Something is happening at The Florrie. It is 11am, the first of 14 hours of bands, DJs, poetry, art, and lots of other super-weirdness. The bodies are multiplying, and everybody is trying to figure out what is going on. Things start to get going around midday with INVISIBLE WIND FACTORY LIVE taking up the first three hours of performances in the beautiful first floor room, appropriately titled The Rafters & Beams. This room shows why the recently regenerated, labyrinthine Florrie is such a perfect venue for this kind of event. It seems to be the main room where, besides the string of performances scheduled, there are myriad curious sideshows. The walls are plastered with psychedelic art by the likes of JAMIE REID and ALAN MOORE, and in the centre of the room there stands a giant, black birdcage filled with cabaret costumed people of all ages.
Invisible Wind Factory Live set the tone for the day perfectly, culminating in a great performance from electronic duo DOGSHOW, proffering their unique brand of gypsy techno. As the next band set up I take a wander through the other rooms, guided by the madness, as each performance area offers something uniquely fascinating, from a clown shouting “give me blu-tack or give me death” at a congregation of bewildered children, to the chaotic pop-culture poetry of VERITY SPOTT, whose frantic performance has the audience entranced.
It’s then time to head back to The Rafters & The Beams for politically charged, post-punk outfit THE PRIVATE SECTOR. They start up, seeming to evoke The Fall with abrasive drum loops, stabbing guitars, and drawling, somewhat unintelligible vocals. Though it would be difficult to brand them as derivative, especially when the chorus hits with a distinctive and jarring discordance. There was an interesting visual element to the performance as well, with all three members suited like loose-tied, stressed out politicians, and backgrounded by a series of projections responding to the tendentious lyrics, like a power-point presentation gone awry.
Next up was a DJ set from Killing Joke bassist and Paul McCartney collaborator YOUTH, who starts off with some intriguing, African-influenced beats. But somehow, I end up being dragged up to a cramped, watchtower-like room on the second-floor by LISA LOVEBUCKET, an old friend of Peter Cook who ran for the anarchic political party he funded against the likes of Dianne Abbot and Michael Portillo. Ms Lovebucket is facilitating a short open mic session. A series of people take the lectern, including a 17-year-old girl who muses candidly over how confused she is about life. She is followed by a man who I recognise to be the vocalist of the aforementioned The Private Sector, who rattles of whatever is on his mind. It is all very honest and genuine, a feeling that speaks to one of the great triumphs of the event; there is very little irony or detachment, just artists working for free, looking to share whatever wacky stuff they’ve got with whoever wants to see it.
If there is a main attraction of the day, it is Alan Moore. He has been walking round all afternoon in an amazing velvet jacket, chatting to people and taking pictures. Now it is time for his talk. The Rafters & The Beams is packed full as he takes the stage to a rowdy applause, and as soon as he begins to speak an almost reverent silence falls on the room. He offers many interesting insights into subjects ranging from communism to hip hop. I try to keep up but he moves so quickly from topic to topic that I find myself drifiting into a daze, though that could just be the hypnotic Brummy hum of his voice.
My brain is addled by the flow of so many ideas, and I feel the need to explore some more, so I head down to the basement to catch the second half of a fantastic, disco-inspired DJ set from PEZA. This is where The Happening starts to phase into more DJ-orientated territory, with attendees afforded the choice of BERNIE CONNOR, RICHARD NORRIS, or, the man who put it all together, GREG WILSON, to dance away the last few hours of the evening. But there is just enough time to head to the Atlantis room to catch the captivating presence of ESA SHIELDS, whose surreal vocals float over flickering guitars, creating a vivid dream of sound that evokes the kind of psychedelic lineage upon which the entire event is based, such as the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at London’s Alexandra Palace, headlined by Pink Floyd, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this April. One happening leads to another, and this one is a fitting tribute, and a glorious, super-weird celebration of its predecessor.