This year I decided to miss out on some German festivals and visit Infest instead. I guess there is no-one who has unlimited time and capability to see it all and, being no exception, I always have to choose which of the many festivals I would visit. For many years I have been travelling to at least major German festivals and following there the performers who were practically regulars on their lineups. After checking the Infest lineup and getting an idea what the organisers were after, we have decided to give it a go. Apart from the general idea, we didn’t know what to expect conceptually; this festival was pretty much an unknown territory to us. Of course, we have already seen the two main acts, Leæther Strip and Velvet Acid Christ, on several occasions, and the fact that they have never disappointed us so far meant that we would be guaranteed at least reprisals of their good performances.
We were a bit tight with time on Friday. Even though we left home early, we arrived late thanks to the countless traffic jams on the motorway. The moment we arrived we just left our suitcases at the hotel and rushed to the venue, hoping we didn’t miss too much. Although Massive Ego had already finished, we arrived just in time to see Me The Tiger. I didn’t know how far ahead they were in their set list, so I didn’t head straight to the photo pit. But, as it turned out, we came just in time for the first song. I had earlier done my homework on the band and on the stage they really give something extra compared to the recorded material. Their Swedish synth pop isn’t all that much synth pop. I would rather describe it as electronic dance music enriched by the heavy use of the guitar. They showed a lot of energy on stage and made me want to learn more about them.
We spent our free time between the shows checking out the whole venue and we discovered it was a brilliant place. The venue has a couple of bars, enough resting areas, a merch stand and even a small market place. We were happy with the prices at the bar.
Anyway, we returned to the stage just in time for me to take some shots. It was Dead When I Found Her‘s turn, yet another band that we were seeing live for the first time. I wasn’t at all familiar with their music before the show, but as soon as they started playing, I was blown away. I could feel the energy and the beat running through my body. I had to really focus in order to take pics, because if I could, I guess I would start headbanging at that point. I photographed them thinking what that was all about. Those two Americans just blew me off. I went back into the crowd and joined my hubby who was equally thrilled with them. We discussed them and thought that maybe this was the way Skinny Puppy should have continued and there were moments when they reminded me of FLA. Nevertheless, we felt it was a breath of fresh air. After the show we went to the merch stand to see if they had any of their CDs and we found their “All the Way Down” album. Should I mention we bought it? I listened to some of their older stuff and, if memory serves me well, they played “Better Days”, “Fixer Fixed”, “Spitting Seeds” and, I remember, “Expiring Time” from the aforementioned as a slower piece. The next day I caught Michael Holloway to congratulate them on their excellent show. During our short chat he told me that this was the first time they were playing in Europe. USA is not on Mars, so if there’s anyone interested in this band, I’d advise you to book them and get them to return to Europe ASAP.
What caught me by surprise as a photographer was the fact there was no security check up at the photo pit. No-one telling you when to leave. But, as we all know, the three-song rule is the standard practice, meaning you have to be out by the end of the third song. It was really nice to see how all the photographers were counting the tracks and politely warning each other when we were due to leave. I would love to experience more of this freedom and respect at other places. The whole atmosphere seemed more laid back. I guess most of the people there were the frequent visitors and knew each other by now. However, I felt very welcomed and somehow… at home.
But it was already time for the Friday’s headliners, Pop Will Eat Itself. I must admit I have never followed their work much, merely as an occasional listener. I remember some of their hits back when I was a teen and they were playing on old music shows. Their mix of genres is very original, but not the mix of my favourite genres. Even though the band’s lineup is very different from the original one, it doesn’t make any difference to me. What I could recognize was “Wise Up! Sucker”, “Can U Dig It?” and yes, they played “Ich bin ein Auslander”, the song I hum a lot to myself at home. That one is ageless and I can even relate to it because… Ich bin eine Auslanderin. The place was really packed for this show. I didn’t know what I could expect on stage and I wished they’d jump less for the sake of the photos. And I witnessed something silly. There was a moment when I think I was the only person not trying to take pics of Tim Muddiman who drew all other cameras for a couple of minutes. And a couple of minutes in the photo pit can count as years elsewhere.
Anyway, we should have travelled 3 hours that day, we travelled 5, and we were ready to head back to the hotel. No, I am not a party animal any more. Too old, I guess. And thus ended the first day.
The second day we again missed the first show. I am to blame that we didn’t get to see Tapewyrm. But we were on time to watch and shoot Monica Jeffries show. You never really know what to expect from someone whom you still haven’t seen live. I thought Monica sounded even better on stage. I would not attach any “goth” prefix to her music. She combines electronic music with guitar riffs and even if she is not all that poppy, I would not say that Monica’s dark or gloomy. She has enough of catchy and uplifting melodies combined with some great rhythm.
Hysteresis came next. I have never listened to them before, so forming my opinion about them right on the spot was a bit hard task for me. I had no preconception about them, which can sometimes be a good thing. From what I have heard, they mix a lot of styles and make the blend work. They sounded inspired by some of the techno subgenres and since I followed that scene back in the ’90s, I found them interesting. I don’t know for the rest of the crowd. I would say they were at least intrigued by these Belgian guys.
And then it was time for Grausame Toechter. I knew what I could expect visually. I have seen enough of interesting pictures around. I wondered how that spectacle was going to look like live. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t really interested in music as much as I was in the physical performance. Maybe this was a sad thing to say. But the stage act is a vital part of their performance and integral part of their show. In the end, I was not really sure which comes first here, whether this was a stage play supported by sound or music show supported by the stage act. Since I was not a devoted follower of the band, I didn’t quite understand the message, so I left it to others. My expectations punished me in a way because while the stage act kind of killed the music for me, as far as their music goes, I thought that it was in fact quite good. We didn’t hang around to see the show to the end. I just can’t get impressed by that kind of performance. I am mainly interested in music and if that means seeing the band dressed in blue denim who rock, yes, I would rather stay on that one. No-one would expect to hear that from me, but at the moment there are too many artists who are putting out all sorts of stage acts and I am simply over-fed by the black smudged make up, nakedness, ass spanking, vampires, all sorts of freaky costumes… Again, I guess I am just too old.
And here it is, the act we were waiting for, Velvet Acid Christ. We didn’t mind we already saw them this year at WGT, we still wanted to see them here. The set list was close to the one on WGT with songs like “Futile”, “Fun With Drugs”, “Dial8”, “Phucking Phreak”. They added “Malfunction” to this set, but, sadly, they did not play their brilliant Wumpscut cover of “Is it You?”. Sometimes, when you see bands in a really large venue, you miss details of what’s happening on the stage. But that was not the case here. I was wondering if Bryan was doing his staggering across the stage deliberately or if at moments something really strange was happening. He was fixing some of his equipment on the floor frequently so I was wondering if everything was really ok. Nothing bothered the crowd though. But when we compare the two shows, their performance at WGT was a better one.
We weren’t much interested in Atari Teenage Riot, but we stayed for half of the show. The photographers were not allowed to shoot this time. I can’t say I remember much. By that time, we were already pretty much tired and, while sometimes playing last can be a plus, in other cases, when batteries are low, you really can’t concentrate any more. And somehow, I was not convinced to stay any longer.
We really didn’t want to miss any show on Sunday. So we arrived to the venue pretty early, around 3 PM. I was so happy to see Claus and Kurt hanging around, and getting a hug from uncle Claus was a really nice way to start my day.
Johnny Normal was the first. This was one of the Infest bands that I have never seen before. I have no clue why some people compare Johnny Normal with Gary Numan. However, you can guess some of the influences. I don’t mind a band finding inspiration in past times. Well, who doesn’t? If you are not a pioneer of a certain genre, it really matters little to me if you are inspired by Beethoven, Elvis, Bowie or Numan. They proved to be a decent band and playing at 4 is not all that easy. Luckily, people at Infest really show interest in all bands and they are a supportive crowd, so Johnny Normal did have an audience.
The same can be said for Vigilante, who played at 5. One more band that we haven’t seen up until Infest. Actually, that’s what we liked so much about the festival. It gave us opportunity to listen to artists that we were not likely to see otherwise. Vigilante kept us alert all the time and even at that hour, there were enough people in the mood for dancing. Ivan Munoz did such a great job as a showman that I was later sorry I did not shake his hand when I saw him passing by. Vigilante can be described as a mix of industrial, drum and bass, dubstep spiced up with guitar riffs. It was all about the raw power. Munoz put out excellent physical performance on stage. I could hardly catch the guy with my camera. He didn’t really leave anything to chance. We were without any expectations, we got a lot. The audience really responded to Ivan’s performance because that man put all his heart and soul into his act and you could feel that the music he’s creating comes from the very essence of his being. That is something I really appreciate a lot in an artist. Such passion and devotion is rare and we sometimes miss it on stage. Speaking of the stage, Munoz went from the stage into the crowd, stepping somewhere close to my head. But if I had had to give him a push, I would have gladly served him as a stool. All for the greater good. Listening to Vigilante at home is equally good. So if you haven’t checked Ivan out, I advise you to do so.
German band Rroyce came closest to the synth pop at this festival. I would not go further than that in my description of them: they are what I consider synth pop and there is no need for additional labels. I remember hearing “Bohemian Life”, “The Principle of Grace”, “Who Needs”. Their music is characterized by very melodic and catchy refrains that can be easily followed and remembered, which means that they have a lot of hit potential material. They made me their show even more appealing by appearing in formal suits.
And then, to my great disappointment, I discovered that my memory card failed and I lost the shots of those three gigs.
Displacer was completely unfamiliar to us. We went there without listening to a single track before. However, I was so devastated by the fact I lost the photos from all three previous gigs that my mind was not there. I could hear, with what little brain I had left, that it sounded like some kind of atmospheric electronic music, going even ambient at times. And that was certainly not my husband’s cup of tea. While struggling with the memory card, before I knew it, the show passed us by.
What we really wanted to see was Leaether Strip. We saw them a couple of times before, but this was the first time in UK. And the live shows are always brilliant. They played all the hit songs that we could hear at WGT earlier this year and we shook our bodies with the rest of the audience to “Don’t Tame Your Soul”, “Civil Disobedience”, “Fit for Flogging”, “Strap Me Down”, “Japanese Bodies”. I was very pleased to hear their legendary cover “Sex Dwarf” again. And that was the highlight of our Sunday.
We were ready to part with Infest. But not yet, since we wanted to check out 3Teeth. Another band on our “never seen them live” list. Those guys gave me some really hard time in the photo pit. Their live act is so energetic, not only sound wise. Even the keyboard player was jumping around. Something you don’t expect from the man behind the synth. I thought they had quite a peculiar style, especially the singer. The message of industrial music was surely delivered by them in a raw and relentless manner. They closed this festival, even though we had the feeling it should have been Leaether Strip. But personal preferences differ and we very much respect all that Infest had to offer.
We felt those three days passed too quickly, but time always flies when you’re enjoying yourself. I hope this gave you some idea of the UK festival really worth visiting.