The first time I stepped into The Old Shoe Factory was for an experience I am unlikely to ever forget. A fascinating event was hosted here by Bill Vine, Anthony Bailey, and Dan Tombs which was unlike anything else I have been to and is certainly a gig highlight of the year, something that will stay in my mind for quite a while to come.
There were six gigs over two days, I only regret I didn’t come to one of the earlier gigs so that I could have returned to experience it all over again! It was that good.
Arriving for a lunchtime performance in what would later feel like the last hours of summer the audience gathered and waited with what sounded like electrical static crackling in the background, it was already evident the emphasis placed on the way we feel and experience sound. I could feel the crackling deep in my head, possibly in a way I’ve not felt since trying the “Space Dust” sweets of my childhood! As showtime approached the door was closed and blacked out and we were invited to come in and wander around. The trio of performers played in the centre of the room whilst we the audience were gathered 360 degrees around them, free to walk around surrounded by projection screens and octophonic sound.
The description of it being “multi-sensory and immersive” was spot-on, this was precisely my feeling, from the many speakers and the acoustics of the building the sound seemed to be coming from everywhere and felt tangible, in fact at [UNIT] not only was it utterly immersive but I sensed I could actually see sound, it had that effect. The sounds and visuals were hypnotic, silhouettes of clarinet and cymbals it was at times as if I was in deep space. When Bill was striking the cymbal with a bow I could see in my head shards of light hurtling deep into the universe. Quite extraordinary stuff, brilliant and hugely creative it worked as a whole magnificently and incredible in the way it painted pictures in the head as well as with light for the visuals. Mesmerising. Huge congratulations to all the artists involved in this project which was a deserved success.
[UNIT] is a collective of artists presenting a brand new audio/visual, multi-sensory, immersive performance. It seeks to redefine traditional notions of performance by addressing relationships between space, composer, performer and audience, actively engaging the latter in the music-making process.
[UNIT] produces work that draws on traditional, electronic and experimental music and live visual art practice, each working with the other elements to create a complete performance.
Comprising Bill Vine, Anthony Bailey and Dan Tombs, this exciting and innovative project is supported by Arts Council England, Norwich Arts Centre, Escalator Music, Electronic Sound Magazine, Watershed Studio, The Space and The Shoe Factory Social Club.
“Stunning!” – Tom Robinson (BBC 6 Music)
“Experiencing [UNIT] is like having a 21st Century hallucination inside a machine, where the noise of circuitry and human warmth merge. Breathtaking and unforgettable” – Electronic Sound Magazine
In recent days I was also lucky enough to catch a number of other live performances including Morganway and The Georgia Shackleton Trio in fine form for the final Head Out Not Home of the summer. That same evening there was a free gig at The Owl with Death Valley Surfers whose brand of psychobilly reminded me a lot of King Kurt, telling the singer this afterwards he explained that was because saxophonist John was in the band! We had a good catch up about their legendary Jacquard gig in the early 1980s.
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