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Dark Arts Review

Belgrave Music Hall hosted an impressive array of exciting talents in an all-you-can-eat music buffet, with Walt Disco’s immaculate headline set the crowning glory of the day.

Last weekend marked the return of Super Friendz’s biannual Dark Arts event. The roster features its usual exciting up-and-coming guitar bands, along with some new discoveries.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the elusive Fat Dog; I was tipped off about them but a fruitless search for their material on Spotify left my appetite waning. I certainly didn’t expect the Dionysian absurdity that temporarily descended on the room and sent the previously placid audience into a tizz. Pulsating gabber music tore a hole in the crowd, swirling and bouncing in a trance-like state against chanted lyrics. Despite only forming in lockdown, the band has already accumulated a cult following and thrive on the philosophy of keeping a low profile online. It almost feels like cheating to give too much away; they are an act to be experienced for a half-hour or so, to linger in your memory until you seek them out at their next resurfacing. Deep Tan follow, bringing a stylised performance featuring creepy guitar sounds and signature mid-end bass. They entertain the audience with dry wit in between songs, the deadpan introduction to recent single rudy ya ya ya ‘This one is about Rudy Giuliani, who we hate’ leaves no doubt about the truth behind the statement. The trio have a very distinctive sound and air of effortless cool about them, though their presence was a little languid and their music didn’t seem to connect with the crowd after the lively Fat Dog set. That said, Beginners’ krav maga was a highlight, with the recording’s animated melodies translating well live. Opus Kink do their usual extensive and rigorous soundcheck; however, they take longer than usual to reel their audience in as they spontaneously spring into their first song amid confusion on whether they are still preparing. Nevertheless, as the crowd catches on they gravitate to the stage and bob along happily to the funky Dog Stay Down. The group’s sweeping stage presence guarantees complete escapism in dramatic tracks such as This Train and I Love You Baby, whose lush soundscapes leave the room dripping with exuberance.

Walt Disco topped off the day, ever the masters of delightful theatricality and commanding musicianship. The quintet showcased many of the songs from their empowering and critically acclaimed album Unlearning, which was released in April earlier this year. Vocalist Jocelyn Si demonstrates their outstanding capability to connect with the audience, encouraging sing alongs and channelling abundant emotion in their committed vibrato in Be An Actor. The song feels intimate, like an act of audience and singer taking comfort in one another amidst a time where so many feel directionless. Along with Si, Bassist Charlie Lock contributes to the band’s stage presence with his dynamic performance that was in no way limited to just playing the bass, also pounding on a floor tom and singing during a mesmerising theatrical sequence. Undeniably catchy Cut Your Hair has the crowd singing along, as Lewis Carmichael’s punchy guitar riffs evoke hints of Robert Fripp in musical breaks. The band also delighted with their usual jogging-on-the-spot break during the tune, inevitably spurring on the audience to follow suit. Going to a Walt Disco show feels as if you are walking into the band open-armed; they are unfailing in their ability to create a safe space and magical atmosphere at any gig. Tickets were priced very reasonably at £15, pretty much what you’d pay to just see the headliner, though I would urge anyone to indulge in the music marathon with what promises to be a rewarding line-up. Belgrave makes a practical venue for the day, with plenty of seating on the roof for a breather between acts, more seating on the ground floor and food vendors ready to refuel hungry gig-goers. Acts have already been announced for February’s edition of the event, with rising stars of the post-punk scene Deadletter and The Lounge Society down to play. I can think of no better way to rejuvenate a dreary winter’s afternoon.

Tickets are on sale now for next year’s Dark Arts event in February at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen.


Words: Maddie Player

Photo Credit: Lucy Clark


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