Synth East is dedicated to celebrating the best in synthesizers and modular through hands-on interaction and live performance. You’ll be able to play with all sorts of electronic instruments, talk to the makers and manufacturers and experience artists playing music with their machines.
News on the 2024 event will be coming soon.
Let me introduce the concept to you through the medium of video but be aware that the 2024 may do things slightly differently.
Synth East came about through the desire of myself and Steve to perform together. The idea of an event came up, and we thought maybe we could put something together in the back of a pub or some other space in Norwich for a bit of a gig. After talking to the Norwich Synth Club and EMOM about the challenges of finding small venues in Norwich, I thought that maybe we needed to be a bit more ambitious and turn it into more than a performance. Maybe something along the lines of SynthFest or a ModularMeets could be possible if we could find the right partners and venue.
At this point, I reached out to Electronic Sound Magazine who just happened to be based in Norwich. I’d met both Push, the editor and Mark, the Deputy Editor previously, and Push had been a guest on one of my live streams. It seemed like a great way to attract some bigger performers, and they seemed up for it. Mark immediately recommended the Norwich Arts Centre as a venue. I had assumed it was a bit out of my league, but after our first meeting with Bradley and Kelly, we knew it was a great fit.
So, quite unexpectedly, our little idea for a pub jam had morphed into a full-on event at the NAC (Norwich Arts Centre) with the backing of a proper magazine. Exciting stuff.
The thought of running a show is quite daunting, but all the feelers I’d put out had resulted in really positive and encouraging noises. Steve had an idea about doing random improvisations with a number of modular artists, so we thought that could be worth pursuing. All the manufacturers I spoke to were keen to get involved, and after asking Instagram if anyone wanted to play such an event, I was inundated with offers. At the Synthfest in Sheffield, I was able to talk to a number of people and manufacturers in person and came away very encouraged – this was going to work!
So, here we are, booking synth makers, performers and trying to work out how many people we can fit in and how to make it fun, affordable and thoroughly fabulous.
This fabulous show was held in Norwich on March 4th, 2023. We had 26 tables overflowing with manufacturers of synthesizers, modules, kits, cases, t-shirts, and all sorts of bits and pieces. Over 150 people flowed through the event during the day, sampling the best bits of music technology, poking at keyboards, plugging in patch cables, and talking endlessly to the manufacturers who were there on hand to happily answer absolutely any question you could possibly come up with.
The venue, Norwich Arts Centre, served as a superb setting for all of these shenanigans. We had a large hall that held most of the manufacturers, and then over in a bar area, we had some enthusiasts who brought gear and synthesizers to show. We also had the Norwich Synth Club and the Norwich Wing of Electronic Music Open Mic (EMOM).
Throughout the day, we had some fantastic performances starting off with Mark Reuter, also known as Abominable Music, who represented the flavour and vibe of the Norwich scene. Following that, representing the Synth Club, we had Bob Percy, a local modular musician who took us to school with his Buchla.
And then, we had what will undoubtedly become the legendary Steve Davis All-Star Patch-Off. This was a brilliant idea – get together a bunch of modular musicians, put their names in a hat, draw your names out, and those two people have to then play improvised and unpracticed and unrehearsed. It’s the first time these people have ever met each other. The results were stunning.
At 5 pm, we broke everything down, moved it all out of the way, and were able to party the night away with the likes of Finlay Shakespeare and Nick Colk Void, who were just superb – life-changing, I would say.
Nik Colk Void
Our headliner is previously known for her work as half of Factory Floor, as one-third of Carter Tutti Void and with the late Peter Rehberg as NPVR. In April 2022 Nik released her first solo album “Bucked Up Space”. It has a driven, layered and improvised vibe that pulls you into the complexity and keeps you on your toes. The rhythms pour out while the structures deceive you and give way to organic tensions. It fearlessly demands your attention.
Check it out on Bandcamp. I am loving Demna and FlatTime in particular at the moment, and they refuse to let me do anything other than listen. I am really looking forward to seeing Nik perform.
- Nik Colk Void website.
Those of us into modular synths know Finlay as the force of nature behind modular makers Future Sound Systems. In performance, he morphs into something else entirely. It’s like he’s possessed by voltages that just need to explode out of his very soul.
I first saw him perform at a ModularMeets event a few years ago, and it’s still the only time I’ve seen someone sing as they interacted with modular. It was like some kind of twisted synth-pop that throbbed and lurched from melody to banging beats of noise and glitch.
Check out his album Soleminites on Editions Mego records via Bandcamp.
- Finlay Shakespeare website.
Robin “Molten Modular” Vincent and Steve Davis
And finally, introducing the warm-up act.
I got together with Steve for a bit of jam a little while ago, and it was so much fun we thought that we should really do it on stage sometime. Steve is a great believer in both performance and collaboration when it comes to modular synthesis. There’s something in that interaction between people and systems that you don’t get when fiddling about by yourself. And putting yourself out in front of an audience just sharpens and focuses that experience.
Steve first got in touch with me during lockdown. He found that my YouTube videos were a great way of using up all that spare time. I invited him onto a live stream, and we’ve struck up a bit of a friendship since. I find his approach to modular and the music he makes very inspiring. His band, The Utopia Strong, with Mike York and Kavus Torabi, is a fascinating combination of electronic and organic sounds, landscapes, clangs and emotional journeys.
The latest album International Treasure can be found on Bandcamp, and it’s superb.
Here’s our performance in full.
All in all, it was just a regular day in Norwich, where we got to explore all sorts of wonderful electronic sounds, meet fantastic people, and spend some time amongst the music, the community, and the technology that we love. A huge thank-you goes out to Norwich Arts Centre for hosting the event and being such a superb venue, and to Electronic Sound, who supported us right from the off and enabled us to get together with Norwich Arts Centre to make this the day that it absolutely was. Thanks, of course, to all the manufacturers who came along and brought stuff to show and brought such a friendly and welcoming vibe to the place. And finally, thanks to you for coming along and supporting it. It was a truly awesome day. I couldn’t imagine how it could possibly have gone better.
So 2024, what do we think? It seems pretty likely. In the meantime, go and make some tunes!