Putting the “Art“ in “Party“
(Project X Presents - 13th September at “Busk“)
In a world full of flyers swirling past our eyes and ears like dollar bills on a bad game show, these cardboard diplomats claiming to offer “an eclectic range of music”, turn out to be, more often than not, mere cool-kid propaganda. Stagnant club nights trying to pull a new crowd with a DJ with a big record collection and some nice words. Sometimes, however, we are lucky enough to pull out a golden ticket in amongst the small change.
Enter Project X.
It is not a club night. It is an event. Something to put into the calendar next to Auntie Maud’s birthday and your dental appointment (for those of us who can still afford to have their teeth looked after). Project X does not commit to one style of music. It does not project a single image of itself. It has no number. In its own words, it is an “Omnimedia experience”, and it certainly has a transcendental quality.
I have noticed that where there is an interest in getting underground talent onstage, professionalism often gets sacrificed. Saturday night, however, was supremely smooth in its execution, implementing a brilliant set up consisting of 2 adjacent stages, allowing acts to flow truly seamlessly, often leading into each other in overlap.
With a dense line-up, it was difficult to see everyone, but there were a few eclectic treats that stood out for me. Firstly, local literary lunatics Wrote Under took the stage early on in the night and gave a varied selection of words, from excellent spoken word from Louis Campbell to stream of consciousness strangeness from Jimmy Fantastic, all wrapped up by Birmingham poetry mascot, Big Bren.
Shana Tova provided a balanced combination twixt raucous flair and strong pop sensibilities with catchy indie tunes that make you nod your head before your neck knows what it‘s doing. I noted in particular some brilliant lyrical gems in amongst the often deceptively sweet riffs.
Aa’shiq al Rasul blew me away with their multilingual meditations and I could tell from looking at the audience, that the on-stage trance of the musicians was contagious. It was a genuinely beautiful experience and the use of Urdu and Arabic was fascinating.
Twice Perrier award nominee and Project X regular, Reginald D Hunter, who till now I had not had the pleasure of witnessing, literally gave me a side stitch I laughed so continuously. His rapport with the crowd is brilliant and though he truly owns the stage from the moment he gets up there, his hilarity extends to the rest of reality as a chat in the smoking area with him proved, as he continued to force a smile into my cheeks which were still hurting from his set. Clearly success at the fringe and a few appearances on “Have I Got News For You” have not affected his ego.
Hailing from West-Brom, Cellardoor pumped the speakers full of quality atmospheric post-rock. I am sure their sound takes inspiration from forms of hypnosis, and with a theme of “digital dystopia”, perhaps this feeling was intended as a mind altering antidote to the subliminal messaging we receive through the many screens we use each day.
Pianist Richard Batsford mesmerised the audience with beautiful arpeggiated soundscapes reminiscent of Rick Wakeman’s later solo work. What really stole the show, however, was an accompanying piece of expressive dance which I found genuinely touching. Beginning with a single dancer, later joined by a second, they told a passionate narrative of 2 lovers through a combination of balletic, contemporary and abstract movement in a confined space no greater that 3 metres by 2. Sadly I have no recollection of their names being announced, so cannot credit their impressive performance.
Project X draws a crowd receptive to beauty from any background. As a member of the audience, you feel like a neuron in a collective brain. Indeed, every person I stopped to talk to was creatively active in some form or other, be it a gigging musician, club promoter, studying photographer or bedroom poet. Project X is the world wide web of synapses that connect these creative energies. The wires that criss and cross between minds and provide a platform for communal innovation.
A dreamlike state of mind is induced by the experience of being at Project X (influenced greatly by the futuristic decor and fantastic performance art troupe “Object X”, who admirably never once came out of their cyborg characters), but then you stand back and realise the truly awesome degree of effort and meticulous preparation that goes into such a production. It goes without saying that Project X is a non-profit organisation, and it is clear that every penny that is made goes straight back into making the next event even more impressive.
The Flyer for this Project X claimed “an unforgettable night”, and were it not for having experienced the quality of previous events under the same banner, I would most likely scoff at the seemingly premature confidence, yet now that I stand on the other side of the weekend, I think it is fair to allow the organisers a great deal of confidence. Hell! Let them have a little smugness too for having pulled off such a happening quite so flawlessly. Past Project X events have also been impressive and interesting, but this “Digital Dystopia” I think marks a real fruition of collective efforts that deserves all the praise it gets.
Aside from blowing people’s minds and keeping them greatly entertained, the true success in Project X is in turning up the volume on the crème de la crème of the Birmingham underground and giving me that feeling that hasn’t been dared for a while: being proud of Birmingham (gasp!). Yes, I said it, and maybe it’s about time you did too.
Words: Dominik Kai Brotherton
Photography: Alina Ha