Armed with a bag of almost mouldy bananas and a craptop I walked from East Finchley to wherever the neerivrrsidestudios in London are located. On the map it was a one and a half hour walk but no money for traveling (bananas are expensive these days) it was the way forward. I went there because it’s Skronkfest, a mini festival run by Rick Jensen with a line up to die for and even space for open mic sessions. I always wanted to go to Skronk, but somehow always thought it was miles away, or at least more than one and a half hour walk. If I knew it was ‘this close’ I would have probably visited the frequent experimental and improvisational nights much more often… but oh well; Skronkfest 2019 is going to be my debut! And look at the cutest sound engineer:
Upon arrival, one of the precious spying undercover reporters already spotted that the feast had already started, a group of men improvising in a odour of cigarette smoke and beer. I went for the other option; the bar area in which the first official artist would started at any possible minute. After a small sound setup the one and only Ana Berkenhof had the honour to open Skronkfest officially with a set that was short but impressive. Ana looked fresh as if the artist has just came out of a shower, ready to thrill the room with a sound performance that would trigger the imagination. Ana used her vocal abilities to create a bassy noise voice, one that went down the road to meet up in the middle to give the voluminous sound of a steamboat that would intertwine with the elegance of a mermaid.
In the live room the legendary The Ron Caines Trio had risen up to provide a very impressive show of improvised jazz madness. It was quite the amazing sight and sound, as if three individual monkeys had teamed up to provide a bunch of creative energies, full of active wildness, with material that would tastefully crack or go full on berserk with wicked drumming that would make the muppetshow orchestra muppets look pale in comparison.
My feelings went from ‘what the f is this?’ to ‘wow this is wicked!’
Inside the bar area it was time for the highly anticipated performance from the duo Tujuh Kuda, I had already met DK & The Doll (the two members of this experimental group) upon entry and was super curious how they would sound like in audio form.. DK had a beautiful instrument that was made out of cigar box and The Doll had brought a whole collection of mystery stuff to be playful with.
I couldn’t stop smirking happily while Tujuh Kuda performed and did their wonderful thing; it was like a surreal blend of culture & noises that created a very trippy atmosphere to get your head completely lost in. The melodic lines provided by DK (who is originally from Indonesia) made it an instant hypnotic ambiance, while The Doll (originally from New Zealand) was providing the sounds that would rumble the speakers with weird voices and out of the box sounds. It was a combo of semi traditionalism meeting dramatic weirdness that went next level when The Doll started to use the action of shaving her own head into a promising sound scape performance! I couldn’t stop smiling as this was not just amazing to hear or see, it was also just extremely trippy stuff! It made me happy and The Doll’s hair a little bit thinner!
…of course I can’t blame Tujuh Kuda, but after their performance things went quickly down the hill ‘reporter-wise’. Their set was doing something within my body, probably unleashing some druggy endorphins that would make my goal to report on the entire event into something that would quickly become as a impossible thing. In my eye I saw Rick Jensen running around and asked how long he had organised these Skronk events and (if my memory doesn’t play jokes with me) it was something like three years! Apparently Rick is also a New Zealander who clearly can’t be missed in the London Underground scene as who else could possible organise such a packed and crazy event & let it parade by all so smoothly?
In any case, only three performances in and I was already loopy and lost when I stumbled in the live room in which my mind just simply got blown away by an audio visual performance that was so good that when it was over I could hear all audience members gasps lines like ‘amazing’ ‘great’ and the popular ‘wow’… the only problem was, reporter-wise ; who was this artist?!
I asked but the name that I thought I heard did not compute with my insider knowledge & now I could only guess.. I have a feeling it might have been Ben Moon, because damn, this psychedelic experience certainly took me to the moon.. on a gigantic screen there had been animated lines of a full colour spectrum moving upwards or becoming like a melange of eye trickery while the artist (hidden behind its equipment) would also throw in a unique sounding soundscape that was so psychedelic that even the most soberest person in the house would feel extremely high just by being a willing witness of this performance! It was a really amazing audio visual trip! It certainly blew my mind away!
I had been so mind blown that my disorientation quickly made my ability to report into a jubilant mess. I believe that when I was getting blown, inside the bar there had been a performance by lee boyd Allatson going on, or maybe not – at this point in time I certainly couldn’t tell any more- I think I’ve seen and heard Slate Pipe Banjo Draggers, which (if I had witnessed it correctly) quite a danceable psychedelic sensation that got me into a groove, not like Madonna, but more like we made it into Goa and someone had slipped in some drops of acid… it was probably the most straight forward set of the night, but certainly helped to keep the place (and my head) buzzing!
In the lovely live room there was (I believe .. don’t shoot me if I’m wrong..) Coded Dystopia playing, which did my heart well as it came across as a performance that took the audience straight to some kind of peaceful place, one in which yoga positions would have been not out of touch, blissful minds would have been tucked in a blessing. Think of the sound that triggered images of seagulls and whales swimming around in the imagination.
Now there is a guest appearance over here, as The Doll is taking over for a review of what’s going on in the bar section:
The Doll was on hand to give this eye and ear witness account of the extraordinary Toxic Chicken’s display of visual and aural plumage: “After a very sedate seated mini modular man, Toxic Chicken made quite the impression – towering over a laptop perched on a solid chunk of wood which was in turn plonked on top of a little wooden stool. With noodles sprouting out of the sleeves of their gaily-coloured floral ensemble this fera pullum delighted the ears with upbeats and cheer. First we were initiated into the delights of a daily breakfast bowl of NOODLE SOUP. Yes my feathered friends, a steaming bowl of it was devoured onstage.
The chicken crowed repeatedly with their mouth full of hot salty goodness. The audience were hungry for more so a Special Guest Banana Person entered the scene wearing sunglasses and brandishing bunches of BANANAS. The joy felt by this dancing fruit was palpable to all! And sensing our hunger the kind yellow creature shared their bounty by distributing bananas to the chicken, the audience and of course to the waiting floor. The bar staff were seen to be gazing with some small trepidation at the squashed noodly offering, but they still had a smile on. All hail hazardous poultry! Long may they reign!”
Thank you The Doll! Also for making the picture of what was going on in the other room at the same time; an obviously spectacular event in which Isn’tses & Golden Pillars of Misery took over the stage and sound system. They are legendary so just thinking about what had been going on is a justified reason to go and google them for previous recordings of live shows.
I believe that after the noodles and bananas had been cleared and Bagel the sound engineer cat had taken over the engine again, there was a performance by Matt Atkins in the bar area, one that was quite the abstract moodiness that might inflict high buzzing buzzes in the ears, the kind that you could feel still when you go home and lay in bed thinking about all your sins & the obvious successful Skronkfest night!
There was some amazing experimental free jazz music happening inside that felt like energetic pulses that can’t be placed in a box, vocal performances and so much more… but my head was gone, overwhelmed by all that this super packed feast had to offer! An amazing event that really seem to flourish by bringing all these experimentalists together to become a hotbed of underground music above ground! Well done all bands, individuals, artists, people and Rick Jensen & for organising this amazing festival & new river studios to be the perfect host!
Looking forward to Skronkfest 2020!!
||| Photos by KN & The Doll \\