Supersonic is an annual two day festival held at the awesome Custard Factory in Birmingham. Organised by ace local promoters Capsule, its line-up favours the loud, the noisy, the experimental and the slightly odd. This year's was looking exceptionally good with Sunn 0))), Mogwai, Om and Qui headlining so the diskant massive decided to head over for some fun. With a lovely day of sunshine on the Saturday, a laid-back feel and lots of nice touches from the homemade cake stall to the little cinema, it really was the perfect day out. And so we will tell you all about it.
Your Supersonic panel consists of Marceline Smith, Chris Summerlin, Simon Minter, Pascal Ansell, Alex McChesney and Alice Watanabe. Enjoy!
Alex: Pharoah Overlord. For taking all the things that make most heavy metal naff - big hair, bigger riffs, leather, outlandish solos, mic- stand-humping - and doing them better than anyone else. They made me, and much of the crowd, grin from ear to ear, but without the slightest hint of mocking Spinal Tap irony. Plus they have a single- note song that goes DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH, DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH- DUH-DUH for a solid five minutes.
Alice: Pharaoh Overlord because they pummeled and yet I came away humming the main riff from that last song.
Marceline: I am not particularly proud of this but Mogwai. I have seen Mogwai 14 times already. I have never seen Sunn or Om. So who did I choose to see? I am such a loser. I am also a total sap when it comes to Mogwai and they really did play my ideal set - lots from Mr Beast and then the best bits from Rock Action and the early 7"s. I had to stand on a bench at the side to be able to see them but I still got a bit emotional by the end.
Pascal: Jazkamer - Excellent crunchy noise from two handsome Norwegians. Much more savage than SS programme would lead you to believe, and a great surprise because of it. Clunky, low-strung guitar amidst yelps and volcanic roars. Beardy bloke at desk bashes canisters, emitting sparkly rips that burst forth from speakers. A heaving Medicine Bar and a SS highlight for me!
Chris: Qui. Really great band made truly tremendous by adding David Yow. 3rd time I'd seen them and they keep getting better too.
Simon: Pharaoh Overlord: the absolute distillation of the riff. Anybody who enjoys Circle's more pounding, relentless output will find much to enjoy in this, their side project. Long, simplistic, powerful meditations on the power chord. Outstanding.
Sunn 0)))) Mogwai
|Worst/most disappointing band
Alex: Nobody was really "bad" as such, but if I have one complaint it might be that Chrome Hoof didn't quite live up to the promise of their shiny Cylon costumes.
Alice: Shady Bard but not really because they had any fault or where that disappointing but because they didn't stand out in a barrage of NOISE. I want to see them in a quieter surrounding.
Marceline: Zeni Geva for cancelling. Boooo. I think I enjoyed everything else.
Pascal: Too many to mention unfortunately! Rather shocked by how many standard orchestral bands or folky groups that played – nothing special whatsoever.
Chris: I only saw 4 bands all day so I picked things carefully and nothing really disappointed. That said, I thought that people treating Om like they were prophets from above was a little weird. I thought they were pretty good but nothing amazing. I guess I wasn't baked enough.
Simon: Qui, I expect. After Summerlin's excitabl
e buildup of how great they'd be, to me they seemed to be just a guy hanging on to his great past whilst a ramshackle band muck about in the background.
Alex: When our footses started to hurt we ducked into the cinema, and caught at various times some unsettling abstract shorts, a clip of a very very young Sonic Youth playing on Brighton beach (with Harry Potter playing drums, apparently), a depressing documentary about the Palestinian "Boy Scout" movement which teaches kids to become martyrs, and Gibby Haynes off his rocker on LSD. Shit &
Shine's hypnotic tribal rhythms (FIVE drummers!) were a treat, Supersonic regulars The Modified Toy Orchestra were fun as ever, and I enjoyed OM's Krautrocky bass magic, though I thought the effect lessened a bit by his vocals.
Alice: Shit and Shine, Qui, Chrome hoof, Mogwai, Sun O))), Calvados Beam Trio, Miasma & the Carousel of Headless Horses, Modified Toy Orchestra.
Marceline: I didn't really 'see' that many but I did hear quite a few. Shit & Shine and Modified Toy Orchestra both sounded fun (in completely opposite ways) from our bench in the sunny courtyard, Pharoah Overlord were good heavy rawk and Chrome Hoof were a good laugh. Was also nice to see a bit of Calvados Beam Trio who took me right back to those good old post rock days.
Pascal: Migrant – Interesting but not entirely compelling soundscapes. Typical dull laptop performance (if you can call it that), definitely requires shut eyes to feel the reverberations of fine free-form subtle nuances.
Mogwai – With Sunn O))) being the main priority, I managed to catch a mainly ‘Happy Songs’ first half of set. Very chilled, great classics set and fantastic atmosphere.
Modified Toy Orchestra – Did well to ward off the undeniable novelty of it all: 5 middle-aged blokes tapping around with retro children’s toys. Cover of Krafterk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’ went down well with the electronic geeks in the audience (me included) - best laugh of SS Sat.
Qui – Brilliant fun! LA three-piece brought the ‘rawk’ wideboy beer-chugging joy with them. Oddly reminding me of a jock Deerhoof!
Shit & Shine – 2 hirsute members of Todd overseeing 6 drummers. 6! All playing slow slow slow Melvins-esqe beat – a great live display. Hypnotic 20 minute drum hooks underpin messy, crunched basslines, but understandably gets a bit dull after the half-hour mark.
Sunn O))) – SS’s climax: a wall of amps awaits Sunn’s 60-minute drone set at one in the morning – what more could you want?? Witch/scarecrow vocalist is genuinely frightening amidst all the dry ice. He has a massive range: employing eerie whispers, shrieks, guttural throat and jugular groans! Pitch black underwater motions, half speed strums – a real theatrical performance. You could say it’s lacking emotion but it abounds in drama. It’s all about the drone!!
Chris: I only saw Shit & Shine, Qui, Om and a bit of Mogwai and a bit of Sunn 0)))
Simon: In order of my enjoyment (greatest first): Shit & Shine; Sunn o))); Mogwai; Chrome Hoof; Calvados Beam Trio; Shady Bard. I did not see anything else.
|How many times did you bump into Julian Cope?
Alex: Four or five, but be always seemed to be on his way somewhere else. I don't think I remember seeing him actually watch a band. Maybe he's avoiding me.
Marceline: About 40. He was just hanging out everywhere. Luckily Simon pointed him out every single time or maybe I might have only seen him 20 times. I've got Julian Cope's autograph somewhere you know.
Pascal: Erm, not once actually! But managed to bump into Oxford gig regulars: Permanent Vacation and Room 237 people which was all jolly good.
Chris: I saw him watching Om and that's about it. Couldn't really miss him. I wish someone had gone up and told him they didn't let Nazis into the festival (German air force cap).
Simon: Almost every time I turned a corner he was there, in his cute little cap. I think he was following me. I did not have the courage/ stupidity to talk to him.
The ubiquitous Julian Cope Chrome Hoof
|Most fun thing you did when you could have been making your ears bleed?
Alex: Other than watching films, just wandering around the Custard Factory is always a fun. It's rapidly becoming one of my favourite venues in the UK.
Alice: Chatted with people that I sadly only manage to catch up with once or twice a year at this sort of event.
Marceline: Sitting in the sun, chatting and trying to soothe my ravaged throat. Also meeting Pascal who bought me cake - yay!
Pascal: Watching the quality Wire worldwide films, also Southern Records history film featuring Big Black and Sonic Youth.
Chris: Chatted to people on the merch stall. I enjoyed that a lot. Also finding out my friend had married David Yow and he just wanted to treat her right was a slightly surreal moment.
Simon: Drinking many beers. Many beers.
Alex: The first Pharoah Overlord album, purchased directly from the bass player. It always gives me a wee glow to buy records from the band, and he seemed genuinely pleased that we liked them.
Alice: I bought nothing as the queue to the merch was too overwhelmi
Marceline: Well, I would have bought a Gringo 10 poster but Chris gave it me for free - thanks Chris! I will be framing it and hanging it on my wall like the adult homeowner I am. I also bought a cheeseburger. It was edible, just.
Chris: A baguette with blue cheese.
Simon: Many beers.
|What else did you do in Birmingham?
Alex: Sheltered from the rain, ate spicy chicken at Nando's, and had a toddle around the nice Botanical Gardens.
Alice: Drove up and down the M42. Directing a hungover person can be quite difficult especially when you live in the East but their inner compass tells them West.
Marceline: What didn't we do? Actually, mostly we ate stuff and shopped and enjoyed our swanky apartment. I also got to tick off another Botanical Gardens from my list. Birmingham's is very lovely but very expensive. The Peace Park was very pretty too.
Pascal: Foolishly didn’t feel the need to pay for a hotel so I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the town centre waiting for train – serves me ri
Chris: Listen to the people I got a lift with talk about nauseatingly depraved sex acts for about an hour in the car.
Simon: Nothing. There were plans to explore and relive my younger days spent record and comic shopping in town, but they were scuppered by bad weather and a bad head.
|Anything else you'd like to say?
Alex: Despite missing out on the first night due to the bad weather, I had a ball at Supersonic 07 and wish the organizers success with future incarnations of the festival, but not so much success that it bloats beyond recognition. Supersonic is just the right size at the moment. It fits the Custard Factory perfectly, and the
quirkiness of the venue and the festival itself complement one another well. The crowd is friendly, the line-up left-field enough to be interesting without disappearing up its own backside, and the food is even pretty decent. Being pressured into paying a "toilet attendant" a pound just to tear off a sheet of tissue paper for you ain't on though.
Alice: I loved the lack of unpleasantness, jostling and plain hassle that so many events have. This was a super pleasant experience all round. Weather included.
Marceline: Sorry for wussing out of Friday night but I had a nasty cold and it was pouring with rain. I felt much better about this when Stuart Braithwaite admitted to doing the same thing. Also, Glasgow noize event organisers please take note - make your events more like Supersonic! You know, with a few bands people have heard of who aren't crazy Japanese noize terrorists and some cake and, oh yes, FUN. Remember fun?
Pascal: Gutted to miss Duracell, nevermind. Lovely day!
Chris: Ross McGivern puked bright orange matter all over himself when Sunn 0))) were playing.
Simon: This was my first Supersonic. I hope it won't be my last. It was a great deal of fun and had the atmosphere of All Tomorrow's Parties before it became the refuge of scenesters and safe line-ups.
You can read more about Supersonic at the Supersonic 2007 Collective Memory blog
and see lots of photos in the Supersonic Flickr group. Yay for modern technology.
Supersonic is, of course, put together by the awesome Capsule who promote many ace gigs in Birmingham.
Band/Cope photos by Alice Watanabe, Custard Factory by Marceline Smith
Article by Marceline Smith