Weirding Reception: Romanti-Crash at Jupiter Artland

A sleepover in a West Lothian sculpture park explores the horrors and delights of matrimony with help from Natalie Sharp, Paddy Steer, The Rebel, Ratty Bye Bye and a messy rave in the woods

Photo by Sarra Wild

“Marriage is for old folks / Old folks, not for me! / One husband / One wife / Whaddya got? / Two people sentenced for life!” Nina Simone was clearly no fan of matrimony when she sang about claustrophobia and endless, side-by-side telly-watching in her 1965 song ‘Marriage is for Old Folks’. And plenty of other misogamists like her showed up alongside questioning romantics either to perform or get involved in this wedding-themed overnight festival in a sculpture park just outside Edinburgh. From 3pm on a Saturday, right through the night, during bursts of pissing rain, performance artists and experimental musicians explored all the frilly, overpriced, cockle-warming and gift-wrapped pros and cons of modern day nuptials.

The event was thought up by London-born musician Sian Dorrer (Acid Prawn, Ravioli Me Away) and Matilda Strang, co-director of Oxford’s three-day weirdo music festival Supernormal. Both now based in Glasgow, they were approached by the owners of the 120-acre woodland art park Jupiter Artland who wanted to mark their 10th birthday with a one-off event. So began Romanti-Crash, an exhilarating and nauseating blur of taffeta, fascinators and lace garter belts staged in a muddy field under the stars.

After pitching tents, guests were given fake yellow and pink carnation corsages to wear and invited to help themselves to sensationally shiny, ankle-length fuschia and aquamarine coloured meringue dresses and billowing chiffon ra-ra skirts from a walk-in wardrobe tent that unfortunately unpegged itself before too long thanks to a sudden burst of cold wind (the ultimate uninvited arsehole guest at an outdoor wedding).

Strangers broke the ice by chatting around hay bales and plastic garlands at the purple Divorce Bar, which sold ‘Dark and Stormy Break-Up’ rum cocktails in throwaway plastic cups, while a vegan buffet was served in a see-through marquee dripping in fabulously naff chintzy florals and princessy pastels.

Among the many live acts, Christian Noelle Charles, aka CC, paid brilliant homage to all the single women who’ve suffered the indignity of a wedding invite with no plus one through her giddy, twitching, spoken word meltdown, ‘Why Am I So Single’. The maniacal “all female, all powerful” dance troupe Stasis pranced spectacularly and defiantly down Cells of Life, Charles Jencks’ neatly manicured grass ledges, with their white wedding veils blowing vertically in the wind as the chipmunk-vocalled happy hardcore of Scooter’s ‘The Logical Song’ blasted through the damp air. Their unhinged, choreographed routine was an OTT blast of daft, feminist slapstick comedy and climaxed with them head-butting wedding cakes in sisterly unison.

Paddy Steer photo by Max McClure

Cumbrian make-up artist and maximalist weird-pop queen Natalie Sharp, aka Lone Taxidermist, has explored fruit squashing kinks and cake fetishes in her previous live shows to tie in with her last album Trifle, but unveiled a new work here called ‘Body Vice’. A dizzying audio visual electro-pop workout, it featured stomach-churning, headfuck footage of real-life internet crazes like the creepy one where teenagers hell-bent on following extreme beauty trends use shot glasses and Pringles tubes to inflate their lips for a swollen Kylie Jenner-style trout pout. She writhed with serious charisma through her industrial-disco set, her face painted Smurf/Yves Klein blue, and cling-wrapped in red ribbons of fabric.

As Ectopia (Adam Christensen and Jack Brennan) got up on the stage for their set of screamo-drag drama and cold, minimal wave machine beats, it was hard to ignore that the vibe was being not-so-quietly killed by a shouty girl up the back of the Balcony Stage tent, waving a champagne bottle huffily in the air and screaming loudly at the crowd to shut up. It turned out that the peach-coloured, puffy-sleeved guest with the potty mouth was London visual artist, Susie Green, a plant, who spent the night being a performatively obnoxious head bridesmaid, chucking confetti while tearfully waving her caught bouquet at strangers and heckling things like “Congratulations!” and “Warmest Regards” as she staggered about in a wonderfully dejected, drunken stupor.

Undeterred by the hard-done-by hen, Ectopia persevered with their deadpan blend of infectious synthpop and dark soap opera, led by a magnetic, high-heeled Christensen wailing and looking like he’d just fallen broken-hearted out of a Berlin fetish club onto the pavement in his black lace body-sock dress and high-waisted, slippery pleather pants.

Ben Wallers, better known as The Rebel, and the tongue-in-cheek frontman of the excellent 80s, un-PC, politicised, Scottish art punk band The Country Teasers was bundled up beneath several layers of anorak and a baseball cap as he droned out his satisfyingly morose, fed up, grungey, mock-romantic guitar cover of The Ink Spots’ ‘I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire’.

Soggy wedding dresses mopped the grassy floor as Manchester underground musician Paddy Steer built on some of the dancing momentum that had been started earlier in the night with a wedding-cheese DJ set of Rick Astley, Wham! and Erasure party bangers. Dressed in a home-made Egyptian robot outfit, and tinkering with some of the 230kg of kit that he devotedly lugs about in a van between gigs, the high-energy, one man electro-disco band created an eccentric-dance set as some of the now fairly loosened up Romanti-Crash guests asked around for poppers and gulped from vodka bottles on the dancefloor.

The sheets of rain outside had been mostly forgotten about until it came time for someone to sprint across the park to the Portaloos, or nip outside for a soggy roll-up. In fact the suddenly shit weather (following a month-long glorious Scottish heatwave) somehow only added to the tragi-comedy atmosphere of this deliberately blighted summer ceremony.

Photo by Sarra Wild

The organisers had taken care to book a few well known names among less famous artists, so The Fish Police, a neurodiverse London four-piece that make joyous, leftfield tunes influenced by musicians’ Dean Rodney and Matt Howe’s experience of autism and their refreshing view of the world, were followed by Martin Creed, a Turner-Prize winning artist.

The creator of two heavily Instagrammed Edinburgh works of public art (‘Work No. 1059 (The Scotsman Steps)’ and ‘Work No. 975 (Everything is Going to Be Alright)’ at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art) came onstage just before midnight, wearing three pairs of glasses and hunching over a guitar. Deconstructing traditional love lyrics in his signature wonky, minimal style, he mucked around with lines about “I can’t believe my eyes”, morphing the sentiment into something less earnest and more absurd as he cooed, “I can’t believe my ears, I can’t believe my nose.”

There was a gear shift upwards as the crowd left the wedding marquees behind and made their way into the by now rainless night, through ferns and long grass towards the OH141 Stage in the woods. Curated by Sarra Wild and designed by Furmann Ahmed with a chequered black and white dancefloor inspired by Glasgow Art School’s student union Vic Bar, the outdoor club was expertly warmed up by Healthy DJs, dressed as a honeymooning couple in matching his and his white bathrobes. Then, like all good wedding parties, things became a lot more fluid as the night went on and the music kept coming. Hipflasks and more were passed around the bouncing, grinning guests, while the London via Glasgow and now New York drag artist Ratty Bye Bye, a self-described ‘glamorous slut’, podium-danced seductively in a custom-made white nipple-skimming corset, diamante choker and poker-straight blonde wig. With long, black mascara stains drizzling down their face, they worked the crowd into a lather as disco balls spun from the trees above and people camping across the field, shivering in their tents, pulled their sleeping bags higher around their heads to block out the frenzied, technicolour noise bleed.

Letitia Pleiades’ set of weirdo-rave was a highlight, with bass-heavy bursts of jungle and singalong 90s dance hits blurring together into the small hours, while she pogoed around the stage, whipping her blonde curls through the neon-blue air. Just as they’d hoped, Dorrer and Strang’s Romanti-Crash party was an anarchic, messy fumble through the clichés and high expectations of a quintessential “big day”, where irony and uninhibited, immersive fun replaced the more conventional, wholesome wedding tropes of commitment, perfection and everlasting love. An untraditional take on true love, it was a truly memorable, very funny night spent revelling in art, music and nature.

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