BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) just played a sold-out show at the O2 Academy in Bristol. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, the four-piece jazz band delivered an energetic, technically demanding set as they worked their way through songs from their latest album, Talk Memory. But as incredible as they were, it was the visuals that brought the whole show together.
Even if they had played in a dark room with no lights and no visuals, I would’ve walked away thinking, “yeah, that was a damn good show”. There is no denying the skill this band possesses - smashing out intricate melodies, switching between instruments and working as one, tight, unit, their sound is equal amounts of expressive, experimental and a true treat for your ears.
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However, gigs aren't just about the music, it's about the show as a whole and that includes set design and visuals. What a band or artist chooses to do with the stage and the space behind them is another way of injecting personality into a performance and last night BBNG oozed artistic vision.
There are several reasons I was incredibly impressed with BBNG's decision to use film projections rather than digital ones; not only is it a much more complicated process but each shot has been carefully thought about and filmed to work in time with the music. The human element of it was refreshing, being able to watch the rolls of film be changed and see someone operating it made the whole experience more significant.
While some may argue the visuals were perhaps trying a little too hard to be cool, for me BBNG gets 10/10 for effort. No strangers to collaborations, the band has previously worked with other musicians such as Charlotte Day Wilson, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Silva who is supporting BBNG on this tour but for the visuals, they worked with Canadian filmmaker Sylvain Chaussee. Having regularly performed live 16mm and 35mm film projections working directly with other musicians, Chaussee created a short film especially for the BBNG which he shot, hand colored and molded to the music.
In total, there were three projections and either all or some of them were playing at any one time. The projections were layered on top of each other creating a double or even triple exposure where colors and patterns blended together, almost camouflaging the band into the moving background. The bright light cast shadows onto the white sheet adding another element of visual trickery that made it hard to pull your eyes away.
BBNG might be a modern jazz band but their approach to visuals on this tour is anything but. There is a quality to film that you just don’t get from digital imitations - no matter how good they are and perhaps their use of old-school visuals is a nod to their musical roots which date back to the late 19th and early 20th century. But then again, they could just love the film aesthetic as so many of us do...