Noise and art festival Fat Out returned this Easter weekend after three quieter years in a Manchester
Islington Mill looms ominously on the edge of a hill in Salford. A hill that, over this past weekend, was battered with cold winds and rain. It is an important element of Manchester’s nightlife, but is constantly threatened by (allegedly) corrupt developers and crank neighbours. The Mill provides a space for collaborations between artists and musicians who exist outside or on the edge of the mainstream across the broadest range of media imaginable. Rough redbrick walls that witnessed brutal industrial disasters give a fitting accompaniment to sounds that are in many cases perhaps not determined but informed by representing and making sense of the social and psychic influence of postindustrial Britain.
Fat Out Fest has been curated by the esoterically-inclined but fun-loving promoters Fat Out, who give their name to the Burrow (or cellar) below the Victorian Mill. Their programme of music over the last few years has been phenomenal and there was no change here, with the first night being the most high-spirited.
Feminist punks ILL kicked off my festival with a pretty acerbic rendering of Le Tigre style stuff. I missed the end (or was it the beginning? My memory is hazy due to the amount of migraine-inducing feedback over the weekend) to stand in a Baltic industrial unit to watch Lake of Snakes make skronk irresistible again. Back in the warmth, I witnessed one of the lowest heckling low-blows that I have ever seen. MUMS are a great band and they are unashamedly influenced by Part Chimp – they’re supporting them at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen in September. A man who has been called ‘that fucking jazz viking’ and who, being at least 50 should have a modicum of self-awareness, shouted: play another one that sounds like Part Chimp? MUMS looked genuinely upset, but fuck him: they played incredibly regardless of the nods to others in their music.
Pigs x7 were all good and performed with an intensity that made me think back to seeing Killing Joke. I almost got decapitated by a golden model bull during their set. The whole affair was suitably blasphemous for Good Friday; it was more like krud Friday. But, they were just the aperitif for The Bug Vs Earth. Dylan Carlson (Earth’s guitar god) played simple guitar lines around Kevin Martin’s viscerally arresting and unfathomably heavy use of bass that was set in a disorienting red-lit and dry ice-laden room. The general effect was disorienting and immersive. It was, to some, anxiety inducing (I have it on good authority that a friend of a friend walked out because he was scared that the performance was damaging his heart) but the majority of people enjoyed the physicality of the music, which used mini-maxi musical tactics in a novel way.
The rest of the evening was spent in a mocked-up dystopian newsagent where swedes were thrown in the air and chopped by orange-suited men with carving knives, and Sudocrem was smeared on innocent bassists. Despite this strange revelry, the denizens managed to seem impeccably cool. I don’t know how they manage it.
On Saturday, Irma Vep cemented his position as one of Manchester’s nicest and most interesting musicians. His lyrics have a sense of beauty and the way his garage/bluegrass guitar is sometimes indistinguishable from his vocal growls and yelps is entirely original. Seeing something so inimitable followed by a grin and shy ‘thanks guys’ is an amusing combination. Blown Out’s scuzzy bass line and near-Harry Pussy/Bill Orcutt guitar histrionics were a stark contrast, but it provided a filthy pallet-cleanser before Teeth of the Sea who started their set by phrasing Miles Davis’ ‘Flamenco Sketches’. Pretty ambitious, but to use Davis’ parlance, there are obviously motherfuckers (that’s a good thing).
Moor Mother later reignited everyone’s anxiety from the night before – if the sound on the Caustic Coastal stage was a little wispy from the gale blowing outside. Blood Sport were, as usual, brain melting.
Sunday gave opportunity for Charles Hayward to remind us that he is not just Britain’s premiere Rob Brydon lookalike. His collaboration with Jali Nyonkoling brought harmonically rich African string instruments and measured drums to festival goers who needed a little peace. Cattle and Ubre Blanca were brilliant and/but loud. Full disclosure is required here: my own band had been on stage at 4am that morning to support the Fruit Tones’ album launch at the White Hotel (another Salford warehouse). Problems are presented by the usual, everyday murkiness of perception, interpretation and memory, but any detailed description or critical analysis of Sunday evening would only contain a kernel of dubious correspondence to the events that occurred: or, in plain English, my memory of them is interspersed with frequents trips to the toilet to boke. By the time Part Chimp came on stage I was a broken man but they are something else.
It’s now Thursday and the headache hasn’t gone. It is not sleep deprivation nor is it overindulgence, but the legacy of a weekend of crushing noise. Perhaps now I think of it, also the freezing cold, but whatever… well done Fat Out, you win. Motherfuckers.
Photography by Joe Smith & Sean McCrossan
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