Wave Gotik Treffen is undoubtedly the largest, as well as one of the oldest, Goth festivals in the world. We visited Leipzig, Germany, to participate in its 26th incarnation from 2nd to 5th June 2017. One of the key features of WGT, the one that makes it so different from the other festivals, is that it is a citywide event where concerts, exhibitions and various other events happen in all parts of the city, which transforms into the goth capital of the world during those four days. Although the nature of festival and sheer amount of events and concerts often mean that you would often either need to be at several places at once or teleport around, the public transport, free for the festival guests, does a really good job at taking you around from venue to venue.
Although the warm-up events started on Thursday, we arrived only on Friday, when the festival began for us, after we had sorted out our press passes. Our first show of the day took us all the way to NonTox, which is probably one of the most remote locations of the entire festival, at least when you use public transport, but Haujobb was, as always, worth it. Since they are a local band, they play on WGT quite often, making them one of the festival‘s hidden bonuses, as their shows never disappoint. Although we missed the first few songs because of the transportation, the trip was well worth it because Haujobb delivers the highest class EBM music in a rock concert like experience. With the career that spans more than 20 years, they are one of the scene‘s elders and it was nice to see that their recent work still resonates well with the crowd since the last song they played, “Dead Market”, one of their last singles, welcomed was with loud cheers from the audience. The moral of this story, at least based on our experience, could be that any festival that starts with Haujobb is a good festival.
Our next stop was Clara Zetkin Park, where all the beautiful people hung around on the traditional WGT Victorian Picnic, usually one of the highlights of the first day. People dressed in their finest costumes were scattered around on blankets with picnic baskets, chilling on a lazy afternoon that was maybe a bit too hot. Locals and tourists gathered on the edges of event with their cameras, photographing plethora of wiling models, proud of their creations. Just to mention it, during this year’s festival we’ve noticed that in the city there was an unusual amount of tourists from Far East; maybe the goths of WGT have become a tourist attraction of their own and these tourists came just to see the city transforming during WGT. Intriguing idea, but we also might be just wrong.
We moved from the picnic to Agra, where Pouppee Fabrikk were about to take the main stage. Playing their “Rage” album, with Henrik’s relentless stage presence and raw energy of their music, they managed to put the crowd into frenzy for the duration of their one hour set. Hall was filled with old school EBM crowd to whom going through “Rage” song by song was probably a dream come true. While waiting for Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel, we peaked at Devilment show. This was the first that we saw this band and although metal is not our cup of tea, they gave a great show. The last concert of the day were Amanda Palmer from Dresden Dolls and Edward Ka-Spel of Legendary Pink Dots. Although plagued at the beginning by faulty electric piano pedal, they have delivered excellent show, and the extended pause at the beginning and the change of the set list while the stage crew was resolving the issues only showed top quality of the artists on stage. Delivering atmospheric and dreamy show, they were perfect ending of the concert portion of Day 1. We spent the rest of the night on grounds moving between Treffen Cafe and Agra 4.2, enjoying great DJ sets and good company for a few more hours until calling it a night.
We spent Saturday visiting medieval market in Moritzbastei, tasting craft beers from clay cups and generally chilling out, before heading to the pagan village to enjoy its atmosphere. Since the pagan village is one of most popular locations of the festival, the entrance queue is enormous and it takes about an hour to get in. Unfortunately, we missed the virgin auction, but we still managed to spend there several hours, listening to unusual music and looking at the strange crowds surrounding us. We returned to Agra for the evening concerts that started with Rotersand and V2A. Rotersand delivered their standard show of danceable and catchy synthpop tunes, well known and loved by their audience that came in numbers. They definitely were one of the crowd favourites, delivering lots of fun. V2A that followed delivered a frantic and hectic show resembling Japanese electro punk or Sigue Sigue Sputnik back in the day. After some mingling around Agra complex, the time has come for the main act of the evening. If you have ever seen VNV Nation live, you know that great time is guaranteed. Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson, supported by two additional keyboard players, took us for a ride through the band‘s vast catalogue, playing one hit after another. Ronan was everywhere on stage and communicated with audience during the entire show, at some point even getting his hand on an Irish flag from the audience. All in all, it was a standard top performance from VNV Nation. Again, we remained in Agra after the concerts, this time to hear the DJ set by Ronan Harris, and mingled between Cafe and 4.2 before calling it a night.
We started our Sunday, which we knew would be the busiest day, again in Agra, with a concert of Turkish goth/darkwave sensation She Past Away. We couldn’t recall if we had ever seen such a big crowd for a band this early in the day; these guys didn’t disappoint. Although they sing in Turkish, their old school style of goth was pleasure to listen to, although it suffers the same problem as most of the older goth bands whose songs rarely last less than 5 minutes. Afterwards we left Agra and went to Kohlrabizirkus where Decoded Feedback was just about to start. They are one of the older bands on the scene with a lot of shows under their belt, and that was clearly visible in Marco Biagiotti‘s stage presence. Featuring a bit cleaner but slightly harder futurepop, the band was a real live treat. They even had a surprise guest appearance on “I’m the Night” in form of Ronny Moorings from Clan of Xymox playing guitar. It was a totally enjoyable experience. They were followed by the most original band announcement in the history of WGT. Ronan Harris from VNV Nation took the stage and announced Elvis the festival announcer who in turn announced S.P.O.C.K., definitely the happiest WGT show ever. Blue and yellow balloons started flying around the hall as the trio in white came out and started their Star Trek inspired music performance. With all their songs Star Trek or SF related, they took their audience into a huge happy singalong through their greatest hits list. As the evening was progressing, the time came for heavy hitters and we moved to Stadtbad where most of “Big Sexy Land” Revolting Cocks, or The Cocks as they are called now, were ready to give history a lesson in good music. Once again, there were some initial equipment issues, that luckily got resolved quickly, allowing, among others, Paul Barker and Richard Jonckheere (again a singer in white) to take the stage and begin their show. The first portion of the show with Jonckheere on vocals went through “Big Sexy Land”, their first release, and it was a small dream come true, especially hearing “Attack Ships on Fire” live for the first time, a real treat. For the second part of the show Jonckheere was replaced by unbelievably flexible and lively Chris Connelly, who then took us through best songs from “Beers, Steers and Queers” and “Linger Ficken’ Good…and Other Barnyard Oddities”. It was definitively one of the highlights of the festival. The concert evening came to an end in the completely full Agra hall when the scene legends Skinny Puppy, after too long 7 years hiatus away from Europe, held their only German show in the current European tour. With all the energy that Ogre and the rest of the band pour in their live performance and scene presence, calling it a concert, simply wouldn’t do it justice: it was a performance in full meaning of the word, including props, costumes and scenery changes. The setlist was a bit more guitar oriented and we were treated to hits like “Tin Omen”, “Death” or “Fascist Jock Itch”. However, although their other all-time classics were included, it was noticeable that they didn’t play “Smothered Hope”. All in all, Skinny Puppy gave out performance worthy of a festival headliner. We remained again for a while in Agra 4.2 and Treffen Cafe, before going to Moritzbastei, probably the most popular post concert venue of the festival.
We reserved Monday to mingle around, do some shopping and re-visit pagan village, since by then most of the main acts had already played. We went to see Psyclon Nine in anticipation of Funker Vogt and their comeback show. Although we are not big fans of theirs, they gave a hard and interesting show. On the other hand, the Funker Vogt show was a slight disappointment since they mostly played the newer materials and neglected most of their best stuff, which was released on their first 2 albums, “Thanks for Nothing” and “We came to Kill”. To be honest, we went with the plan to be there for just the first part of the concert and did not stay until the end, so something might have changed later, but we simply didn’t feel the urge to stay longer. Our last concert of the festival was a bit hard to choose since B-Movie and Cabaret Voltaire had their shows simultaneously on two different locations. We opted for Cabaret Voltaire in Volkspalast, since we usually end up there for the last night and Volkspalast has become a safe bet for a good farewell show. We did the same this year; it was the only German performance of 2017 for Cabaret Voltaire, nowadays just Richard H. Kirk. Designed as an elaborate audio visual performance where music and sound accompany projections on 3 screens, making disturbances with sudden noise bursts, this was slightly relaxing as it marked the end of another WGT and a year long wait.
As always, entire festival experience was great, with some shows seen and others unfortunately missed, but that is simply how WGT works. There is always something going on somewhere in the city and it is impossible to see everything, but on the other hand there is never a dull moment from start to finish.
Until next year.