I think it took until the dawn of this year’s Infest until I realised just how much I missed the festival in its year off last year. All it took was a few minutes of being back in (nearly) familiar surroundings, of which more in a moment, with various familiar faces of friends new and old, and the familiar August bank holiday weekend buzz was back once again.
It was perhaps a little bit of a milestone in a number of ways for me at Infest 2010, too. Not least in that this was my tenth Infest, having begun attending way back in 2000. And also that for the first time in a few years, I wasn’t trying to do about fifteen things at once for much of the weekend. After 2008’s DJing, interviewing, photographing and the subsequent writing, to just be taking photographs when I needed to – so of the bands, and many friends – and now writing about it afterwards was definitely a relief. And it allowed me to relax a little more, too.
We’d been warned in advance that things had significantly changed with the venue, and once we got there – having headed our usual way, only to find it wasn’t the way in any more, and yes, we’d ignored the signs telling us this – it became quickly apparent that the refresh of the students union has been pretty much a full reconstruction of just about every element of it, meaning that the usual Friday afternoon ritual of being sat in the courtyard as people arrived could no longer happen. Mainly as the courtyard is no longer part of the venue, and the bar “outside” of the venue is now “inside” it. Confused? You should try working this all out after a few drinks…
As it happens, I don’t really have anything negative to say about the new format of the venue. Everyone seemed to adjust to it in the end, and one notable thing was that the backstage area appeared to be considerably larger, and I did wonder if that and the fact that the schedule was stuck to all weekend without any significant delays were linked. The only real problem was that the bar area had a habit of getting uncomfortably warm at just about any time. Having been in London for eight months now, too, the nice-and-cheap bar prices meant that we perhaps drank more than originally intended on Friday…which meant that I perhaps didn’t catch as much of Friday’s bands as I really wanted to.
One band that I did still catch in full on Friday, though, was Mandro1d, who were passed the baton by The Gothsicles and Coreline before them to provide an entertaining rather than turgid opening to the festival – something that PG (pre-Gothsicles) was too often the case. They didn’t disappoint, either, with a relentless skewering of the more po-faced side of the “scene”, with comedic lyrics, “interesting” stage attire and an infectious sense of fun that was just the thing to get everyone into a good-natured mood for the rest of the weekend. Somehow I’d never actually managed to catch them live before, and while it was all a little bit shambolic (perhaps deliberately) in some respects, they never once pushed the joke too far. I’m certain, though, that there will have been a few people who didn’t get the joke…
The aforementioned alcohol intake resulted in a rather truncated visit to the other two bands of the evening. I was really looking forward to Heimstatt Yipotash, but after the first few tracks I simply couldn’t get into them, so moved on. Judging on what I heard from others, I perhaps should have stuck around a little longer – their industrial soundscapes were certainly intricate and interesting, but for me somewhat cold and unengaging. One for listening to on CD, perhaps. I caught even less of De/Vision, having no real heart for getting through the crowd to get a decent photo or two of them, and I found what I did hear of their sub-Depeche Mode electro-pop really rather dreary. After that, though, perhaps the wierdest moment of the weekend was running into an old friend of mine from Huddersfield – he was one of the ‘coppers who dropped by later in the evening!
Saturday was a much better day overall musically, as well as also being notable for both Daisy and I escaping from Friday’s 10-hour drinking session without any sign of a hangover at all – and seeing as I was unencumbered by a hangover all weekend, it’s something I’m either going to pay for today or later in the week – or better still, someone else is paying for it for me. If that someone is reading this, perhaps I should apologise now.
Thankfully the EDL protests and assorted shenanigans in Bradford city centre on the Saturday also weren’t as much of a problem as many feared, either – with a much-reduced turnout, and the city centre being otherwise not-far-off deserted, it passed off without anywhere near as much in the way of hassle as it could have done. So it allowed for a relaxed Saturday daytime, without any great need to rush to the venue for the moment it opened at lunchtime just to be able to find somewhere to sit down and have a drink.
Needless to say, I did get there in time for the start of the bands, though, and first of the day was synthpop band Northern Kind, who apparently come from Sheffield, but I’d never come across them in the five years I spent in the steel city. But then, if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’d recognise them in a lineup – or at least a sonic lineup, anyway. Sticking rigidly to the principles of eighties synthpop, it was the standard band lineup of female singer, and male synth player, with song after song of mid-paced electro that had it’s moments, but…well, I’ve heard it all before.
København Robotic Youth
Death Audio Blow Your Brains
Death Comes (Sale Traître)
Get Your Ass To Mars
Relax and Ride It
Much, much better – and the band that marked the point where Infest 2010 properly came to life – were Danish-Canadian act Memmaker, whose album How To Enlist In A Robot Uprising was recently re-released, following tracks from it tearing up industrial dancefloors everywhere for the past couple of years. For an act playing so early, they drew a big crowd, and the crowd were rewarded with a blistering fifty minutes of industrial music to dance to – that the band members appeared to be enjoying just as much as the crowd, leaping all over the place and seemingly doing everything they could to dispel the usual faceless men-behind-laptops-and-other-equipment boredom that can happen with acts of this ilk. There were a lot of highlights – and certainly no wasted moments, either – but special mentions for a barnstorming København Robotic Youth (I’m still astounded this track was missed off the album first time around), an unexpected treat in the appearance of Memmaker’s bouncing remix of Alter Der Ruine‘s Relax and Ride It, and then Jamie from ESA‘s guest vocals on Robot Buzz, delivered in a gutteral growl that was, perhaps, taking the piss just a little bit, but was still immense fun. New stuff – of which a couple of tracks were aired, including one that was a feast of breakbeats with an absolutely fearsome bassline. A new album soon, please, folks.
The only late change to the bill came on Saturday evening, with the postponement rather than cancellation of Parralox‘s appearance following a litany of issues that day, not least something of a health emergency. So their set was shifted to the Sunday in mid-afternoon, leaving the remaining three bands for the evening with new set times and also the chance to play longer sets too. I missed the start of Agonoize‘s set, but caught the majority of the rest of it, and having seen them before, there wasn’t anything of a great surprise to me – their aggressive, “hellelektro” hasn’t changed a jot with the new album. So hard beats, goblin vocals and lots of threatening songs about death, gore and hate are the order of the day, accompanied by an awful lot of fake blood – which at least gave the opportunity for those of us getting photos to get some pretty creative shots.
A while ago I bought Unmöglich Erregend by [x]-Rx, after I’d had a number of requests for them in my DJ sets, and to be honest I was hardly that enamoured with it – I’ve long since been griping about the frustrating way so-called “hard dance” has been elbowing actual industrial out of the club scene, and this was a perfect example of why. The set appeared hugely popular to many, but did absolutely nothing for me – if I want to go “raving”, I’ll go to a rave. Otherwise, perhaps it would be better suited to soundtracking an aerobics session?
The extended set seemed to make it last for ever, too, especially as I was really looking forward to Rotersand‘s headlining slot – their return to Infest after headlining on the same night back in 2006. I’ve had a lot of time for this band ever since I first saw them live way back in 2004 (or maybe 2005?), and instantly loved their dancefloor friendly debut album. For me each album since has seen them get better and better, and they are worth so much more than being known – as some clearly do – purely for “doing that Dalek song”. Indeed, the embarrassment of riches of great songs that this band have was starkly shown by the songs missing from the set – The Last Ship, Don’t Know, Storm, Speak To Me, Almost Wasted…christ, when thought about it in those terms Rotersand could have played a second set and still have provided the same kind of roof-raising set that they did anyway!
Electronic World Transmission
Beneath The Stars
I Cry (rework)
Waiting To Be Born (rework)
Dare To Live
A Number And A Name (stripped down)
War On Error
The First Time
Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
This was a staggering performance, and amongst other things featured one of those “festival moments” that I’ll remember forever when vocalist Gun went into the heart of the crowd as Dare To Live cranked up, and as the track exploded into life he was there in the centre of the maelstrom, taking the crowd with him. Make no mistake, Rotersand have simply got better and better over the years since they first appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and are currently peerless in providing club-bound electro/EBM/industrial/synthpop (delete as you wish) music that doesn’t simply rely on blood and gore to make it “edgy”. At their heart these are skyscraping pop songs that just happen to use club beats, but in the live environment transcend any labelling to become simply awesome songs. Band of the weekend? Abso-fucking-lutely.
Onto Sunday, and after a relaxing lunchtime watching an incident-filled Belgian GP, it was time to hotfoot it back to the venue for the earlier start to accomodate the rescheduled appearance of Parralox. Like a number of others, I was happy they had the chance to play after all, too, as they were really quite marvellous. I’ve been enjoying listening to recent album State of Decay quite a bit of late, after a friend pointed me towards it, and two of it’s best tracks (Hotter and Be Careful What You Wish For) were both perfect examples of what made Parralox so good – yes, like Northern Kind they are icy, female-fronted synthpop, but unlike Northern Kind they had more emotion about them, a wistful feel to their songs of a life that isn’t quite as perfect as the shimmering sounds they created. New single Supermagic appears to be taking this idea a little further, too. In light of all their issues, they could be forgiven for being a little nervous onstage, and certainly I’ve never seen a band at Infest receive so much goodwill from the crowd. Still, all richly deserved, and I’m hoping they’ve gained a new set of fans from this.
Breathe In The Monochrome
Waste Of Flesh
Another band hopefully benefitting from a whole new set of fans were the band that followed them, and Concrete Lung could scarcely be any more different to Parralox. No delicate synthpop here – this was crushing, industrial intensity. I’ve already seen them live before, of course, supporting FLA last month, but there was no way I was going to miss a second dose. In some respects it was a similar set to last time – all five tracks from the Waste of Flesh EP, for a start – but added to that were a couple of rather brief new tracks that suggest the forthcoming album is going to be no less brutal, while the guest appearance of Paddy from Je$us Loves Amerika lent an intriguing new dimension to the grinding juggernaut of Waste of Flesh. Remarkably it was perhaps even louder than the London show (some feat!), and watching a few “cyb0r” kids hurrying for the stairs within the first two tracks suggested that not everyone was too keen on their take on industrial. This was industrial as it used to be, of searing power, rhythm, and darkness.
The slightly strange clash of styles that was the Sunday afternoon of Infest 2010 continued with Patenbrigade: Wolff, a band that I knew little of prior to their show, and so approached with an open mind. And with what appeared to be their very own industrial Bez, they were a mighty strange live act – and somewhat schizophrenic in musical styles, too. They ran the gamut from industrial, to synthpop, to soulful electro and back again, with a stageshow seemingly based around a road maintenance crew – hi-viz jackets and trousers, hard hats, cones, flashing lights…and (very pretty, might I add) female singer Antje Dieckmann who initially came onstage acting as the site manager! Remarkably despite the huge variance in styles through the set, it held together well and frankly was an intriguing show from start to finish. I’m regretting not picking up a CD of theirs now, too.
Ayria were rather more conventional, and judging on the ecstatic reaction from the crowd from the first minute of them taking the stage, they had a whole lot of fans there to cheer them on. Jennifer Parkin’s band is nothing too complicated, but is very effective – bouncy electro-pop that simply makes you want to dance like hell, and Jennifer leads from the front in that regard, seemingly having endless reserves of energy onstage. The set was perhaps a little too biased towards Hearts For Bullets material, as the vast majority of the songs played were from it, but in fairness there are a lot of strong tracks on that album, and it was nice this time to hear Six Seconds. The best was saved for last, though, in the form of career highlight My Revenge On The World, perhaps the one song where she really bares her teeth both lyrically and sonically, and that extra bite really does set it apart from everything else.
Judging on the masses of people in military-style outfits, and the band flags everywhere in the hours before they took to the stage, Nachtmahr were a keenly anticipated band by an awful lot of people. They’ve been a big, big club band for a while now – like other DJs, I suspect, I’ve had a lot of requests for them in the past year, and many of their tracks simply tear up dancefloors – so it was no real surprise to see them so popular, I guess. And right from the off, there was no wasting of time with anything that wasn’t going to have everyone bouncing off the walls – Thomas Rainer’s band simply don’t do subtlety. Most of the songs are pretty simple – heavy beats and lots of sloganeering, and with the heavily military-based imagery it crossed my mind that they aren’t far off being the Feindflug it’s ok to like.
Unlike that band, though, nothing is taken too seriously, and they were a damned sight better and more entertaining than Thomas Rainer’s other band L’Âme Immortelle, although it was noted afterward by at least one friend that the heavily militaristic imagery was perhaps a little bit of unfortunate timing with the events in Bradford the day before. As for the music? Well, there were some great moments (Code:Red remains a fantastic track that stood out rather more than some others did, and Richard from Uberbyte‘s guest appearance on a raging I Believe In Blood), but I couldn’t help but wish that more of his material had the glorious retro-EBM stylings of Mädchen in Uniform, and without it the set might have ended up being a little one dimensional. Will the next album be more of the same as before? I can’t help but think that the concept might wear a little thin if it is.
This left the weekend headliners Project Pitchfork to close proceedings. I approached this with a little curiosity, partly as I’d never had the chance to see them live before, partly as I’ve had little interest in their material in years since the release of Daimonion, and partly because stylistically they seemed to be a little bit out of step, perhaps, with much of the fashion at Infest and I was interested to see how they went down. The crowd was big, the throwing away of Timekiller within the first few songs probably helped to keep a few more people interested than might otherwise have happened, and they weren’t actually too bad – although Peter Spilles’ voice seemed rather, er, gruff, which took away some of the effect. Behind him, though, the band was tight, and the live drummer lent them an awesome power, not least in set closer Existence, which for me was the only time it really clicked spectacularly.
In fact, the last couple of bands of the weekend helped to illustrate how much things have changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, so-called “darkwave” bands were much more important in the grand scheme of things, while now anything that is so-called “industrial dance” will gain a huge following whether, frankly, they are that good or not. Perhaps it’s an age thing. And like the bands or not in that sphere, what was notable this year was the number of younger and first time punters at Infest. The “scene” is changing, whether some of us older heads like it or not, but more importantly it’s not being deserted entirely. So here’s to seeing you all at Infest 2011.