Supersonic Festival returns to Birmingham's Custard Factory for more audio-visual sustenance

By Adam Bambury | 05 September 2012
A photo of a festival at night featuring white tents and people in dark blue and green lights
Supersonic is back in Birmingham for a tenth year© Supersonic
Festival Preview: Supersonic, Custard Factory, Birmingham, October 19-21 2012

Many attendees at this year’s Supersonic Festival will be no strangers to the dark art of record collecting. With a unique line-up of bands that includes everything from techno to heavy metal, the three-day event attracts a diverse crowd ranging from bedroom-dwelling dub obsessives to curious culture vultures, all looking to soak up the alternative atmosphere, art happenings and fine rum cocktails that will again be on offer in Birmingham’s Custard Factory venue.

It’s probably fair to say, however, that even the most jaded music buffs in attendance probably haven’t yet had the chance to witness a radio-controlled truck careen around a huge race course made of disused and warped copies of their beloved records, soundtracked all the while by the raucous squealing of an amped-up stylus that’s been stuck to the bottom of the vehicle.

Such eyebrow-raising thrills are all part of the fun at Vinyl Rally, a large scale interactive installation and “immersive participatory play-set” appearing courtesy of Australian artist Lucas Abela, also known as Justice Yeldham.

It riffs on record collecting, motor sports and even video games: participants get the chance to strap themselves into arcade machine-style racing consoles and control things from a first-person point of view thanks to the 50-inch flat screens and video cameras on the front of the cars.

Those who prefer more cerebral spin to their rock and roll racing will be pleased to find they can modulate the screeching sounds they hear thanks to set of handy audio effects on the dashboard, while the powerful speakers built into the console seats will ensure that drivers can’t help but “feel the vibe” of the aural art they’re creating.

If that all sounds a bit too in your face, more considered art-related experiences are also to be had throughout the festival thanks to a typically boundary-blurring schedule of events that takes in film, discussion and performance among its many offerings.

Noted avant-garde luminaries Penny Rimbaud, Jarboe and Eugene Robinson will be taking to the stage, not for a cacophonous jam session, but for You can be You, a panel discussion centred on the creation of art in challenging times.

All three artists have stayed true to their ideals through long careers at the edge of the alternative scene, and they’ll be revealing what keeps them at the sharp end of culture, the highs and lows of the experimental artist, and whether – after years of performance – they’ll ever stop being so darn creative and just go down the pub on a Friday night instead.

Fellow independent spirit Bruce Lacey, a film pioneer and iconic performance artist who has been ploughing his unique furrow since the 60s, is the subject of a new documentary making up part of the film programme.

Created by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller with Nick Abrahams during three years in the making, The Bruce Lacey Experience delves deep into Lacey’s eclectic CV, which so far includes spells as a painter, sculptor and filmmaker, as well as work with famous names including the Beatles and Fairport Convention.

Further visual sustenance will come courtesy of documentaries about uber-intense rockers Oxbow (also appearing live at the festival) and anarcho-punks Crass, while attendees will also be able to get into the punk-rock spirit and do it themselves thanks to a Super 8 film-making workshop from Imperfect Cinema.

It seems clear that once again the Capsule arts and music organisation have ensured that their autumn festival, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, retains the commitment to outsider creativity in all its forms that has made the event more than just another blip on the crowded UK festival circuit.

And there should be time for audiences to take in a little music over the weekend as well.

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