The beauty of Incubate is without doubt its impish programming. Truly, you never know what to expect.
The beauty of Incubate is without doubt its impish programming. Truly, you never know what to expect. This policy engenders a feeling of confidence and daring amongst the audiences as anything - literally anything - might prove revelatory. So it was with Saturday’s daytime programme, where Incendiary decided to do the whole “Liberal Arts thang” and go to V39 and look at a bunch of young Germans demonstrating (via the participation of bemused types like me) various guitar pedals and electronics. The group are called Koma, they are resident in Berlin and their aim is to make you wonder at the sonic beauty of their electronic contraptions. Pride of place went to a guitar pedal which made sounds only heard in children’s nightmare. A set of artsy films, (the pedal’s sound demonstrations in a white room – given by a Hendrix lookalike), were projected onto a screen. Now anyone in this modern world can twiddle knobs it seems. But the fun to be had in V39 was observing the members of Koma look on with benign amusement as nervous visitors played around with the equipment, as if inspecting an electric nature table. It was oddly inspiring, and proof that at least one bunch of wire merchants were not afraid to take the whole thing less than deadly seriously. Top marks Koma, for contributing to an odd experience.
Then it was off to see Dutch journalist Rob Riemen, who has caused a stir in Holland recently in questioning the blasé Dutch attitudes to fascism and the role of the Dutch political elite in the rise to power of Geert Wilders. As well as giving an impassioned address at Lowlands festival on the subject, Riemen has repeatedly pointed out that until Holland accepts its role in the 1940s and stops trying to trade off its past with a shiny, happy mantra of “ja, leuk”, (a modern consumerist take on the old “Hollandse Propoganda” myth), and stops being so darned lazy and unquestioning in its daily business, it is in severe danger of becoming a bloody intolerant and grey place. (Note to reader: read Simon Kuper’s Ajax and the War for further inflammatory material). The Modernist lecture room at Theatres Tilburg was full of the most un-Incubate audience imaginable to witness Reimen’s address. Not a beard in sight: rather it was rammed with dowdy housewives, off-duty coppers and serious student types who looked like they’d actually had a good wash. And Riemen himself was in loquacious form, waving his arms about whilst waspishly answering the very formal interviewer from the Groene Amsterdammer. That a ska band had based an impromptu set around a piano outside the Theatre’s entrance (one of the “Play Me I’m Yours” pianos that were liberally scattered around Tilburg) and ran through a set of classic ska tracks only heightened the poignancy of his address. Stimulating stuff.
Then it was off to the pub with punk legend John Robb (also leader of the Mighty Louder Than War! magazine) before preparing for Steve Ignorant’s residency at V39, where Robb would perform with his band Goldblade. Before Goldblade were Belfast anarchist punk heroes Stalag 17 who blazed and stomped through their set. This can best be described as a heady mix of screamingly loud tunes and genial conversation, appropriate for people who once worked in an anarchist bookshop in Belfast. Smash the Front was tremendous (it’s the only song Incendiary really knew of theirs in any case) as were Society’s Fairytale and a thudding Forgotten Victims. You just can’t knock bands who consistently preach their message like this. A quick pint and a nervous talk with Mr Ignorant, and then it was time for Goldblade. Where Stalag 17 were steadfast, Goldblade were glitzy and cartoon-like. Singer John Robb - an endearingly eloquent and hyper showman - danced around in a manner that was a hybrid of Lancashire loon and Iggy crazoid, whilst the band slipped and skidded through the tracks with glee and abandon. Goldblade’s music is fun, fun, fun and Robb– like some bottle of fizz forever about to explode - generated a mosh pit of five gawky lads, who in turn started ripping up the place when the band smashed out the hugely enjoyable bozo anthems they specialize in. Psycho, Riot Riot and Do You Believe in The Power of Rock and Roll saw this increasingly frenzied clump of new teen believers react in a way that is so rare in quietly uptight Holland: instinctively, with energy and abandon, with a big smile on their faces. It was truly great to witness.
After that it was off to Paradox to see something more cerebral; drummer Chris Corsano jamming with Mick Flower of Vibracathedral Orchestra fame, who played some sort of drone instrument that sounds like an electric sitar on an ironing board. No, I really don’t know what it was. What with the sounds and atmosphere, Incendiary had seemingly stepped from punk’s raw stew to an atmosphere that summoned up a mental picture of campus gigs in the late sixties: quiet concentration ruled, heads nodded, silence was paramount, as otherwise things got missed. This was no academic exercise, though; this was an unbelievable gig full of passion and power. The steely determination shown by the players to push everything they made onto a spiritual plane sometimes felt just too much to take; but never in a bad way. At times it was outrageously poppy: there were passages that sounded like a sitar take on Marquee Moon’s guitar work out. Corsano’s dexterity had to be seen to be believed, juggling with a block of wood, drumming one-handed... even when he dropped his sticks it was impossible to stop the waves of impressionist, passionate thunder that his playing created. Possibly in the top three gigs of the year, no sod that it was the best to date in 2011.
Stumbling out of Paradox, stunned, we decided to get to the cosy womb of Café ’t Buitenbeentje to watch Gruppe 80 from Bremen: best described as a sort of underpowered punk mess who came on like the Swell Maps, or a funny Monochrome set. Their sound mixed all the deliberately underachieving elements of 1978, Una Baines keyboards, Nikki Sudden attitude, a Korg Minipops beat (with two settings)… you know the stuff. Being German and somewhat messy and anarchic, it was hard not to compare the band to 1980s German underground lunatics, Die Goldenen Citroenen. That’s never a bad thing by the way. An enjoyably shit bit in the set came along when an instrument swap saw the drummer take on the singer’s role, something which resulted in an even more ramshackle and weak sound. But somehow they were brilliant. Finally various members of various bands and Incendiary decamped to the Midi Theatre to take in a thumping & teeth grinding acid/techno/electro set from Zuur79, which sounded like a lysergic take on Rotterdam’s Europoort.
What a day!