We arrive early at Brighton Museum for Spectrum’s new gig experiment, and are ushered into the Dome’s bar area, which acts as a holding pen until the tour is ready to start. It’s a far cry from the Green Door Store’s barrels, neon and graffiti. Everything’s shiny white; our only company at this stage is the gentle hum of the fridges. Oh, and our tour guide, Spectrum organiser Bex. “This is what it’s gonna be like all night,” she jokes “Just buzzing and silence.”
We get the impression she’s almost as unsure about what to expect as we are. This is the first time they’ve done this. The concept: five artists, each performing 15-minute sets in different parts of the museum. We’re to be split into two groups and led from room to room. It feels like a cross between a music festival and a stroll around Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
The first band, Bloom, perform bathed in blue light, high above us on the balcony next to the main foyer. The blurb describes them as influenced by “the intensity of life, nature and magic”. They give us bright, tight indie pop with almost choral harmonies. The sound is full and bassy and, crucially, doesn’t cause any of the art deco chandeliers to come crashing down. Also, nobody does an Augustus Gloop and gets sucked up a pipe. So far so good. Group still intact, we move upstairs for…
Jess Bishop. Who turns out to be an elegant-looking acoustic duo, dressed all in black, with clear nods to Joni Mitchell, Fairport Convention and Fleetwood Mac. They’re certainly in the right room, surrounded by pretty 19th century paintings. We get comfy and revel in the fact that we’re sitting on the floor drinking lager in a museum. Sweet.
This vibe doesn’t last though, because the next lot are a bit of a bloody contrast. Sealings have set up in the middle of the Fashion and Style exhibition. We’re not sure if it’s the sound system, the acoustics or just wilful sadism (the drummer’s come as an evil-looking skull, so the latter seems a possibility), but it’s too trebly and the feedback shreds our ears. It’s a shame, because they’re a good band, especially when they veer into no-wave, Sonic Youth territory.
An interesting surprise awaits us next door, in the small room full of big ethnic costumes. It’s a lady dressed like a Portuguese footballer (on acid), banging miniature symbols together. She’s called Bunty, like the magazine. She talks to us in an unknown dialect and then starts beatboxing. Then she does some shamanic chanting while playing samples through an ancient-looking smart phone and jogging on the spot. She’s completely bonkers. And, ironically, very Brighton. Nobody has a clue what’s coming next or when to clap. We love her. Afterwards we ask her what language she was speaking. “I just made it up,” she says. Fair enough.
In the Museum Lab we finish with Johanna Bramli, who is, we guess, an approximation of a headliner. She’s surrounded by an array of stuffed avians, all painted in warm, marmalade light. The setting offsets her glitchy, ambient textures. Her monochrome back projections appear to be microscopic close-ups of various materials. It looks like the surface of the Moon.
She’s the perfect bookend to an extremely eclectic line-up. We’d have liked her to play for longer, but just as we’re starting to feel nicely zoned-out and cosmic, it’s all over. Everything feels much less Willy Wonkaish now… although as we leave we half expect to hear the ghost of Gene Wilder whispering “we are the music makers; and we are the dreamers of dreams” in our ears.