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 WGTs)
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.
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 accomodation 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, pitful, pathetic excuse for a barely-survivial 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.