“I’m pretty sure 95% of the population don’t know this kind of thing exists” said one audience member to me at the opening of Space Cassette, the Manchester born event which beamed itself over to Sheffield’s historic Abbeydale Picture House for a unique night of infinity inspired musings.
Advice to Earthlings: Wear something shiny; open your eyes, open your ears and fasten your safety belt (tightly) as you prepare for the intergalactic ride of your life (and some serious sci-fi raving) with two major pioneers of space psychedelia; Age of Glass and Henge
Setting the tone for something out of the ordinary, flickering smoke wafts over eerie footage of Abbeydale Road on a cinema projection screen at the front of the theatre. Nostalgic Microsoft space screensavers loop through wormholes and scour galaxies as the bands gather their weapons (/instruments), ready to defeat the evil Sap Lords.
To fill you in on tonight’s storyline: Each audience member is part of a mass alien abduction and in order to avoid the deadly ray guns we must remain inside the spaceship [that’s the Picture House, to you and I] whilst The Freedom Alliance [our bands of the night] work to bring peace to the planet and free us all through the power of synth dub and space rock. Warning: This hypno-bass may transport you way beyond earth’s atmosphere into full sense of cosmic uplift.
“You might wanna take a seat” declares lead singer Rory from three piece syth-vocal-fusion, The Age of Glass, who are decked out in their trademark full sequin power tonight. This is an apt statement given most of the Picture House floor space is dominated by vintage fold down theatre seats. However, most people choose to gather at the front of the stage in order to fully experience Jetpack , the first song of the night, lending itself to Rory’s high pitched country twanged vocals and wild cockerel jerking movements which flair dance with electronic rock, a dash of gypsy, together producing a sound that proudly draws it’s influence from “anything with a pumping groove.”
There’s dubstep in there, too, and reggae rhythms rippling through Dance Witcha mixed in with space orb sound effects to keep you guessing. Lots of deep abyss-esque echoes from sample mastermind and synth guru, Alan Keary, who sends signals to outer space throughout the show.
This trio call themselves the bastard triplet of Bjork and Joe Strummer which is a hard blend to imagine until you’re standing in front of them, inches from the mad vibrations. The show is animated with space terrestrials who jerk around stage in a frenzy with tenticales a-plenty. As a first time listener to The Age of Glass, I would say go so far to say they are all round brilliant in every way. And most definitely the perfect set up for Henge who go on to take onstage (and offstage) theatricality to a whole new level.
Henge bring the Cosmic Dross in abundance. Lead singer Zpor’s ethnic cow bell hat (the same one I once picked up on Bangkok’s Khoasan road) births an electrified plasma globe. 10 ft. high puppets lie on the sidelines of the stage, ready to animate themselves and parade through the crowd mid-show.
The details of this gig are endless and the photos best do the talking, but worth noting are the lycra dipped dancers who do not falter for two hours as they jerk around to the reverberating space skank. Somewhere between a Nokia 3310 ringtone and Super Mario lego world, In Praise of Water utilises synth riffs to create a robotic space trance, and the plodding Teletubbies euphoria of Humans moves your mind somewhere else for a little while courtesy of some seriously disjointed electronica and alien Overlord sampling. The blend of heavy drums with cosmic riffs and beaming bleeps induce a form of manic space rock frenzy. The final song, Demilitarise ends in a crowd chorus (We demand |That the weapons of war|Are manufactured no more | Demilitarise) that goes on way beyond the onstage sound emissions and leads the band to hold up cards and march into the crowd for over ten minutes of protest chanting.
For this one night of Space Cassette, the mothership connection is well and truly felt within the four walls of Sheffield’s 98 year old Abbeydale Picture House. This has to be one of the best venues to host a futuristic sci-fi space gig that offers the starkest of contrasts between past and future life forms.
All photos credit of Jody Hartley