Infest 2010 – University of Bradford, West Yorkshire, August Bank Holiday Weekend by Howard Gardner.
For the last few years, whenever this well-established Yorkshire alternative/
electronic festival would come up in conversation, I’d bob my head a bit and smile for several minutes, until someone eventually presses me on specific things that have happened there – at which point I’d have to ‘fess up and say I’ve not been to it before, then watch jaws hit the floor. It’s very much my thing, being a lover of all things Industrial, and much closer than any similar festivals on the continent (which I have been to). But I just never quite found the time for it.
Infest’s been going for about ten years now, but it took a break in 2009, as the
student union complex where it’s based was being refurbished, but this year it returned triumphantly, with a great international line-up of artists, so I finally booked a room in the student halls of residence, climbed into a shared car and headed up north to check it out. The first thing which struck me about the setting of the festival is how scaled-down it looks compared to other goth- ish festivals I’ve been to; it’s all on one site and has only one stage at its centre. This does lend the festival a refreshing simplicity though, and the stage is surrounded by bar areas, pool tables market and food stalls and a confusing warren of tunnels, which was apparently designed specifically to confuse drunk people looking for the exit. All the Infest veterans moaned ceaselessly that “it didn’t used to be like
this!” which was comforting in a way, since it meant the newbies like myself didn’t have to feel too inferior.
Outside of the University, there lies Bradford. I didn’t see that much of it – I was
warned not to. Whitby Goth Weekend gets people used to northern towns where the locals are complimentary and whimsical and pubs display “GOTHS WELCOME” signs; anybody who goes to Bradford expecting the same won’t last five minutes. This was all the more evident this bank holiday weekend as the town, noticeably divided along race and faith lines, was expecting a demonstration from the English Defence League, as well as a counter demo by Unite Against Fascism.
Anyway, the bands! Staying within the safe confines of the campus, I entered into the Friday night inaugural proceedings. We arrived too late to see Mandro1d, but caught the German experimental/techno duo Heimstatt Yipotash, who I’d not seen before but were very entertaining, followed by melodic synthpop from De/Vision, who reminded me somewhat of Depeche Mode. After the bands had finished, there was DJing going on until the small hours, although much of the music played was fairly monotonous hard dance, which I’d not taken sufficient substances to appreciate. I instead joined my friends in trying to empty the SU bar of any available booze for a few hours, then wandered back to the halls and was befriended by some Essex goths who were staying on the same floor as me. I’m not quite sure what time I eventually crawled into bed, but it had certainly been a good first night!
The first full day of Infest got off to a somewhat wobbly start. I’d not slept enough, and a mysterious siren somewhere near the University kept sounding at random intervals, which didn’t help me rest. After I’d tracked down the other people I know, we decided to venture into town and look for somewhere to get a much-needed cooked breakfast, but Bradford was already preparing itself for the demos later in the day, with all the pubs closed and nervous-looking police hanging about on corners. We eventually located a deli serving hot food and then scampered back to the Uni, where the afternoon’s music was getting warmed up.
Northern Kind turned out to be a poppy band who recapture the spirit of the New Romantic era, with wonderful silky female vocals. Memmaker, who followed on soon afterwards, could not have been in greater contrast; two shaven headed men in white shirts and black ties, leaping up and down like maniacs behind banks of power noise equipment, delivering waves of hard, aggressive EBM/rave. Parralox didn’t put in an appearance for medical reasons, so I wandered around outside and checked out the refreshments for a bit, looking up worriedly at the circling police helicopters buzzing over the city in the distance. Rumours abounded of bottles being thrown and the police forcibly keeping the groups apart; nobody went into town that afternoon, returning to the auditorium in time to catch the second half of Agonoize’s set. I saw
this band at WGT two years ago, in a far less intimate venue, but it’s quite something to watch them in close-up; not least because of all the fake blood being sprayed over the crowd! I like their stompy aggrotech sound, but the track which stands out in my memory was a tongue-in-cheek cover of ‘You Were Made For Loving Me’ by Kiss! German power noise act X-RX came on next and mightily impressed me with their harsh but danceable beats, and then finally it’s Rotersand ending the live show. When I first heard Rotersand I wrote them off as a poor man’s VNV Nation, but they’ve really grown on me in the last two years and they seem to have crossed enough genre boundaries by now to have totally outgrown the ‘futurepop’ label. The performance tonight was absolutely storming, with favourite songs Bastards Screaming, Dare To Live and Exterminate Annihilate Destroy all being present and correct. When the live music was over, I hung out in one of the bars until closing (dancing to eighties cheese electronica, since everybody else seemed to be!) and then wandered throughout the halls of residence complex, in search of the parties I’d been hearing about. These parties, it seems, aren’t entirely alright with the University and the poor superintendant must have spent the entire night playing cat and mouse with various groups of pissed-up goths with sound systems, forever moving to different rooms; I heard rumours that, at one point, he’d threatened to disconnect power to the entire block unless the music stopped! I stayed up until six, then couldn’t handle it any more. By sheer luck, there was no party happening adjacent to my room, so I slept like a baby.
On the final day, some normality had returned to Bradford and we grabbed a
Wetherspoon’s breakfast, before heading back to the stage to see the delayed
Parallox; fair play to them, they’d braved a long journey from Australia and medical problems to be on stage, and for that they have my respect, but I’d have to say – perhaps due to the difficulties – I thought they were one of the weaker acts of the festival. It was eighties-inspired synthpop again, but this time it really lacked any memorable hooks or general oomph. Concrete Lung followed them; this band is notable for being the only one in the lineup with a guitar section to speak of, and they brought a refreshingly brutal set of crunchy electronic punk to shake off everybody’s hangovers. It was the third time I’d seen them live and easily the best! For the last song of the set, the frontman from Je$us Loves Amerika joined them onstage to sing a (welcome!) rant about the EDL and the BNP. Patenbrigade: Wolff followed next, with a totally bizarre stage show, consisting of old Communist era propaganda films and construction site outfits/props. I still have no idea what it was all about, but their melodic bleepy soundscape music was fantastic and I’ve since had to go and buy a lot
of their music catalogue.
I couldn’t visit Bradford without sampling one of the legendary local curries; this
was indeed a great meal, but I missed Ayria as a consequence. I was back in time
for Nachtmahr though, an Austrian harsh-techno band that I’d heard so much about. I’ll say this for them; they really do have a distinctive image and their fans can be spotted from a mile off! I’m not really sure where I personally sit with their slightly controversial aesthetics though… on one hand, they’re exercising their right to free expression, and if that means dressing in an overtly fascist-like way and playing lots of war clips – like some of Laibach’s performance art but taken to an extreme – then that’s up to them, instead of hiding it away (the band insist theya re anti-war and there’s no political message to what they do!) On the other hand, some people did question the taste of doing this only one day after the violent EDL protests in Bradford – tricky, isn’t it? The music itself – somewhat overshadowed – was great and near enough the whole place was dancing to it. The night’s music ended with a great performance by veterans on the circuit Project Pitchfork. I’m not such a fan of their recent output, but the set featured a lot of songs from the Daimonion album or earlier, which is always wonderful to hear live.
After they’d left the stage, the packed student union continued dancing for another three hours, until it was time to reluctantly turn in for bed and get ready for a long drive home in the morning. My first Infest was a fantastic experience and I look forward to many more!