Just over two years ago, YorkMix alerted readers to what we thought would be the city’s ‘weirdest ever gig‘.

Not only was it weird, but it was also wonderful… a rare moment when concept and content collide and create an unforgettable experience.

It was called Float Tank, a gig in darkness to deprive the senses of distracting experience while heightening the effect of the music being played.


Since then, the team behind the adventure have promoted two other Float Tank gigs, to huge acclaim.

This week, on Tuesday and Wednesday (August 6 & 7), comes Float Tank #4 and Float Tank #5. The organisers have kept the details deliberately scant, but I experienced the first first Float Tank so can give you a flavour of what to expect.

‘A cathartic experience’

Nothing can quite prepare you for the Float Tank. The key idea is that the sensory deprivation of a gig in complete darkness heightens the awareness of the music and promotes relaxation.

The theory works… that first event in the the large upstairs room of the Railway Institute was breathtaking and one of the greatest musical experiences of my gig-going life.

A choir of ‘shape singers’ performing gospel/folk spiritual songs; a jazz-tinged brass band, edging through the audience in the dark, sounding like a New Orleans funeral procession, spooky and uplifting at the same time; a lone guitarist piercing the dark with plaintive chords sending shivers among the listening crowd; then the sheer beauty and joy of the wonderful Howl & The Hum, building towards a climax when the doors of the large storeroom they were playing in were thrown open and we were all bathed in light once more.


A cathartic experience, almost like the opening of a communal gift.

But don’t just take my word for it. This week sees not one, but two, Float Tank events, and where else could they be taking place now we have a floating venue once more in the city?

They are at the Arts Barge, moored at Tower Gardens, by Skeldergate Bridge, just a short step from Clifford Street.

The opening few gigs there, and the excellent Riverside Festival promoted by the Arts Barge team, have proved that the visionaries behind it were right all along. It’s a space for both mainstream and experimental events – and a perfect home for a Float Tank.

The two gigs

The Arts Barge is moored at Tower Gardens. Photograph: The Arts Barge on Facebook
So what can we expect on Tuesday and Wednesday?

Both events are curated by Kai West and Sam Griffiths. Kai is the indefatigable tornado of creative energy you might have seen playing bass in the city’s best busking band, Hyde Family Jam or perhaps in his other band, the joyous energy explosion that is Bull; Sam is the songwriting leader of The Howl & The Hum.

Tuesday’s show is just an hour long, starting late, at 10pm. The event is shared with Oli Knight, also known as Owl; the team say the tone will be the most experimental yet, with longer, ambient musical soundscapes.

Tickets are £5.

Float Tank #4

Float Tank #4
Tue Aug 6 @ 10.00 pm
Arts Barge
Tower Gardens, Tower Street
York, YO1 9WD United Kingdom
+ Google Map

Wednesday’s two-hour show (with an interval) starts at 8pm. It is described as ‘more performative than the Tuesday night show’, and will feature a mix of jazz, poetry, and the unmissable Howl & The Hum.

Tickets are £8.

Float Tank #5

Float Tank #5
Wed Aug 7 @ 8.00 pm
Arts Barge
Tower Gardens, Tower Street
York, YO1 9WD United Kingdom
+ Google Map

Age restriction: 18 and over only.
If you are unable to afford tickets, contact hannah@artsbarge.com to request a discretionary 50 per cent discount.

The organisers issue this warning: ‘These events might not be suitable for you if you are afraid of the dark or suffer from claustrophobia or high anxiety, but they will be a real treat for people who are comfortable with being in the pitch dark and enjoy weird performances!’

Disabled Access: Due to the ‘work in progress’ state of the Arts Barge, wheelchair access to the performance space is not yet possible. Through Riverside 2019 festival, we aim to raise funds to return in 2020 with full disabled access lift and toilet facilities.

More details

Age restriction: 18 and over only.

If you are unable to afford tickets, contact hannah@artsbarge.com to request a discretionary 50 per cent discount.

The organisers issue this warning:

“These events might not be suitable for you if you are afraid of the dark or suffer from claustrophobia or high anxiety, but they will be a real treat for people who are comfortable with being in the pitch dark and enjoy weird performances!”

Disabled access: Due to the ‘work in progress’ state of the Arts Barge, wheelchair access to the performance space is not yet possible. Through Riverside 2019 festival, the barge aim to raise funds to return in 2020 with full disabled access lift and toilet facilities.