I took a three hour drive to Maryport in Cumbria on the August Bank Holiday Monday to say some words at a Lakes Alive reception for local dignitaries and see Les Commandos Percu’s Bombs per Minute show. I arrived at 6pm and already crowds were gathering for an 8.30pm show. By 8 o clock, Maryport harbour was heaving – adults with beer cans, thousands of children and scarey dogs were everywhere. An estimated 8 – 10,000 people attended the show.

Bombs Per Minute, Maryport

The Bombs per Minute is a french show and its set stood high and proud like a relic from our industrial past set against the night sky. As the darkness fell, Bombs per Minute began, lightly and softly with an evocative soundscape and beautiful firework display. I was standing and positioned near the front in full view of the group of burly Frenchmen pounding hand crafted drum kits. With the utmost precision and timing, they moved through a series of drumming based musical sets integrated with fireworks emitting from the stage, dustbins, and their drum kits. Mesmerizing and sonically and visually hard core , they took the audience on a journey driven by the force of pure masculine energy.

Bombs per minute is for the most part a violent and aggressive spectacle  reminiscent of the works of Bow Gamelan, Test Department and Archaos. This is spectacle for the techo and BPM generation. The show is pure velocity. The genius of Bombs per Minute was the mirror it holds up to humanity – its revels in  our love of aggression and ability to enact violence yet at the same time presents us with other parts of human nature through its visual tapestry of light and sounds of delicate beauty.

About ¾ of the way through the show, one of the performers took centre stage and enacting a shooting scene, his gestures synchronized to fireworks shooting off his body, around the stage and up to the night sky.  This singular powerful act made me stop and shudder. Cockermouth’s recent shooting entered my mind and then I understood how Lakes Alive is working. Their programming of events for specific places and specific communities is at a very deep and thought out level, to influence the very fabric of society. Lakes Alive presents work that is relational to the mindset of a specific community and place, which in the case of Maryport (or Scaryport as I like to call it),  could be described as ‘hardcore’. From personal observation  (and not supported by facts), Maryport appears to have high teenage pregnancy and unemployment rates and a prevelance for drugs and fighting as a social activity.  In Maryport, when the crowds are out, men stand at their doorways on look out with a fierce looking dog by their side.

I can see how programming works like Bombs per Minute could potentially change the world view of young men living here or the future of a child  in Maryport. As a result of seeing this work, they could be inspired to put their energy into art rather than fighting because with this show, aggression is given a safe place for expression and  sanctioned as a positive activity within the confines of art.  Bombs per minute glorifies and celebrates masculine energy in a positive way. Bombs Per Minute therefore reflects something known. At the very least its an event that would enable those who are less familiar or comfortable with art to understand it as something they can relate to. Personally I think Lakes Alive artistic director, Jeremy Shine deserves a gold medal for this one. Lakes Alive is more than a festival. It’s a social and economic development tool, revealing both the intrinsic and instrumental value of spectacle at one and the same time.

After the show, I walked back to The Wave building, with one ear open to comments from the crowd and I heard people comparing their experience both  favourably and less favourably to the Lakes Alive event of last year which was the unharnessed hire wire walk. I sensed a feeling of slight unease in the community of Maryport after this event and I did wonder whether this was the mirror of reflection doing its work.

~ by Debbi Lander on September 1, 2010.

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