Guest blog: Behind the scenes with Spirit of Gravity at earsthetic
31 Dec 2013
We were really pleased to be asked to play as part of earsthetic at Brighton Dome, the opportunity to appear on such a great bill wasn't to be passed up. It also meant we could work with Bartosz Dylewski to get some cracking visuals in place. Unfortunately, for various reasons I couldn't get to any of the other shows, but the advantage of working collectively meant that Howard could get to Mira Calix, and Dan to Ryoji Ikeda.
I arrived at Brighton Dome about 2pm, Bartosz had been working on the AV, Sam on lights and Jem on the sound since about 9am and they had a screen up about twice the size of my house at the back of an enormous stage, the massive projector was rigged and we went through what we wanted with Jem and Sam, the technicians. And as more of us drifted in we started setting up at the back of the stage.
One of the advantages of electronic music as we tend to do it is the ability to set most things up on tables. We had some acoustic instruments, but could put on 5 acts without needing to set up five drum kits. Or even one. So it was easy to get everyone setting up getting line checks done as the afternoon progressed and getting a feel for the place until around four when we could start sound checking in earnest. That also meant we could check out the visuals everyone was using and make sure we could do the switchovers without getting too stressed for time.
The last act to play and the trickiest setup was H.L.Collins, so we did a full soundcheck for him first. Henry had a table with a metal tray full of bits of metal and rattly stuff, a broken coffee maker that made great noises, a metal dustbin suspended from a large set of steps with a contact mic, and a broken record player. The first two needed mic'ing up fairly carefully, especially as the coffee maker could spit hot water in odd directions, but its great working in a place where the attitude is “OK, that's what needs mic'ing, we'll need that kind of microphone, I have that here..” No fuss, job done, bang. Clearing it so it would be easy to set up again for Henry's set was about the hardest job.
Our set up was pretty straight, just a stereo out of my little mixer, to feed my kit and Chris Parfitt's Soprano sax the one tricky part being that Bartosz needed a sound feed for his visualisations to work with, so we had some pretty long wires to deal with. But that was easy, and soon the feed had got B's vast geometrical colours sliding around nicely behind us.
The Static Memories were working with Dancer Mirei Yazawa as well as a lovely slow moving film of ice melting, so Sam got some lights low on the stage for highlighting her but not interfering with the projections. Gus Garside and Dan Powell set themselves up right at the back, to give Mirei as much space on the increasingly cluttered stage as could be managed. By the time they would play it would be a lot clearer anyway.
TR Agency had Ron Caines from East of Eden on Alto and Soprano Saxophones sitting down the front of the stage, and a vocal microphone to set up with a small mixer at the back for keyboards and odd electronic stuff (I never did go and trainspot Tony Rimbaud's kit, but Andrew Greaves had a lovely SH101, in much better condition than mine). Andrew had made a slideshow from images he'd bought on slide of broken mannequins and neo advertising slogans. The images looked amazing on the big screen, really sharp Black and White, quite lovely, and quite unsettling, Sam would light Ron and vocalist Nick Rilke in red which gives photographs of their actual performance an odd contrast, making the musicians less real than the projections.
Last to soundcheck was minimal impact who had a tiny coffee table with his equipment secreted inside it set up front and centre of the stage, and a slow moving projection of video feedback that had degraded to odd psychedelic tones since he'd first recorded it onto VHS.
Given the number of acts and the amount of time we had, I was a little nervous about us being able to sustain 10 minute changeovers between acts all night, but I spoke to Jem and Sam, who assured me that as long as we could get everyone prepared to actually start on time, the stage would be ready. And it was, we moved tables back and forth, they set up the mics and lights, and it all went really smoothly.
The sound on stage was amazing, the lights were good, all the right projections were ready at the right time, I had my ginger wig and stack of CD's to give away as I greeted the early audience members. Yes it all went really well. Preparation is key.
Watch Spirit of Gravity at earsthetic videos and keep up to date with their latest news and developments on their blog.