Live Music

Review: Dorothy v. Bands F.C. Exhibition, British Music Experience, Liverpool – 10/1/2020.

Music and football and art have always gone hand-in-hand-in-hand on Merseyside.  The stories are plentiful.  There’s the apocryphal story of The Teardrop Explodes early 80’s winter tour dates being built around Everton’s away fixture list.  There’s the true story of Wirral post-punk icons Half Man Half Biscuit swerving an appearance on the influential TV show The Tube because it’s Friday evening slot clashed with a Tranmere Rovers home game.  There’s even a rumour that members of Half Man Half Biscuit still get together on a regular basis with members of The Farm for a bit of 5-a-side action.  Based on such evidence, it makes perfect sense for Bands F.C. and local design company Dorothy, to hold an exhibition of their works at Liverpool’s British Music Experience Museum.  

Tonight’s exhibition opening is styled as ‘Dorothy v Bands F.C.’ as if it’s an actual football match.  There’s an entertaining ‘Q and A’ session with Jim from Dorothy, and Nick and Mark from Bands F.C. refereed by BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins.  There’s also a DJ set from a collective provided by local arts blog Getintothis.  But it’s the artwork that takes centre stage, quite literally.  The elegant entrance hall, atrium and cafe/bar area of the museum have been extravagantly turned into an exhibition space showcasing crests, prints posters and installations from both protagonists.

Photo Credit: Daisy Dunphy

In typical football pre-match routine, I’ll give a run through of the away team first.  Bands F.C. are Stockport based designers Mark and Nick.  There concept is simple.  Bands as football teams – football teams as bands.  Apart from that, there are no rules.  They create designs for crests for bands that can be displayed as works of art or put on enamel or pin badges and have even created a few shirts and other apparel.  They are currently running at around 700 designs, from Amsterdam to The Zutons, have tie-ins with AS Roma and sponsor a local junior football team.  If you are in anyway interested in either music or football, you should be aware of their work.

As I said earlier, the concept is simple.  It is also deceptively clever.  The designs are playful, they have a wit about them. They work best if you have a workable knowledge of both football and music.  If your knowledge is a bit one-sided you might miss some of the subtle nuances.  Like a good tune, a good design needs a good hook. I’ll give you an example.  The Cure’s crest becomes Nottingham Forest’s tree logo, with the band name in 80’s stylised font, not because Robert Smith has any great affinity for the east midland fallen giants, but because of the title of their 1980 classic single ‘A Forest’.  Half the enjoyment is in wandering through this exhibition looking for ‘the hook’.   If you followed me around the exhibition you may have heard me mutter ‘Ah I see what you’ve done there’ (A Flock of Seagulls), or emit a low, dad joke groan at the odd pun (George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s former band).  It is all very amusing.  The designs are thoughtful, humorous and beautifully created.  

The ‘home team’ is Dorothy.  A Liverpool based design collective producing conceptual art prints.  Once again some of the original ideas are deceptively simple.  Take the ‘Road to Nowhereprint collection for example.  Based on the standard UK blue and white motorway signs, place names are replaced by song titles, junction numbers become record speeds, and A roads become the year of a songs release (Strawberry Fields Forever/45rpm/A67).  Deceptively simple and amazingly effictive at the same time.  To add to the music/art crossover these 12-inch prints are presented in a record sleeve, as if they were a 12’ white label, reversing the Factory Records format of music as art.  This is art as music. This somehow makes the prints seem more desirable, collectable.

Another concept that Dorothy have put a thoughtful spin on is the ‘Rock Family Tree’ format.  In their ‘Love Blueprint’ collection, the connection between bands, promoters, managers and venues are explored as electrical blueprints.  Genres tackled include Alternative, Electronic, Acid House, and Hip-Hop.  The attention to detail is astounding.  The Hacienda D.J. Graeme Park was contacted to proof read the ‘Acid House Love Blueprint’.  It is even available in a Hacienda warning yellow and black colourway for added authenticity.   If I had to pick a favourite piece on show at this exhibition it would be ‘Alternative Love Blueprint’.  It covers my favourite music genres, it is intricate, detailed and accurate, and the metallic gold font on navy-blue background gives a feeling of alternative opulence.

Photo Credit: Daisy Dunphy

There is a return of Dorothy’s ‘The Colours of Liverpool’ concept too, this time as an installation.  Opposite the cafe-bar you will find three rows of tins of paint neatly stacked.  Read the labels carefully.  Each tin is a reference to a famous landmark, band or song.  You can imagine decorating your front room with a tin of ‘The White Album’ and doing a feature wall in ‘The Story of the Blues’. Simultaneously simple and ingenious.  

If you’re looking for a result of the Dorothy V Bands FC fixture, I would say it was a thoroughly entertaining 4 -4 draw, with both teams deserving a lot of credit.

The exhibition is at The British Music Experience at The Cunard Building, Liverpool until February 9th.  It is open every day except Monday and Tuesday.  Entry to this exhibition is free but there’s a charge if you want to visit the rest of the Museum.  I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Ian Dunphy

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