Taking the train home from the city centre west-bound on Sunday, most commuters could easily be forgiven for having a “WTF?!” moment as they approached West Glasgow’s secluded Eastvale Place.
Firstly because of the pounding bass kicks that threatened to knock the carriage off the rails, and secondly because as the lazy Sunday commuter sped past on the tracks above, their senses would have been assaulted by the visual feast belting their eyes, and the tracks providing the rhythm to the event going on down below.
The event, programmed with one of the best line ups of electronic acts this summer, was The Electric Frog Street Carnival. Curated by the now retired (?) Optimo, it seems that since stopping their Sunday night Sub Club residency the hugely influential duo of JG Wilkes and JD Twitch have never had so much on their plate – the carnival being one of the highlights of a very busy year.
Void of gawdy neon flat bed trucks, Chinese dragons and feathery, peacock-like samba dancers, this was not your average carnival, but it was none the less glamorous. The dancers at Electric Frog were a different breed of movers: khaki carrot top jeans for the boys, long-trousered play suits that made the girls look like Princess Jasmine from Aladdin, big black glasses, small brown brogues, denim shorts, metal tees, and the obligatory 90’s raver, still wearing that floppy hat.
While the early bird punters hit the bar and got their faces painted [it is a carnival after all, despite the differences from your average street parade], those in the know – or lucky enough to be drawn to the Optimo stage by the early crowd – were checking out Factory Floor. Initially managing to get a few heads nodding with their Sonic Youth guitar screeches and whispered vocals from violin bow wielding singer Gabriel Gurnsey , it wasn’t long until the build up of her guitar bashing antics, heavy & dominating early Daft Punk-esque drums, and abrasive analogue synth loops got the front of the tent bouncing. Combined with the brilliant cut up live visuals of the band on huge screens rear of the stage, this early start to the evening was a triumph for the band and the promoters alike.
Still being early, most of the carnival goers were at the bar again, or checking out the different parts of the carnival whilst JD Twitch and JG Wilkes were giving a taster warm up for their main set later that evening.
Following this teaser, Liquid Liquid, the seminal 80’s New York post-punk group that Optimo took their name from were on stage. Set against a backdrop of cutting edge electronic music, the band seemed very dated at first, with their twangy bass guitar grooves and nonsensical lyrics. However, as their set progressed, patterns emerged, and it was easy to see how their legacy has inspired many: from the chants of James Murphy, to the cowbells of the Rapture; Liquid Liquid are the original dance-rock crossover band and deserve merit for helping to inspire and create the boundary jumping dance music we enjoy today.
And no-one jumps boundaries in electronic music quite like Sensu. The three of them seemed to enjoy the freedom of a live set, huddled around glowing Macs and samplers, triggering patterns but never following them, they were creating architected blocks of sound, and demolishing them as soon as they liked. It’s the kind of dance music you’d want to live in.
As many of the punters did. Queuing in the 1-in-1-out system for an age to get into the Sensu room to see the hosts themselves, and also for the legendary Felix Da House Cat. For the unlucky ones who didn’t get to witness Felix cross the voids between genres like he had nine lives, there was Alter Ego on the Optimo Stage. Looking like Clark Kent Vs Slimer, they specialised in hard dance music that had the crowd going, and performing against the huge cut up live footage of themselves like the Old Grey Whistle Test gone crazy, they left a super hero sized trail of mayhem for Optimo to compound on.
And that the carnival leaders did, with and all batons twirling, all whistles blowing set. Pulling classic Optimo moves, they teased the crowd all night long with mash ups of familiar tunes mixed deep within dirty bass lines, bouncing drums, hissing snares and popping percussion, relentlessly pushing the crowd to dance as much as they could. And then more, when they dropped ‘The Model’ by Kraftwerk as their set closer. JD Twitch and JG Wilkes should be commended for not only hosting such a cutting edge event, but after ten years in the circuits, still being pioneers in the electronic world.
If Optimo were the carnival leaders, Simian Mobile Disco were the daredevil act, leaping around a circular collection of monolithic analogue synths and futuristic electronic equipment, creating high-wire synth lines and huge washes to completely immerse yourself in like a safety net. These boys really know what makes our bodies move. With a huge back catalogue of well known hits and the excitement of this being their only Scottish appearance planned for this year, the atmosphere was electric, not just the music, and they eventually built up such a charge the train lines above probably won’t need powered for the next week.
If I was a commuter on the train above that day, I know where I’d be using my return ticket for straight away: Eastvale Place’s Electric Frog Carnival – a bullet train of innovation and excellence, shooting its way into the future.