Incubate Festival: Tilburg. Day one -17/09/10


You know there are moments, (albeit rare), when nearly everything combines to present a moment of perfect, near indescribable satisfaction: a moment when (to paraphrase Kingsley Amis), Bastards HQ takes a right beating. One such moment was when team Incendiary realized that their hotel overlooked the pub-filled street where a good 90% of Incubates musical action was programmed to happen.

Incubate – previously South By South West - until the Austin festival “had a word” earlier this year, is a nice unpretentious friendly festival, one that is out to attract a particular kind of audience: namely left field and weird/alternative music lovers. Unlike other Dutch festivals, there’s no feeling of sneering trendiness or competition; maybe it’s that lack of existentialist Randstad bullshit that makes it so appealing to us. And Tilburg is the epitome of unpretentious: you can really get away with any pseudo one-upmanship in bars like Cul de Sac or Buitenbeentje. Brabanters wouldn’t allow it (when they’d stopped laughing at you). And with 013 (one of the great venues in Holland) acting as Incubates omphalos, you couldn’t really go wrong.

In fact all that was needed from Incendiary was a leisurely stroll down to that venue’s Kleine Zaal to check out Horse Feathers, who kicked off Friday’s fun with an engaging and at times beautiful set, (despite our initial misgivings about seeing yet another folk troupe with a bundle of facial hair, string instruments and harmonies). Yes, all these elements were present, but so were fabulous arrangements and a bunch of songs that cleverly avoided sounding saccharine or sentimental or over-complicated, even though the lad on drums, banjo, and the hand held xylophone had his work cut out at times.

Incubate revels in contrast, and the programmers evidently enjoyed presenting as bemusing a sonic mélange as possible to the punters. Black Earth from Austin, Texas gave us the other side to the American Dream in the Batcave; instead of reverence, harmonies and whispered paeans to Dame Nature, we had blistering burn ups dedicated to petrol, fast food and women: raucous music which gleefully pinched elements of psychobilly (the rumbling bass lines) and dumbass rock and roll, Blue Cheer style. A fabulous (and bloody loud) gig, not normally our cup of tea, but the band had a goofy wit and charm about them that made them irresistible to watch.

Downstairs again to the Kleine Zaal, in time to take in Forest Fire, who played a sterling set of thrashy tunes after taking a while setting up: (it turned out that they didn’t get on with the Marshal amps, the sort of detail only American bands get hot under the collar about). Now, on the evidence of this show, I really don’t see, or hear this celebrated link that many make to Fleet Foxes: the only similarity I can see is the alliteration in the band names. No, this lot have a hard, black, Rhythm & Blues soul; they clang their guitars in the style of Syd Barrett or the Pretty Things at their most basic & loose. It’s also very obvious that their sensibilities are urban: no harmonies or excessive facial hair… the guitarist had pink eye shadow, surely an accessory that would curry no favour in the backwoods. They are also in love with the sharp edges and clashing textures in their music, and show the trashy wit and vaudeville sensuality of a classic New York band. And refreshingly the songs were abrupt, delineated, and finished off with a minimum of fuss. A really top show and deserving of a much bigger audience.

Off we trouped to the Batcave again to catch the end of the Accadians set, who yet again gave us their abrasive and widescreen take on electro. There’s a marvellous, yearning element about Accadians’ music that just makes you want them to play louder; (our only complaint was that the gig wasn’t punishing enough in the sound levels)… and this brief foray into playing without guitars has informed their music in a positive way, allowing them to explore spaces and to nail down areas that needed defining. And now and again they have that completely indecipherable side to them too, Radiohead had it years ago. Just what are they on about? And why is it so exciting to watch?

Time for a change of venue: off we strolled to the fabbo rocker pub Buitenbeentje to take in La Terre Tremble !!!, a French band of considerable ability and no little perversity. French acts often get away with sonic murder, and the most pretentious conceits are often aired in the name of rock and roll. Maybe it’s the French nation’s complete lack of that Anglo-US rock sensibility, or maybe it’s the refusal to give that sensibility any time at all that leads to the strangest or straightest of acts (think Magma, think Mr. Haliday). Maybe it’s also that love of the Classic and the Academe; which often leads to certain stylings being obsessively repeated, regardless of fashions prevalent elsewhere. In any case, the unassuming LTT !!! made a sort of cacophonous rumbling that could be associated with Beefheart or Can of Bees-era Soft Boys: a math-rock, post-rock, gonzo-rock hybrid that occasionally morphed into a tune, harmony or rhythm that we poor mortals in the audience could follow. But more often as not, not doing so. Handled by a band looking for attention or approval, this gig could have been spectacularly shit. As it was, they were really quite epic.

Changing musical tack, we trotted off to the wonderful Paradox club to prepare ourselves for DJ Rupture, whose Solar Life Raft LP has been covered enthusiastically by this organ. Before he came on we had Akwaaaba label boss (DJ) Bbrave who played a fun and often inspiring set of African beat, Hi Life and Kuduro. It seemed churlish not to cut some rug, so we did. DJ Rupture took a long time in setting up, and, showing that perversity that only comes to the drunk, we decided to leave just as he started up… To be fair Incendiary found that they had seemingly slid into a neat tank of alcohol, and any attempt at appraisal would have been a waste, so chips, croquette and Bedfordshire seemed the wisest course.