A is for AUTARKIC
Yeah, yeah, yeah, this probably should have started with Andrew, for Andrew Weatherall, the man who oversees the musical selection and look and feel of the event (avoiding the overused word “curation” here, because museums and exhibitions are the only things that can really be curated), but, never fear, he’ll be covered elsewhere. And the next A you come to is Autarkic, part of the bustling Tel Aviv set, and arguably the highlight of the Convenanza’s live sets paying at the weekend. Real name Nadav Spiegel, the diminutive solo artist has a clutch of assorted releases for different labels under his belt, including this year’s marvellously titled, wonderfully packaged I Love You Go Away, his most rounded work yet. Highlights from this and his other releases formed the backbone of his set, all perfectly formed modern discotheque music given an edge thanks to new wave vocals. What’s more, Autarkic was spotted on the dancefloor for the rest of the weekend too, illustrating the sense of community. Oh, and he seems like a lovely bloke too.
B is for BERNIE
No-one, repeat, no-one, has a bad word to say about Bernie Fabre, the driving force behind Convenanza. While the deification of Michael and, bizarrely, Emily Eavis, continues apace, can you really Imagine them personally replying to emails, texts and phone calls in the way Bernie does? Everyone knows Bernie, it appears, and, equally, Bernie knows everyone. He looks like one of the most French people Ever, and yet, is the most welcoming and hospitable Gauls you care to meet towards post-Brexit Brits. If the remain camp had used him in their campaign, we'd still be in the EU, fact fans.
C is for Convenanza
Let’s not get too bogged down in the meaning of the name of the festival, but it appears as if the setting of Carcassonne has led to an ongoing fascination with all things Cathar-related, reflected in Weatherall’s work and its titles.
More importantly, perhaps, the growth o the festival appears to have helped create a purple patch in terms of Weatherall’s output, from his productions and remixes through to , a further expansion of his ever broad tastes as a DJ and an attempt to find enlightenment and an enhanced state of mind purely through the power of music. Spiritual, man.
And as for the festival itself? Well, it feels like a proper acid house awayday, with people from all over not just the UK – isolated pockets of A Loe From Outer Space fans, Weatherall devotees – but all over the world, places like Switzerland, Tel Aviv, all little crews, making this a true gathering of the tribes. Let’s leave the words on Convenanza itself to Bernie Fabre. He says: “Convenanza now attracts an incredible community, built around music. And it was fantastic to get the same support in a different venue… As usual we did not rely on big names, but we like to introduce people to bands they may not have seen live yet…”
D is for Dub
To paraphrase Cymon Eckel, interviewed when one of the Boys Own founding fathers took over the Griffin, if anyone's earned the right to do a two hour dub set to kick off proceedings at Convenanza, then it's Weatherall. (He was referring to the Double Gone Chapel and rockabilly, but you get the point.) Walking up the hill to the Theatre De La Mer venue, with Dennis Bovell ringing out across the bay, is as good an introduction as you can get. There has, to use the old phrase so beloved of indie bands that Weatherall remixed almost 30 years ago, always been a dub element to his music, his love of the purest Jamaican form of the genre seems to have been reinvigorated in recent months, thanks to a welter of seemingly never-ending quality reissues. And to all you Nyabinghi warriors from the London suburbs – Jah bless.
E is for ENOUGH
There Is actually an Amor Lux store in Sete. Which begs the question, did everyone attending Convenanza go out and top up their collections of stripes T-shirts? Or did they not need to go because anyway, the E is not for the Garys, but Enough. As in, that’s Enough stripey t-shirts now.
F is for FONTAN
Looking like, according to some of those there, everything from Spinal Tap to Wayne’s World extras, the first live band of the weekend had the stage swirling in dry ice (“there’s a band in there somewhere”) and a guitarist with one of the weirdest looking axes you’ve ever seen. As each year of Convenanza has passed, the bands playing live have become more perfectly honed. Probably the most psych band of the weekend, they fully delivered on the promise of their debut LP. Overall, the four live acts, were as varied as ever, although the more they differ, the more they’re the same. This year, the drum machine ruled the roost – no live drummers, all programmed beats, a common link underpinning each outfit.
G is for GNOSTIC
Gnostic patches were all over the place, not least on the back of the denim jacket. Ant Music For Sex People reborn for a new era, but I’d be wary of rambling on about gnostic sonics too much, unless you’re Weatherall himself, lest you sound like a proper up-his-bum stalker, you gnostic gnobhead.
H is for HAPPY MEALS
One of those "why didn't anyone think of it before" names for a group; one of the Glasgow lot joining the dots between the assorted outposts of the A Love From Outer Space empire, they're much tougher live than on record, playing up the housier tempos, more than the psych elements, although not forgetting the trippier themes. Oh, and another mad as you like singer heading all over the place too.
I is for INSTAGRAM
Yeah, I see you all took some pictures out there.
J is for JUNTO CLUB
With the kind of singer who looks like he’s not sure whether to fight you or fuck you – Junto Club are one of those Scottish bands who kind of remind you of early 80s post-punk Glaswegians and their ilk, right down to singer David’s bequiffed, Hawaiian shirt rockabilly look (a bit, as one or two of my companions noted, Hipsway). With a singer entering the audience and the amphitheatre as the performance progressed, they’ve got the perfect punk and house-style credentials – part electronic, part live instruments, they also boast a perfect CV, thanks to previous releases on essential imprints such as Optimo’s label (they’ve come through the notorious Green Door studio), with remixes from another Weatherall collaborator in the shape of Ivan Smagge. And in Ikiryo, they have a song that sounds like they’re singing about eccies.
K is for (BARIS) K
He’d wowed in his previous turn at Convenanza and returned this year both to play alongside Weatherall in a Music’s Not For Everyone session, then later as a back to back operation, he brought a distinct Turkish and Mediterranean feel to the proceedings; what’s more, he’s got loads of records that you have no idea where they’re from, or what on earth they are. Included that mad version of Give Me The Night too.
L is for (A) LOVE FROM OUTER SPACE
Sean Johnston, he of the other half of A Love From Outer Space, said it was one of the most bonkers A Love From Outer Space nights ever, and that description is pretty spot on. As well as the usual kind of gear you’d expect from its two driving forces, Messrs Weatherall and Johnston, there were some real curveballs too and the final half an hour delved even further into the madness. Bemused looks at some lengthy porto-Soviet dance track, the kind of thing that Kruschev might have played at an acid-soaked all-nighter in late 60s Moscow, which, as it faded away with the sound of the Red Army stomping in the discotheque, the first sullen, reverb-drenched chords of 4AD supergroup This Mortal Coil’s Song To The Siren came long. Are they really going to play the whole thing? All of it? Yes and yes… Weatherall behind the decks, lost in the moment, swaying to Liz Fraser’s exquisite vocals and, given its nautical theme, a perfect waterside lament. One of the UK acid house contingent, dozing and dozy, half asleep sat in one of the amphitheatre's seats, opened his eyes, said “brilliant” and promptly went back to sleep again. And then there was one more after that (see U below)…
M is for MUSIC'S NOT FOR EVERYONE
Now an accepted part of the Weatherall canon, the name taken from his rather outstanding radio show, widened this year to include a dub only set (see above) and a session with Baris K. As good as the radio show itself, in fact.
N is for Nord
Hogs Nord, the label much beloved of Mr Weatherall, was all over the place at Convenanza: its Fontan opened the live proceedings, sounding suitably trippy, while its Convenanza remix 12" - selected tracks from Fontan elpee remixed by Hoga Nord and Convenanza friendly acts - and Qualia album from Weatherall under his own name both on display at the event, it was the go-to label for the festival. And as we noted in a profile of the label a few months back, its mixture of machines and guitars, from the wilder live instrumentation at the psych end of the spectrum through to the programmed beats side of house and disco, via a heady dollop of lysergic cosmic space, is the sound that most typifies where Weatherall's head is currently at.
O is for OYSTERS
Up there, in the corner, they were selling oysters. Seriously. An oyster bar in a festival. Name me anywhere else that can do that, and don’t say Glastonbury, just to be clever.
P is for PETERSON
Not really one for gossip, but here’s some gossip. Apparently, your man Gilles Peterson had the hump that Convenanza had moved to “his” venue at Sete. Much as I like the jazz-can’t-grow-a-beard fella, there’s something about this that, true or not, tickles me intensely. Try a castle next time mate.
Q is for QUALIA
New album, on Hoga Nord, available at the event and highly, highly recommended. Snippets and tracks from it were popping up all over the weekend, including that one that goes “hello… hello”. And the sleeve sees Weatherall in full “Alan Moore’s let himself go” mode.
R is for RYANAIR
"Right, that's it, I'm never flying RyanAir again." You've all said it, and, like the weak-willed fool you are, like making the call at 6am when you know you've got shit to do, you still do it. And then the bastards cancel loads of flights, including yours, because they really are heartless bastards. It also turned getting into Convenanza into some kind of not-as-funny-as-the-original sequel to Planes Trains And Automobiles. Having said that, it appears as if some people did find your humble correspondent's plight as amusing as Steve Martin and John Candy's travel travails. "Look at those," they said, eyeing social media snaps of us still on a train some nine hours after we'd set off after they'd arrived in Sete. "They're still on the fucking train."
S is for Sete
Not better than Carcassonne, not worse, just different. Just as gorgeous as the festival's first home, with the setting, an amphitheatre by the Mediterranean, drawing the same kind of gasps from attendees as the Cathay castle of previous years. Great city too, with plenty of restaurants and, better still, some decent bars too.
The only real noteworthy currency in Sete. This year’s tokens were even Convenanza branded, by the end, most pickled punters were trying to use them across the city, not just in the venue.
U is for UNMASK ME
The set closer from the first night’s A Love From Outer Space night, word started spreading about what the tune was, it stated selling out all over the place online by Sunday afternoon. It’s the Ashley Beedle remix you’re after and it’s one of those perfect end-of-nighters, complete with the uplifting kind of warm sound that sends you staggering back to your hotel happy.
V is for VINYL
Even as most of the the DJs stuck with the CDJs and, ahem, (laptop sets), vinyl is still the format of choice for the Convenanza heads, as evinced by the brisk trade in black plastic at the merchandise stall. Although hang on, what’s this? A cassette of Qualia? Wait a minute…
W is for WEATHERALL
When this writer started on local newspapers many, many moons ago, a pub landlord was, to use the prevalent journalese, always, always a “guv’nor”. Use of the phrase The Guv’nor in reference to Mr Weatherall is reaching near saturation point, but let’s face facts: when it comes to Covenanza, he really is the Guv’nor.
X is for (Midnight) Xpress
Not sure about you, maybe it’s a generational thing, but a grainy VHS of Midnight Express and Giorgio Moroder’s accompanying score watched during the VHS era was enough to put your correspondent off visiting Turkey for life. Still trying to work out if it was a deliberate gag or not, also not entirely sure if it was either Weatherall or Paris K who played it, but let’s just hope that whoever dropped Chase from Moroder’s OST on Saturday night as the evening reached its climax was making a deliberate reference to Mr K’s homeland of Turkey.
Y is for (NEXT) YEAR
So where to for the sixth Convvenanza event? Rumours were swirling around before this one was out of the way, but let’s leave the final word to Bernie: “At this stage, no one knows where we’ll do it next year, but we know we can count on all our Convenanza friends to join the party, wherever we are! We are truly blessed to have the audience we have.”
Z is for ZZZZZ
All the ZZZZZs for those that didn’t sleep over the weekend, seemingly much of the well prepared British contingent, including the mushroom lads. Fair play to you all.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF LUCIE ZORZOPIAN.
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