Review Scene: Supersense – Arts Centre Melbourne, 8th August 2015

Billed as the Festival of the Ecstatic, Supersense drew theatre, music and arts patrons to four different stages, in the Arts Centre Precinct. Curator and performer Sophia Brous collaborated with the Asian Performing Arts Program to create an amalgam of sound and light shows, dance, punk, jazz, rock and the avant garde, immersing attendees in a visual and aural sensory experience.

Supersense 2015. Photo by Mary Boukouvalas.

Ambient, foreboding sounds emanated from speakers when descending the stairwell into the bowels of the Arts Centre, inciting a sense of other worldliness. The blue lights led to the State Theatre stage, where provocative punk matriarch Lydia Lunch and Retrovirus are turning day into night with “punch rock” (in Lunch’s words.) Lunch and Retrovirus, power through a frenetic set of tortured sounds and fervent vocals. Lunch’s witty repartee wakens the weariest punter . “Thanks for inviting us to Supersense or Supersenseless as I like to say. We’re going to have you.” True to her words, Lunch and Retrovirus had us, with “Mechanical Flattery” from album Queen of Siam, “Love Split with Blood” and a poignant ode to Rowland S Howard with their rendition of “Still Burning.” Supersense was off to a compelling start.

At the Playhouse, things are a little more subdued yet no less intense. Tao Dance Theater’s ‘5’ sees dancer’s bodies folding and unfolding over each other to the tune of Chinese Indie-folk-rock composer Xiao He. Beautiful and striking, the performance lingers on in one’s memory long after the dancers leave the stage.

Curator Sophia Brous is giving her own impromptu performance, in the Playhouse foyer squawking loudly whilst her companion answers her cries. HTRK team up with Chunky Move; Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang create languid, slow, rythmic beats whilst the dancers film themselves on stage in real time and images are projected on giant screens flanking the stage. The effect is mesmerising and a true merging of music and dance.

Supersense 2015. Photo by Mary Boukouvalas.

The Legendary Ash Ra Tempel’s Manuel Gottsching joins forces with Ariel Pink to recreate a body of work he hasn’t performed for 43 years. Tempel’s fretwork inspires whilst Pink complements on bass and vocals.

At 8pm in Hamer Hall, Gurrumul sings The Gospel Songs in dulcet tones and in his native tongue Yolngu. His double bassist Michael Hohnen provides amusing between song banter informing us that they started with the hits to make us feel more comfortable, but were now venturing into foreign territory with the new album that debuted at number 3.

Supersense 2015. Photo by Mary Boukouvalas.

For “Jesu” Gurrumul is joined by the Sing Australia choir on backing vocals, one of Gurrumul’s ploys to make the Yolngu language seep into every day consciousness, Hohnen informs us. Joined also by the legendary Ross Hannaford on lead guitar, clad in orange from top to toe, and complete with orange milk crate. The audience also plays a role in tonight’s performance, stomping like crocodiles for one song and squawking like crows for another, with the help of vocalist Caiti Baker. A highlight is an appearance by our own Paul Kelly sharing vocal duties with Gurrumul for an impassioned rendition of “Amazing Grace” and ending with a moving tribute to  Dame Elizabeth Murdoch and family in “Saviour.”

In The Playhouse, Marc Ribot opens for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, entrancing us with his no wave, free jazz, acoustic guitar arpeggios. Playing to an American Flag back drop, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion take the stage hostage from the get go. The volume is turned up high, punters are upstanding in their seats and dancing in the aisles. Their stamina is high, and energy infectious, despite playing an earlier 8pm set, they no signs of slowing down. “2 Kinds Love” sees punters raise their fists and clap their hands,  and in between sets Jon Spencer yells out “We’re the Blues Explosion” but they play unadulterated rock n roll,  and are relentless in their quest to entertain.

Supersense 2015. Photo by Mary Boukouvalas.

Supersense boldly set out to heighten and celebrate the senses and judging by the satisfied attendees,  wholly achieved its aim.

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About Anna-Maria Megalogenis 157 Articles
Anna-Maria has been writing for Street Press in Melbourne and Sydney for over 20 years. She is passionate about food, music and the arts, is an avid reader and used to hand write reviews for Beat Magazine at the Great Britain Hotel, where a patron once suggested she was ripping off articles in Rolling Stone magazine.