Gut Spilling Fun

at Picasso Baby

Picasso Baby 003

Fri 28th February 2020
Disgraceland, Baker Street, Middlesbrough 

This is not really a review, more of an acknowledgment of something brewing in the bowels, something dirty and messy that refuses to be cleaned up, much like tonight’s venue, Disgraceland. Yes, some bands were playing. Yes there was a line-up of artists invited to decorate and demolish the venue. But it felt more than that. Maybe it was the frustration and frenzy of stupidly named storms whipping up the latest pandemic, or more than likely that it was pay day and the precarious few pounds that may or not be in the audience pockets could be inhaled and swallowed. At the centre of all this orchestrated chaos, not that he would welcome the attention, is artist Bobby Benjamin. Not content with his own (brilliant) art practice, Benjamin also co-directs Pineapple Black (Creative Factory’s Venue of the Year 2019). 

This was the third incantation of Picasso Baby, and I left feeling gutted I’d missed the first two. Given that there were multiple other gigs on the same night, a rag tag bunch of miscreants squashed into Disgraceland, which looks like a Coronation Street terraced house, if Motley Crue, The Ramones and Motorhead moved in next door to the Barlows in Wetherfield and started home improvements. Benjamin invites bands, artists and whoever he thinks would add some spice to this gumbo. This is not a place for finesse or finely tuned ideas. This is gut spilling fun. Picasso Baby doesn’t care about the art world or what you think of the art world. Music taste is put in a blender, shot down your neck in one and vomited out to be licked up again by Teesside’s dogs. Squarms mashed up some dub inflected word of mouth which fought hard for attention over the venues décor. The brilliantly named GGAllanPartridge seemed to know everybody in attendance and played like it was their own house party. It was scatty, lo-fi garage glam funk, done with a penchant for sequins, good hair and eyeliner. As it should be. It might be only Benefits third or fourth gig, but they already sound like masters at turning up, plugging in, turning it up loud and pouring political spit-flecked bile and noise. Lots of noise. Like Slayer jamming with Sleaford Mods. And then they were gone. It didn’t matter if you saw the art or not or how good it was, it was there. If you weren’t, that’s your loss. There was a long list of contributors, collaborators, people who mucked in, audience members who fixed the power shortage and who drank the bar dry. I felt old and out of place at first. I left feeling that this was something visceral, something important. It wasn’t reinventing the wheel but it was, ssh, whisper it…exciting. Fun. More of this snotty nosed, impromptu, not giving a fuck what you think please.

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