched and drenched with the arrival of Ichi who was my favourite artist of the festival. He arrived on stage at 10pm from the back of the room – on stilts – jangling and whistling a funky yet somehow familiar reprise and proceeded to entertain with kettle drum, bagpipes, harmonica, typewriter, mega phone and piggy squeezy toy amongst other things. The cough to end one song and a blown-up balloon attached to a helicopter rotor whining around stage till fully deflated starting another was exciting – yet the elegance of sound from a ping pong ball rolling around a kettle drum was simply inspirational. And then he was gone again – off on his stilts like a magical creature of our collective imagination.

Thomas Truax gave us little time to ponder with his young David Byrne style. He played his guitar (called Hank) with a pocket fan, sent out echoes of ‘Summertime’ in the Butterfly Song and a heartfelt parental plea in the song ‘Prove to My Daughter that You Love Her’. Unplugging and spinning in the middle of the room amongst the audience and even, at one point, going totally AWOL through the door! As his set came to a close I followed where he had just been, onto the streets of Blackpool, and heard the sounds of karaoke drifting across the air and was thankful for the stored memories of this otherness I had just experienced.


Images by C J Griffiths Photography.

Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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