As Infest 2013 looms this weekend – and with the announcement that there won’t be an Infest in 2014, either – I’ve decided that it is time to look back at the twelve Infests I’ve attended previously (I’ve been to every one since 2000, and of course there wasn’t one in 2009).
I’ve looked at this before (Tuesday Ten: 015) in a very different way, looking at the various common themes and memories of the Infests I had attended up to 2006/07. Here, I’m covering Infest in a different way, with my top ten Infest performances between 2000 and 2012. I’ve reviewed every one since 2003 in one way or form, seen some incredible shows, some not-so-good ones, made friendships that have endured for a decade and more in many cases, and had loads of fun along the way. So let’s see this as a celebration. And see many of you at the weekend.
A note on the playlists, by the way – the Spotify playlist features live tracks where they exist, but for the YouTube playlist, all are, where possible, from the Infest performances in question, and if not, from performances from a similar timeframe.
9 votes: Front 242 (2008)
8 votes: Mind.In.A.Box (2011)
8 votes: Stromkern (2006)
7 votes: Coreline (2008)
7 votes: Front Line Assembly (2006)
6 votes: Combichrist (2004)
6 votes: Memmaker (2010)
6 votes: VNV Nation (2011)
5 votes: Apoptygma Berzerk (2007)
5 votes: Icon of Coil (2001)
In addition to this, I went for a wholly unscientific poll of my friends list on Facebook (and with some additional contributions from the Infest Facebook Group), as a means of identifying who were popular bands over the years. I got around fifty or sixty people responding, with a remarkable diversity of bands suggested (I didn’t put a limit on how many bands people could suggest). And what that said to me was not that no-one could agree, but more that it was proof, if any were needed, of how diverse Infest has been over the years, offering (pretty much) something for everyone who attends the festival each year, rather than sticking to particular styles and fashions – breaking new bands and spurring on our interest for new music.
The top ten poll are on the right, the full set of results are on the link shown. Interestingly, I’m in total agreement with a number of the top ten, but by no means all of it. So, here are my ten, and here’s hoping that by the end of this coming weekend, I’ll be wanting to add something else to my list of cherished memories.
This was a straight decision between the mastery of Converter the same year, or this. But I plumped for this, as despite Converter being a near-perfect example of how to do so-called “powernoise” live, the buzz that the Needle Sharing set caused really was something else. Roland Danielzig was on menacing form, between unleashing blast after fearsome blast of drum’n’noise he was down the front of the stage, exhorting the crowd to dance like there was no tomorrow. He’s a big man, too, and I think some took it as a bit of a threat and danced whether they wanted to or not. Sadly material from Needle Sharing has been sparse over the decade since – Gang Bangs! was ok, but all was redeemed by the epic collaboration with Enduser and The Teknoist last year. Also of note is that the decently-filmed and produced video of the set can be purchased for just 4 € here.
This was, of course, the second time I’d seen Geoff Pinckney onstage at Infest – the first time around in his first band The Nine, who I loved at the time (and I still love their second album now). But his return with Pete Steer as Tenek was something else. A teatime appearance on the Sunday of Infest is usually a relatively sparsely attended affair, as everyone desperately tries to clear their hangovers before getting on with Sunday’s drinking and music, but this was well-attended, and turned into a noisy singalong at points as the many fans were joined by legions of new converts, including myself. This was top-quality synthpop with a gloriously anthemic edge that had me – and everyone else, it seemed – rushing to buy their backcatalogue immediately afterward.
The Gothsicles absolutely transformed the idea of the opening band of Infest in 2007, from being one that generally would be avoided by many who wouldn’t leave the bar (and pilloried by the rest), to one that became an absolute must-see for a few years. And of the homegrown (i.e. from West Yorkshire) acts that have opened the festival, none had their tongues rammed further into their cheeks than Mandr01d. Full of nods to life in the locality, and other industrial bands (I can’t think of any other acts that have ripped the piss out of so much of the “scene”), this was a riotous, hilarious half-an-hour that more than anything reminded many that we need to laugh at ourselves once in a while. Even more amazing was that the album that eventually followed was also hilarious, but more importantly was actually pretty good!
Rotersand have headlined Infest twice – the first time in 2006 – but I don’t think there is much doubt that their second appearance was the better one. An extended set due to the postponement of Parralox to the following day, Rotersand took full advantage by rolling out a set of dancefloor hit after hit, an embarrassment of riches made more stark by the realisation of what they didn’t play afterward. This was glorious, uplifting industrial-dance music with an emotional core, and a connection with the crowd that few bands even come close to ever having. They’ve been quiet a bit recently (it’s been a few years since Random Is Resistance now), and new material can’t come soon enough.
Of course, it wasn’t just Mandr01d who have provided brilliant local-based opening night entertainment. Best of all of the opening sets ever to grace Infest was a set that involved coreographed cardboard robots, Phil Collins and Harry Potter samples, Keef Baker dressed as a large carrot, a sly rickrolling of the festival and not to mention some brilliantly inventive electronic music. I’ve already mentioned that they weren’t the first artist to open the festival to be enormously entertaining, but Chris managed a performance here that lasted long in the memory, and is still talked about even now when we want to get across how marvellously unexpected things can be at Infest. The whole set can be viewed here.
Another band to have headlined more than once (I saw them on my first visit to Infest in 2000), by 2005 Covenant were at the peak of their powers. By this point they had most of their arsenal of dancefloor dynamite all present and correct, and judging by the ecstatic reaction to this show (I swear that when We Stand Alone kicked in after the first chorus, the whole venue lifted a foot off the air as everyone seemed to peak at once), they unleashed all of it in an hour or so here. This was both a case of giving the crowd what they wanted, and also being an object lesson that so-called Futurepop in the live environment can be awesomely thrilling. This was the performance, too, that convinced my girlfriend to come back to following Infests (2005 was the first she attended, and she hasn’t missed one since, even if she usually sees less bands than me…).
2006 was the first Infest I can recall where a seriously big name in the scene was tempted over from the US, which turned out to be something of a coup for the festival – this was FLA’s first appearance live in the UK in ten years or so. I had, as it happened, been kicking myself for about that length of time since missing the Live Wired show in London, so I was really quite excited for this Sunday night show. I wasn’t disappointed, either, as they rolled out most of the stuff I’d always wanted to hear (particular highlights being a bruising Vigilante early on and a thunderous Gun in the encore), as well as all the ripping new stuff (at the time from Artificial Soldier). We were all marvelling about how awesome they were afterward, and with good reason…
Another long-hoped for band for Infest finally appeared a couple of years later, once again fulfilling a long-held wish to see them live (and this was also their first appearance in the UK in years). And they were absolutely phenomenal – a fizzing ball of energy that didn’t let up for a second across the ninety minutes of the set, thrillingly mixing in “the hits” with some spectacular diversions into unexpected old tracks (and album tracks) and overall, a reminder that EBM never died, it just got retooled and re-energised. Interestingly, like FLA, the appearance at Infest kickstarted a renewed interest in the band in the UK and there have been a number of live appearances from both in this country since. As a final note, this set was also special to me in that I had to follow it by DJing the main dancefloor. I don’t think I’ve ever been that nervous before DJing…
One of the many joys of Infest is seeing bands from overseas that I never thought I’d have the chance to see, and Stromkern were one of them. I’m not aware that they have played the UK very often (they supported FLA in London just after this appearance, and they certainly haven’t returned since), and this rare appearance following the release of Light It Up was as incendiary as the political fury that the album contained. Not a moment was wasted as they blitzed through eight songs in forty-five minutes, each and every one of them being among their strongest material. Sadly the band have barely released material since – a five-track EP last year, and a couple of other compilation appearances, but more than anything I’d love to see them live again to relive the visceral thrill that this was.
Of all of this top ten, though, this was by far the easiest position to decide. Never mind the best set I’ve seen at Infest, this was one of the greatest, most extraordinary live sets I’ve ever seen in over eighteen years of gig-going. MIAB served up the perfect show, one that took their intricate, delicate electronic sounds into new realms, turned dancefloor “should have beens” like 8Bits into stadium rock monsters, and made their arresting, emotional vocals sound even more heartbreaking than ever – oh, and the sheer glory of Fear had me shedding tears of joy. This show single-handedly made them A Big Deal in the UK scene, and deservedly so – I’ll never see an electronic band perform a show as enthralling as this again. Ever.
As a final note, I’d love to hear your tales of Infest brilliance in the comments. See many of you this coming weekend to do it all again.