By Tom Hasson
When the first phase of the band Wire ended at a gig in Camden at the beginning of 1980 it was with a performance of new songs and visual art that attempted to challenge both themselves and their audience. As they put it; ‘It was the sound both of progress and dissolution.’
Thirty years after that gig Wire released Change Becomes Us and curated the initial DRILL : FESTIVAL; a series of multi-venue festivals that to date have taken place in London and Seattle with Brighton getting the DRILL treatment just this week.
The band say that the festival aims ‘to challenge preconceptions of Wire. To show-case their impact on and relationship with groups and artists from younger generations, to connect with both new and established artists whose work they find inspiring and feel that they have a kinship with.’
And on these promises Wire did more than deliver. Taking place over four days (or five if you count the warmup gig on Wednesday), Wire and Brighton promoters One Inch Badge managed curate a lineup that took in artists as diverse as Swans, British Sea Power, Savages, Toy and more. Taking the headline slot themselves on the first night, Wire played to a packed out Sallis Benney Theatre (a venue that is oddly underused as a live music venue in this city), delivering a combination of new and old material which culminated in a performance of ‘Pink Flag’ with their 20+ strong Pink Flag Guitar Orchestra. With gigs only taking place from 6.30pm on the first two nights it was hard to pack too much in but prior to Wire’s performance on Thursday and Savages incredible set on Friday night but bands like Telegram, Bad Breeding and Tigercub all managed to win over audiences – my friend was so bowled over by Bad Breeding that he went straight Resident the next day and bought their 7”!
As the weekend rolled around the gigs started much earlier, though both Saturday and Sunday saw two hour gaps with nothing happening between (roughly) 5pm and 7pm with no real explanation as to why. This did break up the day and made going back out to gigs after a long gap a bit odd. Regardless, the weekend still brought with it plenty to talk about. Rose Elinor Dougall, former Pipette and an ever since brilliant solo act put in a great show previewing material from her forthcoming album (due 2015). Elsewhere East India Youth played his last show of the year at Audio and it was as spectacular as when he brought his Total Strife Forever show to the Green Door Store and Audio at this year’s Great Escape when it was first released.
Sunday was the day when Drill festival put on my Brighton gig of the year. Young Fathers. The Mercury Prize-winning group played a set so bass-heavy, so aggressive and testing and utterly beguiling that it blew me and the unbelievable amount of people that packed into The Haunt fully away. Whenever they next tour I urge everyone reading this to make it to one of their gigs. This was one point where a two hours break between gigs was necessary, just to get my bearing after such an awesome show.
Once I’d calmed down it was time to get to The Old Market for Swans’ headline set. The festival organisers had warned that it would be a busy show and advised people to get their early. Come showtime the venue was full and Swans began their two hour assault on the eardrums. It was a punishing show, but one that fit with Drill’s ambitions.
With over 100 bands, artists, films, talks and more happening over those four cold days that just went by, one can only hope that Wire and One Inch Badge work again next year on a similar festival. Better still if they can get it arranged for the summer!
Photo by Marylene Mey