The Broadway cinema
As naff as the phrase sounds, in spite of myself I cannot help but label Sam Potter the Maverick of the Midlands. With Late of the Pier and Swimming he has proved his role as one of the areas most important musical figures, but his latest venture really pushes the boundaries. “Blackout”Â is a sensory music experience in which music is played to the audience completely in darkness in order for them to feel every subtle aspect of the music. So, without giving to much away, what should people about to attend a Blackout gig except?
The potential, obvious perils of gig darkness were quickly revealed when, within the first five minutes of the gig, I managed to throw my own drink over myself. This was no distraction, however, from the introduction to the gig, partly a description of syneasthesia, an important element of these gigs. Having long believed that this is a condition I myself have, this promised to be interesting”Â¦
I asked Sam before the gig what kinds of music we could expect to hear. He explained how he had chosen to use nothing but unknown material, so unreleased pieces of music blended with a heavy selection of pieces from Nottingham bands. Nottingham, my vibrant, interesting city is often denied any sense of musical identity, so the localism added to the intimacy.
The thing I didn’t expect so much was how the music appeared to have been chosen for its potential discomfort factor; winding post-industrial soundscapes closing in on the participant as if to literally trap them within the sounds. But whilst the intention is to reinforce the subtleties of sounds, it works in other ways to; like a musical psychoanalysis.
Music and psychoanalysis aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The important analyst Kristeva, trained under the great Roland Barthes, gets her patients to sing because of the semiotics of musics symbolic language being potentially revealing. And this is certainly something which is gained from the Blackout experience; I heard people leaving talking about floods of memories which they had previously forgotten being unlocked by the music, particularly striking considering the previously-unheard status of the music in question. Feedback given to Potter afterwards also included somebody saying that “their mind had wandered to things like calling their mother.”Â How fantastically Freudian! I myself felt returning to an overwhelming sense of blue and green emerging through the darkness, but I imagine this experience will be different for everybody.
Blackout, then, achieves all of Sam’s aims and more. Soon, he will upgrade the project even further by having all the music played by live bands. With the heightening of senses that live music creates anyway, this will be an interesting development to what is already an exciting, eye-opening (ear opening?) project. Within a small venue like the wonderful Broadway cinema, the ambition of this is not confined, but instead set free to fly. If you have an opportunity to go to the Blackout gigs do ”â and let go of any expectations which you might already have. Sam Potter doesn’t do predictable.