The Neutrinos, Sal Pittman, BK & Dad, plus dj sets from Mammal Hands. NNF15 at Norwich Arts Centre, 22 May 2015
The only thing preventing me from declaring this one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen is the fact that it didn’t conform to any preconceptions or standards of a typical “gig”. The music was of course superb and spellbinding but it was also about pushing the boundaries of what a concert is and can be and how it is experienced by both band and audience. There was plenty of experiment with sound, visuals, light, shadows, even layout and the very format of the gig-going experience itself. This was unique, immersive, a delicious creative treat and at times a challenge for the senses. It was amazing and there was nothing safe about it.
Arriving early at the Arts Centre and chatting in the garden with friends beforehand was about as normal as it got. With a sign on the door stating a start time of 9:15pm I made my way to the auditorium a few minutes before this only to find the door still closed. Soon after the doors were opened and the audience filed through. Inside, The Neutrinos were already playing. Tonight the band plays in the middle of the dancefloor and await the audience not vice-versa. The first preconceptions already shattered.
Walking in I could hear The Neutrinos from the “stage” area but also other sounds from all around me, from the multiple speakers throughout the room. Several times I looked over my shoulder after hearing something, a whisper, a shriek, or a bird?
Karen was seated in one corner of the stage, with the band around, muslin drapes hanging from the ceiling and picking out images from artist Sal Pittman’s projections. Whether Karen is seated, standing, or prowling, her presence is always immense and intense. It was already incredible and utterly absorbing.
They played with varied tempo and mood, always mysterious and fascinating, taking us to some dark places in unsettling dreams. I moved around the room from time to time getting different vantage points and hearing different things wherever I went. From the shadows they were joined by Pip and Leo of BK & Dad and they played gloriously and loudly together – seamlessly – before one by one the Neutrinos put down their instruments and walked off, BK & Dad remaining to play their powerful brand of sonic, psych noise, in this environment just astonishing. Thirty or forty minutes later the Neutrinos again joined them one by one, by this point I was stood at one end of the special stage … just in front of the more familiar stage area and there was a glorious moment where the bands were bookended by drummers in one of my highlights of the night. After this Pip and Leo left and the Neutrinos continued in their own incredible way, sometimes they’d leave the stage and at one point I heard Karen singing, almost directly into my ear it felt like, as she prowled amongst the audience in the darkness. Amazing stuff.
It was also a night about the visual experience too and so a massive well done to all involved on that score. One’s reference points had all moved and so the visuals were appearing in many places, especially with the drapes which also made for some great shadows and silhouettes.
Definitely one of the most incredible events I’ve been to, The Neutrinos keep raising the bar – even from Klang Haus – and pushing themselves creatively, it’s very inspiring stuff. I did actually feel I was inside the songs at times in ways it isn’t easy to describe but could certainly feel. Really incredible moments.
This wasn’t a gig, it was a performance, an event. Two bands who didn’t play sets as such, there was no interval, there was no support band, it was two bands segueing into each others’ music, brilliantly and the audience could come and watch and listen, could walk around … in fact were encouraged to and it all felt perfectly natural and right to do so. Alongside the music there was of course the great visuals, decor, and use of light, with stunning sound too. This has taken live music performance to a whole new level. I and everyone I spoke with felt it was a very special thing to have witnessed and been present for, something that will probably never happen again although I have been re-living it in my head ever since.
On top of all this we even had Mammal Hands dj-ing in the bar. An abundance of creative riches and surely my festival highlight for 2015.
Review and photos (c) all rights reserved Shashamane
Many thanks to The Neutrinos, Sal Pittman, BK & Dad, Mammal Hands, and Norwich Arts Centre and all the tech and sound team.