Live review: Jupiter Campout – ROMANTI-CRASH!
- David Pollock
- 30 July 2018
Successful and enrichingly inventive event co-curated by Sian Dorrer and Matilda Strang
The second, and much expanded, annual Jupiter Campout event would have been a near-perfect mini-festival retreat for lovers of art and music, if only the weather had decided to cooperate and not descend into relentless, drizzly rainstorms as the day progressed. The concentric hill-gardens of Charles Jencks' artwork 'Cells of Life' – the first and most defining feature encountered by visitors to the otherworldly artpark in the countryside to the west of Edinburgh – appear atmospheric in the rain, but the thought of a night in a tent in these conditions, much less so.
Not that we're blaming the festival for the weather, of course; more pointing out that despite the kind of evening which might make many people want to pack up and go home, this year's Jupiter Campout – co-curated by Sian Dorrer and Matilda Strang, with a late-night dance tent programmed by OH141's Sarra Wild – was still a lot of fun. Kids ran up and down the slopes of 'Cells of Life', and art students perched atop them, opening another can of beer and enjoying the view while it lasted.
The theme was ROMANTI-CRASH!, and it was designed to 'interweave ideas about the evolving nature of matrimony' with more traditional festival content, we were told. What that extended to in practice appeared to be largely some costume-wearing, with pristine white wedding dresses getting soaked by the grass, and a bit of thematic playfulness; the main stage was the Matrimony stage, there was a Balcony stage (shades of Romeo & Juliet) hidden among the dunes of Jencks' work, and one of the bars was named Divorce.
Musically, the selections appearing on each stage were outstanding choices, although firmly designed to appeal to audiences of a more experimental, art school bent. On the Matrimony stage, Glasgow trio Kubler Ross provided a dense and punishing kind of industrial synthwave with visceral melody at its core, while London garage rock quartet Primitive Parts were a blast of thrillingly unreconstructed full-band noise which sounded anything but retro. Art-rock royalty – unless art-rock is a republic and such a thing doesn't exist – had also been booked, both in Ben Wallers aka The Rebel's raw set of spiky post-punk primitivity, and Martin Creed's late-night appearance.
On the Balcony stage, meanwhile, Heir of the Cursed (aka Kenyan-Scottish musician Beldina Odenyo Onassis) was a quiet revelation, a singer of rare power who builds fragile tension with just the sparse backdrop of her own electric guitar. Another outstanding performance, and there were a few here, came from Cumbrian musician/artist Natalie Sharp, the Lone Taxidermist, whose otherworldly set of proto-industrial, Throbbing Gristle-esque electro was accompanied by Sharp's own performative presence, her face painted blue and her costume an array of tied red fabrics.
In this location, of course, art is infused throughout the site, although the individual events were harder to come by. The 'walk-in wardrobe' which was supposed to be dispensing costumes had blown down, and despite asking more than once, we couldn't find where Pil & Galia Collective's show had been relocated to; all-female performance art group Stasis bravely performed a dance in wedding dresses and veils atop one of Jencks' hill, while the wind blew furiously; and the vegan buffet was perhaps the most successful installation of all, with Acid Prawn and artists Lindsey Mendick and Urara Tsuchiya creating the ambience of a wedding marquee while musician Tom Hirst (aka Design a Wave) played an oddly disconcerting and extremely minimal synthesiser soundtrack in the background.
Weather aside, then, Jupiter Campout 2.0 was a successful and enrichingly inventive event, which offered a powerful overview of cutting-edge avant garde music and performance. That it appeared to have been marketed more as an Edinburgh Art Festival event was something of a shame, because a thin but dedicated audience might have been thickened out had word got round that it was going to be one of Scotland's most distinctive and well-programmed small music festivals of 2018.
Jupiter Campout was at Jupiter Artland, near Edinburgh, Sat 28 Jul.