30 May 2014

Fat Out Fest 2014, Islington Mill, Salford, 25th May 2014

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After missing last year’s festival, I was thrilled to be returning to Fat Out Fest 2014 at the splendid Islington Mill in the post industrial back drop of Salford, Manchester. Alas, I could only attend the Sunday, hence missing such treats as Terminal Cheesecake and Melt Banana, but even just the Sunday will mark the event as one of my years highlights.

The event, organised primarily by two ladies of impeccable taste, Verity and Emma, is spread over the full 5 floors of the mill, with the main Fat Out Til You Pass Out curated stage held in the club space on the ground floor. On the first floor was The Yoga Room stage curated by Tombed Visions and finally, all the way up 5 flights of stairs was a large industrial space that played host to the 4 hour improvised jam that was “The Eternal Return Arkestra of Gizeh”.

DSC_0157~2So, between three stages, band interviews and a slot at the aforementioned 5th floor event, this blind reporter was spread pretty thinly! Nonetheless, I endeavored to cover as much ground as I could and I was glad I did.
The days varied sound palate kicked of for me in the Fat Out club space with the splendidly raucous Suttey and the End of the Worlds. This bunch from Milton Keynes were a great way to kick start the day, with menace and swagger and a too cool for school delivery of some noisy rock and roll with an overall impact that conjures up visions of an angry Bad Seeds doing rocked up versions of Swans songs. Most pleasing.

DSC_0160~2Next I caught the intimate set performed by Finland’s Lau Nau. One woman, one guitar, a plethora of bells, whistles and other gadgets and a well utilised looping pedal. She set about charming the audience with her ‘quieter’ songs, charming, beautiful and fragile songs, with some witty banter between songs (“this song is about a love story between a man and a horse, the man loved the horse, not sure about the horse though”). Perfect Sunday afternoon music and an example of the varied artists put on by the Fat Out crew.

Nadja were one of the bands I particularly wanted to see as I have followed them for a number of years. I had the opportunity earlier in the day to interview the Canadian husband and wife team (look elsewhere on the website for details of when this will be broadcast) and I was keen to see what this likeable couple would deliver on stage. In contrast to Lau Nau, Nadja are about volume and sonic density. Extensive pedal boardsDSC_0162~2 warp the guitar and bass assault in awesome ways while the players weave their four and six string tapestry in front of their audience. Delightfully heavy and engaging. Sadly I did not see their full set as it was time for me to climb the stairs to the fifth floor to prepare to play my part in “The Eternal Return Arkestra of Gizeh”.

The artists that dwell on Gizeh records are no stranger to the Dark 3rd show on Midlands Metalheads Radio, so it was a pleasure to meet the man behind the label and behind the concept of this 4hr improvised jam. The four hours were led by a particular artist, starting with Horrid, then Charles Hayward, Farewell Poetry and finally Nadja. The fifth floor was a warehouse like expanse of drum kits, guitar and bass set ups, work tops full of synths and other sonic devices, ipads and numerous other noise sources. I found myself at station 13, lucky for some, with my trusty novadrone, gristler, demantra and transcendence machines. And then the improvisation began, gently, before building to a slow brooding cacophony that despite the complexity of the set up (quadraphonic sound!) and variety of players, worked! I overstayed my welcome, staying well into hour two of the improvisation that was perhaps more restrained than the first hour that was bludgeoned home by the bag headed Horrid. It was therefore time for me to head back down to the ground floor to catch up on the Fat Out action.

Sadly, my noisy contribution upstairs meant that I had missed Farewell Poetry, but I did make it in time to see the closing few pieces of the set by Gum Takes Tooth. This duo who hail from Hackney, are no lightweight proposition. They are properly noisy, fat and dirty synth noises battling with raucous percussion capped off with a variety of mad cap vocal effects. The result was imposing, impressive and somewhat infectious.

Next up were an act that very pleasantly surprised me. Mike O’Neill isn’t a name that immediately rang any bells though research informed me that he has been involved with the mighty Gnod. Mike O’Neill and Dwellings unleashed song after song of huge beats, menacing synth basslines, noises and caustically delivered spoken vocals that strangely struck me as a hip hop Mark E Smith. An unexpected and exciting highlight to my day.

DSC_0164~2At this point I drifted (read climbed) back up to the 5th floor to see how the 4 hour improve performance was unfolding. Aidan Baker of Nadja had magically had his pedal board transferred five floors up and was leading proceedings, accompanied by further guitarists, at least two drummers, some woodwind and brass plus other contributions from bowed saws and other metal objects. It was a more restrained end than beginning to Gizeh’s experiment, but still worthwhile.

Last on the bill in the Fat Out curated club space today were Cut Hands, the project led by William Bennett, perhaps better known for his Whitehouse project and pretty much inventing the power noise genre. Cut hands sees Bennett transferring the relentless intensity of Whitehouse to a harsh tribal dance floor experience. It is minimal, but not in any way shape or form that can be ignored, bodies are commanded to be moved. There may not be much to look at in comparison to the commanding stage presence of some of the earlier acts but the crowd lapped it up in euphoric style and it all happily seems a fitting end to Fat Out Fest 20014.

Bravo girls, come back in 2015 please.