Brighten the Corners 2023

In what is now a very rare departure, this post is not about larp, but about music – specifically, the Brighten the Corners festival, held in Ipswich over 9–10 June 2023.

Unlike most festivals, it took place in the town centre. There were five stages – four of them being regular music venues, plus a temporary stage erected in the Cornhill (the main market square). Walking from one venue to another was a matter of five to ten minutes.

As it’s on my doorstep, and quite cheap, it would have been churlish not to attend. Particularly as the Saturday headliners were The Go! Team, a band who I’ve loved for a long time, and who afaicr have never played locally to here (and probably never would in any other context).

I had not heard of any of the other 50-odd acts being presented. This is partly because I’m very out of touch with music, but also partly because they were mostly pretty obscure (and/or local). But, I love watching live music, whatever it’s like: so I was looking forward to maybe making some new favourites.

I just went to the Saturday, and this is who I saw:

Gabby Rivers – singer fronting a traditional rock band lineup. (Actually most of the bands had a mix of one or two guitars, bass, and drums. It was that kind of festival.) A bit Kate Nash, a bit Lily Allen, maybe a bit Amy Winehouse – it was kind of weird to see someone really quite young making this sort of music. But they were enthusiastic.

Substation – a shoegazey kind of sound, somewhere in the continuum between Ride, Chapterhouse, and My Bloody Valentine. (Again, a sound dating from before most of them can have been born.) Effective and pleasant.

Post – they referenced Frightened Rabbit in their blurb, and that seemed fair — emotive lyrics over occasionally squally and thunderous noise. Mogwai might be another point of comparison. Built a good mood and seemed very competent.

Lande Hekt – the first who did actually make it to being a new favourite. But again weirdly retro – in this case, rather like early Lush, maybe also a bit of Sleeper and/or Elastica. So mm nothing wrong with that, and they did it very well, and the singer had some star quality I felt.

Group Listening – an interesting instrumental sound, with a load of repetitive programmed loops and a live saxophone/clarinet over the top. Tbh it didn’t do a huge amount for me, but it was pleasant on the ear, and I had somewhere to sit and something to drink.

Deathcrash – I don’t remember much about this lot at all. They were basically an emo kind of rock band, but mm it pretty much washed over me without leaving an impression.

Joshua Idehen – now then! This was really impressive and excellent. It was billed as ‘spoken word’, so I had a certain sense of dread, but actually it was a person singing and talking over a full instrumental backing. And what a star! So compelling and engaging. Afterwards, the whole crowd were walking around with just big stupid grins on our faces, having been really lifted by the performance. If you get a chance to see them, take it!

Ishmael Ensemble – I probably should have heard of these, because they apparently do have some level of well-known-ness. But anyway they made this rather big soundscape type of thing, with lots of big sweeps of ups and downs. It was good stuff, but throughout they seemed a bit distracted by their sound — the two frontpeople kept making frantic gestures to have one channel or another turned up or down in their monitors.

and lastly The Go! Team – who were as usual excellent. If you don’t know them, you’re in for a treat. They make a sort of rock-y dance music, but the rockiness is tuneful rather than aggressive. And they use a lot of samples, but rely heavily on the energy of their frontperson Ninja (who must be well into their forties by now, but has the most tremendous and incessant ability to lift the crowd and get things going). Unfortunately the sound in the room had serious problems, and the vocals all came out as a terrible muffled mush… but still. They played a mix of old favourites and stuff off the new album, which seemed to be in a pretty similar kind of vein to what we’re used to.

So mm overall it was a terrific day. I ended up spending far more on drinks than I had on the ticket – but that’s ok I think, they’re entitled to gouge people a bit on concessions when there’s the whole town just outside to shop in if you don’t mind skipping one of the act slots.

(And also, musically it’s like the 90s and 00s never went away. I wonder if this is partly because streaming services have kind of erased all sense of a sequence of musical history?)

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