Festival Review - Counterflows

Cult Boston/San Francisco busker The Space Lady caught the festival's mood. Picture: Contributed
Cult Boston/San Francisco busker The Space Lady caught the festival's mood. Picture: Contributed
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FROM an underground car park to the Art School dancefloor and a bandstand in a sunny-drizzly Queen’s Park – the myriad spaces that Glasgow’s Counterflows Festival inhabited in its third annual instalment tells you a little something about its diversity and unconventionality.

Counterflows Festival - Various Venues, Glasgow

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As curator Alasdair Campbell put it in his programme notes, it’s all about a search for “that moment” which “won’t happen again the same” at this experimental, often highly improvisational event.

Opening with performances from Polish ambient psychedelic artist Ela Orleans in collaboration with Swedish filmmaker Maja Borg, Japanese acid-folk singer-songwriter Ai Aso and The Space Lady (more on her later), before a set of industrial improv from Aki Onda and Akio Suzuki in Fleming House car park, Friday’s success alone confirmed Counterflows’ burgeoning popularity and strengthening importance. More than 400 people turned up for the evening’s late night event at CCA, featuring Optimo Music signees Whilst and one of several appearances across the weekend from veteran American free-jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee, the festival’s first featured artist.

Cara Tolmie and Paul Abbott’s performance art piece on Saturday – the former wriggling, writhing and yelping, before the latter tapped away contemplatively on a drum kit – was at best ponderous. The throbbing organ drones of David Maranha accompanied by the studiously tonal drumming of Will Guthrie wasn’t a lot easier to digest, even if their ghostly jams did not lack for impact. Much more enjoyable, euphorically so, was Heatsick’s late-night “extended play” at the Art School – a four-hour electronic loops-based techno-tropical workout for the dancefloor, which saw the Berlin-based Englishman, aka Steven Warwick, joined by Glasgow voodoo-psychedelic warriors Golden Teacher and McPhee (looking every bit a dude in sunglasses, blowing away wildly his horn). With hula hoops and yoga mats scattered around the dancefloor for spontaneous interactive merriment, and huge puffs of dry ice illuminated by a mesmerising lightshow intermittently clouding the Vic Bar into a disorientating haze of shapes and shadows, this was a weird, playful and at times ridiculously fun experience.

After that what a gentle tonic it was to wander into Queen’s Park on an early spring Sunday lunchtime, to watch a free performance from The Space Lady.

A cult Boston/San Francisco busker renowned for her trademark winged plastic helmet and charmingly cosmic covers of rock standards on her self-styled “souped-up Casio” keyboard, she did phase and echo-bathed takes on all from Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild to Bowie’s Starman for an entranced audience of grown-ups, kids and dogs alike. “Thank you fellow outsiders!” she politely thanked the happy, very chilled-out throng, and she couldn’t have captured the Counterflows mood much better if she tried.

Seen on 04.04.14 and 05.04.14