Gig Review: Tears For Fears at Leeds First Direct Arena, 9th February 2019

I’d been looking forward to this one for a long time.

I first became aware that Tears For Fears were doing a tour when they appeared on the Strictly results show during the 2017 series. To my disappointment, I couldn’t get tickets at the time (see my longwinded story about that here), but when the tour was postponed from 2018 to 2019, my ticket hunt had a happier outcome.

A major bonus was that Alison Moyet was supporting. I’ve loved her stuff since I was a kid, ’cause Mum and Dad had her Singles compilation and used to play it in the car all the time. As such, I made sure that Geth and I were at the venue promptly, ’cause I knew it would take a while to get in (security at big arenas has been understandably beefed up ever since the Manchester attack, so it takes longer to get into gigs these days).

(There was a bit of unintentional comedy thanks to Geth’s utter astonishment that this huge concert arena had ‘suddenly appeared’ in the middle of Leeds! He spent a lot of time in Leeds when living in York between 2000 and 2004, but the First Direct Arena was only opened in 2013.)

After grabbing a Tears For Fears badge pack from the merch stand (I love badges and have collected loads – I need to do something with them at some point) – we found our seats and settled in for the show!

Alison Moyet
Alison Moyet. Gig photography only semi-blurry for this one ’cause we had quite good seats!

Alison Moyet’s set had been advertised as an electronic set, but overall it was probably a fifty-fifty mix of Yazoo classics and her more modern blues-type tracks. I would have liked to hear more of her post-Yazoo ’80s electro stuff, but I really did enjoy the modern songs even though I wasn’t familiar with them, so I can’t complain.

My absolute highlight was obviously Only You. It’s one of my favourite songs of all time, to the extent that I walked down the aisle to it in 2012. Getting to see Alison Moyet perform it live was a really, really special thing for me.

Alison Moyet setlist:

I Germinate
Nobody’s Diary
Do You Ever Wonder
Beautiful Gun
All Cried Out
The Rarest Birds
The Sharpest Corner
Situation
Only You
Love Resurrection
Don’t Go

An interval and some more drinks later, it was time for the main event!

Tears For Fears
Tears For Fears. It was so awesome to see these two live!

Tears For Fears were doing a shameless greatest hits set – signalled from the start when they came onstage to Lorde’s cover of Everybody Wants To Rule The World and then launched into the original version – and they have a lot of hits, so there were very few tracks I didn’t recognise. It was all enjoyable singalong numbers from start to finish, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.

It’s hard to choose a highlight, but I’m going to go with Mad World, which has been a favourite of mine for decades now (it was on the first ’80s nostalgia playlist I created back in the ’90s, and I remember in 2003 trying to convince my brother that the original was better than the Michael Andrews version). Again, it was such a nice moment to hear it live at long last.

Unusually, there was only one track played as part of the encore – but it was Shout, and it went on for ages, so it was a suitably epic finale!

Tears For Fears setlist:

Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Secret World
Sowing The Seeds Of Love
Pale Shelter
Break It Down Again
Everybody Loves A Happy Ending
Change
Mad World
Memories Fade
Suffer The Children
Woman In Chains
Advice For The Young At Heart
Badman’s Song
Head Over Heels
Shout

Overall a great gig to start the year’s live music, and it will take some beating. A bonus was that Geth was really impressed by the First Direct Arena, so he’s now very happy to join me in my endless ’80s musical indulgence when bands play in Leeds. We’ll be back there for A-ha in November!

Gig Review: The Human League at Newcastle City Hall, 27th November 2018

I don’t really feel that I gave this gig the amount of preemptory excitement that I should have done, given that it was sort of sandwiched between the Culture Club gig of a week and a half ago and the Electric Dreams festival that’s coming up this weekend, and also due to the fact that I’ve been ridiculously, ridiculously busy recently.

As such, I didn’t even realise who the support act was going to be (Midge Ure with his band Electronica!) until I happened to see it mentioned on Twitter the morning of the gig.  That was the best kind of surprise, and I spent the rest of the day bouncing off the walls with excitement – apart from anything else, it’s a fairly major scalp for my Band Aid baby bucket list, given that it’s the guy who wrote the song!

Much to the crowd’s delight, Electronica played all the Ultravox and Midge Ure solo classics, along with a much-appreciated couple of songs written for other people!  Geth and I were a bit surprised that the crowd were on their feet right from the off (Newcastle City Hall is a seated venue), but I could absolutely understand it, because it was such a danceable and entertaining set.  Dude can still belt out Vienna like nobody’s business.

(Also, dude retweeted my excitable gibberish.  Yes, he retweets all his mentions, but that was cool.)

Getting retweeted by the Human League and Midge Ure :)
Most days I’m always decrying the general awfulness of the 21st century, but getting retweeted by your favourite pop stars is awesome. I’ll give it that.

Midge Ure & Electronica setlist:

Yellow Pearl
If I Was
Love’s Great Adventure
Death In The Afternoon
Fade To Grey
Reap The Wild Wind
Vienna
All Stood Still
Hymn (The Power And The Glory)
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

There was a good long break in between Electronica and the Human League, meaning that Geth was able to go and get us another drink.  Highly useful!

The Human League are one of those bands that I’ve loved forever, because they’ve just been part of the furniture of my life.  I don’t remember where I was when I first heard songs like Don’t You Want Me or Love Action (I Believe In Love), because they’ve always just been there.  It was so amazing to see and hear all those songs live – it’s really just the singers (Phil Oakey, Susan Sulley, and Joanne Catherall) who remain from the classic lineup, but frankly, that’s whom you’re there to see.  I have to give a shout out to the stage decor as well – it was all made up of pretty neon boxes, and it looked incredible.

The Human League
This was the unblurriest picture I could manage. I guess I just got lucky for Culture Club.

My highlight was, rather predictably, Don’t You Want Me – it’s not every day you get to see a UK Christmas number one (1981, in case you weren’t aware) performed live by the original artist (and throwing Midge Ure into the mix, that means I actually saw two artists in one show who had written Christmas number ones!  How appropriately seasonal!).  However, there was also an amazing moment when they finished the encore with Together In Electric Dreams, the classic hit that Phil Oakey did with Giorgio Moroder.  It’s one of Geth’s favourite songs, and he never thought he’d get to see it live, so he’s now making noises about the show being a contender for gig of the year (and given how much he loved Peter Hook & The Light and Promenade Cinema at Infest, that’s saying something).

The Human League setlist:

The Sound Of The Crowd
Mirror Man
Heart Like A Wheel
The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
Night People
Seconds
The Lebanon
One Man In My Heart
Louise
Human
Open Your Heart
Who Do You Love
Love Action (I Believe In Love)
All I Ever Wanted
Tell Me When
(Keep Feeling) Fascination
Don’t You Want Me
Being Boiled
Together In Electric Dreams

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 2/37 (5.4%); message artists 0/7 (0%); total artists 2/44 (4.5%).

A non-stop weekend!

Over the past three days I have:

  1. Volunteered at parkrun
  2. Gone to see Fenwick’s Christmas window (a Newcastle Christmas tradition)
  3. Gone to a vintage fair
  4. Gone to an incredible Culture Club gig at the Metro Radio Arena
  5. Run the Town Moor Half Marathon
  6. Recovered in the pub
  7. Eaten recovery pizza
  8. Got a whole load of recorded TV watched and started my annual Christmas TV project
  9. Started a new bucket list project
  10. Got a total of 12,000 words written on my NaNo novel, taking me up to 76,000 words

Tomorrow is busy again as I’ve got lots of admin and a boardgaming evening!

OOTD 17th November 2018
Saturday OOTD: gig-going outfit. Blouse Hermann Lange Collection (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), jeans Levi (2018), boots Primark (2017).

OOTD 18th November 2018
OOTD: post-race recovery outfit. Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), jumper Jac (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018).

OOTD 19th November 2018
OOTD: busy Monday catching up! Glasses Emporio Armani (2017), hoodie Internacionale (2000), t-shirt Gildan for Beat:Cancer (2017).

Today’s earworm playlist:

Taylor Dayne – Tell It To My Heart
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – Shallow
Arcadia – Election Day
Duran Duran – Girls On Film

Gig Review: Culture Club at Metro Radio Arena, 17th November 2018

I was really looking forward to this gig.  Not even the fact that Geth and I, at some point in the past, got it into our heads that it’d be a clever idea to sign up for a half marathon the day afterwards could spoil my excitement!

Culture Club
Culture Club – and for once, my gig photo is only semi-blurry!

First of all, the support acts for this tour were cracking.  Geth was more excited about the support bands than the main act!

Tom Bailey, formerly the lead singer of the Thompson Twins, was first on.  He played a mixture of Thompson Twins classics and stuff off his new album.  I really quite enjoyed the new stuff and will be checking out the album, but it was definitely the classics that went down a lot better with the audience.  My highlight was Doctor, Doctor, which has long been a favourite of mine due to its gorgeous synth line and its frequent use in Doctor Who montages.

Tom Bailey setlist:

(We Are Detectives – the band came onstage to this tune)
Love On Your Side
Science Fiction
You Take Me Up
Lies
Lay Your Hands On Me
Doctor, Doctor
Hold Me Now

Next up was Belinda Carlisle, who was brilliant and still rocks the stage like she did thirty years ago!  Her voice is still gorgeous too.  My highlight from this set was Heaven Is A Place On Earth, because it’s been a favourite ’80s song of mine for such a long time, and I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to hear it live – but there were so many great hits!

Belinda Carlisle setlist:

Live Your Life Be Free
We Want The Same Thing
In Too Deep
I Get Weak
Circle In The Sand
Summer Rain
Leave A Light On
Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Culture Club are one of those bands where you’re never entirely sure how long a reunion is going to last, because there have historically been tensions among the members.  Indeed, the full original band was not a hundred percent present, because drummer Jon Moss left the tour partway through the US leg and is not performing on the UK leg.  I’m sure he has his reasons, but I was super disappointed not to see him, not least because it means I’ve now got to track him down separately for my new Band Aid baby bucket list project!

It was a fantastic gig though.  So many hits that I’ve heard all my life and never dreamt I would actually see performed live by Culture Club.  So many nods to classic artists beloved by me and clearly also by Boy George – the wee Wham! tribute during Church Of The Poison Mind, and the glam rock section during the encore with T.Rex and Bowie covers.  Victims, my favourite Culture Club song, which I’d been praying they’d play since I bought the tickets.  The wonderful finish of Karma Chameleon, with moments from my life flashing before my eyes: the hilarious Lothian Buses number 26 bus that never fails to crack me up; the crappy old Audiogalaxy download that I had of the song for years that had a slight jump during the first repetition of ‘you’re my lover, not my rival’; the time that my old schoolfriend Laura wrote the lyrics down wrong in my homework diary in high school and I had to correct them:

Homework diary, 7th October 2000
Homework diary, 7th October 2000.  It’s actually ‘lovin’ would be easy’, but I was closer than she was.

I got super emotional during Karma Chameleon, in short.  I’ve had the Now ’80s channel on all day today, and every time it’s come on, I’ve just been staring at the TV all like ‘I actually saw that performed live by Culture Club at the weekend’.

Wonderful concert.  Probably my favourite of the year so far.

Culture Club setlist:

God And Love
It’s A Miracle
Let Somebody Love You
Time (Clock Of The Heart)
Everything I Own
The Truth Is A Runaway Train
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
Victims
Different Man
Miss Me Blind
Church Of The Poison Mind/I’m Your Man
Life
Let’s Dance
Get It On
Karma Chameleon

Updated Band Aid baby bucket list progress: song artists 1/37 (2.7%); message artists 0/7 (0%); total artists 1/44 (2.3%).

Gig Review: Level 42 at Sage Gateshead, 16th October 2018

While Geth and I were at the Sage for the Kim Wilde gig in April, we noticed that Level 42 were going to be playing this year as well.  After being constantly reminded of the gig due to Level 42 popping up on a lot of Now! compilations early in my Now! marathon, I booked tickets, and promptly forgot all about it until this week.

Level 42 at Sage Gateshead
I’ve decided to start calling my blurry gig photography ‘artistic’.

The doors were advertised as 7:30pm, which usually means bands don’t start until nearer to 8pm.  However, when we walked into the arena at 7:35pm after grabbing a drink from the bar, support act the Blow Monkeys had already started playing.  I’ll have to remember that when we go to the Sage in future.

The Blow Monkeys were good, although I didn’t know most of the songs they played – I think it was mostly new stuff, as they’ve recently released a more folky/blues sounding album.  They did finish with It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way, their biggest UK hit from back in the day.

After an interval (giving Geth the usual opportunity to get us some more drinks), Level 42 came on, and launched into a storming stage show.  Early highlights for me included opener Running In The Family, The Sun Goes Down and The Chinese Way, but I really appreciated the stagecraft as well – the lighting was really pretty and well done, and we even got occasional semi-dance routines!  I also want to give a shout out to the three-man brass section – the saxophonist was especially good, but they were all brilliant.

After finishing the main part of the set with The Spirit Is Free (featuring all band members drumming simultaneously, which was pretty spectacular!) and Something About You, we were treated to a lively encore featuring Lessons In Love and Build Myself A Rocket.  Great gig overall, and not even the constant stream of people pushing past our seats to go to the bar/bathroom (including during the last song.  Just why?) could spoil things!

The Sage kicked out in plenty of time for people to catch the last Metro as well.  Good stuff!

Gig Review: They Might Be Giants at Queen’s Hall, 5th October 2018

It’s not very often that They Might Be Giants come over to Europe from North America – indeed, Geth has been waiting to see them for approximately quarter of a century – so when we heard earlier this year that they would be doing a few UK dates, we made sure to book tickets.  It was well worth it, because they put on a really good show, with lots of banter and comedy interludes in between the tunes.

Before the gig started:

Me: How many people do you reckon have come here just to hear the Malcolm In The Middle theme song?

Geth: Nobody.  It looks like quite a geeky, well-informed audience.

(Pause)

Guy behind us: Hey, play the Malcolm In The Middle song!

Geth: Okay, one.

They Might Be Giants
My least blurry gig picture of the evening.

Geth and I got to the Queen’s Hall in plenty of time, as it turned out, because although a support act was advertised, they never materialised, and They Might Be Giants didn’t arrive on stage until an hour after the doors opened.  It was worth the wait, though, because they launched into an absolutely storming first set.  They opened with new track The Communists Have The Music – apparently there’s a brand new video coming for that next week, so I will be checking it out then!  The old favourites soon showed up too, with Particle Man featuring a brilliant interpolation of Sia’s Chandelier, and Birdhouse In Your Soul appearing unexpectedly early (though very much appreciated by me).  There was also a run-out for The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), their alternative-lyrics version of the classic song.

The band played a lot of new songs – complete with tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that the audience might not appreciate them as much as the classics!  I personally found the new stuff really interesting, and I will definitely be listening to the latest album over the course of the next week.

Dead was another highlight of the first set, and I must also give a shout-out to the brilliant brass instrumentalist the band had on tour with them – his trumpet and trombone sections were fantastic and really added to the atmosphere of the gig.  The set finished with some interesting experimental instrumental stuff, and a nicely-timed twenty-minute interval enabled Geth to go and get us some more drinks – always appreciated!

The second set was launched with the video for Last Wave – which is actually Aerosmith and Run DMC’s video for Walk This Way, best explained here.  We were then treated to a rendition of How Can I Sing Like a Girl?, which was given a really poignant context by current events.  Other highlights of the second set for me were Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and Whistling In The Dark, but pretty much everything was a real treat – the band really kept up the energy for the whole evening.

My only complaint was that the gig ended at just the wrong time – Geth and I ran out of the Queen’s Hall just as the number 5 bus was pulling away, and we ended up splurging on a taxi instead!  Great night out though – I will definitely go see the band again when they next play the UK, even if it takes another twenty-five years.

(They never played Boss Of Me (the Malcolm In The Middle theme song), incidentally.)

Infest day 4

As we hadn’t been too late back after day 3, Geth and I managed to be awake mid-morning, and after a couple of hours getting ourselves together, we headed to Frankie & Benny’s for our annual ‘final day of Infest’ carb-loading session.  For the last few years, Infest Sunday has started like this…

Pizza
I think I’m looking better and better as I age.  Must be all that pizza.

…followed by changing into a nice comfy Sunday outfit that comfortably accommodates any festival bloat and allows for lots of dancing without getting achy feet.

OOTD 26th August 2018
Sunday OOTD: tired, but determined to dance. Necklace unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2016), t-shirt Gildan for Deviant (originally early 2000s, thrifted from Geth and modified 2015), trousers Bat Attack (2009), boots Carefree (2017).

We made it through the rain to the venue, where we attended the charity tea party for the eating of delicious cake, and then went through to the sports bar to grab a drink before the first band.

Band 16: Promenade Cinema

Promenade Cinema are amazing on record – gorgeous cool ’80s-style synthpop – and they played beautifully, helped along by the lovely pink and blue of the stage lights (props to whoever was doing lighting).  Unfortunately they fell victim to the poor sound treatment that, as often happens at Infest, plagued the whole festival.  There was a lot of weird stuff going on with the vocals, including a lot of reverb that meant you could still hear the lead singer’s vocals loud and clear even when she passed the mic to the audience, which gave the impression she wasn’t singing live, even though she was (it didn’t help that she was sometimes miming to the keyboardist/backing singer’s vocals as well).  At one point, the sound cut out and the lights came on, so there was clearly some mismanaged sound setup going on somewhere.  It was a shame, and it kind of spoilt the performance for me.  I’d like to see them again sometime with less problematic sound.

When we came out of the stage area, there was a guy hanging around in an Alt-Fest t-shirt, which is brave at Infest.  I actually very nearly ordered an Alt-Fest t-shirt before the festival was cancelled, but I don’t think I’d ever have had the balls to wear it if I had got round to it in time!

I should point out at this juncture that the atmosphere on Sunday – both in the sports bar talking to people and in the stage area watching the bands – was very, very sleepy and low-energy.  Four days turns out to be very long for a festival, and people really seemed to be flagging.

Band 17: Massenhysterie

The immediate striking thing on stage was the singer, who looks a bit like a ’60s girl updated with blue hair and PVC.  The other guy on stage was playing a keytar, which I always appreciate.  Music-wise it was nice danceable electro, but pretty generic, and the visuals were a bit disparate and random – sometimes medical-themed, sometimes military, and it seemed like they didn’t really know what their theme was.  At the end, there were more flags, which has definitely been a running thing at this year’s Infest.

Band 18: Valhall

Very pretty synth soundscapes, but the music was far too slow for my liking.  The two musicians sang pretty much equally, and while the female singer’s vocals were beautiful, I found the male singer’s vocals a bit too semi-harsh for my taste.  The stage show was again very slow and sleepy, which I don’t think helped with the general lethargic feeling of the day.

Band 19: Elegant Machinery

More synthpop – should be right up my street, yes?  Well, it was perfectly serviceable and danceable, but the tunes were very forgettable – I can’t remember how any of them go at all – and so I found myself zoning out quite a lot.  There was a good bit of energy from the band on stage, but nothing really interesting happening.  At one point, there were a bunch of people (presumably Swedes) waving a Swedish flag in the audience, and I found myself more interested in that than in what was going on with the performance, which is not really a good sign.

Band 20: Strvngers

I only stayed for one song by this lot, as the music really wasn’t my thing at all.  The first song involved a lot of doom bells, clanging guitars, and orgasm noises (the last of which you’ll know is a real pet peeve of mine if you’ve been reading my Now! reviews), and there was yet another flag on stage – a Canadian one this time, as this was the second Canadian band of the weekend.  There were also some masks going on, which was at least interesting.  While I wasn’t impressed, Matt absolutely loved them and stayed for the whole set, and he said the music did get poppier at some points, so maybe I’ll give them another listen sometime.

Band 21: This Morn’ Omina

Lots of drumming, lots of dancing, lots of flashing lights.  Good set, and it actually woke me up a bit.  Surprisingly, they played One Eyed Man, which is one of their most popular songs, in the middle of the set.  As such, Geth and I felt able to leave the stage area early and enjoy the rest of the performance from the merch area.

One of our Infest traditions is to enjoy a spirit and mixer (or three) at the end of the Sunday night, usually while listening to the last band if it’s someone neither of us are too bothered about seeing.  As such, Geth got the drinks in, because the Sunday headliner…

Band 22: Aesthetic Perfection

…was Aesthetic Perfection, and while I like their music, I’ve seen them at enough festivals that I didn’t feel the need to go and stand in the audience this time round.  I did nip in for half a song, just to see what was happening on stage, and it was claustrophobically packed in there.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that Aesthetic Perfection are shouty, high-energy, and great to dance to, after four days most of the audience were no longer capable of dancing, and the huge crowd looked very subdued.  Great kitschy outfits on the part of the band though.

I went back to join Geth for a couple more vodka ‘n’ apple juices, and we headed to the Escape Bar after the bands had finished.  While there was some good music being played, it was clear I wasn’t going to get the Soft Cell track that was the only thing that would have got me up dancing, and so after a quick selfie:

Infest Sunday 2018
I’m sort of getting better at taking these. Maybe.

…we got our stuff together and left Infest for another year (or several, depending on how we feel in future) to go back to the Jurys Inn and bed.

Slightly long ramble about ideal festival length:

It’s funny, because three-day festivals have always left me wanting more, so I really did think that a four-day festival would be the perfect length.  That was not the case.  I did feel pretty tired on Sunday evening, and even if I hadn’t done, I think the fact that everyone else was clearly tired would have brought me down anyway.  Bod mentioned on the Thursday night that he thought what they should have done instead was have a full day on the Friday (the Thursday and Friday were both half days with four bands, the Saturday and Sunday full days with seven bands, and the usual pattern is Friday half day, Saturday and Sunday full day), and I have to say, with hindsight, that I agree with him.  Probably the only time I’ve ever felt a festival was the perfect length was after Beautiful Days introduced Thursday camping – so you arrive on the Thursday, have three full days of music on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then leave on the Monday.  It’s a four-night holiday, but only three days of bouncing around.  Maybe in the future, if I’m feeling flush enough to spring for an extra night at the hotel, I’ll consider travelling to Infest on the Thursday evening.

Anyway, that is not something I need to worry about right now.  I had a great time this weekend, and I know I’ll be back again.

Infest day 3

Yesterday morning, as we usually do on the Saturday of a weekend away, Geth and I got up early and went parkrun touristing.  As I mentioned yesterday, we’d saved up plenty of sleep and got a relatively early night so it wasn’t too painful!

After we got back, Geth went to meet Matt and John for curry, and I had a nice relaxed couple of hours with music in the hotel room.  A can of cider and some room service pizza later, I was able to get ready for day 3, which was the first full-length day of the festival, with bands starting at 4pm.

OOTD 25th August 2018
Saturday OOTD: why, hello there, 1983. Necklace unknown brand (1980s, have owned since early childhood), t-shirt Gildan for Preverse (2015, modified 2018), skirt Asos (2018), boots Primark (2017).

When we arrived at the venue, I went straight to the stage to catch the end of the first band of the day.

Band 9: Flesh Eating Foundation

I wasn’t expecting much, but this was quite a show.  There were four dudes on stage, but only one of them was actually playing an instrument.  The band’s look involved lots of neckties, plus one guy rocking the eldergoth grey ponytail look, and of the three who weren’t playing instruments, one guy’s job seemed to be to hold up lots of signs that were vaguely related to the lyrics of the songs.  Music-wise, when I walked in they were doing a song with the repeated refrain ‘are you having fun, boys and girls?’ sung in the most ominous way ever.  They followed that with So Yeah, which I recognised from the first Beat:Cancer compilation, and finished with another song that involved a lot of sign-holding.

I had a brief sit down in the bar and a quick chat with friends before we all headed to see the next band.

Band 10: Adam Is A Girl

Adam Is A Girl do a lot of slow chillout synthpop, which is more Geth’s thing than mine, but the tunes were really nice – it was a great set to zone out to.  It did get more upbeat as it went on, so I was able to have a good dance towards the end.  Definitely a band to add to the playlist.

We headed back to the sports bar to catch up with people again, but unfortunately at that point some inconsiderate person persuaded the bar staff to turn off the nice background chillout music and put the football on (seriously, pal, just watch it on your phone – don’t spoil everyone else’s festival atmosphere).  It was fairly unbearable, so Geth and I wandered through to check out the shopping area.  I’m a bit done with clothes shopping at the moment as I’ve bought a LOT of clothes in 2018 due to my weight loss, so I wasn’t really interested in any of the clothes racks – they’re the same every year, and I got an Infest 2018 t-shirt on Thursday that will do me fine as a souvenir – ditto jewellery.  The one thing that did catch my eye was a vinyl copy of And One’s Bodypop that they were selling on the Beat:Cancer stall, but I should probably wait until we actually have a record player before starting that particular collection!

In order to avoid the football, we settled down in the seats opposite the merch stall.  I nipped in to see the next band…

Band 11: Yura Yura

…but it was just a solitary boring-looking guy standing behind a laptop, nothing interesting to see on stage at all, and the track he was playing at the time sounded exactly like a cement mixer.  I went back to sit with Geth in the merch area, from where we could hear the rest of the set anyway.  The cement mixer track seemed to go on forever, but at least it was better than listening to the football.

We joined friends again before going to see the next band.

Band 12: Actors

It was great to hear some post-punk at Infest!  Actors are a Canadian three-piece with some nice stage energy.  The tunes were very nice, but I could have done with some more memorable hooks.  Still, I’ll definitely be adding them to my playlist, so I expect I’ll grow to like the songs more as I become more familiar with them.

Another in-between band bit that followed the ‘sports bar, drink, chat to friends’ pattern!

Band 13: Liebknecht

I popped in briefly to see this project.  Repetitive beats, lots of wub, lots of dull slowed-down vocal samples.  Visually, it was a cross between Iszoloscope’s purple haze and Yura Yura’s boring, but there was at least some head-nodding happening on the stage.

We had a good catchup with old friend Teresa in the bar, before the highlight of the evening.

Band 14: Mesh

We all trooped in to see Mesh, along with most of Infest – it was a pretty packed show again.  Luckily, this time we headed in a good while before they started, so we were able to get quite a good spot.  They did a great festival set with lots of classics, and as we were quite close to the front, I broke my rule about gig pictures:

Mesh at Infest 2018
Still not a great picture, but at least you can tell it’s a person this time!

For the traditional fan picture montage for Friends Like These, Infest had asked for submissions of pictures from past festivals through the years.  I’d submitted a few pictures and was thrilled to see them all featured.  I took a very blurry video of the montage, but you can’t really make anything out (how I love my crappy phone camera), so instead here are the actual photos that I managed to get into the montage:

Infest pictures
It was awesome to see these up on the screen!

Other high points of the performance were Little Missile, which they’d apparently played when they were last at Infest in 2002(!), and Taken For Granted, which if you know the drill for a modern-day Mesh gig requires a lot of singing of the refrain on the part of the audience to get them to come back on for an encore.  The encore featured Born To Lie, which is a great daft dance-along song that has grown to become a favourite of mine.

Not quite as good as Peter Hook & The Light, but definitely the second-best band of the weekend so far!

Band 15: Sarin

A strange pattern for Infest this year, on both the Thursday and Saturday, has been to have an extra band playing AFTER the headliner.  Apparently this is due to both Peter Hook & The Light and Mesh having tight timescales and needing to leave earlier in the evening.  As such, the final band of the night was Sarin, and again I only nipped in to see them for a short time as it wasn’t really my thing.  More repetitive wub, with lots of tweety bird noises for good measure.  The sole interesting thing on stage was that the dude was wearing a balaclava, but at least there was an attempt at visuals, even if they were a bad rip-off of the famous 1960s Doctor Who howlaround title sequence.

As such, I was quickly back in the sports bar, where I took this nice picture to celebrate Geth and Matt’s long friendship of mutual manly grumpiness.

Matt and Geth
Such love.

Geth and I did check out the DJing in the main stage area after Sarin had finished, but it was a bit uninspiring and my runner’s knee was playing up, so we decided to head back to the hotel.  I will note, though, that as we left, the food/smoking area was playing the Vengaboys’ We Like To Party! (The Vengabus), and there was a lot more dancing going on out there than in the main stage area.  That’s clearly where the party is!

Review of the final day coming tomorrow.

Infest day 2

After Thursday’s opening night, Geth and I slept for a surprisingly long time yesterday morning.  We hadn’t been super late on Thursday night, but I guess we needed the sleep.  It was well-timed, though, because it meant we had plenty of sleep in the bank before parkrun today.

Because it was another day where the bands weren’t starting till 7.30pm, we were able to be really relaxed for most of the day – just chilling out in the hotel room.  At 5pm, we went for pizza in the Jurys Inn bar, where we were joined by Matt and John, and then got ready before heading over to the venue for the first band.

OOTD 24th August 2018
Friday OOTD: we’ve worked out that my phone camera refuses to focus when I’m smiling, so I went with this goth pout instead. T-shirt Stella Stanley for Beauty Of Gemina (2014), skirt unknown brand (vintage 1980s, bought at vintage fair 2018), boots Asos (2018).

Band 5: Def Neon

I’ve seen Def Neon quite a few times now, and their performance keeps getting better and better.  The energy on stage is great, and their electro rock sound is right up my street.  They finished with their usual fabulous cover of Killing In The Name, which I never get bored of hearing.

After that it was back to the sports bar for a catchup with old friends Tori and Mike.  I did briefly nip in to see…

Band 6: Siva Six

…this duo, who had matching hair.  I explained yesterday why I’m not doing gig photos, so instead, here’s Geth and our friend Dave modelling matching hair in 2005.

Matching hair
Not Siva Six.

Siva Six’s matching hair was more of a mohawk ponytail thing, and the general look was kind of skeletal goblin.  It was quite cool!  Unfortunately the music was not at all my thing – it was very generic-sounding EBM with what I’d call ‘semi-harsh’ vocals – so I only lasted about half a song before returning to the bar.

Geth wasn’t interested in most of the bands last night, so was doing a good job of keeping a table.  We had another chat with Matt and John, and I headed in with them to see the next band.

Band 7: Iszoloscope

I wasn’t quite sure what the point of this performance was, because 99% of the time you couldn’t see anything because of all the smoke on stage – it was just an opaque purple haze!  Very occasionally, I caught glimpses of a personable-looking bearded guy dancing behind a laptop, but those were few and far between.  Music-wise it was repetitive dark dance, which again is not really my thing, so I only gave it one track and then went back to sit with Geth in the sports bar again.

We then had a catchup with Kirsten and Jacquelyn before everyone (and I mean pretty much everyone at the festival) headed back to the stage for the last band of the night.

Band 8: Cubanate

It took a while to find a spot to stand, because the place was so packed – it really did feel like everyone at Infest had crowded into the room.  Similarly to Zeitgeist Zero the day before, I found the music very danceable but a bit forgettable.  It was a very high energy show, but unfortunately at the back we couldn’t really see what was going on, and I was getting fed up with people bumping into my rucksack as they went past.  We had planned to watch the whole set, but about two tracks in, Geth suggested going home early in order to get a good night’s sleep before parkrun.  I was tempted to stick around for Oxyacetylene, but as that was almost certainly going to be their final song, we would probably have been waiting over an hour, and I don’t love it quite that much, so we decided to call it a night.  We did seemingly manage to convince the student union staff member who was in charge of chivvying people through from the sports bar to watch the bands that ‘Cubanate’ is actually pronounced ‘Queue-ba-NAH-tay’, Spanish style, so frankly I think our work here is done.

On the way out, we had a quick chat with Dave and Yuliya, who had also found the venue too crowded, and then we headed back to the hotel.  We both made it to bed by midnight!  Post-parkrun, we’ll be ready to party properly for the rest of the weekend though.

Day 3 review tomorrow!

Infest day 1

I love music festivals.  There’s something very exciting about an entire intense weekend spent in the one place, seeing lots and lots of bands playing, catching up with tens of people you’ve not seen in ages, and eating lots of delicious food that you usually can’t have in order to provide a carb base for all the cider you’ll be drinking build energy for all the dancing you have to do.  Utter bliss.

Unfortunately, Geth and I find nowadays that we can’t do as many camping festivals as we used to.  The discomfort of sleeping in a tent is less manageable than it used to be – now that we’re old gits in our thirties we both find we need a good night’s sleep – and when it rains it’s absolutely miserable.  I’ve been to a few festivals where it’s been a total washout all weekend (or worse, ones where the heavens open all day long on arrival day so that you’re slogging through mud for the rest of the festival).  Last year’s M’era Luna was one such example, and so I think I need at least another two or three years to forget all the bad stuff about camping.  It’s a shame though, ’cause both M’era Luna and Beautiful Days are coming up with some cracking lineups at the moment.  I’ve also always really wanted to go to one of the two Rewind festivals that are on during the summer in the UK.  Maybe in a few years’ time I’ll consider hiring a camper van or staying in a nearby hotel.  Maybe.

In the meantime, indoor festivals are where it’s at as far as I’m concerned, and we booked to go to two this year.  The first of these is Infest, and I’m having as good a time as always!

This is my sixth Infest, making it my most-attended festival (I’ve been five times to Beautiful Days, four to Resistanz and four to M’era Luna).  It’s also my fifth in a row, as since Resistanz stopped running, it’s my one annual chance to catch up with friends from the goth and industrial scene.  Geth and I are currently planning to take a break for a few years after this one (of course, I have said that before, and I may find myself tempted once they start announcing next year’s lineup – we’ll see!) and so I’m determined to enjoy this one as much as possible.

Because it’s the 20th anniversary special this year, the organisers put on an extra night on the Thursday.  I’ve arrived at festivals on a Thursday before (Beautiful Days started putting on Thursday camping a few years before we stopped going) but I don’t think I’ve ever done one with four days of music.  I was really happy about this when they announced it, as I’m the kind of person who always feels that festivals end too quickly.  Maybe four days will feel just right.  I’ll tell you after the weekend!

Anyway, Infest day 1: Thursday.

Because we usually travel to Infest on the Friday of August Bank Holiday Weekend, we’ve not previously had the pleasure of sharing the train journey with people travelling to Reading and Leeds Festival (that experience has formerly been reserved for the Monday when coming back!).  The train we were on was travelling to BOTH Leeds and Reading.  It was pretty full.  Thankfully, this was mainly due to festival-goers’ luggage rather than festival-goers themselves, so we didn’t have too much trouble squeezing into our booked seats, where we were able to commence our train picnic (complete with a couple of ciders, which I don’t usually allow myself on trains since being on Slimming World, but Infest is a special weekend).

Arriving in Bradford, we spotted old Edinburgh University Goth & Rock Society (EDG&R) friends Kirsten and Jacquelyn as we joined the check-in queue at the Jurys Inn.  The Jurys Inn also provided us with the sight of our first Christmas tree of 2018:

Christmas tree in August
‘Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree/You’re badly out of season.’

It’s appalling, because it’s still August, but this is not the earliest I’ve seen a hotel do this (the QHotel in which we stayed in Leeds in July 2016 for a Beat:Cancer gig already had one up a month earlier).  A discreet poster advertising that you can now book for Christmas?  Fine.  A fully-decorated Christmas tree up in the summer?  Go home, hotel, you’re drunk.

I’ll forgive the Jurys Inn, though, ’cause the pizza I had in the bar before heading off was absolutely perfect for a pre-Infest meal.  I’ll be having a couple more of those this weekend.

(A quick note about my Infest day 1 outfit: for years, I longed to be able to lose enough weight in time for Infest that I would feel comfortable wearing a clingy Cyberdog shift dress.  Because I reached my Slimming World target in May, I was finally able to go for it this year.  I wore it on the Thursday night in order to minimise festival bloat, but it was still fairly unforgiving!)

OOTD 23rd August 2018
Thursday OOTD: bringing the neon for Infest day 1! Necklaces Claire’s Accessories (2003), dress Cyberdog (2018), boots Primark (2017).

We arrived in the familiar environs of Bradford Student Union, exchanged our tickets for wristbands, said hi to our friend Cat from the Southampton days, and ventured into the sports bar – the heart of Infest as far as I’m concerned! – where we were able to catch up with Bod and his beautiful wig.  Geth got comfortable on the sofa, as he wasn’t interested in the first band, and Bod and I headed through to check out Grave Diggers’ Union.

Band 1: Grave Diggers’ Union

Grave Diggers’ Union were twenty minutes late starting, so there was a lot of hanging about.  When they finally did get going, I managed about a song and a half, Bod even less.  It’s sort of monotonous goth rock, and I found it a bit dull (it wasn’t helped by some problems that were going on with the sound setup, which didn’t seem to be sorted until later in the evening).  I did like the sort of goth Hawaiian shirt worn by the drummer, though!

As a bonus: here is a terrible blurry picture that I took of the vocalist/keyboardist.  My current phone camera can barely cope with taking outfit pictures indoors, let alone gig pictures, and so I will not be attempting any more during the course of the weekend.  You’ll just have to use your imagination instead, or alternatively go on Facebook and find some pictures taken by proper photographers.

Grave Diggers' Union
That UV sign on the keyboard really bothered me while we were waiting for them to come on, because although it’s meant to be a gravestone-style cross, it looks more like an arrow pointing to something.

After a quick drink in the bar and a catchup with friends Matt and John, we headed through for the second band.

Band 2: Zeitgeist Zero

Zeitgeist Zero were again suffering from sound problems, but it was quite a good show.  They have a lot of energy onstage, and their current music is very danceable, although I don’t find it quite as memorable as their mid-’00s output – maybe I just need to listen to the new stuff more.  I had a good bop around, and I found myself quite surprised when the set finished so soon, which is always a good thing.

A very quick trip back to the bar, as everyone was very excited about band three!

Band 3: Peter Hook & The Light

Three has always been my lucky number, and band three will undoubtedly remain the highlight of the weekend.  Peter Hook & The Light do renditions of classic Joy Division and New Order songs, and Hook’s treatment of his old bands’ songs is absolutely lovely.

I was lucky enough to see the full classic lineup of New Order back in 2005, when Peter Hook was still with the band, and it’s still among my favourite music performances I’ve ever seen.  As such, I didn’t think this would match it, but in actual fact I can’t compare the two – the experiences were so different.  The band did play a few New Order songs – Temptation, Blue Monday and True Faith (and this time the sound on True Faith didn’t cut out in the middle, like it did in 2005!) – but it was mostly Joy Division, and it honestly felt like the closest thing you could get to seeing Joy Division live post-1980.  In 2005, New Order were playing a couple of Joy Division tracks to mark the 25th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death, but it didn’t feel quite like Joy Division.  There’s something about Hook’s take on the vocals in comparison to Bernard Sumner’s that just feels more fitting, somehow.

I’m now really looking forward to seeing Peter Hook & The Light again in December at the Electric Dreams festival!

Because everyone was absolutely buzzing after that performance, there was a lot more drinking and chatting in the sports bar (including comparing exercise experiences with Blanka, hearing all about Pat’s special V2A darts flights – I have no idea about darts equipment but apparently they’ve been a big hit with various celebrities – and finding out from chatting with Andy from Spucktute that he doesn’t actually dislike the Human League.  All very valuable information!).  I really did mean to go and see…

Band 4: Empirion

…but let’s face it, no-one was going to come close to Peter Hook & The Light, so I didn’t get round to it.  Bod said they were quite good though!

Geth and I moved through to the Escape Bar for half an hour of post-band DJ sets (and I had a good shimmy to Soft Cell) before heading back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for day 2.

Day 2 review coming tomorrow!