20 Years Of Live Music: 2017

Article June 8th, 2017

2017 is a story as yet unwritten in full, as the 20-year mark where this tale draws to a close arrives in the middle. And hence a lengthy write-up is beyond me, as I don’t have a years worth of context to build the gigging tales round. But there is one event that does justify a bit more, and those of you who have read this far can probably guess what it is.

 

June 2017 – Get Around, Get Around, I Get Around (When it’s time to go, I’m the first to know)

WGT 2017 was always intended as my 20th anniversary of gigging. It was perhaps indicative of the significance that the itinerary for the weekend was planned with enormous precision, going as far as to print out the Monkeypress.de timetable and tracing ideal paths with highlighter pen.

And as if to give me a sign, the travel gods smiled upon me and the plan just ‘worked’. 21 bands were seen in all, of which only one (Skinny Puppy) I had seen before. And with such treats as an all-star cast reviving the Dorsetshire name or Autodafeh up-close-and-personal in the Mortizbastei, this was not a case of scratching around for something to do. But it just so turned out that the two biggest highlights of my festival occurred at the same venue, two nights apart. The Stadtbad, a old swimming baths converted into a venue, would host both.

The first was Kite, a synthpop band from Sweden, but somewhat different from the standard-issue Vince Clarke wannabes (many of whom I admit are bloody good at it!). A stage set that projected images onto satellite dishes, neon piping on the keyboards and a vocalist whose voice it was hard to draw any comparisons to (Demis Roussous is the closest I could get). Add some excellent songwriting and a well-considered running order (‘Castle of Sand’ makes such an epic finale) and it really was a case of an act in an overcrowded genre devising something truly unique.

The second was Revolting Cocks. A band that had existed in an on-off fashion for many years, with a Revolving Lineup. The current form of the band didn’t feature Al Jourgensen, and with Luc Van Acker off sick, there were doubts over the legitimacy of the lineup. No, I’m lying. There weren’t. Richard 23 was back in the band, Chris Connelly was on-board too, as was Paul Barker. With two Acumen Nation members on loan, it was still an industrial supergroup worth seeing.

With R23 handing the first half of the show (the ‘Big Sexy Land’ album) and Chris Connelly the second half (everything else), the thing that amazed me is how such a motley assortment of musicians could come together to actually play a surprisingly tight set (despite a brief ‘total technical’ early on). It was also a reminder that even if their albums weren’t the most finely-tuned things ever to be pressed onto vinyl or silver disc, there were more than enough good tracks to build a set, and with an encore of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’, it was a true case of a performance far beyond expectations. Who else could make Skinny Puppy of all people seem like an anti-climax?

 

Plus these snapshots…..

Already proving to be a great year.

  • Three bands beginning with B to start the year – Black Light Ascension, B-Movie, Blue Zoo. Sang along quite loudly to ‘Remembrance Day’.
  • Another punk double-header (The Rezillos, Spizzenergi) followed by a WGT-style venue hop to see Die Kur play a late set at The Unicorn.
  • Unexpected appearance of Deviant UK supporting Orgy, reminded how good they could be.
  • Last-minute decision to see Aurelio Voltaire the Dome. Don’t normally go for this kind of gig, but this was entertaining! Solo singer-songwriters have to more than strum and sing to work a crowd, this guy certainly grasps that!
  • Finally saw Pig and Cubanate, two elusive 90s industrial names finally back on the road.
  • Diary of Dreams supported by Empathy Test – does Friday evening get better, ever?

Onto the ending, or back to the start.

Share/Bookmark

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: 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.

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.