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Drop Dead FestivalDrop Dead Festival

Day 5 - Bands in order of appearance:

Johnny Teardrop
Bitluder
Birth!
Sewn Leather
Popoï Sdioh

ADS, Berlin
Monday September 5  2011

 

You know what? Stretching the Drop Dead festival to six days is a slight case of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time', if you ask me.

Aside from the issue of festival fatigue - and believe me, on Day 5, I'm certainly feeling it - the six-day run makes it more difficult to attend the entire event. It demands that punters take extra time off work, extra time away from their lives, and spend extra money on accommodation. Drop Dead fans are loyal, but that's still a big ask - especially when the festival has become longer, but not necessarily bigger.

The various rooms at Club ADS have been opened selectively for Drop Dead: I dont think there is any day out of the six when there's live music taking place in all the areas at once. The bands have been spread across six days when, with an extra room or two being brought into use, everything could probably have been accommodated within a neat four days. A pre-party just before the main event, and an after-party at the end would take care of those who wanted to make a long, lost week of it - but the festival itself could've been made a lot more compact without losing any of the action.

The final two days illustrate the point. The main room is closed, the live stuff is confined to the back room - and we only have a relative handful of acts, with a noticeably smaller crowd in to see them. There's a sense that things are winding down, that these two days are a bit of an optional extra. Well, let's get in there and see just how essential, or otherwise, Day 5 is going to be.

It's a mini-fest of one-man electronics in the back room tonight. I'm normally a little wary of artists that conjure everything out of a laptop, or similar minimal kit. Not because I have some sort of old-school attitude that if it doesn't involve guitars or drums it's Not Proper Music, or anything. It's simply because, as a live experience, I find watching someone occasionally press a button marginally less interesting than watching my fingernails grow.

But tonight's array of technology-jockeys aims to overturn that idea. For a start, nobody's actually on stage. A few wooden crates on the dancefloor provide an equipment stand, and all of a sudden the fourth wall isn't even there. Artist and audience mix in one big melee.

Johnny Teardrop

Here comes Johnny Teardrop to show us how it's done. He doesn't have a laptop, but he's got a miniature keyboard and a suitcase full of wires, and that's all he needs. He makes a noise like several aircraft taking off at once, and works himself up into a frenzy until he's rolling on the floor as his personal noizefest crashes around him.

The audience hangs back at first, but when it becomes clear that while Johnny Teardrop might well be mad, he isn't actually dangerous, everyone comes forward, and by the end of his stint Johnny is having his freak-outs in the middle of an appreciative crowd.

BitluderIf Johnny Teardrop's set-up is minimal, Bitluder's kit is about as microscopic as you can get without actually usng nanotechnology.

He generates his racket from a Nintendo Gameboy - and, as if that wasn't reductionist enough, he does his best to make himsef invisible. He's hooded in black, and wearing a gas mask. In the darkness of the room, he simply vanishes. If it wasn't for the green glow of his Gameboy you wouldn't even know he was there.

This is egalitarianism taken to extremes. Punk introduced the notion that the artist is no more important than the audience, but Bitluder's vanishing act brings us the concept of the artist being less important than the audience.

Even in the egalitarian world of laptoppy electronix, where nobody even bothers to get on stage, that's radical. Bitluder's heavy-duty dancefloor hammering gets the room jumping - you'd never believe a Gameboy could sound so evil - but me, I dig the concept.

And now, Birth! That's not me getting all excited, the name really does have an exclamation mark attached to it. Birth! might use electronics to make his noise, but that's almost incidental. Birth! is a punk band...without the band.

Mr Birth! himself is a be-mohawked punkzoid geezer who has two weapons in his armoury: a righteous passion and a deafening, ragged, ripped-up sound that would probably make The Exploited run for the hills, screaming for mercy. He hollers at the wrongness of everything in a paroxysm of indignant rage amid his thundering virtual-punk roar, and if one man shouting could set the world to rights, Birth! would be the all-purpose Mister Fixit.

Birth!

"Is my shit fucked up?" asks Sewn Leather. At first I think he's asking for our opinion on his music. But Sewn Leather - an anarcho-punkish guy who goes by the name of Griffin when he's not making 'orrible noises - comes from the USA, and in the American language words mean whatever you want them to mean. In this case, a rough translation into English would be, "Is my nose broken?" Yep, he hasn't even started yet and somehow he's bashed himself in the face.

But I get the impression that a bit of collateral damage is par for the course for Sewn Leather. At any rate, his music is indeed fucked up, a sonic bash in the face by bro0otal beatz 'n' distortion, over which the Leather man hollers a heavily reverbed vocal. Sewn Leather

It's nightmare noise-dub, all the more effective for being shamelessly lo-tech. On top of the wooden crate kit-stack, Sewn Leather has a beat box, an effects box, and...a cassette player. 

You know, a cassette player, the kind of thing you used to have in your home hi-fi, round about 1989. Who needs laptops when you can roll those tapes?

Our last band tonight actually is a band. I don't know much about Popoï Sdioh, least of all how you're supposed to pronounce that name. All I know is that all of a sudden there's a man wandering around the room, barking into a megaphone.

This is the band's intro, and a neat way of blurring the edges between the electropunks on the floor, and the band on the stage. Hey, conceptual! I like 'em already.

But then, all eyes front, please, because here come Popoï Sdioh themseves: a deceptively normal-looking bunch of scruffy rock guys who somehow create a screaming, battering racket, like first-album Killing Joke mixed with a chorus of air raid sirens. It's harsh, uncompromising stuff, but there's a solid rhythm behind everything, which means that even at their most brain-fryingly noisy, Popoï Sdioh always have a groove. You can dance to them, if you're brave.

Or just stand at a safe distance and watch the manic drummer as he comes out from behind his kit to take a lead vocal. "What do we want? What do we need? What do we get?" he screeches at us, as if his sanity depends on getting the right answer.

Popoï Sdioh end the evening on a suitably apocalyptic note. If the world is still here, we'll be back tomorrow for Drop Dead's final wrap-up. Popoi Sdioh

On to Day 6 of the Drop Dead Festival here.

Back to Day 4 of the Drop Dead Festival here.


Popoï Sdioh: Website | MySpace

Sewn Leather: Website

Birth!: MySpace | Facebook

BitLuder: Facebook

Johnny Teardrop: Website | Facebook

 

Drop Dead Festival: Website | MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from the Drop Dead Festival, find the bands by name here.

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