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: 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: 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: 2005

Article June 8th, 2017

After a promising start, 2004 sort of fizzled out live-music-wise. Into 2005, then, and time to scratch one of the biggest live music itches of them all. Back in 2000, I had tickets for an event called the ‘Lost Weekend’ with NIN headlining, a band I’d previously tried and failed to see, despite being the act that drew me to this whole dark-scene place initially.

They pulled out at the last minute owing to ‘illness’, though many believed this story was cover for some contractual/political reason, being a known music industry trick that the establishment will never admit to (get the band off the bill AND demand sympathy from the fanbase? Get out of jail free!). Anyway, my day-after-graduation party was cancelled. The festival went ahead, but I wasn’t interested in Ash and Groop Dogdrill (a band ever Metal Hammer thought were too obscure to headline a stage) and got a refund. No news of a replacement show thereafter, nor any action from the band at all, for that matter. Until now.

 

March 2005 – The Hand That Feeds

This story actually starts in January, when news got out that NIN were going to play two shows at the London Astoria at the end of March. As I wasn’t subscribed to their mailing list (it wasn’t like the band were doing much), I’d already missed the pre-sale. Despite my gigging experience and growing reputation as an online critic (EOL-Audio), I wasn’t one of those people who just ‘got in’ to things like this by virtue of my position. Then I found the Astoria was running a cash-sale only ticket allocation, one Saturday morning at 9am. I was leaving nothing to chance and promptly left Synthetic Culture at 3am, joined the queue at half an hour later and spent a cold January night sharing tales of just-about-everything with a bunch of people I’d never previously met and (with one exception) never met again. Tickets secured. I was going. My most sought-after band in the venue that held so many memories.

Fast Forward to March. We got the added bonus of a ‘not quite famous in the UK yet’ Dresden Dolls kicked things off, but there was only one band that were going to make the night. And when the opening note of ‘The Frail’ played into earshot, it finally became clear, I WAS FINALLY WATCHING NINE INCH NAILS. The remainder of the gig remains something of a blur, the mosh-pit ebbed and flowed, classic songs, the odd obscurity and three new songs from ‘With Teeth’ (all good ones). I exited the concert as something of a walking wreck, and when I woke the next day, I found that my lower back was aching thanks to a fall I’d taken in the pit during ‘Wish’. Yeah, I’ve felt this pain for you lot so you don’t have to. Luckily, the injury faded in a day or so, just as well as there was yet another adventure to come a couple of days later.

 

April 2005 – No Heaven Or Hell, Just The Land Between

VNV Nation were kicking off on their ‘Matter + Form’ tour, but no UK gigs were scheduled for the first phase of their tour. That didn’t matter, of course, because half-a-dozen of us could just pack into a Ford Galaxy, hop on a Ferry, drive to Mechelen in Belgium and watch them there. Only we then got stuck outside Calais Harbour for ages due to a dockside technical problem, putting us way behind schedule. It’s a pity we weren’t going to see Covenant, because I could have headlined this section ‘Call The Ships To Port’ or some other water-related lyrical metaphor. But no, today was a VNV day.

Anyway, we got caught up in all the late afternoon traffic which meant we only just made it in time for opening bands Soman and Diorama, the former well-received across our party, the latter being a band no-one in our group seemed to like except for me, possibly indicating my slow de-synchronisation with the UK tastemakers sound of choice, something that would later matter more than it did then.

And then VNV Nation….we’d got a DJ promo of the album to listen to in the car and weren’t actually that impressed, but it was one of those things that only made sense once you’d heard it live. ‘Chrome’ wasn’t actually an anthem back then, but it opened the set and then, to my great surprise, came ‘Joy’. A track that means a HUGE amount to me personally, the first VNV song I’d heard live, but also one that was dropped from the setlist for the entire duration of the ‘Futureperfect’ tour. Now it was back, and it was worth the trip just for that.

The gig continued with a decent mix of new and old songs, and whilst the predictable encore of ‘Beloved’ and ‘Electronaut’ now seems a bit old, the multi-national crowd that had assembled for the show went home happy. Of course, we end up spending three hours on the ferry on the way back and arrived home a little bit before 5am. I’d sort of seen this situation coming and taken the following day off work.

 

May 2005 – WGT Debut

This should have occurred a couple of years previously, but it didn’t, so my first Wave-Gotik-Treffen came in 2005. The first mistake was flying with a connection – I’m no lover of air transport, something that got worse rather than better with repeat experience, so two consecutive flights were enough to get me headachey and ill by the time we made it to the Renaissance Hotel. From now on, I’d typically fly once and then connect by train or bus – it would be 12 years before I used a connecting flight again.

But once recovered, the fun started. Here’s the highlights…..

  • Trying to find a Mexican restaurant, only to find a missing building at the address we were given (Leipzig is big on urban renewal)
  • Randomly starting conversations with any and all English speakers I could identify (this became a habit at subsequent WGT visits/
  • Sitting outside drinking beer at the Mortizbastei and watching Wolfenmond do an unplugged set.
  • Waiting over an hour to see Apoptygma Berzerk come on stage due to unknown technical issues, when really all we were waiting for was Die Krupps big comeback show.
  • Finally seeing Zeromancer, then collapsing in exhaustion when Spetsnaz followed them (why were they so high on the bill? Are the Germans that mad for Ebb rip-offs?). The blessing in disguise was that this meant I’d left before Visage, who were apparently utterly terrible.
  • 8 synth-pop bands in the far corner of the town (Haus Auensee) then a cab right across the city centre to the other corner of town to catch a ninth, which just happened to be The Human League. Who just happened to be unexpectedly good. It would be 10 years before I once again relied on a cab for a ‘venue hop’.
  • A day at the medieval stage, run home to get changed, and dance through the night to Mr.Week’s 9-hour epic set. One day, I’m going to have to try and beat that.  Though probably not at WGT.
  • Returning to hotel, sitting straight down to breakfast, and then trying and failing to sleep. Got up for a final wander round, but the circus had left town.

So back in a year? Yes, please!

 

August 2005 – InFested

I haven’t written much about my first two InFest’s (2002, 2003) as the event seemingly focused solely on the live action – the relative lack of scene friends back then really mattered when there was only one stage and 45-minute gaps between bands. So I skipped 2004. I did, however, return in 2005 (after a particularly average M’era Luna at that). And this time I knew tons of people present. And found it much easier to meet even more when the opportunity arose. This was surprising as I was undergoing something of a minor mental collapse at the time, getting hopelessly bogged down in the 5-month rework of my EOL-Audio website. But for three days, all of that stress and tension disappeared.

The actual line-up was fairly reflective of the scene at the time, really, with the highlights being Covenant debuting three tracks from ‘Skyshaper’ (which should had been released that year but wasn’t) and the psychotically deranged stage show of KiEw. What was special about this event was the atmosphere, the fact that almost everyone present seemed to be there to enjoy the music with a drink or six and maybe the occasional curry.

The rather basic Halls accommodation was cheered up by the welcoming atmosphere of a bunch of mostly-previously-unknown people who were just there for the music, previously years seeing me either bunk down with musically-disinterested stallholders or a hard-to-penetrate clique – I no longer felt B-listed. The cheap’n’cheerful atmosphere was exactly what I needed at the time. Checking old Livejournal entries, it seems that my rejuvenated state didn’t last long. No, that came when the actual site was finished.

 

November 2005 – I Think We Made It Better

On 5th November 2005, after 5 months work, I launched EOL-Audio v7, a mega-repository of dark scene knowledge and opinion (the best bits are preserved on my DJ site, the factual stuff found it’s way onto Wikipedia). This was such a big event that I needed some kind of celebration, so I went to join a group of friends to watch the Ally Pally Fireworks, then down to Central London for a night at Slimelight. And then came Black Celebration the next day. A festival that was originally supposed to be headlined by Apoptygma Berzerk. Then by Killing Joke Sound System. Then by Killing Joke proper. And finally, by Mesh. Who actually turned up. Time to crawl out of bed and hit the LA2 for a day of mostly-bleepy goodness.

And then we found that someone involved in the sound engineering process either had no idea how to make electronic bands sound OK on stage, or was protesting against something-or-other and sabotaged some of the sets. The early bands (Deathboy, Faetal) worked hard but just seemed to be fighting a losing battle on this occasion, Inertia (usually a great live act) got lost in a swamp of resonance and then that dire, pitiful, pathetic excuse for a barely-survival remnant of an old project, Sheep On Drugs, took the event to a new low.

Mysteriously, everything then came good again when Rico hit the stage. It was like someone worked out where all the knobs belonged again once a real band with drums, guitars and stuff came on stage, and Rico had some pretty good songs which would have worked regardless of what instrument they were played on. Then came This’Morn Omina, one of the most original rhythmic industrial bands you’ll ever see on stage (power noise meets tabla?), and of course the old reliable Mesh finished the day off with their finely-honed sing-along angst anthems.

A curate’s egg of an event which could have been a total disaster but managed a save with the last three bands. Frankly, I was just glad that EOL-Audio v7 was out there and I could focus on having fun again.

 

Plus these snapshots…..

In a year with a lot of distractions, I at least noticed this much….

  • Killing Joke’s 25th anniversary show at Shepherd’s Bush, later captured on ‘The Gathering’ DVD.
  • Girls Under Glass not letting a curtailed Electrofest ruin their performance,.
  • Rushing back from the midlands in time for Dead Can Dance.
  • Watching SonVer in the Ritzy Cinema Bar. I was told to ‘bring a book’, so I did.
  • A rare all-electronic mosh-pit in London when Ultraviolence played ‘Hardcore Motherfucker’. Pity the angle-grinder had to be cancelled, though.

Onto 2006, or back to the start.

Infest 2016

DJ Setlist August 27th, 2016

And so it came to pass that DJ Terminates Here played InFest 2016.  I’ve been to the festival many times over the years, and this time I got to contribute to the aftershow DJing with a set in the Escape Bar on Saturday night from 1:15am to close.

My first set outside of London and the Southeast, my first at a multi-day festival, and a chance to let the Terminates Here sound be heard by a new audience.  The time and place meant that only bona-fide classics from my repertoire made it in.  Anyway, here’s what I played.

Star Industry – Nineties
Diary Of Dreams – Chemicals
Fortification 55 – And Tomorrow Atlantis
Project Pitchfork – God Wrote
The Invincible Spirit – Push!
Front 242 – Tragedy >For You<
A Split Second – Flesh
Death In June – The Calling Mk2
Absolute Body Control – Figures
And One – Metalhammer
Die Krupps – Fatherland
KMFDM – Godlike (Chicago Trax)
Ministry – Stigmata
Killing Joke – Requiem
Public Image Ltd – Public Image
Joy Division – Transmission
Fad Gadget – Ricky’s Hand
Depeche Mode – Photographic (Some Bizarre)
The Human League – Empire State Human
Kraftwerk – Radioactivity (The Mix)
Mesh – You Didn’t Want Me (Radio Mix)
Apoptygma Berzerk – Love Never Dies Pt.1
VNV Nation – Nova