I’m more than 300 days sober now (304 to be precise), which is very nearly the bulk of a year. So far it’s been one of the strangest years of my life, but I won’t go into that until the year is properly over.
Ten months in, I’m sort of newly realising that I’m still actually fairly early on in my journey, and there are still things that are tripping me up, and things that I’m encountering sober for the first time. I haven’t done a music festival this year, and I don’t think I’ll be ready to do one next year either. I still don’t feel fully comfortable in pubs and clubs, and in fact I’m going to them less and less frequently.
I won’t be playing the ‘election drinking game’ this December. This was something that I did for every general election for years and years – I made huge jugs of cocktail with crappy old alcohol from the back of the cupboard to ‘use it up’, and then put food colouring in the jugs to match the political party colours. The game was very simple – ‘sip for a hold, glug for a gain’ – so when Labour held a seat in Newcastle, you’d take a sip of the red cocktail, and when the SNP gained a seat in Scotland, you’d take a big glug of the yellow cocktail (2015 required a LOT of yellow cocktail). Geth and I would be sick for days afterwards, but it was a tradition. I didn’t do it in 2017 because it was too soon after the 2015 election, but this is the first general election for which it’s no longer an option, and strangely, I feel a bit bereft as a result.
(I’ve also realised, in my wiser sober state, that following politics is not actually good for my mental health at the moment, and while I’ll obviously be voting, I will be getting an early night on election day instead of watching the results.)
I’ve also not navigated the Christmas period sober yet. While I will have had nearly a year to prepare for it, I’m still feeling quite a bit of trepidation about the whole thing. I’m already a bit sad that I won’t ever again have mulled wine, or Christmas cake made with whisky, or Christmas pudding with brandy poured over it for the flambé effect. I am, however, excited about doing the extra parkruns over the Christmas period, and Geth has promised to have a quiet Hogmanay with me so that we can do the New Year’s Day double parkrun.
I had a fairly ridiculous moment at the A-ha gig in Leeds on Saturday night when I went to the bar to get drinks for myself and Geth. Because of avoiding bars for the most part over the last few months, as well as the fact that it’s usually Geth who buys the drinks, I hadn’t actually been in a situation since I got sober where I was carrying a pint of beer for someone else. When I was still drinking, if I was collecting a pint for Geth, I would always take a big sip of it before carrying it back to the table so that I wouldn’t spill it while carrying it (the extra beer would be lost either way, so it wasn’t like I was stealing his beer – just preventing the excess from dripping all over my hand and the floor!). It wasn’t until I had the beer in my hand on Saturday night that I realised that was no longer an option.
Cue an extremely slow walk back into the main arena in an attempt not to spill the beer (which was ultimately unsuccessful as there was a door in my way), and then a further realisation that I couldn’t even lick my own hand clean, and…it just all felt a bit ludicrous, really. Maybe I should start carrying protective plastic gloves.
I’ve not reviewed any booze alternatives this month as I’ve been a bit too busy for non-diary blogging most days. I will try and do some over this next month, though, as I’ve got a bit of a backlog.
Mental health improvement plans are still quietly trucking along in the background. Hopefully next month I’ll have a bit more of an update on that.
Half a year without a drop of alcohol today. I couldn’t have imagined that this time last year.
On the whole, the trend over the last six months is that things have gradually become easier. But it’s not a straight trajectory by any means – I’ve found the last fortnight to be really difficult with the nice weather, because every time I’m outside, I find myself walking past beer gardens and people having drinks at barbecues. Summer, in my younger days, was always just one long, hazy, booze-soaked non-memory. It was the season of all-day drinking at weddings and on holidays. It was the best season for cider, and the only season when it was acceptable to sit on the grass in the park and crack open that first can at 11am. It was the season of a hundred outdoor music gigs and festivals of which I have absolutely no memory of the bands but could still find my way to the bar tent in my sleep. Without alcohol, I have to admit that I am finding summer a bit anxiety-inducing.
This is one of the reasons that I am giving music festivals a miss this year for the first time in adulthood. I’ll be ready to give them a go again next year – there’s an ’80s/industrial long weekender in Belgium and a synthwave festival in London that I’d really love to try – but it’d just be a bit too much this summer.
I’ve not been trying as many booze alternatives over the last couple of months, because I feel like I’ve found the favourites that work for me (Sainsbury’s Fiery Ginger Beer is my go-to on evenings in the house, because it’s calorie-free, while Fentimans Rose Lemonade is nice for a treat when I’m out, and for a proper celebratory-feeling drink I like Nosecco), but I’ve still got a few to review from earlier in the year.
Booze alternatives I’ve reviewed over the last month:
I’ve been listening to sobriety podcasts again over the last month, and they’ve been really helpful – I’ve also been finding online and offline support groups to be an important anchor. It’s hard when I’m so busy, but I really am trying to make time for things that are more therapeutic at the moment.
By Sunday, I was really starting to feel the effects of trying to do a music festival with a bad cold, and so I sort of staggered through the day powered by a lot of Lemsip Max Strength! I’d given up drinking by this point as well, which meant the drunks in the venue were even more annoying.
The Butlins cooked breakfast hadn’t done it for me the day before, so I went for a giant stack of pancakes on the Sunday morning, which was marginally tastier. Geth and I then went back to the hotel room and groggily took ages getting showers and things, so we were a little late into the Centre Stage for the Sunday afternoon session and the first band had already started.
Bands I didn’t see on day 3: nobody, because it was just stand-up comedy in the Reds bar on the Sunday, so I didn’t have to miss any bands!
Bands I did see on day 3:
Black Box were mainly doing their late ’80s/early ’90s dance classics, but there was a good highlight where they did a mash-up of Sweet Dreams and Seven Nation Army with the vocals from the former over the bassline of the latter. They also (obviously) finished with Ride On Time, which was much appreciated by the crowd!
Big Country get super major plus points for being the only band of the weekend with the balls to make a ‘Hi-De-Hi’ gag. Great stuff. I was also excited to tick off the first of the ‘message’ artists on my Band Aid baby bucket list!
Otherwise it was a very enjoyable hit-laden set – with Look Away, Wonderland, and Fields Of Fire (complete with an interesting interpolation of Whiskey In The Jar) all present and correct! In another example of the Butlins stage managers not being able to deal with bands trying to do encores, the band went offstage and the DJ launched into Heaven 17’s Temptation (at which point I expressed my surprise to Geth that the band hadn’t done In A Big Country and Geth shrugged and went off to the bar to get us another drink)…and then Temptation abruptly cut out and the band came back on. ‘We are Heaven 17!’ announced Bruce Watson wryly, before we finally got our rendition of In A Big Country. I have no idea what’s going on with Butlins and their aversion to encores.
We then had a good long break before the evening session, which gave us some recovery time to have a bit of a doze.
Peter Hook & The Light
We’d already seen Peter Hook & The Light at Infest this year, but as I’ve alluded to, the crowd at Electric Dreams is a vastly different type of audience. As such, it was a subtly different show, with more of an end-of-term party atmosphere – Hooky, resplendent in a Christmas T-shirt, explained that it was their last gig of the year, and we got the first (but strangely not the last) of the evening’s Jimmy Savile jokes. Geth went down to the front of the stage while I kept the seats, and from where I was sitting, it just felt really, really weird when the crowd didn’t react at all to the band launching into Joy Division classics like Transmission (especially as I last saw the band at a goth festival with lots of other goths, a subculture in which the Joy Division stuff is absolutely sacrosanct). Geth reported after the set that from his viewpoint near the front of the stage, the band pretty much phoned in the first couple of Joy Division songs until they realised that there was a small group of people down the front who were actually fans, after which they did things properly.
The audience all went nuts for Blue Monday though, so that’s something! Hooky also did the gag about turning the lights up on the crowd and then immediately going ‘argh, no!’, which would probably have been funnier if Big Country hadn’t done the exact same joke earlier that day.
The set was pretty much the same as when I saw them at Infest, except for there being a couple of extra New Order songs – they did Regret, which is one of my absolute favourites (I had it on my Greatest Hits of 1993 album when I was eight). It was also great to hear Temptation again, because the music geek in me was thrilled that it was the first of two famous Temptations we’d hear that night…
…because Heaven 17 were headlining, and they were hardly going to avoid playing their Temptation, were they?
Before the inevitable closing song, though, we got all the classics – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang, Come Live With Me, Let Me Go – and a lot of very funny stage banter between Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory, who’ve been doing this stuff for nearly forty years and have moved firmly into ‘old married couple’ territory. This included another Jimmy Savile gag (apparently he introduced their first Top of the Pops appearance) and some slightly risqué Morecambe and Wise references.
There was a cover of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, which is another song that’s a bit of a theme for covers at the moment. They also played Being Boiled, which was the Human League’s biggest hit while Martyn Ware was still with the band – which meant that in the space of five days, Geth and I managed to see Being Boiled performed by both the Human League and Heaven 17! Geth preferred the Human League performance, while I gave the edge to Heaven 17. Both brilliant and very different though!
I enjoyed the performance so much that I was really surprised when they launched into Temptation to finish the set – it honestly felt to me like they’d only been playing for about five minutes. I’m so thrilled I got to see them, and not just because it means more artists ticked off my Band Aid baby bucket list! I’ll make sure to get tickets again when they’re next on tour.
Afterwards, Geth and I finished our drinks and sloped off to get some rest. All in all, it was a fantastic weekend of music and the bands were great…it was just a shame we had to go to Butlins to see them.
I had expected to be able to chill out for a bit on Saturday morning, but Electric Dreams isn’t like Resistanz or Infest where the bands don’t start for the day until four o’clock in the afternoon! There’s an afternoon music session starting at about half past twelve on the Saturday and Sunday, so by the time we’d gone and had our breakfast, it was pretty much time to get going again. When we walked into the Skyline Pavilion, they were doing a silent disco showing of Live Aid from 1985, which was a nice touch!
Bands I didn’t see on day 2: Altered Images and Hue & Cry, who were apparently turning the Reds bar into a wee piece of Scotland for the evening. Under any other circumstances, I would have liked to go see both of these bands (especially seeing as Hue & Cry were on Now! #10 – no, I’m not starting another bucket list, but I do like to see those songs live when I have the chance!). Unfortunately, because the Centre Stage arena was very popular on the Saturday night due to Marc Almond playing – it took us twenty minutes to get through the queue when the arena first opened – I wasn’t going to risk dashing between venues and not being able to get back in again.
Bands I did see on day 2:
Some artists who were big in the ’80s are so opposed to being seen as retro ’80s acts that they wouldn’t touch ’80s revival festivals with a barge pole. Some artists embrace the whole thing to the extent that they show up on stage wearing the same ridiculous ’80s ‘costume’ as half the people in the crowd. Hazell Dean is…one of the latter. The set opened with a cover of Shalamar’s A Night To Remember, which pretty much set the tone.
What I did really appreciate, as a music geek, was that Hazell kept coming out with fun facts about all the songs she was singing. I was surprised that she played Wherever I Go (Whatever I Do) second, as I’d always thought of that as her biggest hit, but apparently both that one and Who’s Leaving Who (played third) got to number four in the charts! I also didn’t know that Turn It Into Love was her last Top of the Pops appearance, or that Searchin’ was her first hit. It was a highly educational set in that respect. She also did some Abba covers, which went down well with the crowd.
What I’ve found this weekend is that the stage managers at Electric Dreams don’t really know how to deal with bands trying to do encores. Hazell Dean’s was great though, as when she was told she could go on for an encore, she announced over the microphone, ‘okay, press the button’. Geth and I had been taking the piss out of the karaoke-style ‘sing along to a backing track’ performance up until then, but we did appreciate the complete lack of bones being made about it at that point!
The Art Of Noise
The Art Of Noise were advertised as doing a DJ set, but as Geth and I are used to industrial performances (which often involve dudes standing still and doing nothing except pressing buttons on laptops), it seemed more like a live performance to us. The band (collective?) have had fingers in many pies since the ’70s, and so the set included a mishmash of pretty much all the most famous tracks in which they’ve been involved. Highlights for me included Close To The Edit, the footage of Max Headroom (one of the many awesome visuals that accompanied the music), Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Video Killed The Radio Star, and the mashup of the Prince and Tom Jones versions of Kiss.
Johnny Hates Jazz
Johnny Hates Jazz apparently released a new album in 2013, and so they were mostly playing stuff off that, which was actually really good! One of those albums I need to check out at some point. They did do the hits as well, though, and I especially loved I Don’t Want To Be A Hero (another Now! #10 classic!) and Shattered Dreams, which was the closing song.
There was then a break between the afternoon session and the evening session, so we were able to go get some food and investigate what was going on with the DJ sets in Bar Rosso (answer: not much worth listening to).
Blancmange were the first band of the evening session, and they were great – brilliant energy, really enjoyed it. Don’t Tell Me and Living On The Ceiling were predictably the highlights, but I also enjoyed Feel Me, which included interpolations of Pull Up To The Bumper and Pop Musik. Awesome set.
I took about ten pictures of this set, but they’re all so blurry you can’t actually tell it’s even a gig. As such, I won’t post one. I do have some standards.
There were a lot of bands I was really excited about seeing this weekend, but Marc Almond was probably the biggest draw. He did a brilliant mixture of Soft Cell classics – Bedsitter and Torch both appeared early – and solo stuff (The Days Of Pearly Spencer and Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart were highlights for me, the latter partly because I love the Gene Pitney original so much and it’s a lovely tribute). Towards the end, he got into the real crowd-pleasers like Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go? and Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, before finishing with a cover of T.Rex’s Hot Love, which seems to be a bit of a theme at the moment.
Incidentally, a lot of the ‘I’m wearing an ’80s costume’ types showed up to this performance either carrying or wearing inflatable pink flamingoes. I’m not sure how I feel about that, and I think I’ll probably end up doing a whole separate post on the subject.
When I was a little girl, I loved watching Fun House, which ran through the late ’80s and early ’90s and involved a lot of daft stuff like people chucking gunge at each other and other things that kids find hilarious. It was presented by Pat Sharp, who at the time wore his hair in an infamously bad mullet, except that no-one called it a mullet back then. Nowadays, he’s made a new career out of ’80s nostalgia, and is always presenting countdown shows on the classic music channels like Vintage TV and Now! ’80s. As such, it’s not really a surprise that he showed up at Electric Dreams to do a DJ set.
At the start, he promised the crowd that although he’d mainly be playing electro stuff, he’d also be taking a few ‘sideswipes’. Geth and I only managed about four songs of the set, partly because we were tired but mainly because Geth couldn’t stand it for very long, but it definitely seemed as though there were just as many ‘sideswipes’ as actual electro songs. The first one was Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, which was terrible for three reasons:
He could at least have chosen a Christmas song from the ’80s! Last Christmas would have been a good shout, but there are so many options!
They had cheesy fake snow coming down from the ceiling.
As soon as the song finished, Pat restarted it again so that he had more time for taking selfies with the crowd. Double Mariah! Nobody needs that, not even at Christmas time!
I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Geth was concerned, but then as we were leaving, out came Sweet Caroline. Just dreadful. Especially as it was absolutely pissing it down when we left, so we had to hurry through the pouring rain with no umbrellas or hoods and Sweet Caroline merrily earworming its way into our brains. Not a great end to the day.
Geth and I have been meaning to go to the Electric Dreams festival for a while, because we were always seeing it advertised on Vintage TV. (Incidentally, I found out why Vintage TV has disappeared from our channel list – it’s gone online-only for the moment!) Late November/early December is not usually a good time for us to go away, because of Geth’s work schedule, but he’s got a lighter workload this year, so we decided to go for it. My decision was also cemented by the fact that Marc Almond is playing – we missed out on getting tickets for the one-off Soft Cell reunion gig earlier this year, so this is a way of making up for it.
The journey from Newcastle to Bognor Regis was as straightforward as it can be when you (a) only realise last-minute that you don’t have seat reservations and (b) have to tube it through London in the middle of the journey because journeys to the south coast always require tubing it through London. I’d booked inclusive dining at the resort, so we were able to get some food and get settled in our room before getting ready to go out and see the bands.
Bands I didn’t see on day 1: The Blow Monkeys (we’ve already seen them supporting Level 42 this year so didn’t feel the need to see them again), China Crisis (I’d have quite liked to see them but I’m still suffering with my cold and didn’t want to waste too much energy running back and forth between venues), and Living In A Box (they kind of only have that one song that I would want to hear…and we wanted a fairly early night on the first day, ’cause we’re old now and can’t hack it).
Bands I did see on day 1:
Ex Simple Mind
The singular in the band name is not a mistake. There’s only one ex-member of Simple Minds in the band at the moment (Brian McGee). This doesn’t stop them doing nothing but Simple Minds classics, which I was a bit disappointed about, ’cause their current singer is Owen Paul and I would have liked to hear him do his ’80s hit My Favourite Waste Of Time (number three in 1986, fact fans).
The set was basically split into two halves – the ‘moody’ stuff, according to Owen, and the ‘hits’. The moody stuff included songs like Waterfront but sadly not my favourite Simple Minds song, Belfast Child, which would have fit in there perfectly. The hits were fairly predictable – Promised You A Miracle, (Don’t You) Forget About Me, Alive And Kicking – but played in a slightly bizarre order. Owen seemed to be suggesting (‘are you ready for the hits to get bigger?’) that Alive And Kicking was a bigger hit than (Don’t You) Forget About Me, which is…not accurate. They closed with Sanctify Yourself, which was also a bit of an odd choice.
I wasn’t hugely familiar with Modern Romance’s band history because, as Geth pointed out, they were a bit of an ‘early ’80s Top of the Pops background band’. I obviously recognised all their Latin-tinged party songs like Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey and Best Years Of Our Lives, but they’re not an act I’ve been following, so I was reliant on the festival programme to tell me that it’s just the singer, Andy Kyriacou, who remains from the classic lineup.
After doing their three or four hits, they kind of ran out of their own songs and started doing covers. When we left the Reds venue to go and get a space in the Centre Stage Venue for ABC, they’d just launched into Starship’s We Built This City, which, to be fair, was going down really well with the crowd.
ABC were the headliner for Friday and, naturally, the band I was most excited about. Geth and I did find some seats – as I’ve mentioned, we’re both suffering from colds at the moment – but I actually ended up on my feet a lot of the time, because I was enjoying the energetic, entertaining set so much. My highlights were When Smokey Sings (much beloved by me due to appearing on the hallowed tome that is Now! #10) and The Look Of Love (my favourite ABC song) – it was awesome to hear them both.
The only small fly in the ointment was that they played the same song (Poison Arrow) twice, which is an absolute no-no in my book – but to be fair, I think it was because they meant to finish with The Look Of Love and then the stage managers told them they had time for one more song, so they had to repeat something! The crowd adored it, anyway.
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…
…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.
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:
…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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!)
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.
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.