So where exactly to start? This year marks of course ten years of Infest, a festival that has changed in subtle ways over the years. This one was my eighth, and it was fun the other week unearthing all the memories of past events before I forgot them forever. And as always, this year brought about about more things I’ll be fondly remembering in the future.
It wasn’t just the music, either (of which more in a moment). There were moments of drama, hilarity, serious-and-not-so-serious conversation, and a damned good time had with many of my friends – thanks to all of you who were involved that made it such an ace weekend.
One thing to note for next time is that we probably got there a little early. Drinking vodka all afternoon in the bright sunshine was probably our first mistake, as later in the evening I was feeling terrible – mainly I think with the after-effects of the sun.
As for Friday‘s bands? The Gothsicles were the band who had the perhaps unenviable position on the bill of opening the festival, but bucked the usual trend of an indifferent or plain terrible opening by being fantastic fun.
Basically half-an-hour of bleepy, knowing humour – the opener was Holy Shit, We’re Playing Infest!, in addition to a cover of Duck Tales (no, really), songs about various NES games, fonts and then an ultra-sly dig at industrial bands that, shall we say, have trouble translating their lyrics into the English that they perform it in. By this point they had a big, big crowd and as they left the stage they were greeted with a rapturous response.
In fact, the whole idea of things being “fun” kinda set the stage for all of the best moments of the weekend. Those bands that made more of an effort with the audience – raised a smile, even – seemed to be the ones that made the biggest impression. It wasn’t entirely true for everything that went well, but as a general rule…
And this may be where Greyhound suffered a little. Well, that and the fact that they were painfully loud. As with many rhythmic industrial acts, there wasn’t an awful lot to watch on stage other than two men creating sound from various pieces of hardware, and occasionally bobbing their heads. The noise itself they were creating was interesting – the rhythms are overlaid with screeching white noise and various clever effects – but I could only cope with about 25 minutes worth before it started to grate. They remain ace on CD, though.
Friday night headliners Portion Control I had seen before, back in 2004 supporting Skinny Puppy, but didn’t pay an awful lot of attention at the time – so I made a resolute effort to see this. The problem was, by this point I was feeling terrible and just wanted to sleep, so I lasted three songs before sloping off to recharge for the rest of the weekend. Of what I did see was one of the most confrontational live performances I have ever seen from a live act – those of us down in the photo-pit were keeping a nervous eye on Dean Piavani prowling around the stage. Hardman was punishing live, while Seven Shades of Shit beat pretty much that out of us “in the pit”, with a bassline that literally knocked our breath out.
Saturday’s bands began with Synnack – who are formed of one of the (ex-)members of Cut.Rate.Box, assisted this time by Tony from Autoclav 1.1. It was pretty good, too – icy swathes of rhythmic industrial that for the main was very effective, if suffering from a little lack in variation…
Faderhead were rather different from how they sound on CD: rather than the delicate, highly-polished sheen I was expecting, instead it was a live drummer, a synth player and the vocalist – with a much rawer sound. This worked very well indeed on some tracks, except that the drums drowned out a lot of the synths. Still, highlights included the wonderfully sneering Girly Show, the pounding Storm Sparks Structure and of course the dancefloor hit dirtygrrrls/dirtybois, and I suspect that they will have gained themselves a fair number of new fans.
Talking of winning new fans…the biggest winner of this over the weekend is unquestionably going to be Caustic. They provided 45 minutes of pounding industrial, stuffed with many facets of humour and ideas that kept the momentum going right to the end. So where to start? Well, Matt Fanale came onstage accompanied by his backing band (The Gothsicles) and two dancing men in fat suits, as well as Keef Baker later joining them onstage to play guitar – wearing a sparkly pink ballgown (oh, and a fez)! As for song highlights? Bugchaser was a pounding opener, The Reason I Broke Up With You Is A Million Reasons You Psychotic Wang was livened up by Matt reading psycho-ex stories that he had appealed for from Infest-goers beforehand, a cover of The Prodigy’s Their Law went down very well indeed, while the closing Booze Up and Riot was simply punk as fuck. Without question the most entertaining performance of weekend, and one of the weekend’s talking points too as no-one would shut up about it afterwards…
I was a little surprised to see Dope Stars Inc on the bill in the first place, and my views were compounded by seeing them live. Basically glam rock with electronic beats, they really were not my thing at all, I’m afraid. 13th Monkey were once again painfully loud rhythmic industrial, in fact at points so loud that it was difficult to tell what else was going on other than the beats. Which is a shame, as I would liked to have heard more of this. One for listening to on CD or in clubs, I think.
Apoptygma Berzerk were the headliners on Saturday, and quite frankly were astoundingly good. Yeah, I’ve seen them twice before, but I’d quite happily see them a few more times yet. An utterly rammed venue was down to see them, and they went batshit from the off, apparently (I didn’t see the crowd to start with as I was in the “photo pit”), as the band slammed into Starsign to start with. Not a bad way to get the crowd on your side! Other highlights included Burning Heretic, a storming Eclipse, the euphoric set-closer Until The End Of The World (one of those festival “moments”, that, I can tell you), and then the nowadays usual encore of Non-Stop Violence and Love Never Dies. It really would be churlish to complain after a live set that good, but I was hoping they’d air Bitch again, but no such luck.
Sunday dawned late, for us – we slept in and didn’t even surface until well after 1400, so it wasn’t long before it was time for Sunday’s live acts already. ESA were first up, and despite a few clear sound issues they were very good indeed. The short half-hour set was a mixture of stuff from last year’s outstanding album Devotion, Discipline and Denial review) and from the forthcoming How Pure Would Your Utopia Be?, and managed to squeeze in two guest vocalists, too: Luke for Satan Is Real (whose gruff tones really suit the track), and then in a bit of a surprise, Erica from Unter Null, who added spite we didn’t even realise existed within We All Know The World Is Wrong. As it turned out, sound issues meant that the set wasn’t quite the all-conquering event we had hoped it would be, but still damned good all the same.
Rupesh Cartel were the only band I missed all weekend. With comments ranging from the tactful (‘I thought that he might have been better using effects on his vocals, but each to their own’) to the blunt (‘He couldn’t carry a note if it was strapped to his back’), I think I made the right choice remaining in the bar and watching the football.
I was back in the venue for Painbastard, though, as they were one of the acts I really wanted to see. And they were…ok. It was perhaps not helpful for me that they played my favourite track first (When The Rats Desert The Sinking Ship – still their best track by bloody miles), but otherwise they were pretty handy harsh-electro. Alex P is an effective and striking frontman, and used the stage well and like a number of other acts looked genuinely happy to be there. I’ll give them another chance at Corp in October, certainly.
As we neared the end of the weekend, it was time for the big guns to arrive. Soman were simply amazing. Nothing particularly difficult – 45 minutes of pounding industrial techno, but done with such style and panache that it was hard not to admire a master at work. Many Soman tracks have been dancefloor fixtures for ages now, and it wasn’t hard to see why – every single one of them hit the spot perfectly. Trying to pick highlights is kinda difficult, but Pusher‘s sheer energy is worth a mention, as was newer track Innocence v2.0. Mask was also great, but perhaps the live vocals would have made it even better. Also of note was the cheeky airing of his remix of Combichrist‘s Sex, Drogen und Industrial at the end!
So to close the festival for a third time was VNV Nation. My feelings on VNV are well known, but even I had to stand and admire a band who are so good at what they do. Ronan had a bonkers crowd in the palm of his hand from the start, with a mix of music and stand-up comedy when required (‘Welcome to the glowstick capital of the world’), as well as a good line in being well-aware of his band’s own limitations (‘Here’s another song that sounds pretty much the same as the rest’). In fact, many of you will be surprised to know that I lasted until well into the first encore, when Solitary drove me away (I hate that song for the personal memories it invokes). Still, everyone else seemed to enjoy it, and afterwards it was time to head back to the bar to get a few more drinks, and to enjoy the socializing of the weekend one last time before heading back to bed, and to home on the Monday lunchtime.
Musically, then, not the greatest Infest I’ve been to – but it isn’t ever just about the music. The whole weekend is always a blast, no matter what happens, and I’ll be there next year to do it all again. See you all there…