20 Years Of Live Music: 2015

Article June 8th, 2017

The early days of 2015 saw me quell a number of inner demons that had loomed large for the past couple of years. In terms of live music, there was plenty of action throughout the year, but it once again fell to Wave-Gotik-Treffen to provide the first big story.

 

May 2015 – This Time…..

I could write a book in its own right about our WGT 2015 adventure. Mixtures of health issues (our own and family members) and the looming train strike on arrival in Germany and our return to Britain on Tuesday actually made me feel as certain times that ‘not making it’ was a genuine possibility. But make it we did, hours after we should have done, but in time for the EBM warm-up at The Villa, where the bands never run to schedule anyway (the actual festival runs like clockwork most of the time).

But it was the Saturday that possibly gave my greatest single WGT tale so far. It started with a trip out to the Felsenkeller, back on the festival circuit after a few years out, and that was a good thing, as it’s certainly one of the more fit-for-purpose venues in use (we’ve had a few too many ‘hasty civic conversions’ of late). A couple of supports of moderate interest before a chance to The Beauty of Gemina once more.

Now, they might have been my favourite darkwave/gothic rock hybrid since Diary of Dreams, but my only live experience to date was their SOS acoustic show, a mere sample of their songwriting talents and a pale shadow of their full electric set. Which we got tonight. One track to lead us in, and then ‘This Time’ hit us with such force it felt like a bomb going off. ‘Kings Men Come” and ‘Suicide Landscape’ were heard with their critical synth lines very much intact and when they got to ‘The Lonesome Death Of A Goth DJ’, well, I hardly need tell you how THAT one clicked.

And then a band that had eluded me for years in any form – Megaherz. I’d seen their ex-frontman project Eisbrecher the night before (now regarded as the bigger band of the two), but with a new Alexander W. on vocals (Wohnhaas instead of Wesselsky) and an excellent new album ‘Zombieland’ to play, it was clear the band were here to claim back what line-up changes had taken from them. After years on the back foot, Megaherz had their identity back. There’s something special about that.

But I couldn’t stop and celebrate. I had 15 minutes to get out, find a cab (only two available – I grabbed the first) and a drive across town, legged it into and across the Agra Park, round to the entrance and inside to catch the first song of tonight’s headliner. And who justified such a break from my trams-only WGT procedure?

Front 242, who else? By this point I was so delirious with excitement that I barely recall the details of their set, but the sheer number of things that might have prevented me from making it this far had all been bypassed. That was a classic WGT day, and I still have the 242 hoody as a souvenir.

The rest-of-the-fest didn’t disappoint of course – first chances to see Goethes Erben, Mono Inc., ClockDVA and Lights of Euphoria, the least-worst performance I’d see of US gothic ‘legends’ London After Slimelight (that’s what I call them) and the usual defies-any-extreme reaction show by Clan Of Xymox. The threatened train strikes were eventually called off, too, though our journey home was delayed-at-every-stage from Berlin Schoenfeld onwards anyway. But every WGT needs a day like the Saturday of WGT 2015.

 

July 2015 – He’s Just Trying To Survive

I’m very much aware of a significant body of work from New York in the late 60s and early-to-mid 70s that paved the way for much of the alternative sounds we know and love today. However, I had never seen any of the notable bands from that era play live – most had split up and many simply didn’t have enough living members remaining to have any hope of reformation. Suicide, pioneers of electronic music and/or punk (depending which musical historian you ask) were still going, and an event was booked at The Barbican Centre entitled ‘A Punk Mass’ as part of a series of related events dedicated to something-or-other.

And yes, this was more of an ‘event’ than a ‘gig’, with Henry Rollins providing an opening talk about his own discovery of the band, before each of the members came on in turn to perform material from their solo careers, aided by a Moog operator toward the rear of stage. Martin Rev was in good shape (not many men of pensionable age can pull off a PVC suit), but Alan Vega was not. Unable to stand for any length of time, he still put every bit of energy he could muster into his performance. I only hope his appearance here was voluntary and not part of any music industry coercion, as it didn’t seem right to keep a 77-year old stroke survivor on tour against his will.

But this was the spirit of the original punk movement contained in the last venue anyone would have expected to have found it. The second half of the show was dedicated to Suicide material proper. Or should that be ‘improper’. Unwilling to take the easy route out, they launched into a set consisting of fragments of known pieces and backcatalogue obscurities, cutting from one line of attack to another, the kind of all-over-the-place performance that would have had the unknowing music critic turning up their noses in disgust. But this was Suicide. An anarchic performance like this was exactly what we SHOULD have expected. Not content with ripping up the rulebook back in the 70s by playing those synthesizer things, they ripped up their own rulebook for good measure.

And as if to prove this was the last act of defiance by a project who simply wouldn’t play with convention – Suicide never performed live again. Alan Vega died in his sleep a little over a year later, and another New York legend had fallen.

 

August 2015 – I’ve Got Blood On My Hands

The feeling I had before Infest 2015 was that I had unfinished business from the previous year. Project Pitchfork were back having cancelled last time, but what I really wanted was one ‘blow me away’ performance, from any band, in any style. I’d previously established the first two bands playing Friday were both in styles that weren’t for us, so we got an early evening train and saved having to take a day off work.

Cocksure were the only Friday band not doing ‘dance music masquerading as something else’ and a first chance to see Chris Connelly on stage to boot. Day two kicked off with Altered, well known from regular London shows. Decided to go for a curry after them, but wanted to get back in time for a band called Chant. The name didn’t give much away, but a number of people who’s opinion I’ve come to rely upon were saying great things about them, and it was clear whatever style there were, they were seriously good in their own right and not just playing to this week’s style of choice.

I did not expect the frontman (Bradley Bills) to be a singer-drummer, rarely seen in this genre or any other (no references to Phil Collins, please!). I did not expect a mere two people to be able to generate such an intense percussive assault. And I did not expect the NIN concept for US industrial rock to be picked up and taken in a direction so ear-catchingly rhythmic. This was the most essential act I’d seen at Infest for many years, certainly the best “new discovery” the festival has ever offered. Perhaps I got over-emotional at the end, but that awkward feeling of 2014 was finally beaten out of me by Bradley’s tribal fury.

L’ame Immortelle were an anti-climax after this, and I only mention the fact as most of the reviews I read seem to have boycotted them entirely. Still, had a lot of fun with Mechanical Cabaret, BhamBhamHara and Project Pitchfork on the final day, the ghosts of one year ago very much exorcised.

The remainder of the year saw a selection of live events to attend, possibly too many – by December I was getting live band fatigue, to the point where I just couldn’t get into a show that should have been a dead-cert (Fear Factory performing ‘Demanufacture’). Maybe time for a new approach next year?

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Trying to be selective here….

  • Seeing all surviving members of Throbbing Gristle live at some point. Carter Tutti playing Chris and Cosey worked out very well, Genesis P.Orridge in Psychic TV less so.
  • Agent Side Grinder playing London the night before we were due to fly to WGT.
  • Seeing Part 1 in the woeful ‘Power Lunches’ venue shortly before the place closed for good. I usually regret the loss our live venues, but this is one we are better off without.
  • Going to see Cradle Of Filth, for shits and giggles if nothing else.
  • AlterRed doing the most convincing Kubrick Stare I’d ever seen at their Clockwork Orange-themed Halloween show at Reptile.

On to 2016, or back to the start.

 

20 Years Of Live Music: 2014

Article June 8th, 2017

There was a healthy run of interesting shows early in 2014. Laibach were back on tour, as were B-Movie, another chance to see Tenek and rare appearance of Rosa Crux, still one of the most unique stage shows you’ll ever see. But I’m determined that this piece is about documenting the influence of live music on the person, not a dry collection of live reviews. And in a year in which I was rarely in a truly happy place (reasons to be discussed elsewhere), I needed something more than isolated gigs to move me.

 

June 2014 – This Volatile Paradox Will Never Stand

It indeed took until Leipzig for a truly moving live experience. A late one usually means a hot one and this was no exception. Early on were my first live experiences of The Eternal Afflict, The Fair Sex, Poupee Fabrikk, White Lies and Placebo Effect, a scrappy showing by Apop and a truly intense one by The Klinik (Dirk Ivens never fails us). And then – Front Line Assembly.

A controversial name in WGT circles (google ‘Soy Leeb’ if you don’t know the story) and now with me. Leeb has never been afraid to jump on a bandwagon to keep his sound fresh, but his appropriation of dubstep influences on his last two albums, followed by a turd-in-a-CD case remix comp (maybe it kept sounding like a stuck CD ’cause the critics had wanked over it so much?) and my opinion of him had never been lower. I’d gone as far as boycotting his London 2013 show, the reports of ‘This is the future of industrial – Dubstep influence will save us’ were beyond the pale.

But when the band hit the stage, this time it was REAL Leeb. And REAL FLA. One brief hint of a bass drop early on, but otherwise the new and old material actually meshed together to cohesive whole rather than the jarring review bait practised by others, the more blatant references to the now-fading music fad already phased out. A band you expect to be great all the time is one thing – but a “Return To Glory” performance is that much sweeter.

Indeed, influences can be unexpected. Borghesia played the next day, and tried to escape the tag of being ‘Slovenia’s 2nd-most famous industrial band’ by returning from their lengthy hiatus in the form of a psychedelic rock act. On a mixed-genre stage it might have worked, maybe even somewhere like Infest (remember Mind,in.a.box?), but on a specialist EBM stage between Vomito Negro (another first for me) and Spetsnaz, it was never going to work, they almost cleared the room, but I still got curious enough to check out the album later on.

Have to end on a sour note, though. My festival experience might have been positive in terms of the music, but the post-festival comedown was the worst ever. It was ‘straight back to bad times’ almost as soon as I’d hit UK soil. WGT had not cured my unsteady state of mind, it was merely a 5-day pause button. As I discovered later that year, even the pause button trick wasn’t guaranteed to work.

 

August 2014 – Alt? Delete!

Alt-Fest, meant as my goodbye to outdoor fests, fell to pieces in a much-publicised story. I won’t repeat the story as I was never really involved, but the fallout pulled a second, smaller festival under, and it was left to UK promoters to pull together hastily-improvised line-ups for the intended weekend. One had to be grateful for any live action back then, no-one made any real money out of the debacle and many lost big, but there was no hiding from the awkward atmosphere.

Still, the British spirit is best exemplified by our small-scale fests and making do with less than the best, and Flag Promotions (who deserve credit for many of the gigs previously mentioned here) called on their contacts and rallied what they could of the originally-booked Alt-Fest bands plus a few extras and made a three-day festival at Elektrowerkz, entitled SOS (Save Our Scene). Enough bands were willing to play for free (or close enough) to make it worth doing.

I went to the first two days (work commitments prevented the third), and actually quite enjoyed the first, local favorites Jordan Reyne and Black Light Ascension coming in late in the day to play sets and then a first chance to see Spiritual Front. Day two was devoted to the gothic bands – my first chance to see The Beauty of Gemina was sadly an acoustic show (either cutting costs or just choosing that variant of their sound for the occasion), with my main memory being She Past Away immediately winning a UK fanbase having come all the way from Turkey – so someone at least deservedly benefited from this mess!

Infest came a few weeks later, originally rumoured to be sitting out 2014 but deciding to go ahead anyway. Limited in terms of the bands they could book, hit further by three cancellations, included my hoped-for Project Pitchfork, replaced by the now long-past-best VNV Nation, unexpectedly available after the ‘big’ festival failed. A name band when one was needed for sure, but off the back of the lifeless ‘Transnational’ not longer a guaranteed ‘must see’.

The end result was a very sociable festival, the bitching and backbiting having subsided by now, but a lineup that ended up too reliant on melodic synth acts and no one big performance that stood out in the memory. Maybe I was in the wrong state of mind, a mini-breakdown of sorts on Sunday night on the way back to the hotel backs up that theory. Oh, and singing ‘Open Up’ by Leftfield/Lydon in the karaoke room and fucking up my voice in the process.

But for whatever reason, the trick that worked at Infest 2005, 2008 and 2011 in a ‘pick yourself up and move on’ manner didn’t work at Infest 2014. Blame cannot and will not be apportioned – sometimes the stars simply don’t align.

 

December 2014 – Stop!

2014 didn’t get any easier, it continued the feeling of scrabbling around, making good where possible and trying not to get sucked under. By mid-December I was out of ideas and just zoning through to Christmas. One final gig remained – Erasure. I might have overdosed on synthpop at Infest but let’s at least see how the masters do it. We even got the bonus of Parralox on support – any band with the guts to kick off their set with a cover of ‘Eye In The Sky’ by rock dinosaurs Alan Parsons Project gets my respect, for sheer gumption if nothing else.

But we were here for Erasure. And if ever there was a template for the prize of ‘the perfect pop band’, it would be an dead-heat between them and the Pet Shop Boys (sorry, I say what I think even if it undermines the gravity of a statement). My first chance to see synth-meister Vince Clarke live in any project, and with Andy Bell, camp enough to house a million festival-goers but always a true performer, it was the perfect environment to forget concerns and just have some fun.

A couple of well-rehearsed backing singers and the show was complete. Erasure are a band who know what their audience wants – pick the best three off the new album and mix them in with all the hits. The inevitable call for an encore followed – we sort of knew ‘Sometimes’ would feature, but given the time of year, I was also half-hoping for a cut from their recent ‘Christmas’ album. And what does Andy do? Come back with his backing singers and sing ‘Gaudete’. A Capella. Just the way it should be.

And only THEN sing ‘Sometimes’, with Vince back on the keyboards.

This was also the gig which sparked a viral video, triggered after show, of a whole tube platform singing ‘A Little Respect’. I sadly missed this, but I assure you I would have joined in had I been there. Nothing like a communal sing-song to boost morale (why do so many people hate these?).

But for me, It was a last act of note in a year where I’d never truly felt ‘in sync’ with the world going on around me. Stress-related illness would see me out of the loop until New Year’s Eve on a social level, but the enforced break definitely did me good – doing nothing for a few weeks was indeed the solution. Any negativity you’ve observed over the past few chapters ends in 2015.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Amid everything that happened, some memories still remain.

  • Leaves Eyes at the Garage, meaning I’d seen every Liv Kristine project live once, and Theatre of Tragedy once with each singer.
  • Arriving at a Rosa Crux gig to find the middle of the floor occupied by a large plastic sheet. It’s purpose only became clear when the dust-dancers came on.
  • Kirlian Camera and Die Krupps playing London, two bright lights in an otherwise muggy, tense and uncomfortable summer. Die Krupps had my other favourite Die K band (Die Kur) as support – you’ll read a LOT more about these guys when I write my DJ story!
  • Underworld playing ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’ start-to-end and all the B-sides and Lemon Interrupt material from the same era.
  • Stompa finally sees new-school old-school EBM (for the want of a better term) reach London, and a precursor to the Ad:Rem event I’ll cover in my DJ story.

Onto 2015, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2013

Article June 8th, 2017

The other notable event in 2012 was the start of a relationship that’s still going strong today. It’s not something I’m going to write about here or in any future piece, Mandy is very happy to remain the ‘private’ half of the couple, but I can’t write this piece without giving her some credit for my live music experiences, especially in 2013. The story of how we obtained Kraftwerk tickets, for instance – is hers to tell, not mine, and it’s also thanks to her that my return to Wave-Gotik-Treffen was secured, as was my farewell to outdoor festivals.

 

February 2013 – Music-Non-Stop

This was not my first experience of Kraftwerk live – I’d seen them on their 2004 tour, the one you see on the Minimum-Maximum DVD. But the story of this set of shows and the ticketing fiasco preceding it has passed into legend – suffice to say I was going to see the sixth of the eight “classic album” performances in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern. The album “Techno Pop”, previously released as “Electric Café” was thought to be one of their ‘lesser’ recordings, but given the circumstances, we’d take anything.

On arrival, we received a pair of 3D glasses, an unexpected development. It seems that despite being down to a single original member touring no material less than a decade old, they weren’t going to turn down a chance to ‘get with the times’. 3D cinema might now be thought of as a passing fad, but here it was the “right place, right time”. Never happy to sit on their laurels, these most static of live performers had a decided that a third dimension was the most logical next step to take.

As for the show, the ‘classic’ album was delivered within the first half-hour of the event (BOING-BOOM-TSCHAK – PING!) leaving the remaining time for a decent run through the classics, including full-length takes on ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Trans-Europe Express’, a reference to ‘Fukushima’ inserted into ‘Radioactivity’ (did I mention they liked to keep with the times) and nearly all of ‘The Man-Machine’.

I remember ‘Spacelab’ cropping up unexpectedly, yet genuinely feeling the space-station imagery was flying out of the screen and across the venue, the only time I’d experience 3D cinema and felt the effect. The concept that Kraftwerk now think of themselves as curators of an exhibit rather than a traditional live band might have come across as quite pretentious had it from a lesser name, but they at least have earned the right.

 

May 2013 – This Ain’t No Disco…..

Back, at last, to Wave-Gotik-Treffen. 2009 was skipped due to the expense – I had other valid used for the money, and history tells me this was nothing if not prudent, so I don’t regret missing that one, especially as many of the Brit scene crowd joined me in absence for similar credit-crunch oriented reasons. 2010 was all personal baggage, 2011 was all about buying a flat, so missing WGT those years was also understandable. By 2012, I’d fallen out of the habit. Regulars warn you of the dangers of ‘giving up your hotel room’, but in reality that only matters if you have a loyalty to a particular one.

Anyway, my return was important on a personal level, but also on a musical one. Remember my comment about three bands that were essentially old-school EBM at Infest 2012 and how it failed to spark a revival in the style in the UK? No problems with that in Germany, where the style was much in evidence and even resulted in complaints about there not being enough ‘harsh’ (new-school) EBM on the bill and the resultant creation of a Thursday Night Tactical Sekt show. Fellow Brits asked me if they’d see me there. Of course not, I was off watching Jäger 90 at the old-school warm-up……

We weren’t just watching EBM. In Strict Confidence headlined the CabbageCircus on the Friday night. I remember Mandy described the band as “namby pamby” and the female singer as a “gothic clothes horse”. I actually liked their songs enough not to worry about that, but the thinking behind that comment became clear 24 hours later. Not before I finally saw Velvet Acid Christ live, great songs but not a frontman comfortable in massive venues, his subsequent UK shows were much better.

Add a Suicide Commando set comprised of 90s material and we were all ready for Leæther Strip, now a husband & husband live show. Kurt remains behind the keyboard stand throughout, leaving Claus Larsen to throw his substantial frame around the Agra stage. This was the musical equivalent of a raw meat main course (VAC providing the vegan starter) and the mosh-pit was in motion throughout.

Mainly Saxons and Swedes from what I could tell, but with the cropped hair, obscure EBM band T-shirt and suchlike, I realised that for the duration of this set at least, these men were my body-beat brothers. The set delivered all the favourites, but the usual closing cover of ‘Sex Dwarf’ was replaced with a cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Nodisco’. Remembering the Essex connection – Nitzer Ebb hail from there, as do I – it was time to belt it out like a Brit.

Good shows would also be seen by the likes of A Split-Second, Pankow, Orange Sector and Brigade Werther. Even KMFDM seemed to have found their touch again. Bands like IAMX and VNV Nation just seemed saccharine-sweet and ponderous in comparison to this. The bitterest pill was the train home from the airport on the Tuesday – I was returning to a scene where I was increasingly losing connection with what was going on. Individuality is no fun if it kills your social life. Perhaps a break from the industrial scene would help?

 

July 2013 – I’m a Professional Cynic, But My Heart’s Not In It

When Rock Werchter announced its early line-up, it looked surprisingly tempting – Editors (not seen yet), Depeche Mode (not seen for 10 years), Blur (90s revival!) and Rammstein (haven’t you been paying attention?). Only two trains from St.Pancras, too, so tickets were booked. Finding accommodation was tricky (no lectures about camping, please) and the only other band of interest to join the bill thereafter was Nick Cave, but in any case, we were set for a weekend back in the mainstream.

Initial impressions were not good – the stages were offering a mix of landfill indie, on-trend EDM (nice lightshows, shame about the music) and ‘emotional’ singer-songwriters, something the music industry regards as an ‘easy sell’ in these times. Also plenty of drunken lunatics thrashing their limbs about (mosh-pitting is communal, bashing people mindlessly isn’t). Briefly thought about an hour after arrival that “this wasn’t such a good idea”. Then discovered you could earn free drinks by collection empty glasses – 20 cups = 1 drink token. Litter pickers paid in beer? That’ll cover us until something good comes on. It duly became an obsession – by my estimation we save 40 Euros on drinks during the weekend via this economy.

Vitalic eventually dished up a modern dance style we could actually dance to, and Blur finally played in the early hours of the morning, and a band from my pre-gigging era was finally in the bag. The next day saw my first live experience of Nick Cave – always a good songwriter and professional performer, and my only recent experience of the now-massive Rammstein stage show. The HD screens erected might have helped us pick out details we couldn’t otherwise see, but even from a distance you can really FEEL an R+ show in all it’s fire and glory.

The final day could deliver quite insipid performances by Depeche Mode and Editors, both acts seemingly past their best, but at least we got a surprisingly entertaining show by 30 Seconds To Mars, not my usual rock sound of choice, but who at least knew that big festival stages were about more than slogging through the setlist and really played to the crowd as a result.

All that said, my final assessment was “Glad I did it once, but never again!”, Some good music, but I never felt like I fitted in. You’ll never see me at the big corporate UK festivals, I’ve retired from doing M’era Luna and whilst I was planning one last outdoor jaunt with Alt-Fest 2014, we probably all remember what went wrong there…..

As for the rest of the year, a mix of old favourites and small club-level shows occupied us (read the snapshots if you must know), before returning to Belgium for BIMFest in December. Compared with Rock Werchter it was a line-up much more ‘us’, and would be the first time in four attempts that I’d see Belgian bands on Belgian soil. Unfortunately, the venue was a room in a soulless, otherwise deserted complex on the ring road, no catering and no side-events (I’m told they’ve since moved somewhere with a little more character). A reminder that whilst bands are crucial to music festivals, you need more than that to make them truly memorable.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

A real mix here…..

  • A number of excursions into a venue called ‘Mother Live’ on Old Street. I was just about to book it myself when it closed down for an up-market conversion. Gentrification, anyone?
  • Watching UK Decay play outside Rough Trade on Records Store Day.
  • OMD supported by John Foxx. So good to hear electronic music that had space to breathe and let beautiful things hang there.
  • Discovering a significant sum of money had gone missing from my bank account just before a Funker Vogt gig and then trying to work out what the fuck had gone wrong via smartphone.
  • Ageing Crass co-founder Steve Ignorant proving at a November show that there’s more to being an activist than just getting angry about everything – Anarcho isn’t my punk style of choice but age and experience gives a person perspective and Steve has plenty of both.
  • A double dose of Claus Larsen in December – the ‘Strip and Klutæ all in one night.

Onto 2014, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2012

Article June 8th, 2017

This is one of the hardest years to write about in terms of my ‘man in the crowd’ perspective, as this was the era when my DJing and gigging schedules crossed over the most. I’ve already said that stories of those events will be told at a later date. Luckily, I didn’t quit being a ‘regular punter’ entirely, and hence there are a few live stories to be told.

Most of my 2012 live experiences occurred in small venues. I saw The Mission and The Cult in the Hammersmith Apollo (it was meant to be somewhere bigger and also feature Killing Joke, but wasn’t meant to be), and the next largest venues I visited were Bradford Uni (for Infest) and The Scala (for VNV). Most of the other shows I attended were in bar or pub level venues. In many cases, this featured bands ‘just starting out’ – plus (dare I say) a few cases of ‘has-been’ and ‘never quite was’, so the sparks of greatness were thinner on the ground than some years, but compensated for by the sheer variety and volume.

 

January and December 2012 – In a Solitary Field, In Some Nameless Foreign Land

VNV Nation have a habit of cropping up in this story time after time. Maybe it’s the devoted fanbase, maybe it’s Ronan’s Irish charm, but VNV gigs always used to have a certain ‘atmosphere’ about them. I say this in the past tense, as from 2013 onwards, their live shows have become labored, flabby and lacking in ‘guts’. It’s the kind of decline bands rarely recover from – so I was fortunate that my 2012 was book-ended by what I can only guess will be the last two VNV shows I’ll ever enjoy.

January 2012 is of course in the lyrics to ‘Honour’, and VNV played some shows to mark it, including the bizarre decision to play in the Purple Turtle pub, a 200-capacity venue that sold out very quickly. Indeed, the gig over-sold to the point that the regular guest-list had to be turned away Given how I never became a lasting member of that fraternity, all I can say to that is ‘schadenfreude’. The band even polled online to decide what songs to play, though this was a missed opportunity as most people voted for stuff already in the touring setlist. Anyway, this was a hot, packed and intense show, an rare occasion to see a band that had made it ‘big’ up-close.

The year ended with another VNV show, this time at The Forum. This was a straight ‘greatest hits’ set, but memorable as the only time since I first saw them where my two favourite songs (Joy and Solitary) got played on the same night, and numerous other favourites made it in too (sadly nothing from Advance and Follow, but otherwise on the money). It was a rare chance to get a truly exciting gig in that ‘between Christmas and New Year’ period, and a farewell to me enjoying this band as a live proposition.

 

August 2012 – Moving Your Hands

Infest provided the other live notable live action of the year, and it provided one of the strongest line-ups for ages. Their pick of the UK scene bands was spot-on. My East London friends in System:FX finally got a shot at playing the festival, electronics done with all energy and no messin’ about. There was also my first live experience of Tenek, successors to The Nine, but still the catchiest of catchy synthpop – the kind of thing that has you singing along with the choruses before you know what the lyrics are.

As for the overseas acts, much as I enjoyed Absurd Minds and Solitary Experiments, it was a trio of The Klinik (Dirk is something of an Infest legend), A Split-Second and Blitzmaschine that provided this festival’s defining moments. Old-school EBM rarely reaches these shores, and in an era where the wider electronic music scene was obsessing over Deadmau5 and Skrillex (fuck that), this felt like a real “pay attention children, you might learn something” moment. Suicide Commando, one of the names most credited for the 00s harsh EBM trend, might had headlined, but simply lacked the dynamism of the more stripped-down acts that came before.

The thing that got me was that whilst these three bands seem to have been well-received at the festival, it didn’t result in the revival of the style in the UK. Infest themselves booked very few acts in this style thereafter, though the 2017 line-up promises a return in that direction, whilst the club scene carried on with the tastemakers pushing various nightmarish EDM/dubstep inspired material, arguments usually being resolved on the “brute force” basis of either “who has the biggest friends list on Facebook” or “who has the highest-profile DJ slot”. If you think that last line is aimed at you, swallow your pride, it probably is.

Oh, and for those of you about to accuse me of some form of ‘genre fascism’, I do usually adopt a “live and let live” approach to style I don’t like. But only if I can either steer clear of them (most genres with ‘core’ in them fall under that banner). But the trends in electronic music at the time flaunted their stuff to such an extent that I could not afford this movement (of the bowel-churning bass variety) the same tolerance.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

You’ll read about most of the rest in my DJ story, but here’s a few more fragment from a ‘paying punter’ perpective.

  • Getting stranded in London after a Clan of Xymox gig due a broken tube line and a snowfall messing up the buses.
  • Spotting Gary Numan in the crowd in the Purple Turtle watching Sulpher. No, I didn’t say hello – he’d waited as long as me to see them again, after all.
  • A dubstep DJ playing on stage between Heretics and She Wants Revenge – totally unsuited to the event and not in the booth where support DJs belong (we know our place). Do you now understand why I felt that genre flaunted its stuff just a little too much?
  • Watching The Cult – Ian Astbury prefaced Sanctuary with a comment about a time when DJs were brave enough to play such things on the radio. I eventually did hear it on the radio two years later. On a local station. In Belfast.
  • A number of small-scale events involving the Terminal Gods. I have to mention this as I suspect at least one of the band members will end up reading this and I’ve mentioned most of the other London local favourites at least once.

Onto 2013, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2011

Article June 8th, 2017

2010 was an eventful year, for sure. But nothing stops when a calendar gets chucked. And sure enough, 2011 was almost as busy. Gig-wise, the key feature of this year was the increased merging of my DJing with my gigging. Four times I played the role of support DJ at live music events. However, there’s a lot more to those stories than the memories of the live music, significant that it was. Those stories will be written later, in a separate volume looking into my Djing life.

One other fact – it was the third consecutive year where I attended no overseas festivals or gigs. This isn’t something I’d given up on, it’s just I had other demands on the money at the time. Infest, the low-budget indoor festival in Bradford, was still an option, however.

 

August 2011 – 8-Bits!

The early part of 2011 offer relatively few gigging stories, as I was occupied with buying a flat and then doing all the things you have to do to get it up and running. Getting a mortgage in the midst of the credit crunch was a stressful affair, but luckily none of the adventures you’ve read about so far had damaged my credit rating, so I finally had a roof over my head that I could call my own. Sort of.

But as a result of the above processes and my determination to get ‘closure’ on the whole process, I’d neglected my health – physical, mental, emotional, financial, the lot and hence arrived at Infest 2011 a broken man. Despite everything I’d achieved during the year to date, it had come at great cost. So I made a decision. Have one last 3-day bender, one final weekend of irresponsibility, get it out of the system and then pull myself together and get on with life again. Dosed up on vitamin pills to alleviate the need to ever care about my diet over the weekend, that was indeed the case….

The event as a whole remains something of a blur. I can’t really remember which bands played this year or last, nor how much money I spent. I do remember giving the karaoke machine a go, singing Sham 69′s ‘If The Kids Are United’. In an obscenity-laced London accent. In the middle of West Yorkshire. I probably sung along to VNV Nation even louder, but I believe that’s the idea at their shows.

And earlier that day, I’d finally seen mind.in.a.box live. I’d heard very varied stories about their live shows so far (not that they’d played many), and my curiosity was piqued further when I saw them setting up guitar, drums and other ‘real’ instruments – rarely seen at InFest. They appeared on stage and I was even more confused – were they supposed to be a kind of ‘progressive futurepop’ four-piece, or some kind of synth-enhanced Pink Floyd tribute band?

It’s at times like this that the alcohol really serves it’s purpose, because I stopped caring about genres and realized that whatever it was they were playing, I actually really liked it. I was tripping out during the quiet bits and dancing wildly whenever the drums kicked in. I did, however, long for a no-holds barred anthem. mind.in.a.box are a very ‘technical’ band, which does sometimes impact the ‘instant appeal’ nature of their music. How the hell were they going to end their set on anything other than a drawn-out anticlimax?

Oh, 8-Bits. Not exactly typical of their style, but a perfect set closer, and it still worked surprisingly well with the addition of ‘real’ instruments. Cheered to the rafters (or whatever it was holding the roof up), there was no time for an encore, even if the band had had one to play (looking at tour setlists, they probably didn’t). But my must-see band of InFest, one who had a varied live reputation so far, had delivered the goods this time.

 

October 2011 – Shine, Shine Your Light On Me

InFest had given me the drive to get my life back on track, but a couple of months on and I still felt there was something missing from my life. In a year of practical achievements, I was feeling increasingly hollow inside. My body and mind were on the road to recovery, but my soul remained on ice. I was a walking, talking automaton. Something had to give.

My epiphany came from a quite unexpected source. A VNV Nation concert. Unexpected, because I’d seen them many, many times before, and whilst I regarded their recent ‘Automatic’ album as a ‘Return to Glory’ release, I wasn’t expecting anything more than some bouncy music interspersed with the between-song chit-chat that’s something of a feature at every VNV gig. And so it was….new songs mixed with (relatively) old ones, nothing pre-Empires, though. Dance a lot, sing along with favourite choruses and go nuts during the instant hit and current set-closer ‘Control’.

And then came the encore. Having cancelled a gig the night before due to voice issues, we had no idea how long Ronan was going to last, but there was enough left in him to manage a quartet of songs. Including one new track that I’d previously heard at InFest but not really appreciated the true nature of until tonight. The song was ‘Nova’. And when the song burst into life a minute or so it, with the trippy LED backdrop as accompaniment, I finally realised what I was missing.

“Shine. Shine Your Light On Me. Illuminate Me. Make Me Complete”

There was a long way to go, but was no longer adrift and lost. Back on track for sure.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

My mind may have been elsewhere, but I can’t help what it captures along the way. Or fails to.

  • Totally forgetting I’d seen the gothic rock band Grooving In Green in March when I became a fan of their recordings a few years later, and then seeing them in the same venue in 2016 thinking it was the first time I’d been to one of their shows. Only worked it out when I started writing this thing.
  • If my house move hadn’t already did for me – a Sunday in July saw a trip to Ikea and back, then off to run a D&D game, and finally off to see four-band bill topped off by Combichrist – the gig where I began to discover how unpleasant they were becoming. Nothing left in the tank? I was sure of it now
  • A colleague suggesting I went to see Magazine at Shepherd’s Bush. His reasoning – “I’m too old for gigging so you’ll have to go for me”. He clearly hasn’t met some of my friends yet.
  • Diary of Dreams topping off the last-ever Gotham festival, having made their UK mark with their appearance at the first. Adrian Hates pointed the fact out with the oh-so-trad comment “First and Last and Always”.
  • Front 242 finally making it to London again, but neutered by noise limits – my return to European festivals would surely have to follow.

Onto 2012, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2010

Article June 8th, 2017

2009 might have offered a single memorable concert, but it was somewhat indicative of my life that year. Not bad, constructive in parts, but just lacking a certain ‘magic’. 2010 wasn’t like that. I’d put it on record as the most eventful year of my life. On a personal front, it saw the start of a new job, a house move, two relationships started and ended and a real growth in my DJing exploits.

Still plenty of time for live music though…..

 

May 2010 – Who Will Deliver Me From Myself?

Another band that had cheated me thus far was Current 93. Their tendency to host shows in awkward venues and their well-connected entourage often means the regular punter doesn’t get much of a chance to get tickets for their shows. Finally, however, I was going to get my chance. Two shows at the Kentish Town Forum to celebrate David Tibet’s 50th Birthday, and I had a ticket for one of them.

And what did I do to myself the night before? Poison myself on a reheated curry, that’s what! I wasn’t quite laid out, but I wasn’t exactly fighting fit, either. Luckily, mine was a seated ticket, up on the balcony, and dosed up on sufficient pharmaceuticals, I decided that I was going to see this band, illness or otherwise, before they disappeared on another lengthy hiatus. It wasn’t like I was contagious or anything, and it was either sit down at home or sit on the train then sit at the venue. Not exactly a strain on the body. Let’s go!

Living in the outer reaches of East London at the time, it was an unwelcome long journey over to the gig venue. The support band tonight were ‘Nurse With Wound’, not a band I particularly enjoy on CD, but live they made a sufficiently satisfying racket to provide an interesting precursor to the evenings entertainment. Current 93 themselves duly arrived on stage with about a dozen members. David Tibet is one of those artists who’s talents are as much about getting the right people to play for them as performing himself, but I never realised it took this many people to reproduce the songs live.

He then threw us a curveball by performing a set largely devoid of his best-known songs, instead taking us on a lengthy psychedelic-delusional-avant-garde-rock-quirky-apocalyptic-whatever it is he does journey though his disturbed outlook on reality. Slumped at the far back of the venue nursing a diet cola, I found myself strangely drawn into this bizarre sound emanating from the stage. There was no holding out for some favourite track, no singing along with a well-known chorus. I was a sick man watching a band that required some kind of distorted mindset to fully appreciate. On a healthy day, I would have found this disappointing. But on this occasion, a audio mindfuck from Tibet’s sizeable collective of musical misfits was about the only thing I could stomach. In any sense.

 

August 2010 – Dare To Live?

Infest took a year off in 2009, but it returning in 2010 with a revised layout that switched everything around, confusing all us regulars but working surprisingly well considering the last-minute completion of the venue. The big draw for me was Project Pitchfork, but I wrote about them in the previous part. Friday night headliner De/Vision were paint-dry tedious, so it ultimately fell to Rotersand to provide me with the one outstanding memory of the festival. I wasn’t bowled over by the fact they were playing, to be honest – they’d played a few years previously and I was hoping for someone who’d not actually played these shores quite so often to top the bill on Saturday night.

I should mention that I’d actually traveled to the festival with the band’s lead singer Rascal Nikov in the car with me. And I can confirm that his charisma, so apparent on stage, is only amplified in such a confined space. I therefore arrived at the festival in high spirits, filled up on cheap Bradford curry (this one thankfully non-toxic), and despite the disappointing live music on the first night, was just enjoying the weekend as a form of celebration of everything that had happened so far in 2010, how far I’d come and how much fun I thought lay ahead.

And if there’s one band that are just plain fun to watch live, anywhere, in any mood, at any time of day, it’s Rotersand. A last-minute schedule change had resulted in the band’s setlist being extended by 30 minutes, which entailed have to re-learn a whole bunch of unrehearsed songs. Did that hurt them? Not a chance. With Krischan and Gun providing the highly technical musical accompaniment, it was left to Rascal to play to the crowd. And occasionally wander around it, handing out free stickers.

It’s rare that a band I’ve seen so many times serves as the stand-out act of the entire festival, but Rotersand’s vibe that evening was so in tune with my own feelings. Sure enough, Project Pitchfork put on an excellent performance the following night, and in recorded form they’re still my preferred band of the two. But this InFest was all about Rotersand. I don’t think I stopped dancing for the full 90 minute duration. Unfortunately, 2010 was never quite as good again.

 

October 2010 – Strap Me Down With Disillusion, Tie Me Up With Lifelines

No, it wasn’t. Two months on and I was once again single, and not substantially advanced in any other sense. And for the second consecutive Halloween, a long awaiting band was making a rare (in this case first-ever) London performance at the Islington Academy. This time it was LeætherStrip, the prolific Danish electro-industrial project who’s one of the few bands I’m into that’s released so many CDs I doubt I could name them all off the top of my head. The band is the solo project of Claus Larsen, and that singularity extended to his live show. One bald, portly Dane in a pink shirt with a single keyboard rack and microphone. Not exactly an inspiring visual spectacle.

But I was only every into LeætherStrip for the music, and that was very much delivered. It was a couple of bars into ‘Introvert’ that I realized that I’d got myself more drunk than expected (for the second consecutive Halloween) and so decided to sing along as loud as I could (for the second consecutive Halloween). No, make that SHOUT along…..’the Strip isn’t about achieving perfect pitch. The venue wasn’t packed out (for the second consecutive Halloween), but everyone present was a devoted fan who’d clearly waited a long time for this rare performance (for the second, oh, you get the idea!).

Once the new songs were out of the way, we got onto the classics. ‘Adrenaline Rush’, ‘Japanese Bodies’ and of course my own Strip favourite, ‘Strap Me Down’. I honestly didn’t care how little of the music was being played live, I just had a lot of tension to get out of my system, a real post-breakup catharsis. Possibly as a tribute to his first visit to London, Claus dug out his cover for ‘Sex Dwarf’ for the encore. By this time I was probably making ‘woohoohwooh’ noises in time with the synth solo, but there were no sober witnesses to confirm or deny this.

And that was essentially it for live music in 2010. A quick trip to the Pretty Goth Theatre late in November was about as live as it got for the remainder of the year. Onto 2011…..

 

Plus these snapshots…..

It was really a bigger year on a personal level than a live one, but there a few more moments worth capturing.

  • Suicide Commando returning to their breakthrough stage 9 years on to play a ticketed show this time, and sounding as good as ever, for now at least.
  • Code 64 playing live with a new singer, and discovering the audience knew the words to ‘Leaving Earth’ better than he did.
  • Global Citizen playing Reptile, a club that would then continue to give local (and some not-so-local) acts a chance throughout the years.
  • Skinny Puppy and FLA playing a couple of days apart, the first promoted by a big corporate, the second by the small UK outfit Armalyte. Guess which gig got some relevant support bands?
  • Attending gigs by Killing Joke and Swans in October, either side of break-up #2, with less that a days notice in each case

Onto 2011, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2009

Article June 8th, 2017

2008 had ended not with a massive gig, but with my return to the DJ booth (successful) and an attempt at forming a band of my own (not successful). I didn’t know it at the time, but 2009 would see me attend no festivals whatsoever. Plans for WGT were abandoned in March due to having other uses for the money (the £-€ rate was really bad back then, worse that’s its been post-Brexit vote), M’era Luna was never really on for me and InFest (the most likely candidate at one point) had a year off whilst the venue was refurbished, though the recession, the lack of any big new scene ‘names’ and the cost of importing established stars (thnk ForEx again!) probably meant this enforced pause was a blessing in disguise.

And hence it was not a good year for discovering new bands on stage – though plenty were discovered on CD and online. Virtually all the gigs I went to this year were for long-established bands, and very few of the sets I saw comprised of much new material – I’d say only Diary Of Dreams, Prodigy and VNV Nation were actively pushing new albums when I saw them (all good ones, to be fair). Das Ich played at the Gotham fest, a show so low-key that even their fans had forgotten about it by the time they returned in 2016.

Other live acts, as varied as Jean Michel Jarre, Ultravox, DAF, Yes and Orbital, were all content with dishing up crowd-pleasing ‘greatest hits’ sets. Even the best support acts of the year turned out to be bands like Deviant UK, and System:FX, who’d already won me over.

So while I could spin a tale about dancing in the aisle of the Wembley Arena with a middle-aged raver, or suddenly being reminded that Midge Ure is in fact Scottish, or a two-hour long DoD set, there is really only one vignette, one gig from 2009 that remains imprinted on my memory. Just One.

 

October 2009 – The Rest Is Imagination

Project Pitchfork. A band I’d seen three times before but a long time ago, before I’d really become a fan of their music. And two of those sets were overburdened with tracks from their confusing ‘Nun’ trilogy. And the last set I’d seen by them was in 2004. But finally, another London gig was scheduled. And it fell on Halloween. On the day after that I found that I’d actually got the job I’d recently applied for.

With the sole new song ‘If I Could’ opening the set, we soon got the inevitable dancefloor accelerator ‘God Wrote’. And having drunk my way through the support bands, I was already pretty wasted by this point. And apparently I wasn’t so much singing along as shouting along. I REALLY had a lot to get out of my system on this occasion. And when the opening notes to ‘Human Crossing’ played (the first Pitchy song I’d ever heard), I practically exploded with excitement.

And so it went on, concluding on ‘Existence’, and then the inevitable encore of ‘Timekiller’, which is the one Pitchfork track all the people who aren’t otherwise fans of the band know. Of course, I still had enough energy to dance to it, and emerged to the most refreshing autumn night breeze I’d ever felt. The strange thing was, when the band returned to the same venue in Jan 2011, I found the whole affair rather disappointing, partially due to my frame of mind at the time but also due to an iffy setlist that hardly offered any of my favourite tunes.

But doesn’t matter – I’d had my definitive Pitchfork moment, and with the new job sorted I was well set for 2010…….

 

Plus these snapshots…..

None – read the text above if you want more insights.

Onto 2010, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2008

Article June 8th, 2017

2007 was over, having provided few gigs of note in it’s latter half. 2008 soon made up for it – on the first weekend, I saw Earth Loop Recall for the last time, and System:FX for the first time. The ELR story is already told in previous parts, whilst the definitive S:FX story comes in a later chapter.

Die Krupps came and went in style a month later, and the live show following my favourite album of 2007 (Star Industry – Last Crusades) arrived over the Easter weekend. But looking back, these two events were just very good shows without any real significance outside of the quality of the music.

No, the three tales I have for you now all reflect different aspects of my live music experiences. They are not all positive, but they all have to be told.

 

April 2008 – Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel

Whitehouse. One of the most extreme industrial music projects in history. I’d bought three albums by then before deciding a fourth wouldn’t make any difference. But I knew I had to see this project live. Once. Just Once. I just knew I had to subject myself to the full onslaught of this projects sonic defecation, blasted through a PA, with no hope of escape. Naturally, the Elektrowerkz was chosen as the venue (like they’d get to play anywhere bigger). What surprised me was the audience. They didn’t look alternative at all. Was this some kind of counter-counter-culture? And why were there so many of them? Didn’t think bands like this had that kind of following.

Turns out most of them were present due to an article in avant-garde music mag ‘The Wire’. It seems power electronics were the flavour of the month amongst the beard-stroking elitist quarter of the music community. You’d expect me to get on quite well with such people, and I would as well, but I actually felt completely out of place. The opening band didn’t improve matters, sounding and looking for all the world like some bloke spending 40 minutes tuning his guitar whilst his mate does a drum solo. I took a look at the CD stall, but it was full of generically-named discs that were obviously trying to put an ironic face on the clearly extreme music thereon. I took my wallet to the bar instead. I was going to have to drink my way through this.

And then came Whitehouse. There’s only two of them, but their live show is no more (less) than a constant barrage of juddering, scathing, pain-inducing wave of electronic noise, with one of both of them occasionally screaming into a microphone. And the term pain-inducing wasn’t a metaphor. I was literally hurting under the intensity of it all. After 40 minutes, I realised that I shouldn’t be subjecting myself to this and walked out.

The Wire Crowd 1 – 0 Jonny

The ultimate irony: I later developed a much more refined, nay, “enduring” taste for this act, though struggled to fit any of their tracks into DJ sets. I finally got the chance as support DJ at Ad:Rem many years later, held in exactly the same room!

 

May 2008 – Wir sind geboren um Spielmann zu sein

WGT 2008 was proving to be a slight disappointment compared with previous years. OK, we had Persophone out in the medieval village and the surprise of Fields of the Nephilim not actually being complete shit. Halfway through the last day, and I’d just left the woeful Miss Construction in the CabbageCircus in the hope of finding something a little more engaging. I knew I wanted to see Corvus Corax headline the Agra that night, but I decided to quit the EBM early and catch some more mitteralter.

I had seen Salty Morty (as I usually call them) before, but their shows were always during crowded line-ups where I had little capacity to remember exactly what they were like. Right now, however, I was all ears. Anything was better than Chris Pohl doing ‘Miss Combichrist’ or whatever it was. They come on stage, and the first two minutes were a complete mess. Then someone in the sound booth presses a magic button and the bands music and stage show instantly comes to life. The band’s rollicking medieval rock sound came to the fore and the Agra was won over. This was going to be a good one.

There were plenty of tracks from their new album (acquired shortly after, still my favourite by them), but this was not one of those shows where the setlist really mattered. This was Salty Morty playing the troubadours, or whatever the equivalent middle German equivalent is. And after a festival of workmanlike performances, this was exactly what my weekend needed. Finally the party atmosphere was underway, and not a moment too soon.

Their set ended on ‘Spielmannsschwur’. For the 99% of your unfamiliar with this track, the overriding feature of this song is a ‘Whoa-oh-oh-oh’ type of chorus. The band’s frontman obviously knew the anthemic potential of such a line, as he got the audience to practice it a couple of times before letting the band start the song. Just to make sure, you know? And everytime we got to the chorus, the whole Agra, me included, were singing along. And after the song was done, we kept on singing it. And after the next song too! Even after the singer went stage diving. It’s what I call a ’101 Moment’ – harking back memories of Mode live recording where the audience carried on singing the chorus of ‘Everything Counts’ long after the band had finished the song.

Faun came on, proficient but slightly anti-climatic in the circumstances, and Corvus Corax did their thing with style and spirit. But Saltatio Mortis won the day, and the entire festival for me. With issues such as currency fluctuations, house moves and bicycle purchases to content with, this would in fact be my final WGT for 5 years. But at least I had one final memory to take back from my highly enjoyable quartet of mid-00s sojourns to the biggest dark scene festival in the world.

 

August 2008 – Infestation Again

The cloud over my state of mind during WGT 2008 might have actually had something to do with a failing relationship at the time. By the time of InFest, we’d been split for almost two months, but whilst the break-up was thankfully lacking in unnecessary drama, the intervening period was something of a ‘dead’ period with little of consequence occurring anywhere in my life. This was a necessary festival, a kind of three-day ‘pick myself up and move on’ point. And it worked. Somehow, I got myself back on track thanks to a weekend of drunken madness in Bradford.

The trouble is, I can’t remember why it was so good. Yes, Front 242 were headlining, but that was right at the end. Heimataerde doing their first UK show – c’mon, I saw their live debut! And One? Good fun but hardly deep? But that may be missing the point – this weekend wasn’t supposed to have a point! Have fun, dance to some music you like, catch up with friends, eat incredibly poor quality food and have no functioning voice box left at the end of it all. Mission very much accomplished, I think!

There would be plenty more live action before the year was out, plus the beginning of Terminates Here as my alter-ego, my first steps on Facebook and my return to the DJ booth after a six-year hiatus.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Another year where’s it’s confined to specific events, but there’s always a story if you know where to look.

  • German scene legends ASP and Unheilig both playing London, both failing to pull much of a crowd and quite understandably that’s the last we’ve heard from either round here.
  • 32Crash playing Elektrowerkz, the band name matching Kimi Raikkonen’s race strategy at the Belgian Grand Prix the next day (he binned the car on the penultimate lap).
  • Dope Stars Inc. played London for the first time. For health reasons, I was off the alcohol and junk food at the time, and the lack of such things really made it hard to loosen up and get into what was going on. I know of some vegan teetollers out there who still enjoy a gig – good for them, but not for me.

Onto 2009, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2007

Article June 8th, 2017

2006 was over and I was glad to see the back of it. Despite much effort and many enjoyable occurrences on the way, my life had gone nowhere and by the end of the year began to feel very stagnant, finding myself unable to change any aspect of my life, for better or for worse.

But what of 2007, the year which either delivered everything I wanted or led me to give up even trying, at least for a year or so. No more EOL-Audio. No more big house at the end of the Piccadilly line. And no more being single, a relationship began in March, although we went to relatively few gigs together, our musical tastes aligning only on occasion. Everything changed this year.

I didn’t exactly take a break from the scene, but I was never any less involved that I was in 2007. Naturally, things all changed again in 2008 such that I’d pick things up again and also restart much-missed activities such as DJing again, but that’s a story for a later part. I did still go to SOME gigs this year, and here’s the story of the best ones.

 

April 2007 – I’ve Got Nothing To Lose and Everything To Win

Remember the tale of The Water Rats in 2004? For the whole affair to die within a year just seemed wrong. It couldn’t end there, and sure enough Earth Loop Recall re-assembled with a revised line-up and did a couple of ‘old songs’ shows (one in Cheltenham, and one I went to in London) before cracking on with the new material. Madame JoJos was chosen as the, erm, intimate setting for the London show.

It wasn’t quite the line-up that burnt bright and burnt out a few years previous, but with an added live drummer, the 2007-vintage ELR set took on a more primal dimension than the original band. Sure enough, the assorted mix of old fans, goths and indie rockers seemed happy enough with the set as it was being delivered. All the old favourites were getting a look in, plus a brief sample of some new material.

But a couple of us wanted more. During the full-throttle, all-bets-are-off blast of ‘Optimism Creeping In’, we gave each other a couple of knowing glances, followed by a couple of knowing prods. Then a shove or two. Fuck it, we thought. This gig wouldn’t be completed without a mosh pit.

A third body joined us before the end of the song, which was to be the penultimate one for the night. Luckily, the last song just happened to be ‘Like Machines’. Eight minutes in length, there would be ample time to slog it out down on the dancefloor. So that’s what we did. From the starting duo, we’d willingly pulled at least another dozen from the still rather sparse crowd in JoJos.

Once again, the band would self-destruct within a year after another run of increasingly inconsistent shows and this time haven’t been heard from again. I personally haven’t triggered a mosh-pit since then, either. Must have grown out of them or something.

 

May 2007 – Would She Give It As A Gift?

2007 wasn’t a great year for big-name band-bagging, but one exception was Orchestral Manoevre Manuevre Manovres OMD. The band had recently announced their reformation, and we’d got some decent seats for their live comeback. Hammersmith Apollo balcony front row. Having not yet recorded any new material, they were touring behind their Architecture and Morality album from 1983. ‘Play entire classic album live’ was something of a trend at the time, but this was the only time I’d see a show of this kind. And I didn’t even know the album all that well.

Still, the stage set looked pretty decent, and once Andy McCluskey walked on singing the opening tones of ‘Sealand’, it briefly looked like we were going to get a polished performance. Briefly, because next up was ‘The New Stone Age’, where he promptly picked up a guitar and started DANCING. I didn’t know prior to coming that this was meant to be a ‘feature’ of OMD shows, but this guy was proper ‘Dad grooving away at the School Disco’ style. Roll with the Cringes, Jonny – the music still sounds pretty good.

A few tracks later, and it all made sense, because it was time for ‘Maid Of Orleans’. I’m no religious man, but somehow the Catholic imagery, combined with a mixture of heartfelt vocal delivery, waltz-time and uncontrolled limb movement combined to truly encapsulate the OMD live experience. A song I’d only sort of liked before had become my dead-cert favourite. If the audience reaction was anything to go by, it was most people’s favourite already.

With the album performed within 40 minutes, the second half of the show was all their other hit singles, not a bad song amongst them, but somehow, Maid of Orleans stood out, head and wobbly shoulders over the rest. You can’t dance Andy, but you can’t half write a decent tune.

 

May 2007 – Welcome To Paradise

WGT didn’t seem as necessary this year, given everything that had occurred, so I treated it more as a celebration of everything that had happened. Such experiences as the only Retrosic live show to date, Heimataerde’s stage debut and watching Punto Omega outside in a thunderstorm might all have made it into this review in lesser years, but there was one overriding memory from Leipzig 2007. Front 242.

OK, I’d seen them twice before – a workmanlike show in London late 2000 (when they were still touring their acid techno remixes) and that much-delayed performance in Stockholm the previous year. But somehow I knew they could do better. The band that had influenced so much of my favourite music had a reputation for an energizing live show and I was yet to feel it. Until Saturday night at WGT 2007.

Despite Psyclon Nine’s best attempt at alienating the audience, the venue was packed to the gills by showtime. And this time the magic worked. A set loaded with classic tracks, performed in the proper, authentic manner, and a 8000-strong crowd set in motion by the pounding body beats. The songs got more and more anthemic, the sing-alongs got louder (and less tuneful), and by the time we got to ‘Headhunter’ the whole venue was caught up in the frenzy of this 100% dead-cert classic track being performed live by the original artists. Germany loves it’s classic EBM, and I do, too.

The encore was inevitable. And they still had one surprise up their sleeves. Kampfberiet? A slow, almost-forgotten album track from their debut release? Surely not? Yet the slow, menacing treatment they gave this song served as a counterpoint to what we’d already heard. The insertion of a few lines of ‘Radioactivity’ in Jean-Luc’s vocal paid tribute to their own influences, too. The point was made, though. The Frontmen had another side, more subtle and less confrontational.

Then of course came ‘Punish Your Machine’, just to prove they were in fact unsubtle and confrontational most of the time after all. But what the hell, I’d had my definitive 242 experience.

The rest of the year wandered along, with relatively few gigs of note (and no more festivals) in it’s latter half – my attentions were elsewhere at the time. Still, things would wake up in 2008.…

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Bit thin on the ground this year…..

  • The celebratory atmosphere surrounding two NIN shows and one Combichrist show early in the year.
  • Marking my 10-years-of-gigging, and hence the halfway point of this story, by bagging a free ticket to the Pet Shop Boys.
  • Three successive weekends in October watching pre-Slimelight gigs upstairs at Elektrowerkz. Surprised no-one I knew came to see Legendary Pink Dots, but I’ve never truly sussed out their fanbase.

Onto 2008, or back to the start.

20 Years Of Live Music: 2006

Article June 8th, 2017

Having sorted out both EOL-Audio and my overall state of mental health during the dying embers of 2005, I went into 2006 full of optimism. This was to be the year where I began to make my mark – the site would finally get the attention I thought it deserved, and I could start DJing again, maybe get some guestlists and backstage access, in turn giving me access to interviews, starting a virtuous circle of promotion for my various activities. I never expected to actually make any money, that was too much to ask, but I was hoping I might get a little token something back in return.

The reality was not to be. The London Dark Scene was at it’s most political and balkanised in the mid 00s, and someone with no affiliation to one particular faction was never going to get anywhere. What my unaffiliated, fence-sitting self DID manage to do was see way more bands than anyone else I knew. My tale of Sunday at WGT 2006 is so ‘me’ it probably won’t be much of a surprise for those of you who’ve read this far.

 

May 2006 – A Sudden Sense Of Intensity

Covenant hit the UK with their ‘Skyshaper’ tour in May, bringing along Pride + Fall as main support. Opening act for the tour was RBN, playing their first UK shows in ‘far too long’. Anyway, the gig sold out, which was hardly a surprise given how popular ‘Ritual Noise’ and ’20Hz’ had been the past few months, not to mention the followings the support acts brought along. The Islington Academy was going to be packed by the time the headliners came on.

What was a surprise was how packed the venue was for RBN. Opening bands rarely get capacity crowds, but this was as close as any 7:30pm show was ever going to get. Unleashing ‘City Lights’ for the first time, vocalising the sample-based ‘Machine Code’ and then giving us the Slimelight hit ‘Faithless’ (Original version? VNV mix? How about both?) as a not-too-subtle encore, Steve even going as far as saying ‘I’m sure we’ve forgotten something…..’.

Pride and Fall were next, perhaps a bit anti-climatic in terms of performance, but still a highly significant tour for the band, for reasons that became clear soon after. And then Covenant. I’d seen my share of Covenant shows over the years, but this one was easily the most ‘fun’, one of those rare shows when the band managed to play most of the new album and still have time for plenty of classics. When all the support band members came on stage to dance to ‘Dead Stars’, it only confirmed that we’d been treated to something really special this evening.

 

June 2006 – 5 Bands, 4 Me, 3 Venues, 2 Much, 1 Day, 0 Taxis.

Those of you who have done WGT will know that there’s a limit to the number of bands you can see over the course of a day. Usually you can fit in one venue switch tops, and despite the free travel on the trams offered as part of the ticket price, you would normally need to utilise a taxi if you didn’t want to miss anything. I used said modus operandi only once the previous year, and in 2006 I resolved not to use it at all.

Which made Sunday somewhat tricky as the bands I wanted to see were scattered all over the town. But I had it planned like a military operation. From the Agra market and down to the Cabbage Circus for Dupont – check. Then back to the Haupbahnhof, dump my stuff in the hotel, and over to the Schauspielhaus to see Rosa Crux, an French band performing obscure ritual musics with one of the most bizarre stage shows you’ll ever see. Rarely has a trip to a venue for one band been worth so much.

No time to toast a drink to them, though, out the door, bag their backcatalogue on CD and leggit back the terminus and onto the No.11 tram, for an odd multilingual discussion about the evenings bands, arriving back at the Agra for Garden Of Delight. It would be the only time I’d get to see them live, and ‘see’ is a bit of exaggeration given that their lighting only allowed you to see them in silhouette, but hey, they sounded pretty good.

Next band could probably be described on The Onion as ‘Clan Of Xymox in Slightly-Better-Than-Normal Shock’. The band that sound exactly the same every time you watch them actually seemed slightly more vibrant than usual tonight, probably due to the decision that I’d summarise as ‘Bollocks to the new album, let’s do a greatest hits set’. The band themselves would probably have found a slightly more polite way of putting it, but I’m the one with the keyboard here.

And then….Deine Lakaien. You haven’t done German goth fests until you’ve seen Lakaien do a show to an audience of several thousand grufti, and they didn’t disappoint. Alexander Veljanov was his usual decadent, bardic self, whilst Ernst Horn enthusiastically extracted plenty of satisfying noises from his rack of vintage synths, occasionally switching to piano for songs such as ‘Return’, so simply lyrically yet so powerful when delivered to a devoted festival audience. It was a triumphant day to a marvelous day of live music, one where my commitment to band-bagging actually paid off.

At some point, I got photographed for Orkus Magazine – my soundbite ‘Centre of the Gruftiverse’ even ensured the photo got published. Though my offer to become their English-language staff writer was passed upon.

 

August 2006 – Goodbye M’era Luna

Little did I know it at the time, but 2006 would be my last M’era Luna to date. Truth is, I’m happier settling for the things that got in way actually happening over carrying on as I was with a brief diversion in Hildesheim every August, but I couldn’t leave this festival behind without one final tale of a weekend-long party somewhere in the middle of Germany. This was around the time of the whole ‘liquid explosives on planes’ saga, resulting on chaos on air transport which our party miraculously managed to avoid. We all made it to Germany more-or-less on schedule without any lost luggage. The taxis were pre-booked, giving us an easy route to our accommodation.

The end result was a group of us arriving in a small German guesthouse at lunchtime on Friday, our one fluent German speaker promptly falling asleep owing to jetlag (she’d come from America only the day before) and the rest of us walking off in the direction of the nearest town trying to find some lunch, and then trying to order said lunch with one German dictionary, one 1995 vintage GCSE ‘B’ grade in German (me) and one Afrikaans speaker trying to improvise. The English language was widely spoken in town and at the festival site, but hadn’t hit the rural parts yet. Various adventures followed, using just about every form of transport available to us (train? taxi? bus? foot? why not all of them?) and the festival hadn’t even started yet.

Actually, I don’t remember much about the actual music, to be honest – Girls Under Glass (a band I usually associate with rescuing iffy London events) doing a 20th anniversary show, a truly dreadful Blutengel performance in broad daylight (why bother?), my first live experience of Front Line Assembly, an amazing show by Rotersand in the Hangar (prefacing what we’d see in London three months later) and my last-to-date sighting on In Extremo remain the only faint memories. Maybe the festival meant more because on this one occasion, I was the one who knew what was going on, what every band sounded like, how to get from place to place. Maybe here was my first real experience of ‘goth herding’?

Maybe it was just that on a year where I felt invisible much of the time, zipping around on my own, this was the one occasion where I felt I actually part of the weekend of others as well as my own? That must be it, because a year later the fact that the festival even took place at all barely registered with me. But more on that distraction later.

 

November 2006 – Like A Punch Out Of Nowhere

For reasons that weren’t clear to anyone outside of the promotional community, Rotersand didn’t play the UK in 2005, despite the incredible popularity of their ‘Welcome To Goodbye’ album. It took until the end of 2006 before they made it back here, playing the surprisingly confined ‘upstairs at Slimelight’ stage. RBN played support, a light-hearted affair than got the night off to a good start, though I do have some distant memories of getting their backing video burnt to DVD on the morning of the gig.

But we were all waiting for Rotersand. Initially, it seemed a shame that they had to play such a venue as the Elektrowerkz setup hadn’t done every band who’d played it justice over the years (Girls Under Glass and Suicide Commando being the two real stand-outs so far). But somehow, Rascal, Xtian and Gun worked out what it took to play these apparent limitations to their advantage. From the moment the first words of ‘Almost Violent’ were sung, we knew this show was going to be close, up-front and personal.

And no-one gets up close and personal to their audience quite like Rascal – the packed audience lapping up every note and every word, even when he diverted off to hollow-body guitar to play the rarely-aired ‘One Level Down’. By the time we’d got to ‘Exterminate Annihilate Destroy’, the atmosphere was at fever pitch. The encore was inevitable and whilst the setlist is somewhat blurry at this point, I’m pretty sure ‘Lastlight’ cropped up somewhere around the later stage.

The details don’t matter – that was the definitive Slimelight gig. Rotersand had made that little upstairs room their own. For me, though – this particular gig came at a personal ‘dead time’, where a busy social life was simply a mask for deep dissatisfaction on a more fundamental level, and events at Slimelight immediately after the show were proof that I was heading in totally the wrong direction. As it happens, the following year would see just about every aspect of my life turn around……

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Did I say I went to a lot of gigs this year?

  • Getting two chances to see the very brief reunion of Bauhaus, and a little insider knowledge as to why it was so brief (any questions I receive on this subject will be not be answered).
  • An extreme music weekender – Der Blutharsch at Elektrowerkz, Imminent Starvation playing the Slimelight aftershow and then the Cold Meat Industry festival the next day, another show that was good to watch but marred by low attendance and too-obvious backbiting.
  • Dark City 2006, a brief chance to break from purely man-in-the-crowd to fill in as an RBN roadie for one weekend only.
  • Tool live in Hammersmith – a highly accomplished show technically, but the ticketing fees, venue rules and over-aggressive security left a sour taste in the mouth, the first real signs that the corporate side of live music was getting increasingly rotten.
  • Rushing back from a work trip to Aberdeen via Heathrow to watch The Birthday Massacre. I wanted to check my luggage bag in the cloakroom, but due to the heatwave on at the time, The Underworld elected not to open it and I had to drag the thing round all evening.
  • Front Line Assembly and Stromkern at The Scala, a show which I admit saved me the need to go to Infest that year. I’d spent too much by that point!
  • A much-delayed “what the fuck is going on here” Front 242 show at the Tinnitus Festival in Stockholm. Turns out they had to borrow a e-drumkit from an audience member – it seems Stockholm is EBM central and pad-whackers aren’t hard to come by!
  • An over-sensitive response to a technicality in my Black Celebration 2006 review, that proved to me once and for all that the scene factions were here to stay and I would never be truly accepted by any them – the beginning of the end for my EOL-Audio site.
  • My last ever sight of a Killing Miranda gig at Bar Monsta, a venue quipped to only a very basic extent and a poorly managed event that suggested that one should not automatically declare allegiance to every scene-friendly location without question.

Onto 2007 , or back to the start.