Last weekend saw the very first Vunk Fest, a riot of music and art set up as a not-for-profit venture to promote musical genres not often heard in Shetland.
The weekend featured five Shetland bands who were joined by others from Orkney and the Scottish mainland. It was run by a committee which included the driving forces of musician Dave Kok and visual artist Karen Bruce in a collaboration of artforms. The melding of art and music worked well, Bruce said: “It’s all creative – just another form of expression.”
Between them the bands served up a feast of punk, heavy rock, ska and groove metal at the Norscot Angling Club in Lerwick on Saturday and the Pierhead at Voe the next day. Kok described it as: “A big mix of experimental music. It was across the board – industrial, edgy garage, ambient, grunge, metal – all the genres that are overlooked.”
No age group was overlooked either, as people in their 50s and 60s came to see original Shetland music or absorb new influences in the appropriately-named Vunk Fest, Vunk being old Norn for “a fit of caprice or merriment”.
Events started with a “meet and greet” evening on Friday and a youth session for 12 to 18-year-olds on Saturday morning. “The kids love it,” said Kok. “They had a good yarn with the professionals and jammed with the older guys.”
Shetland bands were Poison Popcorn, who did an acoustic set, El Pedro, Hidden Agenda, Bacchus and Kok’s band, Ten Tonne Dozer. Kok said that both his band and Bacchus had toured Europe and been well received and he hoped the festival would kick-start the same response here. “Shetland’s not short of people liking this type of music.”
Jono Sandilands, whose band The Brothel Corpse Trio is based in Aberdeen, said he was pleased to have been part of the very first Vunk Fest.
“We have developed a style of horror punk which is pleasantly gruesome and [our songs] are true crowd pleasers.” This included guitarist Phil Arthur’s balancing act on their bass player’s double bass during one of their songs.
Sandilands said: “It was truly great watching all the bands especially making new friends with the visiting bands. And also seeing the amount of people that took the time to come along and support this great festival.”
Sunday focused on the art of alternative music in Shetland at the Pierhead Bar. The pub was transformed by work by local and visiting artists and photographers and was a more “mellow” event, Bruce said. Contributers included Bruce in her role as photographer, still and moving image maker Tirval Scott from Lerwick, Karen Emslie and four films from the Orkney Movie Group.
Sandilands, a recent graduate of Gray’s School of Art, contributed art work based around the lyrics of the five Shetland bands involved in the gig the previous night. Typographically designed pieces of art using different materials – wood, metal, plastic, carpet and fur – conveyed the style of music for each band with lyrics cut into each material and the pieces hung in the window to create depth.
The whole weekend was deemed by the organisers to have been a great success and it is hoped to make it an annual event. Kok thanked all the sponsors and said: “We’ve had a good indication of the interest. Both the musicians and the public had a great time.”