THRESHOLD’s return for a full costume drama after last year’s truncated dress down day is much anticipated. As always, we are promised a kaleidoscope of music and visual arts, that mix of the familiar and the unknown which has always made Threshold the enjoyable kickstarter to the festival season.
Being pitched against the corporate might of Auntie Beeb’s 6 Music Festival can’t have helped ticket sales despite the co-option to Fringe Festival status, and an initial glance at the line-up shows a fair few familiar faces, but the Friday evening crowds seem to be holding up in most of the venues. In fact, District is positively chocka for the hip hop-infused soul/funk groove of THE SOUL RAYS, whose personnel seem to mutate constantly, but whose quality seems set in their rock-solid rhythm section, funky horns, and ripping guitar hooks that have the crowd dancing and clapping along for the entire set.
As soon as they leave the stage, a troupe of yellow-shirted capoeira dancers enter the dancefloor and without delay proceed to astound as pairs of dancers whirl and spin around and over each other in an all-action blend of choreographed martial arts. In the confines of District, that neither performers nor surrounding audience receive a bloody nose is testament to their skill.
Saturday afternoon comes and, as always, a warm welcome is afforded at Hobo Kiosk and a string of quality acoustic acts means it’s hard to drag yourself away. GEOGHEAN JACKSON provide a suitably sugar coated icing to their dark tales of vegan zombies and poison in the well. Their guitar patterns are reminiscent of Patti Smith and MWSTW-era Bowie.
Slightly off the beaten path for most, but St Michael In The City church and hall hosts a cornucopia of visual art treats and audience participation events. GANG OF FIVE host life drawing classes with a twist; PADDY STEER, in full high priest of electro-space costume, and one of the Gang In Renaissance garb await our scribbled attempts which have to be completed within the duration of a selected punk rock track. Great fun, terrible result. Elsewhere in the building there’s a great mix of sculpture, photography and video installation courtesy of TRISTAN BRADY-JACOBS, ART IN WINDOWS, JAB and more.
Mr Steer shows up later in a jam-packed Brick Street which is a-buzz with anticipation for his solo performance. Warmed up by an eclectic Radio Exotica DJ set, he succeeds in delighting his followers and bringing a host of new converts on board as his DIY one-man-band mix of synth space-funk gets everyone dancing, clapping and grinning from ear to ear, aided as ever by his dry, self-effacing wit. A true one-off.
Crowds are in and out of Kitchen Street for slices of the Mellowtone evening, packed with talent and, happily, packed with an appreciative crowd as the night morphs from the melodic acoustic playing of Norwegian singer-songwriter SARA WOLFF to the blues rock of THE TOSIN TRIO, who kick up a storm of classic power trio proportions before SEAFOAM GREEN bring things to a typically soulful and well received conclusion.
Over at 92 Degrees, ROXANNE DE BASTION, accompanied by superb cello from Stephanie Kearley, captivates a packed house with a beautifully melodic set of songs that highlight her emotive voice and trademark Rickenbacker stylings. All too soon it’s back to District, jammed once more for a red hot set by BANG BANG ROMEO. The four-piece get straight to it, a power pop set with a dose of soul courtesy of singer Anastasia Walker whose powerful voice and ballsy attitude draws the audience stage ward immediately; she holds them throughout with a commanding performance. I’d never heard them before and loved it. Isn’t it great when that happens? And isn’t it great that Threshold is still capable of delivering such a diverse programme of musical and artistic talent.