An adventurer, storyteller and writer with an insatiable curiosity for the fresh, the bizarre, the brilliant. Exploring life in North East England and elsewhere.

Part II: Velvoir — Pirates of the Night

Part II: Velvoir — Pirates of the Night

The moment Velvoir — the pearls of the Stockton Pirate Festival — dropped into the Musiclounge, a barely noticeable ripple of anticipation tore through the air as if they were spectres from another world. One look at them makes one wonder whether each member would not belong better in a different band: the lovely gender-ambivalent lead singer, the pretty-boy guitarist, the hard-core bassist and the melancholic-looking drummer. In appearance as much as in their music, there is no doubting that they are more than just unorthodox. They are deviant visionaries.

And it works in a richly disturbing and sexually charged way.

The Musiclounge was one of several venues promoting live music during the Stockton Pirate Festival. Being unfamiliar with most bands listed on the programme, it was only by some strange intuition that I decided to end my day there.

The Musiclounge was one of several venues promoting live music during the Stockton Pirate Festival. Being unfamiliar with most bands listed on the programme, it was only by some strange intuition that I decided to end my day there.

Throughout music history plenty of musicians went out of their way to shock the public or to push societal conventions and destroy any preconceived idea of what was acceptable in the music industry at the time.  Some of them were simply driven by the need to make a point, and perhaps even grandiose ideals of changing society, others used it as an easy way to grow a fan base and foster media attention.

Velvoir fall within this shock factor category. Their music’s unrestrained exploration of the darkest recesses of our existence, in particular in relation to gender and sex, seep into their performances. These are soaked not only by an intense sexual energy but an uninhibited display of the madness hiding inside all of us. Yet there is something hypnotic about their counter societal engagement that makes them at once revolting and highly alluring and sets them apart from other ‘sensationalist’ musicians.

Velvoir - the last act performing on 9 July 2016 at the Musiclounge

Velvoir - the last act performing on 9 July 2016 at the Musiclounge

Impressive bands generally have a talent to manipulate the fabric of music, stitching together a range of notes and words to express experiences, emotions or to entertain. However, while witnessing Verity Jasmine Bee (the lead singer) going through several sexual catharses, shouting ‘Kill’ repeatedly or sprawling herself out on the floor — the embodiment of a caged and damaged soul — backed-up by virtuosic, breathtaking guitar and drum arrangements, it became clear that this was a band who created acoustic as much as visual art out of music. What you hear is no longer sounds alone, an artistic eruption of waves through the air, nor is it simply words, but an intertwined portrait, kaleidoscopic and ever-changing — the Dorian Grays of music.

Of course, no description can truly capture the impact of their performances nor the complexity of their music. They have to be seen live. It is like stepping into the Theatre of the Absurd, with a necessary dose of societal criticism and the beauty of professional craftsmanship. A contemporary incarnation of a Beckett play and a version of Stravinksy’s The Rite of Spring, which lead you to wonder whether musicians like Velvoir are meant to be the great artists of our time.

Notes, like a broken string of snow-white pearls, scattered across the venue...

Notes, like a broken string of snow-white pearls, scattered across the venue...

If so, and if their music eventually proves to outlive the band itself, why can people remain in their chairs and continue sipping their wine like they’re watching an operetta on a Sunday afternoon? Should they not be pulled to their feet to feel the beat and engage more profoundly, more dangerously with the music? To examine their own construct of gender and all the other issues they’re too afraid to question for fear of being judged? Do we only let the artists question? Do we only let the artists engage, while we stand around and politely clap to show our appreciation of their courage?

Interested in their music? Check out this NE:MM interview.

Also check them out on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, get a taste of their music on Soundcloud. But whatever you do, do not miss an opportunity to see them live.

Mint Hobo: Candy and Stardust (of the black liquid kind)

Mint Hobo: Candy and Stardust (of the black liquid kind)

Part I: Stockton Pirate Raid

Part I: Stockton Pirate Raid