Elizabeth Fraser makes a rare live appearance and underground scenes of New York and London meet as Southbank Centre announces the first confirmed events for Antony's Meltdown
Each year Southbank Centre’s Meltdown Festival opens up the world of one mercurial artist. In August 2012, audiences get the chance to encounter the musicians, performers and thinkers who have helped shape the life and art of Antony, lead singer with Mercury Award-winning Antony and the Johnsons and one of the world’s most idiosyncratic performers. Antony’s Meltdown is part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World with MasterCard, which runs from 1 June to 9 September 2012. More artists and a series of talks and lectures will be announced soon.
Meltdown is renowned for delivering unmissable events that have gone down in history, from the New York Dolls reforming for Morrissey’s Meltdown to Jeff Buckley’s last-ever UK performance at Elvis Costello’s. Antony’s Meltdown will see an incredibly rare live performance by the much-loved and hugely missed singer Elizabeth Fraser (6/7 August, Royal Festival Hall). While the Scottish singer has lent her stunning voice to projects with Massive Attack, Craig Armstrong and Peter Gabriel in recent years, these will be her first full shows since she left the Cocteau Twins in 1998.
Marc Almond, another artist who shot to fame in the 1980s, presents a rare live performance of Marc and The Mambas' groundbreaking 1983 release Torment and Toreros (9 August). Antony has said of Almond, "Marc laid out a trail of subcultural breadcrumbs and aesthetic tenets that more than any other single influence formed the artist that I would become. Ten years before I would hear Nina Simone make a similar affirmation, I read Marc saying that he didn't care if he hit the notes, for it was only the feeling that mattered." Also, critically, it was on Marc and the Mambas' first album that Antony first heard a cover of Lou Reed's masterpiece Caroline Says, which 20 years later Antony would personally accompany Reed himself in reprising.
It is perhaps no surprise that a significant part of Meltdown, which is part of the London 2012 Festival, reads like a who’s who of the New York underground scene, where Antony forged his identity as a performer and an artist in the 1990s. No-one epitomises the uncompromising spirit of the New York underground more than Diamanda Galás (1 August, Royal Festival Hall), whose compelling vocal performances and unflinching interpretations of human suffering are regarded by many as near religious experiences. On 2 August Meltdown sees a performance by one of New York’s most totemic musical icons Laurie Anderson, who herself was a Meltdown curator in 1997. She performs Dirtday, a collection of songs and stories on evolution, families, history and animals set against a lush and hallucinatory sonic landscape – the third in a series of groundbreaking works including Happiness and The End of the Moon.
Returning to London for the first time since two sell-out shows at London’s Union Chapel in 2010, sibling duo and enchanted dreamworld dwellers, CocoRosie have collaborated with Antony many times onstage and in the studio, and will perform in the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 4 August. Exquisite vocalist, drag performance icon and NYC legend Joey Arias channels the songs of Billie Holiday in his inspirational show Strange Fruit in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 8 August.
We go deeper into the New York artrock scene, with the punk-metal spectacle The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black (10 August). The brainchild of beloved NYC artist and musician Kembra Pfahler and lead guitarist SAMOA, this is the first time the band will play in the UK. Kembra Pfahler uses do-it-yourself "Availabist" and "Anti-naturalist" aesthetics to create on the stage a paradisical world of women painted in primary colours with towering fright wigs and blacked-out teeth. Completing the Queen Elizabeth Hall double bill will be performance artist, writer, film curator and raconteur Vaginal Davis, who performs for the very first time in the UK with Berlin-based art band Tenderloin.
On Sunday 12 August revered experimental musician, William Basinski performs Disintegration Loops, his profoundly moving study on decay which premiered on 9/11 last year at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Described by some as what heaven might sound like, this deeply affecting ambient drone was the accidental result of repeated plays of disintegrating cassette tapes of ambient loops made in the 1980s. Basinski will be joined by an orchestra to present two startling beautiful and hypnotic interpretations of Disintegration Loops arranged by Maxim Moston.
On Wednesday 1 August, the Queen Elizabeth Hall belongs to Berlin, with performances by two of the most exciting bands on the scene right now. Janine Rostron (aka Planningtorock) – musician and visual artist originally from Bolton, now living in Berlin – scored an underground hit last year with one of the year’s most critically acclaimed records, which mixed saxophone solos, staccato string arrangements and electronic beats to produce a beautifully warped and twisted slice of disco-electronica that plays like an otherworldly take on Studio 54. Planningtorock will be joined on this thrilling double bill by the forbidding gothtronica of Light Asylum, who create dark infectious dance music that is the inspired creation of Brooklyn-based artists Shannon Funchess. (described by The Guardian as ‘a cyborg soul girl’) and Bruno Coviello.
Acclaimed Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramović, a close friend and collaborator of Antony’s, comes to Meltdown to give a Lecture for Women on Sunday 5 August. The pair teamed up recently on the ‘Life and Death of Marina Abramović’, a staged biography of the artist’s life and career, featuring the actor Willem Dafoe and music written and performed by Antony. Kembra Pfahler will also be giving a talk with Claywoman (11 August), the 500-million-year-old enigma who, legend has it, can cure anyone of their deepest pain. More Meltdown talks will be announced soon.
Pointing towards an affinity with uncompromising pioneers, Antony has invited Buffy Sainte-Marie to perform in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 7 August. The Canadian-born Cree artist has seamlessly combined her music with activism in support of the indigenous peoples of North America since breaking through as a singer-songwriter in the early 1960s. Her songs, which have been covered by Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and Shirley Bassey, include the smash-hit ‘Up Where We Belong’ (made famous by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes) and the iconic Anti-Vietnam song Universal Soldier, which remains one of the most potent anti-war songs ever recorded.
Albion – Hypnagogue – Ghost: Hallucinatory Queer British Paganism (4 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall) brings together David Tibet of Current 93’s new project Myrninerest and Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown’s Cyclobe, making their UK live debut. The evening will also feature four rarely screened Super-8 short films by Derek Jarman, with soundtracks especially composed for this event by Myrninerest and Cyclobe. The combination of Myrninerest’s harrowing and hallucinatory song-cycle about Coil’s Jhonn Balance and Cyclobe’s immersive and psychotropic pagan landscapes, together with Jarman’s beautiful and spectral films – described by the artist as “the best of my work” – promises an evening both haunting and paroxysmal.
Meltdown is renowned for honouring the influence of cult artists. Among many wonders, Antony’s Meltdown will be remembered for reminding the world of the space-age Anatolian psych-folk-funk of Selda, who performs the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 2 August. Sampled by the likes of 2ManyDJs and Mos Def, the Turkish singer-songwriter’s progressive approach to her music and her brave political stance has made her a cult figure to record collectors and musicians ever since the 1970s.
In 2006 Antony and the Johnsons and ground-breaking film director and video artist Charles Atlas collaborated with 13 remarkable women from New York City and staged TURNING, a concert and live video portrait event across Europe. TURNING: THE FILM premieres at Meltdown this year (11 August), and is at once a moving concert and an impressionistic documentary exploring a utopian vision of contemporary femininity. The evening will feature an appearance from the Meltdown director.
Following his wonderfully anarchic Disney tribute at Jarvis’ Meltdown in 2007, Meltdown veteran and maverick producer Hal Willner returns to the stage of the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 12 August with his usual, surprising and eclectic array of musicians, actors and other artists – established, emerging, famous and infamous – to perform songs that inspired and illuminated the Civil Rights Movement.
Antony, 19th Director of Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival, said:
“I dreamed of assembling a constellation of courageous artists, all of whom have used their platforms as cultural producers to challenge us. They have exhibited a ferocity in their pursuit of beauty, and, falling like a guillotine behind it, justice.”
“Today I am among a group of artists from NYC (some of whom are performing at this Meltdown Festival) who reject patriarchy in its myriad virulent and apocalyptic manifestations, and who advocate for a fundamental shift towards the feminine in all our systems and structures of governance. We have named this approach Future Feminism."
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director at Southbank Centre, said:
“The hope is always that the events and assembled artists that constitute Meltdown provide a composite picture of the director. We are privileged that Antony has shared so much with us through these choices. Even now, with events and artists still to be confirmed, Antony’s Meltdown line-up feels intelligent, hard-edged and darkly beautiful. Words that could easily be employed to describe this year’s wonderful director.”
Jane Beese, Head of Contemporary Music at Southbank Centre, said:
“For 12 days in August, Southbank Centre becomes a space where the underground scenes of New York, London and Berlin meet, offering the chance to encounter visionaries, pioneers, thinkers and cult heroines and heroes. In the best unrepeatable tradition of this festival’s strange and beautiful history, the line-up for Antony’s Meltdown will not be replicated in any festival taking place in this or any other summer.”
Notes to Editors
Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery as well as The Saison Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. The Royal Festival Hall reopened in June 2007 following the major refurbishment of the Hall and redevelopment of the surrounding area and facilities.
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Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World
1 June to 9 September 2012
Southbank Centre’s summer 2012 site-wide Festival of the World with MasterCard opens on 1 June 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee Weekend, and closes on 9 September 2012. As London welcomes the world this summer, Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World will include inspirational projects from the UK and around the world, which showcase the power of the arts to change the lives of individuals, communities and whole societies. The site will be transformed with art installations including a giant ‘robot’ sculpture; a colossal baobab tree made from fabric; ‘Rainbow Park’, a multi-coloured beach; and an exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall of the thinkers, artists and communities who have inspired and contributed to the Festival. The reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, weekly food markets, and a pop-up cafe complete the Festival landscape. www.southbankcentre.co.uk/world
Meltdown Festival, 1993 – present
Southbank Centre’s annual Meltdown festival has been running since 1993 and each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event and pick the performers of their choosing. Previous directors include: Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Lee Scratch-Perry, Morrissey, Massive Attack, Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, John Peel, Ornette Coleman, Richard Thompson, Laurie Anderson and Ray Davies. Performers have included musicians, artists, filmmakers and comedians and have included Jeff Buckley, Nina Simone, Ivor Cutler, Radiohead, Grace Jones, Sir Michael Palin, Damon Albarn Sir Les Paterson, Nancy Sinatra and The Master Musicians of Jajouka. Meltdown has a reputation for staging one-off performances and collaborations by legendary artists. The New York Dolls reunited for Morrissey; Jeff Buckley played his final UK show at Elvis Costello's Meltdown; Nick Cave, Grace Jones and Pete Doherty sang Disney songs with Jarvis Cocker; Patti Smith performed Horses in full for her Meltdown; Ray Davies re-staged the TV pop show Ready Steady Go! And the cast of Sorry I Haven’t A Clue performed live on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall at Richard Thomson’s Meltdown.
The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people. The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, a spectacular 12-week nationwide celebration bringing together leading artists from across the world with the very best from the UK, from Midsummer’s Day on 21 June and running until the final day of the Paralympic Games on 9 September 2012.The London 2012 Festival will celebrate the huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK’s world-class culture including dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation, giving the opportunity for people across the UK to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. For more details on the programme and to sign up for information visit www.london2012.com/festival
Antony’s Meltdown 2012 - Listings
Diamanda Galás: The Hour Will Come
Wednesday 1 August, Royal Festival Hall, 8pm
Tickets: £30.00 £22.50
Planningtorock & Light Asylum
Wednesday 1 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets £15 £10
Thursday 2 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets: £15.00 £12.50
Laurie Anderson: Dirtday!
Friday 3 August, Royal Festival Hall, time tbc
Tickets: price tbc
Diamanda Galás: screening of Schrei 27 and lecture
Friday 3 August, Purcell Room, 7pm
CocoRosie: We Are On Fire
featuring Rajasthan Roots & TEZ
Saturday 4 August, Royal Festival Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets: £25 £20 £15
Albion – Hypnagogue – Ghost: Hallucinatory Queer British Paganism
Myrninerest and Cyclobe
Saturday 4 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets: £20.00 £17.50
Marina Abramović: Lecture for Women
Saturday 5 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, time tbc
Tickets: £15 £10
Monday 6 & Tuesday 7 August, Royal Festival Hall, 8pm
Tickets: £40.00 £32.50 £25.00
Buffy Sainte-Marie in Conversation
Monday 6 August, Purcell Room, 8:30pm
Tuesday 7 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets: £27.50 £22.50
Joey Arias: Strange Fruit
The songs of Billie Holiday
Wednesday 8 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm
Tickets: £20 £15
Marc Almond performs Marc and the Mambas’ Torment and Toreros
Thursday 9 August, Royal Festival Hall, 8pm
Tickets: £27.50 £25.00 £22.50
The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black & Tenderloin
Friday 10 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8pm
Tickets: £15.00 £12.50
TURNING: The Film With Charles Atlas and Antony
Saturday 11 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, time tbc
Tickets: price tbc
Kembra Pfahler & Claywoman
Saturday 11 August, Purcell Room
Hal Willner: Freedom Riders
With Special Guests
Sunday 12 August, Royal Festival Hall, time tbc
Tickets: price tbc
William Basinski: Disintegration Loops
Sunday 12 August, Queen Elizabeth Hall, time tbc
Tickets: price tbc
1 – 12 August 2012, Southbank Centre
The Observer is Media Partner of Meltdown 2012
Tickets go on sale to Southbank Centre members at midday on 8th May 2012
Tickets go on sale to all at midday on 10th May 2012
0844 847 9944 / www.southbankcentre.co.uk/meltdown