Having sorted out both EOL-Audio and my overall state of mental health during the dying embers of 2005, I went into 2006 full of optimism. This was to be the year where I began to make my mark – the site would finally get the attention I thought it deserved, and I could start DJing again, maybe get some guestlists and backstage access, in turn giving me access to interviews, starting a virtuous circle of promotion for my various activities. I never expected to actually make any money, that was too much to ask, but I was hoping I might get a little token something back in return.
The reality was not to be. The London Dark Scene was at it’s most political and balkanised in the mid 00s, and someone with no affiliation to one particular faction was never going to get anywhere. What my unaffiliated, fence-sitting self DID manage to do was see way more bands than anyone else I knew. My tale of Sunday at WGT 2006 is so ‘me’ it probably won’t be much of a surprise for those of you who’ve read this far.
May 2006 – A Sudden Sense Of Intensity
Covenant hit the UK with their ‘Skyshaper’ tour in May, bringing along Pride + Fall as main support. Opening act for the tour was RBN, playing their first UK shows in ‘far too long’. Anyway, the gig sold out, which was hardly a surprise given how popular ‘Ritual Noise’ and ’20Hz’ had been the past few months, not to mention the followings the support acts brought along. The Islington Academy was going to be packed by the time the headliners came on.
What was a surprise was how packed the venue was for RBN. Opening bands rarely get capacity crowds, but this was as close as any 7:30pm show was ever going to get. Unleashing ‘City Lights’ for the first time, vocalising the sample-based ‘Machine Code’ and then giving us the Slimelight hit ‘Faithless’ (Original version? VNV mix? How about both?) as a not-too-subtle encore, Steve even going as far as saying ‘I’m sure we’ve forgotten something…..’.
Pride and Fall were next, perhaps a bit anti-climatic in terms of performance, but still a highly significant tour for the band, for reasons that became clear soon after. And then Covenant. I’d seen my share of Covenant shows over the years, but this one was easily the most ‘fun’, one of those rare shows when the band managed to play most of the new album and still have time for plenty of classics. When all the support band members came on stage to dance to ‘Dead Stars’, it only confirmed that we’d been treated to something really special this evening.
June 2006 – 5 Bands, 4 Me, 3 Venues, 2 Much, 1 Day, 0 Taxis.
Those of you who have done WGT will know that there’s a limit to the number of bands you can see over the course of a day. Usually you can fit in one venue switch tops, and despite the free travel on the trams offered as part of the ticket price, you would normally need to utilise a taxi if you didn’t want to miss anything. I used said modus operandi only once the previous year, and in 2006 I resolved not to use it at all.
Which made Sunday somewhat tricky as the bands I wanted to see were scattered all over the town. But I had it planned like a military operation. From the Agra market and down to the Cabbage Circus for Dupont – check. Then back to the Haupbahnhof, dump my stuff in the hotel, and over to the Schauspielhaus to see Rosa Crux, an French band performing obscure ritual musics with one of the most bizarre stage shows you’ll ever see. Rarely has a trip to a venue for one band been worth so much.
No time to toast a drink to them, though, out the door, bag their backcatalogue on CD and leggit back the terminus and onto the No.11 tram, for an odd multilingual discussion about the evenings bands, arriving back at the Agra for Garden Of Delight. It would be the only time I’d get to see them live, and ‘see’ is a bit of exaggeration given that their lighting only allowed you to see them in silhouette, but hey, they sounded pretty good.
Next band could probably be described on The Onion as ‘Clan Of Xymox in Slightly-Better-Than-Normal Shock’. The band that sound exactly the same every time you watch them actually seemed slightly more vibrant than usual tonight, probably due to the decision that I’d summarise as ‘Bollocks to the new album, let’s do a greatest hits set’. The band themselves would probably have found a slightly more polite way of putting it, but I’m the one with the keyboard here.
And then….Deine Lakaien. You haven’t done German goth fests until you’ve seen Lakaien do a show to an audience of several thousand grufti, and they didn’t disappoint. Alexander Veljanov was his usual decadent, bardic self, whilst Ernst Horn enthusiastically extracted plenty of satisfying noises from his rack of vintage synths, occasionally switching to piano for songs such as ‘Return’, so simply lyrically yet so powerful when delivered to a devoted festival audience. It was a triumphant day to a marvellous day of live music, one where my commitment to band-bagging actually paid off.
At some point, I got photographed for Orkus Magazine – my soundbite ‘Centre of the Gruftiverse’ even ensured the photo got published. Though my offer to become their English-language staff writer was passed upon.
August 2006 – Goodbye M’era Luna
Little did I know it at the time, but 2006 would be my last M’era Luna to date. Truth is, I’m happier settling for the things that got in way actually happening over carrying on as I was with a brief diversion in Hildesheim every August, but I couldn’t leave this festival behind without one final tale of a weekend-long party somewhere in the middle of Germany. This was around the time of the whole ‘liquid explosives on planes’ saga, resulting on chaos on air transport which our party miraculously managed to avoid. We all made it to Germany more-or-less on schedule without any lost luggage. The taxis were pre-booked, giving us an easy route to our accommodation.
The end result was a group of us arriving in a small German guesthouse at lunchtime on Friday, our one fluent German speaker promptly falling asleep owing to jetlag (she’d come from America only the day before) and the rest of us walking off in the direction of the nearest town trying to find some lunch, and then trying to order said lunch with one German dictionary, one 1995 vintage GCSE ‘B’ grade in German (me) and one Afrikaans speaker trying to improvise. The English language was widely spoken in town and at the festival site, but hadn’t hit the rural parts yet. Various adventures followed, using just about every form of transport available to us (train? taxi? bus? foot? why not all of them?) and the festival hadn’t even started yet.
Actually, I don’t remember much about the actual music, to be honest – Girls Under Glass (a band I usually associate with rescuing iffy London events) doing a 20th anniversary show, a truly dreadful Blutengel performance in broad daylight (why bother?), my first live experience of Front Line Assembly, an amazing show by Rotersand in the Hangar (prefacing what we’d see in London three months later) and my last-to-date sighting on In Extremo remain the only faint memories. Maybe the festival meant more because on this one occasion, I was the one who knew what was going on, what every band sounded like, how to get from place to place. Maybe here was my first real experience of ‘goth herding’?
Maybe it was just that on a year where I felt invisible much of the time, zipping around on my own, this was the one occasion where I felt I actually part of the weekend of others as well as my own? That must be it, because a year later the fact that the festival even took place at all barely registered with me. But more on that distraction later.
November 2006 – Like A Punch Out Of Nowhere
For reasons that weren’t clear to anyone outside of the promotional community, Rotersand didn’t play the UK in 2005, despite the incredible popularity of their ‘Welcome To Goodbye’ album. It took until the end of 2006 before they made it back here, playing the surprisingly confined ‘upstairs at Slimelight’ stage. RBN played support, a light-hearted affair than got the night off to a good start, though I do have some distant memories of getting their backing video burnt to DVD on the morning of the gig.
But we were all waiting for Rotersand. Initially, it seemed a shame that they had to play such a venue as the Elektrowerkz setup hadn’t done every band who’d played it justice over the years (Girls Under Glass and Suicide Commando being the two real stand-outs so far). But somehow, Rascal, Xtian and Gun worked out what it took to play these apparent limitations to their advantage. From the moment the first words of ‘Almost Violent’ were sung, we knew this show was going to be close, up-front and personal.
And no-one gets up close and personal to their audience quite like Rascal – the packed audience lapping up every note and every word, even when he diverted off to hollow-body guitar to play the rarely-aired ‘One Level Down’. By the time we’d got to ‘Exterminate Annihilate Destroy’, the atmosphere was at fever pitch. The encore was inevitable and whilst the setlist is somewhat blurry at this point, I’m pretty sure ‘Lastlight’ cropped up somewhere around the later stage.
The details don’t matter – that was the definitive Slimelight gig. Rotersand had made that little upstairs room their own. For me, though – this particular gig came at a personal ‘dead time’, where a busy social life was simply a mask for deep dissatisfaction on a more fundamental level, and events at Slimelight immediately after the show were proof that I was heading in totally the wrong direction. As it happens, the following year would see just about every aspect of my life turn around……
Plus these snapshots…..
Did I say I went to a lot of gigs this year?
- Getting two chances to see the very brief reunion of Bauhaus, and a little insider knowledge as to why it was so brief (any questions I receive on this subject will be not be answered).
- An extreme music weekender – Der Blutharsch at Elektrowerkz, Imminent Starvation playing the Slimelight aftershow and then the Cold Meat Industry festival the next day, another show that was good to watch but marred by low attendance and too-obvious backbiting.
- Dark City 2006, a brief chance to break from purely man-in-the-crowd to fill in as an RBN roadie for one weekend only.
- Tool live in Hammersmith – a highly accomplished show technically, but the ticketing fees, venue rules and over-aggressive security left a sour taste in the mouth, the first real signs that the corporate side of live music was getting increasingly rotten.
- Rushing back from a work trip to Aberdeen via Heathrow to watch The Birthday Massacre. I wanted to check my luggage bag in the cloakroom, but due to the heatwave on at the time, The Underworld elected not to open it and I had to drag the thing round all evening.
- Front Line Assembly and Stromkern at The Scala, a show which I admit saved me the need to go to Infest that year. I’d spent too much by that point!
- A much-delayed “what the fuck is going on here” Front 242 show at the Tinnitus Festival in Stockholm. Turns out they had to borrow a e-drumkit from an audience member – it seems Stockholm is EBM central and pad-whackers aren’t hard to come by!
- An over-sensitive response to a technicality in my Black Celebration 2006 review, that proved to me once and for all that the scene factions were here to stay and I would never be truly accepted by any them – the beginning of the end for my EOL-Audio site.
- My last ever sight of a Killing Miranda gig at Bar Monsta, a venue quipped to only a very basic extent and a poorly managed event that suggested that one should not automatically declare allegiance to every scene-friendly location without question.