Tag Archives: Billy Bottle & The Multiple

November/December 2016 – upcoming music theatre – sounds from Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ and a rundown of the other shows in the All The Right Notes multi-media music theatre festival (15th November to 3rd December)

15 Nov

This just in – Lee Fletcher, touring soundwizard for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, just tipped me off about this Bandcamp montage he’s just made of their currently touring show ‘The Other Place’.

There should be a YouTube version shortly, which I’ll paste in when it’s available. Meanwhile, there’s more on the show in general here, and more on its current dates here.

* * * * * * * *

One of the ‘Other Place’ dates is in London this weekend – taking place at Camden People’s Theatre, as part of their ‘All The Right Notes’ “gig-theatre” festival exploring the interaction, interweaving and intersectionality of theatre and music on the fringes. While on the subject, I should post up a little more about the festival, since it’s starting today.

So here’s a rapid rundown of what’s on offer in ‘All The Right Notes’ between 15th November and 3rd December. Most of the text is stripped and compressed from the homepage (where there’s full dates, times and details if you want to pursue the shows in depth). I’ve added or rearranged a few things where necessary, including some personal impressions. Because performance artists aren’t the only people who can mash up texts… oh yeah… (postures)

Some of the shows are pretty much straight musical gigs, with the theatre inherent in the performance rather than explicitly mounted as part of the staging. Digifolk musicians and quixotic archivists The Memory Band (who, in their own words, “navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps” and “the ghost-lit back-roads of British traditional music where digital machinery and acoustic musicians congregate to make old music from the future”) offer a performance previewing their upcoming fifth album ‘A Fair Field’, which spans a world of folk word and song from the fourteenth-century narrative epic ‘Piers Plowman’ to the generation of unaccompanied English folk singers who passed in the mid-twentieth century to Northumbrian modernist poet Basil Bunting. It’s best to let them map out their own album description too – “the music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.” Later in the season, Daniel Marcus Clark‘s ‘Between’ looks for “the story in every song and the song in every story” in a solo set delivered by beat-up old voice and a pair of guitars via a mood and method compared variously to Marc Ribot, Mississipi John Hurt and Vincent Price.



 
As you’d expect from a theatre space preoccupied with fringe activity and political art, there’s a strong representation of standalone and intersectional aspects within the broad church of contemporary dance music and the cultures which make it up, taking in hot and fluid topics of race, feminism, class, communality and chosen ways of self-expression. Accompanied by beatboxer/vocalists Kate & Nate (from Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy), actor-writer Lauren Gauge will present her raw feminist comedy-with-music ‘The Unmarried’, a drama of raucous, brassy, party-friendly resistance to patriarchy, rhythmically underscored by a live mix of beat-boxing, ‘90s dance hits and old-school UK garage tunes – “gig theatre… theatre you can rave to.” Earlier in the season, reknowned London grime MC Flowdan will present a special performance of his lyrics (stripped from their soundsystem context and performed with voice alone under a spotlight), while the festival will close with musician-performer Will Dickie’s live-art DJ set ‘The Rave Space’ (a staged rave which explores the ideals and situation of unity through dance culture, and which overlaps the boundaries of dance party communion and theatre-space performance, although Will’s keeping schtum about precisely how this occurs…)


 
Several pieces operate within the publically settled, privately fragile area of contemporary early adulthood and its codes of faith,behaviour and expectations which end up being kicked around by our own doubts and insecurities and by the challenges and occasional perversities of our individual drives and experiences. Songwriter, actress and theatre maker Isobel Rogers performs her open-mic drama ‘Elsa’, about a woman working in a coffee shop while pursuing her dreams on the side. As she drifts in and out of the characters who come into the cafe, Elsa is confronted with different characters from both literature and reality and begins to lead the lives of Nina, Miranda, Lillian and Grace in her own head. Keeping a part of herself elsewhere through song, Elsa plays a trick on a world that keeps telling her how to “be”.

Heavier notes are provided by Rachel Mars and Alicia Jane Turner. The former (with musical support from singer-songwriter Louise Mothersole of Sh!t Theatre) performs her proudly spiky, witty work ‘Our Carnal Hearts’, “a gleeful, thrilling and murky celebration of envy, competitive spirits and all the times we fuck each other over… performed with a live surround-sound choral score, it is born from the suspect parentage of an ideological rally, a drunken sing-song and a seductive dream.” The latter uses her skills as composer, performance artist and multi-instrumentalist to present ‘Breathe (Everything Is Going To Be Okay)’ – “a full-body immersion of soaring strings and spiralling sound in a daringly vulnerable solo performance exploring the relationship between our bodies and minds… blending visceral live music with intimate confessions, Breathe is an unflinchingly honest dissection of our daily anxieties and fears.”

 
As you’ll guess from the above in particular, not everything in the festival is kid- or family-friendly, but there are some exceptions. Moths (performer/musician Joe White and theatre maker Tanya Stephenson, both of whom also work with perennial percussion-fest STOMP) present ‘Pale Phoebe’ – a performance mingling storytelling, clever lighting and projection effects and percussive, androgynous contemporary synth pop to tell the dreamlike story of an imagined journey to the moon. In ‘The Castle Builder’, punky, childlike, lo-fi electropopper Kid Carpet and actor-storyteller Vic Llewellyn join forces for a playful, uplifting show based around true tales of unlikely people who created extraordinary outsider art just for the pleasure of it. In the process, they ask questions about art, who it’s for and what mark it leaves on the world. In addition, each performance will feature a different maker, who at the end of the show will present the audience with something they build or create using the debris from the show and anything else they find scattered around the stage.



 
If you’re after more esoterically cerebral (or potentially baffling) performances, a couple of those are waiting in the wings. Perhaps coincidentally, both are two-handers featuring frenetically active male text’n’context shredders and reknowned female experimental violinists who blur the boundaries between being muses, partners and upsetters. In ‘Within The Context Of No Context’ Tim Parkinson and Angharad Davies explore the crossover between theatre-as-sound and sound-as-theatre via prepared-violin music drama interpretations of avant-garde compositions by Louis D’Heudieres, Stefan Thut, Alison Knowles, John Cage and others (with a title inspired by George S Trow’s influential essay about the decline of society in the new age). In ‘Seeping Through (CPT)’, regular collaborators Aisha Orazbayeva and Tim Etchells perform an intense, rolling two-hour improvisation in spontaneous fragments, with text and music treated as fluid forces in the same space, fading in and out of each other, breathing together, cutting and cancelling each other, creating a dynamic and always unstable landscape. Tim collages and constructs the show’s verbal content from diverse fragments of notebook scribbles, past performance text and works in progress, creating collisions, loops, and unexpected connections between different spoken materials; while Aisha plays vigorously deconstructed classical violin using extended technique, strange sounds, and “radically remixed and quoted” elements from the classical repertoire. (As an example, below is an earlier Etchells/Orazbayeva work: nearly six excruciating yet compelling minutes of the duo wringing as many disrupted nuances as possible from brief sentences and clauses recited over grinding string noise.)

 

Also on the festival bill are a pair of straight (well, relatively straight) musicals. “Misguided and aspirational” performance art group mingbeast present their “uplifting musical” ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’ (in which two barely-prepared pop wannabes struggle to get their act and songs together on a shared and battered iPad, jostling the business of dreaming about being in a band and actually becoming one).There’s a work-in-progress showing of Duckie star Boogaloo Stu’s ‘The Regeneration Game’, a comedy musical taking well-deserved sideswipes at the property racket currently turning scores of community pubs into community-detached luxury flats. See landlord and landlady Kev and Babs, from closure-threatened pub The Dog & Dumplings, plan to take on the big boys in a tale of “a boozer in decline, dodgy developers and dogging…”

A couple of pieces embark on voyages into the family and the circumstantial shocks and resolutions to be found within it. Armed with voice and electronic drumkit, poet-musician Antosh Wojcik performs his innovative, touching ‘Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill Glitches In Memory’, in which he explores “the effects of dementia on speech, memory and motor skills. Assigning rhythms to family members, Antosh attempts to build a ‘voice-percussion gun’ to destroy inherited Alzheimer’s. Poems become beats become glitches in time in this poignant and mesmeric display of live drumming and spoken word.” Ziad Nagy’s ‘Too Human’ is “an interdisciplinary exploration into the chasms of family constellations, the fragmentary structures that make us who we are, and the insatiable desire to make things better. Through the disjointedness of live collage making, experimental music production, and confessional storytelling, Ziad lays bare what at first seems idiosyncratic and slowly transforms into the poetically ubiquitous.” (As you can see, I didn’t much feel like paraphrasing all that.)

Other events include a panel session discussing why live music and theatre are converging (featuring contemporary music theatre driver Patrick Eakin Young, journalist/editor Andrzej Lukowski of ‘Time Out‘ and ‘Drowned In Sound‘, and punk singer/theatre maker Racheal Clerke); and ‘Controlled Madness’, in which DJ, party promoter and acid house philosopher-celebrity Andy Blake engages in a late-night quasi-symposium (lit and soundtracked to conjure up a backstreet backroom atmosphere) with cultural commentators Ben Bashford and Joe Muggs, dealing on party culture and its role (questioned or otherwise) in contemporary society.

The ‘Big Bang’ evening features four work-in-progress shorts and excerpts – a love monologue from poet Ross Sutherland (compiled from actual outbursts he’s shouted at drum and bass DJs mid-set); ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ (a tower-block, housing-crisis, class-and-character study in beatbox, rap and spoken word by Paul Cree and Conrad Murray of Beats & Elements); a scratch performance of sleepwalking, sleeptalking husband-and-wife dream drama by Lillian Henley and Tom Adams; and Nima Séne’s ‘I Belong’, in which Nima and her alter ego Beige Bitch explore the concept of belonging (nostalgia, deluding, seductive and political) via a melange of theatrical tricks, electronic sound, pop culture and autobiography.

 
Probably a good place to start (assuming that you can clear your evening) is tomorrow’s special night-after-opening night show ‘Note Form’. This features music-heavy excerpts from ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’, ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ and She Goat’s ‘DoppelDänger’ (a “theatrical live-music gig of original music and unlikely cover songs with synth-pop, electronic textures and baroque harpsichord”); plus a standalone piece – ‘The Beginning Of The End Of The Heroic Child’, a “secular ecstatic ritual” by Nwando Ebizie‘s Afro-Anglo-Caribbean goddess persona Lady Vendredi which “transform(s) pain into beauty via the medium of discarded remnants of empty trash signifiers. Moving from the sea beneath the waters of the past through the fourth dimension and passing to a glimpse of a forgotten future. A rite for all of those who wish to take part in an inter-dimensional breakdown. A wild ride down a rabbit hole of splintering realities. Dogmas challenged, desires and dreams unravelled.” I think that pretty much covers everything – and so does this.
 

November/December 2016 – upcoming gigs – more English dates for Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ (4th & 20th November, 10th December)

28 Oct

Billy Bottle & The Multiple - 'The Other Place' tour, 2016Mike Westbrook-affiliated pastoral Anglo-jazz explorers Billy Bottle & The Multiple have added more dates on their evolving, ongoing ‘The Other Place’ tour.

The show has its roots in a personal odyssey and serious socio-political stunt from band core Billy and Martine, who took advantage of their brief infamy as guests on ‘The Voice’ to run a whistle-stop free busking tour across southern and western England just prior to the 2015 election. In the process, they sounded out a disgruntled, despairing populace about what they thought about democracy and connection. Later, Billy and Martine put together this semi-theatrical vox-pop song-and-music roadshow on what they found, tracing a shadow of disaffection which culminated in the Brexit vote earlier this year.

For the full skinny on ‘The Other Place’, click back a few months. I’ve been slow off the mark again, and missed promoting their Margate and Brighton dates in September; but here are the rest of the dates between now and Christmas… unless they wangle a few more in the interim, which is entirely possible. For now, there are two shows in Cornwall (the first being the 4th November) and one in London.

As before, the band for ‘The Other Place’ consists of Billy Bottle (voice, keyboards, guitar), Martine Waltier (voice, violin, guitar, percussion), Roz Harding (alto saxophone, recorder, percussion), flautist/singer/percussionist Vivien Goodwin-Darke (flute, voice, percussion) and Lee Fletcher (synths, soundscapes, percussion).
 

June/July/October 2016 – upcoming gigs – Billy Bottle & The Multiple tour ‘The Other Place – a Vox-Popera’ across the English South-West and South Coast

22 Jun

Whatever happens in the wake of this week’s Britain-in-Europe referendum, there are going to be plenty of questions asked about democracy, accountability and connection. Personally, I’m expecting most of them to be shouted or sworn rather than asked, so I’m not looking forward to it… especially if I’m going to be one of the people doing the swearing.

Last year, Billy Bottle & The Multiple were asking a few of those questions themselves. Since they’re heirs to the spirit of Daevid Allen rather than that of Jeremy Paxman, they were asking them in their own unorthodox way. This month, as part of an ongoing follow-up roadshow stretching into autumn (and perhaps beyond), they’re beginning to show us what they discovered.

* * * * * * * *

Billy Bottle, 2016

‘The Other Place – A Vox-Popera’

“On the evening of 7th May, 2015, a pint of milk mysteriously appears at the gates of Parliament.

Special delivery...

Special delivery…

“Set in the week running up to a UK general election, The Other Place tells the true story of two musicians from Devon as they make their way slowly to Westminster. On high streets, market squares and seafront promenades, they perform the same song, forty-nine times over, and at each stop they start conversations with whoever they meet, asking them ‘Who’s got the Power?’

At the end of a long and winding journey, they arrive at Parliament Square on a milk float to make their delivery: a symbolic reminder that the power doesn’t belong to the inhabitants of Westminster, it is given to them by the rest of us.

“This journey through the foundations of British democracy inspired a sequence of songs whose lyrics come from the words of the voters (and non-voters) that Billy and Martine met on their journey. It is a celebration of gentler kinds of power and an invitation to the audience to make their voices heard.

Billy Bottle & The Multiple - 'The Other Place' - on tour, 2016“The Multiple currently features Martine Waltier (voice, violin, guitar, percussion), Roz Harding (alto saxophone, recorder, percussion) and Billy Bottle (voice, keyboards, guitar), all of whom are mainstays of Mike Westbrook’s Uncommon Orchestra; plus flautist/singer/percussionist Vivien Goodwin-Darke (from the psychedelic rock band Magic Bus) and recording artist and producer Lee Fletcher (of Unsung Productions) on synths, soundscapes and percussion. Like the best art rock, they combine folk, jazz, pop and minimalism in an engaging and meaningful way.

Complete with wobbly camera footage and the sounds of the streets, this performance is a real democratic party in action!”

* * * * * * * *

As regards the delivery of the Power… it all began as a stunt, of sorts. In January 2015, a peak-time British TV audience was treated to the sight of Billy and Martine ripping into an acoustic busker-cover of Snap!’s old Eurodance chestnut as they competed in ‘The Voice’. Wrapped in pink quilting, flower-child swirl prints and a sunshine glow, chatty about their south Devon rural idyll (and their taste for naturism), they gave the impression of being only a couple of brow-stars away from the Age of Aquarius. They delighted the judges (and went down a storm with a supposedly-hippy-proof public) but their faces and demeanour didn’t fit the reality TV narrative, and they didn’t get any further in the contest. By popular demand the single was out that summer via Bandcamp and cottage industry: it sold nicely behind the scenes and away from the charts; and that might have been that.


 

However, painting the Bottle squad as talented, bright-eyed novelty hippies is to get no further than the colourful wrapping; to miss the bright, enquiring intelligence under the apparent sunny simplicity; and to mistake constructive, conscious choices for naivety and innocence. Before they’d even thought of stepping onto ‘The Voice’s stage, Billy and Martine had been longstanding Westbrook Band and Dave Sinclair associates, with urban roots in Darlington and London supplemented by dues paid in neo-progressive rock, indie, music teaching and circuses. Already able to tap and hold serious British musical talent, their 2013 album ‘Unrecorded Beam’ had been a triumph of pastoral ensemble jazz; scooping up the poetry of Thoreau and blowing new leaf-green life through it, zig-zagging through the soundfields like a tripping honeybee. ‘The Voice’ was a diversion – a game they were coaxed into. In turn it triggered another experiment in play, taking something apparently trivial and fluffy but using it to tap into a more serious undercurrent.

The busk pilgrimage that would eventually become ‘The Other Place’ started as an attempt at a “rolling conversational democratic jam session.” With no more than the violin, acoustic guitar, costumes and voices from the ‘Voice’ session, Billy and Martine flipped their brief brush with celebrity into an engagement with recognition and a much more down-to-earth version of meet’n’greet. They rode on the back of their ‘Voice’ platform not in order to achieve celebrity, but to set up a chat: a little conversation at the feet of the Big Society, where the bunions and the broken toes are. What they found and heard – and recorded en route – would eventually weave itself into the sonic fabric of ‘The Other Place’, fleshed out by jazz reeds and woodwind, and aided and abetted by production wizard Lee Fletcher (who’d done so much for the encompassing feel of ‘Unrecorded Beam’ and was co-opted into the Multiple once they’d realised the multimedia nature of the emerging new project).

In lieu of any sonic or visual teasers for the show (the Multiple are keeping their cards close to their chests on that one) here are some clipped’n’mixed reflections from the original voyage, all taken from their blog of the original roadtrip:

“We’re not pretending we’ve got any answers. We’re definitely not pretending that wearing fluorescent tights and playing a song in the street is a way to change things. But it’s a way in, a way to start meeting people, catching little snatches of a tune that this country is humming under its breath, that nobody’s quite remembered the words to yet…

“When you travel slower, the country gets larger. Stopping off at so many places along the way, Exeter is a really long way from Newton Abbot, Bristol is a really long way from Exeter. You realise that each of these places is a world, the world of the people who live here and do their best to make life work in the conditions in which they find themselves. Seeing news clips of the party leaders climbing out of helicopters or stepping off intercity trains, it feels like they are whizzing up and down a different country, a smaller country, a country where most of the places we are visiting don’t matter very much…

“Each time we get off the train at a new place, we find ourselves sniffing the air, sensing for clues as to what it is like to be getting on with your life in a place like this. And the clothes, the music, the harmless foolishness of our little gang seems to open up a line of contact, so that within twenty seconds people are talking to us about their lives….

“People start off curious and cautious. They see us coming a mile off, the technicolour outfits, the huge #dontjustvote stickers on our instrument cases. Sometimes they recognise us off ‘The Voice’. They want to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and that means we have to keep asking ourselves those questions, figuring out the answers as we go along. They want to know what we’re selling, what we’re trying to persuade them of, and we tell them really we just want to start conversations, to meet people, to find out what’s going on in this country now, what this election actually means.

“When they start talking to us, they usually start with a flat statement, something definitive. ‘I never vote.’ ‘They’re all the same.’ ‘There’s no point, is there?’ But as they realise we’re actually interested, the way they talk changes, something else comes out. You can hear how much they care. Everyone we meet feels disillusioned, disengaged, disenfranchised. They all feel like they’re not being heard. A lot of them aren’t voting. Yet they also believe that we as people do have power, they just can’t see a route to change that goes through the ballot box…

“In Trowbridge, we started playing and police came running round the corner. There had been a theft of a piece of meat from a shop. A shopkeeper came running towards us, she thought we were just shouting in the street, shouting like a thief. Well, we were shouting in the street. A few minutes later, Bill was listening to the story of a man who had been homeless for twelve years as he talked about his father’s addiction and how he died. At the end, there would have been no point in words. The two of them stood there in the street, holding each other, crying.

“In Brighton and Lewes, the air smells green, and then we cross some unmarked threshold and in the next few towns another reality takes over. Listening to the way people talk, we find ourselves starting to understand why they are drawn to UKIP, not because the facts or the arguments add up, but because in this reality it could sound like they make sense.

“The song is the same in every place, but something changes, grows, deepens. Maybe what we’re doing is charging up the song, like we have to keep charging our phones whenever we get a few minutes near a socket. All of these encounters, conversations, stories are charging up this song we started out with and the song is carrying them.

“All along this journey, we’ve been feeling an aching gap between the cold anger, disillusionment, exhaustion that nearly everyone we talk to has when they talk about the political system and something else, something that doesn’t come so easily into words, but is a kind of faith in people, in people’s ability to muddle through, to somehow go on making life work, finding opportunities for kindness in the middle of all its absurdities.

“Maybe this all has something to do with what we mean by power? A friend of ours, Anthony McCann, talks about the idea of a ‘politics of gentleness’. Watching the news about this election, gentleness and politics don’t really seem like words that belong together. But what he says is that when we think about power, we usually think of it as the ability to manipulate, control or dominate other people. And since those are all pretty nasty ways of treating people, and since most of us don’t actually want to treat people in nasty ways, that way of thinking about power makes it something we wouldn’t want to have, which makes us powerless.


 
“So what if there were other ways of thinking about power? What if there were other kinds of power that exist, all the time, so much part of our everyday lives that we take them for granted? Anthony talks about power as ‘the ability to vary the experience of oneself or others’. As an example of this gentle power, he talks about what it’s like to be a parent holding a small child… And maybe it’s this kind of power that people feel, that they have some kind of trust in, even if it’s not easy to give it words?…”

We’re going to deliver The Power to Westminster.

“When we started saying that, it was a joke, but as we kept joking about it, the thought deepened on us. We’re still figuring all of this out as we go along, finding out what we’re doing by doing it, but it’s starting to seem like this journey culminates in an ironic ritual: the delivering of The Power to Westminster, to remind the politicians that The Power doesn’t belong to them, not really, not on polling day, or even on any other day.

“The Power is loaned to them by the people, and they can hardly dare to acknowledge how grudgingly that loan is made, how overdue the repayments have become. This is the other deficit, the one that no one is making pledges about, and someday the people may call in the loan.”
 
* * * * * * * *

Or, to put it another way (as another beloved couple did, in another time and another place):

“Are you serious?”
“About what I do, yes. Not necessarily the way I do it.”

Don't Just Vote
 

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