2007 was over, having provided few gigs of note in it’s latter half. 2008 soon made up for it – on the first weekend, I saw Earth Loop Recall for the last time, and System:FX for the first time. The ELR story is already told in previous parts, whilst the definitive S:FX story comes in a later chapter.
Die Krupps came and went in style a month later, and the live show following my favourite album of 2007 (Star Industry – Last Crusades) arrived over the Easter weekend. But looking back, these two events were just very good shows without any real significance outside of the quality of the music.
No, the three tales I have for you now all reflect different aspects of my live music experiences. They are not all positive, but they all have to be told.
April 2008 – Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel
Whitehouse. One of the most extreme industrial music projects in history. I’d bought three albums by then before deciding a fourth wouldn’t make any difference. But I knew I had to see this project live. Once. Just Once. I just knew I had to subject myself to the full onslaught of this projects sonic defecation, blasted through a PA, with no hope of escape. Naturally, the Elektrowerkz was chosen as the venue (like they’d get to play anywhere bigger). What surprised me was the audience. They didn’t look alternative at all. Was this some kind of counter-counter-culture? And why were there so many of them? Didn’t think bands like this had that kind of following.
Turns out most of them were present due to an article in avant-garde music mag ‘The Wire’. It seems power electronics were the flavour of the month amongst the beard-stroking elitist quarter of the music community. You’d expect me to get on quite well with such people, and I would as well, but I actually felt completely out of place. The opening band didn’t improve matters, sounding and looking for all the world like some bloke spending 40 minutes tuning his guitar whilst his mate does a drum solo. I took a look at the CD stall, but it was full of generically-named discs that were obviously trying to put an ironic face on the clearly extreme music thereon. I took my wallet to the bar instead. I was going to have to drink my way through this.
And then came Whitehouse. There’s only two of them, but their live show is no more (less) than a constant barrage of juddering, scathing, pain-inducing wave of electronic noise, with one of both of them occasionally screaming into a microphone. And the term pain-inducing wasn’t a metaphor. I was literally hurting under the intensity of it all. After 40 minutes, I realised that I shouldn’t be subjecting myself to this and walked out.
The Wire Crowd 1 – 0 Jonny
The ultimate irony: I later developed a much more refined, nay, “enduring” taste for this act, though struggled to fit any of their tracks into DJ sets. I finally got the chance as support DJ at Ad:Rem many years later, held in exactly the same room!
May 2008 – Wir sind geboren um Spielmann zu sein
WGT 2008 was proving to be a slight disappointment compared with previous years. OK, we had Persophone out in the medieval village and the surprise of Fields of the Nephilim not actually being complete shit. Halfway through the last day, and I’d just left the woeful Miss Construction in the CabbageCircus in the hope of finding something a little more engaging. I knew I wanted to see Corvus Corax headline the Agra that night, but I decided to quit the EBM early and catch some more mitteralter.
I had seen Salty Morty (as I usually call them) before, but their shows were always during crowded line-ups where I had little capacity to remember exactly what they were like. Right now, however, I was all ears. Anything was better than Chris Pohl doing ‘Miss Combichrist’ or whatever it was. They come on stage, and the first two minutes were a complete mess. Then someone in the sound booth presses a magic button and the bands music and stage show instantly comes to life. The band’s rollicking medieval rock sound came to the fore and the Agra was won over. This was going to be a good one.
There were plenty of tracks from their new album (acquired shortly after, still my favourite by them), but this was not one of those shows where the setlist really mattered. This was Salty Morty playing the troubadours, or whatever the equivalent middle German equivalent is. And after a festival of workmanlike performances, this was exactly what my weekend needed. Finally the party atmosphere was underway, and not a moment too soon.
Their set ended on ‘Spielmannsschwur’. For the 99% of your unfamiliar with this track, the overriding feature of this song is a ‘Whoa-oh-oh-oh’ type of chorus. The band’s frontman obviously knew the anthemic potential of such a line, as he got the audience to practice it a couple of times before letting the band start the song. Just to make sure, you know? And everytime we got to the chorus, the whole Agra, me included, were singing along. And after the song was done, we kept on singing it. And after the next song too! Even after the singer went stage diving. It’s what I call a ’101 Moment’ – harking back memories of Mode live recording where the audience carried on singing the chorus of ‘Everything Counts’ long after the band had finished the song.
Faun came on, proficient but slightly anti-climatic in the circumstances, and Corvus Corax did their thing with style and spirit. But Saltatio Mortis won the day, and the entire festival for me. With issues such as currency fluctuations, house moves and bicycle purchases to content with, this would in fact be my final WGT for 5 years. But at least I had one final memory to take back from my highly enjoyable quartet of mid-00s sojourns to the biggest dark scene festival in the world.
August 2008 – Infestation Again
The cloud over my state of mind during WGT 2008 might have actually had something to do with a failing relationship at the time. By the time of InFest, we’d been split for almost two months, but whilst the break-up was thankfully lacking in unnecessary drama, the intervening period was something of a ‘dead’ period with little of consequence occurring anywhere in my life. This was a necessary festival, a kind of three-day ‘pick myself up and move on’ point. And it worked. Somehow, I got myself back on track thanks to a weekend of drunken madness in Bradford.
The trouble is, I can’t remember why it was so good. Yes, Front 242 were headlining, but that was right at the end. Heimataerde doing their first UK show – c’mon, I saw their live debut! And One? Good fun but hardly deep? But that may be missing the point – this weekend wasn’t supposed to have a point! Have fun, dance to some music you like, catch up with friends, eat incredibly poor quality food and have no functioning voice box left at the end of it all. Mission very much accomplished, I think!
There would be plenty more live action before the year was out, plus the beginning of Terminates Here as my alter-ego, my first steps on Facebook and my return to the DJ booth after a six-year hiatus.
Plus these snapshots…..
Another year where’s it’s confined to specific events, but there’s always a story if you know where to look.
- German scene legends ASP and Unheilig both playing London, both failing to pull much of a crowd and quite understandably that’s the last we’ve heard from either round here.
- 32Crash playing Elektrowerkz, the band name matching Kimi Raikkonen’s race strategy at the Belgian Grand Prix the next day (he binned the car on the penultimate lap).
- Dope Stars Inc. played London for the first time. For health reasons, I was off the alcohol and junk food at the time, and the lack of such things really made it hard to loosen up and get into what was going on. I know of some vegan teetollers out there who still enjoy a gig – good for them, but not for me.