So… what actually happened at Why Rush?
We asked Rachel Elderkin – dancer, performer and new graduate in English Literature & Greek Civilisation to keep a three day record….
See http://www.flickr.com/photos/sicliff/sets/72157629722264728/with/7218118632/ under “why rush?” for full set of event photos.
SLIM PRO 6:
A man who hears music in frying bacon? A piano’s last request to “give joy once more”? Definitely an act to get your mind sizzling…
While the bacon was absent from this performance it was a fact that made me intrigued to see what Slim Pro 6 and The Bobettes would get up to with their much anticipated ‘piano drop’. There seems a certain sadness in destroying a piano, let alone three, even if in the name of art. Seeing it before the ‘drop’ and knowing its doom, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the loss of a beautiful instrument. Yet as Andy, the man behind this destruction told me, these are rescue pianos, saved from the piano graveyard and eager, in their last act, to go out with a bang – or a crashing jangle.
Over the three nights of the festival three pianos were dropped. The winching of the chain created an ominous bass for their final act, accompanied by the discordant, yet complimentary sounds of the Bobettes, who were joined by the Laura Call Ensemble on Saturday night and taken over by Urban Explosion for Sunday’s final drop. Friday and Saturday became a bit of a jamming sesh, the band building as the piano rose and then pausing before it fell… all of one inch with a light jangle. So the piano was to be dropped in stages! I admit I had visions of it being winched to the top and brought crashing to the ground. However, Andy is all for creating a spectacle, showing that music can be something entertaining to watch as well as hear, that it can be an art which appeals to more than one sense, including smell (while the bacon is absent some burning rosemary will do).
Three nights of music, spectacle and an amusing suspense ensued. A man with a cardboard dog’s head, (which, I am told, is a tribute to the legendary Bob after whom the Bobettes are named), a wooden sword and some questionable measurements, made the suspense rather less serious as he informed the audience that the piano would drop six times, from increasing heights.
Andy wished to explore the different sounds created at each stage of the drop, so each time, different from the last, was caught on microphones hidden within the old piano. Both Friday and Saturday the lively and discordant bands were on hand to wish the piano farewell and to compliment its final notes. However, Urban Exploration’s set on Sunday’s final drop was the highlight for me. Capturing the sounds created at each stage these were played back and created into a piece that gave the sounds of a dying piano a new life of its own. Usually losing its keys midway, the piano would ascend to the final drop without them – a head popping out at the top of the loading bay to cut the cord was a rather comical final moment. Unsurprisingly this was never going to be an act to die quietly. The final drop created an impressive, (and on the final night unscheduled) crash. The lingering chords resonating from the piano’s shattered wreck – this was the music Andy had been waiting for.
MY POLAR DISORDER: The question of the pole dancing mouse…
We know it shouldn’t be but a pole dancing mouse is strangely sexy…
At least most of the audience, particularly the male members, seemed enthusiastic about this performance, which, considering this mouse consists of Mickey’s head on a woman’s body, may raise a few questions…
A pole dancing mouse is hardly an image that easily comes to mind, yet for creator Anna Frisch this is exactly how the act was born. The strange contrast between the body of an undeniably sexy pole-dancer and Mickey’s head is at once amusing and disturbing, but primarily entertaining, this ‘genderless’ mouse apparently appealing to all. Backed by two moody male guitarists and an intoxicating bass beat, we are transported to a dimly lit world of sex, sleaze and the ridiculous – an addictive mixture! So is the mouse likely to further develop her/his pole dancing career? Speaking to some of the audience it seems agreed that there is a ‘space on the shelf’ for this new genre of pole dancing. So with the Disney illusion decidedly destroyed, I’ll keep an eye out around Leeds for the first ‘shuttle bus’ ready to whisk you and your wobbly legs off, as you stumble out the bar on a Saturday night, to a strip club renowned for pole dancing mice…
No score, 15 musicians – each doing his own thing – and no rehearsal?! A plastic trombone and a vuvuzela? Surely that’s a recipe for chaos!
Yet as a band member explained, chaos does not have to be negative. From amongst a cacophony of sounds you may create a moment that can’t be recreated, the ‘chaos’ only heightens its beauty. However, the Jericho Orchestra can hardly be accurately described as ‘chaotic’ – the music created by each performer somehow works beautifully together. In the acoustics of the Loading Bay you are surrounded by the music. Partly due to the darkness, my sense of sound seemed heightened and with the floating tones of the trombone (yes, plastic) and sax, the first time I heard this group perform it was a beautiful, calming experience. There is an undeniable mix of melodies, and I felt each musician was creating something individual, which somehow worked perfectly together.
This was in fact exactly what they were doing. The slide projections on the wall, which cast a coloured light over the bay, became the replacement for a musical score. Yet these are not in themselves a score – each musician sees something different in the visions. Pete the man in charge of the projections, effectively takes the place of conductor, yet in this band of contradictions the conductor is absent – as each individual does what they feel inspired to a conductor becomes unnecessary. If we want to get political Peter describes this as a model for how individuals can come together and still create something in the absence of a leader. So while the visuals lead the performance, these are simply a stimuli, not a definitive. In the Jericho Orchestra it is the instruments which seem to do the talking.
The second night I heard this group perform, the piece created was indeed different from the first. There were some additions to the band –Adam’s table of prepared strings and found objects, Chris on sitar player, plus an impromptu percussive section by Keisuke on the Loading Bay’s metal ramp. This probably helped create an entirely different sound, one a little more ‘electronic’ and decidedly more discordant than the previous night. Again, each musician did as he felt inspired to, yet it is apparent they all interact with each other. As the slides ended it seemed the band didn’t wish to, and there ensued a battle to have the last word, or sound, for the evening. I think a cheeky bash from the drummer pipped Adam’s table to the post. While passionate and serious about what they do the Jericho Orchestra are a group that clearly has some fun.
IL PIXEL ROSSO:
Farouk clowns, cars and funny smells… the most mixed up ride of your life!
I wasn’t quite prepared for the amazing experience that is Il Pixel Rosso’s ‘And the Birds Fell From the Sky’. An immersive experience involving video goggles, headphones and various props, it puts the audience member at the centre of the performance, taking you on a joy-ride, placing you in a different world…
Having heard stories of clowns and other ominous rumours I felt a bit on edge as my com[anion and I were led to our ‘waiting’ room – the ‘missing’ posters lining the wall above our heads did little to make me feel at home. Soon the video goggles and headphones arrived and as the outside world was shut off a whole new one began to unravel before us. Having lost control of your own senses, you are left at the mercy of those assisting you, the only way forward – to follow the instructions… unwilling to stretch out your hand and take that letter, but simultaneously compelled to do so.
There is a freedom, undeniably a daunting one, in giving control over to another for fifteen minutes. However, in return you are given a whole new sensory experience where sight, sound and smells are replaced with ones pre-determined. It is a crazy, mixed-up, nightmarish world and I can’t quite comprehend the story, but that only adds to the whole enthralling and undeniably surreal encounter. Unknown things brush your legs, you do not know what will happen and you cannot escape – its time to sit back and enjoy the strangest ride of your life! Water drips on you, the feathers of birds brush your cheeks, clowns produce marmite farts… As the experience reaches an end I surrender my letter and once more I do not want to put out my hand as I see what is taken out of the envelope – I feel it in my palm, cringing. As you remove your goggles and headphones you are simply alone with the person you went in with; it is an empty room, the video world has vanished. Perplexed and amazed you return to the world of your reality…
What impressed me most was how easy it felt to believe in this unique world in which you are entered, to dismiss reality. The eyes see, the brain believes and with the addition of these sensory elements you are completely absorbed into another world. Seeing it work from the outside, I was amazed how something so simplistic can become something completely different once you are immersed in the experience. I am told the creators think as the audience and this is apparent in the little touches that help you to interact with the film, which transform the world you began in. In a show where the audience become the performance people’s reactions undoubtedly help make this experience what it is. It is these small touches, the interactive nature, the smells, the physical elements and the quality of the film itself, which for those who took part, made this performance special. An undeniably clever and engaging experience, this is something that remains with you long after you have left it. In ‘And the Birds Fell From the Sky’ Il Pixel Rosso have created a fascinatingly confused reality, a haunting, exciting and immaculately executed experience.
“Do you find me formidable? Yes”.
In a small corner of the Painter’s Bar Carrieanne Vivianette’s monologue-style performance was inescapable. Even without these occasional moments of rhetorical questioning it felt as if she was directly connecting with you, a quality that pulled the audience into her performance.
Exploring the relation between the mind, body and mouth, through a text she wrote – about a head caught sight of through some smog – Carrieanne speaks her thoughts which are then taken up in the movements of her body. The image of the head would keep returning, yet she moves away from this, following ideas and gestures that are unexpected and amusing, sometimes even surprising her self. At times she recognises a need to bring herself back to a previous idea or to the text and in the performance I saw this became the image of the head. This back-tracking; a stuttering stop, a sudden focus on one word or syllable, adds another dynamic to her performance. Her piece becomes unexpected, you don’t know which way it will turn next and it seems Carrieanne doesn’t quite know either – “I’m not really fluent am I? Do I take it seriously?” She has an ability to come out of her thoughts, to mock herself and her performance process, to make the audience laugh, yet her intense focus is never broken. Before you realise it Carrieanne back in a continual flow of ideas and dialogue, one moment on a chair, the next following a circle around the stone floor, another picking up a saw – an undeniable threat to the head. These are the elements that make her performance exciting, a fascinating insight into the inner self, into the imagination of Carrieanne Vivianette.
What impressed me most was Carrieanne’s ability to let go. While she claims she is not doing anything anyone else couldn’t do, I know that I for one could not create such a performance! Her continual flow of words, one long strand of speech perfectly enunciated, is incredible and wonderfully conveys how the mind can catch at ideas and work with these. It seems that each performance Carrieanne takes herself on an unknown journey and it is enthralling to be taken on this journey with her.
A story of survival, an understanding of your body in the landscape and the landscape in your body…
Rachel Sweeney’s performance is inspired by ‘Into the Wild’, the story of Christopher McCandless’s travels across North America. Rachel is interested in such stories of men charting the wilderness, of survival and of coping with isolation, of measurement and mapping.
This is conveyed in her performance – outside she measures her space through movement, bird seed and ropes, creating a grid to map or charter a rather windy car-park at Templeworks. The objects in this piece have as much presence as the performer, the ropes, bucket, stones, survival blanket and map become an integral part of the performance – at times Rachel simply becomes a presence moving these inanimate objects. With a rope she connects members of the audience, marking out the space. This is a task achieved blindfolded, another way of isolating the self, and of letting the objects have a presence. The bucket of bird seed ends up on her head, her voice echoing out from the depths, words that become names off the map – the area which Christopher McCandless explored. Mouthfuls of bird seed and naturalistic movement make up a performance that is intriguing and unique.
The piece is a way of engaging with the landscape through the senses. By removing the sight we hear and feel more, we begin to understand our bodies differently. Rachel’s workshop explored the basics of these ideas, trying varying ways of seeing the body in the landscape, of using the senses and of measuring space. It provided an interesting and distinctive approach to comprehending the landscape around us. In Rachel’s performance, through mapping a space through movement and through objects evocative of Christopher McCandless’s expedition, an audience may begin to forget the windy car park and start to see and engage with their surroundings in a unique way.
After all, isn’t a crowd simply the “sum of solitude?”
A sound artist, writer and performer, Melanie Wilson, through the invented customs of North Devon and the ties of kinship, creates a narrative which unites two time zones, highlighting the invisible threads that connect through history.
Close to her audience Melanie’s soft, relaxing voice invites you to sit back and listen to this story that will emerge through an association between words, sound and image. It is an intimate performance which easily engages with her audience. I think we were all taken into the story of how two women can connect across time and space – through following in the footsteps of their matrilineal line or even by a thought or gaze which penetrates across the miles. Like these thoughts her story is a breath on the wind. Melanie’s narrative prose has a flowing, poetic feel, a sense of beauty in the descriptive words. Her piece is an exploration of solitude, of using this to recognise a deeper understanding of the self. This is often explored through the body’s connection with the landscape, a connection enhanced by video and sound; a collection of wild, desolate, but beautifully captivating images and tracks.
This performance entrancingly challenged today’s conceptions of solitude, suggesting that it should not be seen simply as loneliness but as something to cherish and embrace, a chance to learn how to listen to the self minutely. The half hour of Melanie’s performance provided a breath of quiet amongst the noise and liveliness of the festival. Beautifully written and presented, relaxing and thought provoking – may we all open our eyes to the world around us.
A fast talking, alcoholically–influenced and amusingly unpredictable act…
Monologue style, Matt Allen (the ‘front-man’ of the Skeleton Project) conveys his thoughts and feelings on the mundane and depressive state of everyday life. Throughout his act we are waiting for it to begin – but it never really does. Rather this monologue-that-isn’t-a-monologue is a deconstruction of the act we expect to see, an exploration of the way he works as a performer. The piece is unpredictable, never the same twice – at moments scripted, at others following his thoughts and the whims of the imagination. Amid bursts of song, comedy, confidence and ‘nervousness’, Matt plays off the audience creating a piece at once engaging and awkward. We are uncertain when it will end and it seems these performers are too – with performances ranging from twenty minutes to twenty-four hours the piece changes and develops as it is performed. Matt’s alter-ego, Anton Krasauskas, (completing the Skeleton Project) is a shadowing figure in the first performance I see. His role seems to emphasise an underlying feeling of isolation, an isolation of the self. Together, this act alludes to a destructive personality, one continually seeking a moment of intense emotion, the desire to lift a blindfold off life. Unpredictable and at times uncomfortable this piece gives an insight into the façade of acting and into the perplexing stream of Matt’s own consciousness. Comical and thought provoking it is a watchable act, never twice the same.
Electronics, bass, drums and primal screams…
Being more comfortable at the chilled-out end of the music spectrum, watching Sloth Hammer provided me with a quick initiation into an experience that can safely be seen as the other extreme. Loud enough to shake your bones this darkly dramatic group immersed us in sound from an electronic deck occupied by stripped-down Furbies and teapots, crashing cymbals, bass guitar and primeval sounding screams. They made the space their own – cymbals can be moved amongst audience members and they were not going to let anyone escape easily. Underneath their hangman’s hoods, balaclavas and masks this group seemed passionate and energetic and admittedly I rather enjoyed this unexpected experience from an act that ensured the end of Temple.Work.Leeds’ weekend-long festival was far from quiet.
As vocalist Ezekial Bordello informs his audience, from being “a small girl in Japan” to performing a “dream” spot here at TempleWorks.Leeds, the Shanghai Syncopaters aim to take us back to an era before music went ‘wrong’… (aka pre-1956)
From jazz to rag to blues, amid an impressive selection of horns and hooters this quirky and charismatic band was incredibly lively and entertaining. Despite tech issues and misbehaving guitars (not to mention the singer) these mishaps rather added to the endearingly comical nature of this group, made up of vocalist and hooter extraordinaire, Ezekial, guitarist Pinky Camber and ukulele player Lotus Dubois; not forgetting a myriad of horns and hooters – each of which seemed to have a personality and rather unconventional name of its own. With a great selection of songs the Shanghai Syncopaters offer something a bit different, entertaining and easy to listen to. Ezekial’s little dances evoked a bygone era and were an entertaining addition to this acts eccentricity, if not the highlight. Where this band is concerned, engaging with your audience takes on a whole other meaning. When I sat down I did not expect to later become part of a 3-woman (plus one unfortunate man) bench on which Ezekial casually reclined while ‘serenading’ us. There’s nothing like creating an intimacy with your audience members, and this was not reserved exclusively for us females! I did have a slight fear that the rest of the set would be conducted lying down but the requirement for a change of horn became our saving grace. Eccentric, amusing, forgetful and purposefully(?) shambolic, the set was held together by the band’s female member, Lotus – aka prompter for lyrics, set list and type of hooter. With a refreshing honesty – from not liking the song, to getting the wrong one or simply forgetting a large proportion of the lyrics – Ezekial is not adverse to pointing this out. Charmingly sarcastic we were invited to watch one man’s struggle with sincerity, his attempted combat of which achieved a new comic level. This is not to say Ezekial could not be sincere when he wasn’t trying… The last song, a Jewish folksong was an act in itself. Chilled out and [unintentionally?] comical, this band definitely keeps you on your toes and they undoubtedly brightened my day.
Playing with dolls adopts a whole new meaning…
This group took on a concept that I found horrifying, creating an act that was eerie, macabre and strange to say the least. Based on the true account of a Russian grave robber it was a story that unnerved me and an act I felt uncertain about watching. My imagination had perhaps built this piece up as scarier than it turned out to be. I found it quite slow at times but for the members of the audience it proved a sinister enthrallment. A very naturalistic performance this element made the piece more unnerving, from the incredible stillness of the doll-like ‘corpses’ to the literal dragging in of a bagged body. Playing with dolls is taken to the extreme here. The scenes of feeding, make up and hairdressing were particularly unsettling, Ivel Goverda, (otherwise known as Evelina) the creator of the piece, making a highly macabre ‘puppeteer’. However, there were somewhat lighter moments – Evelina giving the doll a mirror to admire her new ‘look’ in added, for me, a somewhat comic element to this corpse make-over show. Evelina created a highly introspective character, undoubtedly befitting of the persona she wished to portray, yet for me this at times prevented a little engagement with the audience. The truth of what this piece conveyed was only revealed at the end, and the fact that I knew the story perhaps spoilt the effect of this ‘sting’ in the tail. Speaking to audience members this was, for some, the element that made the piece all the more horrifying. On the whole it was an unsettling and disturbing portrayal of a, frankly, terrifying story, one particularly suited to the dark and dusty interior of the Painter’s Bar.
BANDS: (SHORT REVIEWS!)
There was a variety of musical acts which graced Templeworks over the weekend ranging from folk to electric, from opera to a hurdy gurdy player…
The first band I saw were the inspirationally named Institute of Stone Age Sex, made up of cellists Briony and Simon and vocalists Phil and Laura. on the accordion and a wonderful harmonium. With songs both ethereal and haunting or jarring and discordant, this group offered their own interpretations of old folk songs and tales, middle-english lyrics, and medieval legends. There was a take on the folk song King Orfeo, based on the medieval legend Sir Orfeo, with a few moments of Old Icelandic and Middle English thrown in. It is music that would not be unsuitable carried on the wind across the moors, or heard amongst the trees in a wood. An introspective performance at times, this was a band that engaged with something within themselves and kicked off a weekend with a difference.
JENNY KOSMOSKY stood out as a talented operatic singer, her set evoking an earthy, “arabesque” feel. Although not confident, or indeed good enough, a singer to attend her workshop I heard great things about it!
Amongst a range of electronic artists URBAN EXPLORATION were a cut above the rest. Creating a set of, at times, deafening sound, these immersed you in layers of electronic music the construction of which I cannot even begin to comprehend. Their set with Slim Pro 6 on the last day of the festival made for the most evocative ‘piano drop’ of the weekend.
Other acts included BROWN AND BENBOW, pushing an electroacoustic sound under the guise of foil hats and paper bags. TEMPLE PRIESTS also offered a hard-hitting alternative sound of vocals, guitar and electronica, their set accompanied by Rory on his hurdy gurdy. For me, RORY AND HIS HURDY GURDY added another dimension to their performance, and considering this was the first time they had played together it was incredible how well this medieval instrument fitted amongst the bass guitars and screaming of the Temple Priests. Rory’s sound is old, enchanting, melodic, yet he keeps his set lively and entrancingly watchable. Rory was one of the much enjoyed acts of the weekend.