Richard DawsonPhoto of Richard Dawson © Martin Ward

Supersonic Festival 2015

Boxxed, Birmingham

14th June 2015

The last day of the Supersonic Festival 2015 is a quieter, more intimate affair in a single venue and with the bright sunshine shining through the skylights it feels fresh and alive. The crowd is subdued as Louder Than War’s Adrian Bloxham and Martin Ward watch the perfect end to the best festival of 2015.

The light, airy Boxxed room is full of seats and cushions with the crowd sitting silently. We only see three bands today, sadly, due to catastrophic traveling and sick toddlers … I don’t need to elaborate I’m sure. The day is curated by Richard Dawson and it reflects his podcast Delight is Right. We catch three performances as the day is constrained by bad travel decisions and sick toddlers.

We arrive as Angharad Davies is teasing fantastic sounds from her violin. The rumbling squeaks and odd noises make you wonder how the hell it’s tuned. The static hum that crackles around the performance makes you wonder if that is a sample or whether it’s being made by the bow, and when it fades away you are left with a sense of wonder at the creation of the music.

Richard Dawson is a bearded figure, alone on stage. He is grumpy looking and when he talks has a deep Tyneside accent. He belays this appearance with the humour in his music. He plays folk music which sounds rich and timeless. The folk is interrupted by segments of him playing the guitar like a madman, headbanging and shredding like a rock god. But this is him alone with no accompaniment at all. At one point he is kneeling in front of the amp teasing huge wails of feedback across the room that he segues into finger picking that leads to a gentle rhythm and then more metallic soloing. It’s hard to keep up without losing it completely and you find yourself grinning as you watch. All the while there is a beat going in his and your head that is never lost.

He then regales us with a story about his cats, one of which appears to be an electric eel and another a dvd player. The next song has him stamping his feet for percussion, singing in a low voice he gives us a horror story set to song. Amazingly, Richard Dawson projects more with his voice, guitar and feet than some bands can with a myriad of instruments.

‘This is an old old song with newish words’ he says, when he gets his breath back, before strumming his guitar and singing with a soft delicate refrain. It’s a quietly lovely love song, ‘Hold me. Hold me and never let me go.’ This goes into a song with a low vocal, the background a harder strummed dark folk tune. There is a hint of distortion on the guitar that matches the tunes feel. He intersperses the song with moments of frantic loudness. It’s as if you know where the sound is going so it changes just to fool you. ‘Joe the Quiltmaker’ is sung only with no backing on the guitar. Richard’s voice moves up and down in an English folk style but it’s too high in places so we almost lose it. The rise and fall of his voice keeps you listening until the end.

The last act that we see is Rhodri Davies, a harpist and electronic musician. He goes from frantic amplifies plucking to a distorted groove that echoes Hendrix at his most frantic. The sound is circular and keeps coming back on itself. The fact that this is one man playing a harp making this insane noise is outstanding.

Then, we must leave. Another wonderful, noisy, compelling weekend with the Supersonic Festival. I have, as ever, come away with a list of music to hunt out, find out more about and listen to over and over again that I simply wouldn’t know about without this festival. Roll on next year and I hope you will join me.

~

Supersonic Festival can be found on the interwebs here: supersonicfestival.com, you can find information on all the bands reviewed on their lineup page. They are also on Facebook and Tweet as @supersonicfest.

All words by Adrian Bloxham. More writing by Adrian can be found at his author’s archiveAll pictures by Martin Ward.

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