King Midas Sound
Freelove + Eilidh Rogers
Outskirts is an annual festival held at Platform, an arts centre in Easterhouse, whose very name evokes both the venue’s location, on the geographical margins of Glasgow, and the porous nature of the (often) multidisciplinary work on offer. Everything does have one foot in performance – whether music, theatre or performance art – though the festival takes pleasure in mixing it all up.
Jessica Higgins’ dedications is a much more productive and enjoyable approach to performance, a willfully absurdist collection of nonsense and non sequiturs derived from radio announcements– with half a dozen performers scampering about a stage giving a collection of shout outs, often to the weather, one particularly absurd routine involving a mouldy jumper affected by said weather. A major aspect of why this is so compelling is the fluid musical backing of Banana Oil, occasionally referencing cover versions, a three piece jazz band who could make reading a telephone directory a thing of joy. After the performance art is over, the trio snake back into the venue – Sun Ra Arkestra style – with toy instruments and play a gig proper.
While may have earned a reputation for being very serious – academic even – Banana Oil always look as if they’re having as much fun as their audience are. It’s always a pleasure to watch the interaction between Joe Howe, looking like a mad scientist as he alternates between alto sax and keyboards, Niall Morris, who can’t stop moving to his own supple bass lines, and the endlessly inventive, propulsive drumming of Laurie Pitt – so propulsive that he knocks his hi hat off his kit, not once, but twice.
King Midas Sound are a very different proposition, being one of Kevin Martin’s long running investigations into black and electronic music. For this project, he works with English/Trinidadian poet Roger Robinson, who perform their new album, Solitude. Essentially a long spoken word piece with a sparse soundscape backing from Martin, it fits the Outskirts bill perfectly.
The stage is filled with clouds of dry ice, subsiding to reveal Martin playing synths, and occasional bells and gongs, against an array of dimly throbbing lights. Robinson emerges through the haze to deliver what is essentially an extraordinary, extended monologue on the aftermath of a relationship, and the obsessive behavior of the abandoned lover. The effect is hypnotic, the restrained intensity of Robinson’s measured delivery matched to eerie precision by Martin’s backing. This may be the bleakest Saturday night entertainment I’ve ever witnessed, but it’s incredibly powerful, and even deeply moving.
Light relief comes courtesy of David Sherry, a Northern Irish performance artist working in Glasgow who’s been responsible for some of the wackiest, actual LOL inducing work I’ve seen in the field. Tonight he embarks on a stream of consciousness monologue crossing from bookshops to Brexit to the state of the economy, aided by some of his trademark absurdist props, such as a Spiral of Downward Mobility and a Brexit map of Europe wind instrument. Halfway through, he sticks his head in a crash helmet while a guy comes over of the audience and beats him on the head with a bat. As you do. It culminates with Sherry smashing out a poem on a keyboard with a hammer, shards of plastic flying into the audience. The poem is gibberish; the routine is brilliant.
Outskirts always builds up to Easterhouse Conversations, where musicians are invited to a residency with the local community to create new music. This year’s crop are Free Love (the artists formerly known as Happy Meals) and Eilidh Rogers, the drummer from Sacred Paws. Free Love’s set is all new material. Though the music is their characteristically intoxicating brew of psychedelic Italo-inflected sound, only strengthened by Rogers’ live percussion. This is also unusual in being presented in a seated theatre format, Free Love being a band who thrive in a club setting, acknowledged by singer Suzi Rodden, where she tells the audience, “Treat it as immersive”. Which it certainly is, as we all writhe along in our seats, before Rodden gives a shout out to the people of Easterhouse who inspired it.