Counterflows - Various venues, Glasgow, Fri 4–Sun 6 Apr 2014 (4 stars)

Counterflows - Various venues, Glasgow, Fri 4–Sun 6 Apr 2014

The Space Lady

A weekend of experimental music, with Joe McPhee, The Space Lady, Heatsick and more

Back for its third consecutive year, Counterflows returned for a weekender of memorable in-the-moment flashes of not-to-be-repeated inspiration. Welcoming its first ‘featured artist’ in veteran US free-jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee, alongside other experimental, dance and outsider musicians from near and far. Participating venues included Garnethill Multicultural Centre, the CCA, the newly-reopened Art School Vic Bar, an underground car park and the newly-renovated arena in Queens Park, showing that this was a festival full of not just ideas but confidence too.

Friday night’s late-night event at the CCA, featuring recent Optimo Music signees Whilst, plus McPhee and DJs General Ludd, proved so popular that the party spilled out from the terrace bar into a lobby below. It rounded off an opening evening that had begun with performances from Polish ambient improviser Ela Orleans in collaboration with Swedish filmmaker Maja Borg, the ethereally hushed tones of Japanese singer-songwriter Ai Aso, and American cosmic busker The Space Lady (we go into more detail on that gig in our review).

Co-organised with Cry Parrot promotions, Berlin-based English esoteric electro-dance producer Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) gave a four-hour ‘extended-play’ which was the highlight of Saturday and possibly the whole weekend. With ad-hoc input from members of Glasgow tribal dancefloor experimentalists Golden Teacher, Whilst, Dam Mantle and shades-sporting sax master-blaster McPhee, Warwick led an elongated loops-based jam, playfully manipulating not just the audio but the entire experience for the crowd. This meant delivering an intense, golden light-show and gallons of dry-ice, with yoga mats and plastic hula-hoops scattered around the dancefloor for spontaneous PE class throwback fun, plus lavender spray in the air, and green tea cocktails served at the bar.

As the Sunday focus shifted to the Southside ahead of an evening closer at Glad Café with the Joe McPhee Trio and guests, what wasn’t to love about The Space Lady’s lunchtime performance? In a by-turns sunny and rainy Queens Park, cyclists, dog-walkers and pram-pushers gathered among hungover faces from the night before.

A familiar sight busking on the streets of Boston and San Francisco throughout the 70s and 80s with her home-pimped keyboard, this trademark winged-plastic-hatted eccentric’s originals and covers of rock standards dipped in phase and reverb were a weird joy to behold. Be it the Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ or Peter Schilling’s ‘Major Tom’ or Bowie’s ‘Starman’. As she rightly put it, ‘The Space Lady wouldn’t be worth her word if she didn’t do a David Bowie number.’

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