A simple and good documentary about Upset the Rhythm's festival.
With 1 camera, 4 mics and 22 songs by 22 acts, Daniel Nixon’s document of Upset the Rhythm’s Yes Way festival is honest stuff. Shown at the Baltic Mill in Gateshead as part of the Seripop season of DIY art and music, the film celebrates the bands, while still capturing the atmosphere of the two-day Old Kent Road festival, which creeps in in the form of the crowd surging into shot, or in the case of the very excellent Spin Spin the Dogs when the camera loses singer Vincent Larkin in a sea of heads during one of his trademark ambles around the venue.
The best balance of aural and visual comes from Beards, shot in a wonky up-skirt angle, reflecting their…well, wonky up-skirt sound. Looking for all the world like human piñatas, Beards benefit especially from the fact that the sound set-up is really good – screeched vocals are spewed from a silhouette on drums, while the bobbing mass of fabric that is the rest of the band dominates the shot. Also worth noting is Gay Against You’s performance of Gay Unicorn – I’ve heard them tear through this live like it’s going out of fashion, so it’s actually beneficial to the pace of the documentary having a more sedate version. Once it kicks in, mind, there are elements of some kind of neon Charge of the Light Brigade as the crowd threatens to engulf the shot.
Most of the shooting for Day 2 seems bathed in blackness; one assumes purely due to the billing of the acts chosen. This does wonders for Corey Orbison, though, spitting and kicking their way out of the darkness, with those deliciously weird squawked vox impossible to ignore as ever. Other highlights include the astonishingly accomplished Peepholes with precise and clipped drums-n’-keys punk that still has soul in spades, and in contrast the wonderfully shaky Clunes, who come off as a party-noise Laurel and Hardy – one half looking small and lost on keyboards and pedals, while the other seems big, focused and vicious on drums. Wobbly and off-kilter, and brilliantly so. The lovably gritty Roseanne Barrr delight in telling us what they did today (they wrote a ‘FUCKING LOVE SONG!’, obviously) and Chaps leap convulse through ramshackle riot punk, heads bobbing out of frame all over the shop.
There are some notable omissions over the course of the 22 songs, most obviously Cleckhuddersfax , and some predictable filming in places – cheesy hands-on-keyboards shot during twee indie-pixies Hands on Heads, an unnecessary moment of faux-intimacy as Graffiti Island’s front man sips candidly at his water. But hey – this is clean, clear and for the most part brilliantly executed. With no concessions to pointless pans-around-the crowd or other such nonsense, Yes Way engages with the music, with song upon song upon song, only breaking away at the very end – it’s fixed on the stage, focused on the feel of being an audience member. Perhaps it would be a cliché to say ‘it makes you feel like you were there’…but it really, really does.