Intense (No Tents) – Loop Festival 2009 and my body dichotomy (Somewhat)

So, it’s been a while. But lets not linger any longer, for there is business to attend to and I am stealing someone’s wires to send this out.

When I sat down, I wanted to write a review two acts that got me most wrapped up at the Loop Festival, held in the centre of Brighton this weekend. I’m doing that, but that’s not all.

Because I want to talk about my body.

Nothing new here then. Let’s start with the bands shall we.

Chronologically, we begin with Fever Ray, who headlined the second stage on the first night. They had lasers.

Fever Ray at the Corn Exchange, by EdwardFilm reproduced under a creative commons license.

I’ve never been enthralled by lasers before (though as a bit of a geek, I probably should have been at some point). But these had a magic in them. Well, that’s an exaggeration, there was just lots of incesnse pouring out of the stage and running through the lasers into the smoke, creating a slice of intricate chaotic patterns above us all as the band took to the stage.

Lets flip back a little. I hadn’t heard any Fever Ray before this evening, but it is essentially the solo project of one half of the Knife, famous for doing the filthy electro original of that wanky Jose Gonzales song that played in every trendy shop about two years ago…on loop…all the fucking time.

The original‘s better (and is forever wrapped up for me with Anders Loves Maria, where a particular sex scene takes place with the music in the background. I found a copy just so I could understand what Eggstorm was on about, and it was worth it).

Big fat anyway.

The point is that the band were shrouded in darkness, and the titular Ray of Fever, had the most terrifying mask on (well, I thought so), it was dark that you just got the silhouette of a huge mass of dreadlocks pouring out of the top of a ragged cape.

Back to the lasers.

Basically, the lasers were dangling just over the top of our heads, so near the front (where we were) the slice of smoke became a ceiling, and I suddenly felt as if I was in the living room of that terrifying ogre that lives around the back of the diner in Mullholland Drive.

It was somewhat intimidating. And it (possibly along with the heroic/foolish quantities of alcohol consumed) entirely overwhelmed me. I was wrapped up in the pulsing thick simplicity of the bass and drum being torn and lashed into by shrill piercing vocals.

It was quite good.

My companions for the evening seemed genuinely worried for me though.

And this is because of the effect to my body. I was rooted to the floor, unable to talk or communicate through anything apart from desparate, pained eyes, and subhuman grunts.

I’m not actually exagerating. I couldn’t control my movements apart from a kind of throbbing pulsing sensation, rhythmically tied to the music.

Now, dancing is a strange thing. I can’t get my head round it sometimes, but I love it. But why do we do it? Am I performing something? Or expressing something? Does my mind try to transfer the emotional intensity of the music into some kind of physical gesture, or do I just like moving in a vaguely out of control (but rhythmic) fashion?

Why do we do it, where does this need to express through movement come from?

For me, at the msot extreme times, it is rooted in the perineum and the pubis mons, and it feels like it surges outwards. The only way to exorcise this almost cramping building of tension is to flex and stretch and move.

I often bite.

Now, this is still married to when I hear something and I whoop and holler and then fling my arms and legs in time to the beat, but it is more. It seems more personal, because I am bursting, but I can’t express the feeling. I always try and I often fail (probably much like this here writing business, which again seems useless, almost more so because it attempts to in such a less subtle way, at least dancing keeps the abstract and immaterial from becoming too concrete and so trite…but that’s probably another story).

Anyway. That’s how I felt. Overwhelmed and ripped apart.

It was good. Though I suspect without being wrapped up in it and at the front then the music itself wasn’t strong enough. It was more about the phsyical and emotional experience that was built around you.

The next day, I got the same overwhelmed, but it was the exact opposite.

Múm were an utter joy to witness.

Múm at the Corn Exchange, by Prusakolep reproduced under a creati ve commons license

Here was a band with an utter lack of pretension, without even a sense that they were putting on a performance, so much as simply enjoying sharing their music.

The thing that stood out was the band looked at each other with genuine affection. They bounced and sang and laughed and chatted with each other, and infected the audience with a similar charm.

And that intensity overcame me again. The band did not play the sort of music I expected, instead of dark electronic atmospherics (with an uplifiting and inspiring edge) you had raucous, playful delightful romps. You had bird song recorders and childlike singing and roars of excitement. The vocal performances were outstanding, with a full range put to great use and intriguing use of harmonies. All wrapped with perfect drum and bass breaks and keyboard trills and everything else you can imagine. Instruments were thrown around stage so that everybody could join in, and, without that much inter song banter, the band seemed to welcome the audience into what genuinely felt like a family like environment. This band appear to genuinely love playing together, and love each other as close friends do.

If that’s all an act, then it’s an impressive one.

They topped off the set by singing the title track of an upcoming album ‘Sing along to songs you don’t know’, and encouraged the audience to do exactly that.

The song turned out to be about how much they loved the audience and wanted to take them home with them.

It was a sentiment exactly paralelled by something said by one of my companions.

And the affect on me?

Screaming and yelling and howling and bouncing and flinging and swinging and everything else imagine. I couldn’t stop moving. This positive energy oozed outwards and filled me with childlike glee. A regression back to simply loving being alive and the wonder.

To put it simply, it was the exact opposite of the rooted and internalised emotion I felt the night before during Fever Ray.

But it was the same. It was the same overwhelming energy passing through my body. The same building feeling reaching out from my sacral and basal chakras (if you want to get all hippy about it, rather than the clinical assessment already mentioned). And throwing my body around. Dominating everything that I feel.

Cackling with glee and squealing with delight, I am overwhelmed again.

——————

It’s incredible to me that two entirely different bands can do this to me. It feels as if these two groups of strangers reached into me and pulled something out, not to hurt or damage me, but to get me to show it to the world. To pour it out. Let it see the light of day.

I love self expression, though I worry that the extent to which I do it is egotistical and self obsessed.

But there’s a magic in the way the strands of performance, emotion, rhythm, environment and body plait together to create a (dare I say it) almost divine experience. A deeper contact with self, and a deeper expression of what you connect to.

Maybe I’m just an old romantic, but it delights me endlessly, even as I’m afraid of it.

—————–

Just to wrap up, for those still with us, my other big recommendation from Loop would be Portico Quartet, but we know that already. Judging by the proximity to tears on the second hearing of their forthcoming track LifeMask I’d say the new album is going to split my spirit in twain and glue it together in a more appealing shape.

I was annoyed by the number of only slightly more interesting that the middle of the road guitar bands present, but the pick of that particular crop was Plugs (though they are friends of mine, so I probably would say that), despite some technical problems (I couldn’t hear the drums very clearly, to the extent that I told the rather surly soundman who ignored me).

My favourite new discovery were Win Prizes, who sailed through my hangover with panache despite having a dreadful name.

Oh, and Mira Calix was absolutely incredible if you can handle that kind of abstract weirdness. I could, and I did, and it was incredible.

So it was a good weekend.

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