Memory of a Festival: 030: Infest 2018

Twenty years of a festival existing is nothing to be sniffed at. Sure, bigger festivals have existed much longer (Reading dates back into the sixties, while Glastonbury is a few years younger), but in the current crowded festival environment, a smaller festival lasting twenty years is an extraordinary achievement. Particularly when the twentieth edition is a sell-out.

Oh yes, it sold out, and it felt it, too – with big audiences for almost every band (even the early ones), a great atmosphere, and a real buzz for much of the weekend, too, as impromptu things “happened” around and about – and everyone seemed to party that much harder, too. Props to the unnamed friend who apparently was woken at 0630 Sunday morning…in a hedge.

There was also time for memories, too, as my wife and I headed south to the hills above Huddersfield on our time-off on Friday, to pay a visit to (the long-time Infest compère) Tails’ grave in a pretty location overlooking the local landmark of Castle Hill. Of course, the only time the heavens properly opened were while we were on the exposed hillside that the cemetery sat on…

Infest: 2018: People

But away from the partying, and the memories, there were bands, too. A record number of them at Infest, actually, as the festival for the first time stretched over four days, from Thursday through to Sunday, as two evening (four bands) shows and two all-day (seven band) shows. This was a serious endurance test, as it turned out, and there may have been a couple of sighs of relief that the 2019 edition will be back to the usual three days.

So: if you are familiar with this website and the coverage of Infest, this is my usual rundown of the bands over the weekend, with a few personal recollections too. There are photos on Flickr, both of people and bands, and if you want to use them elsewhere, please attribute them to amodelofcontrol.com – it’s only polite, and my photos are Creative Commons-licensed for this reason.

A reminder, in case you ask, these are of course my personal opinions (amodelofcontrol.com is written by one person with occasional guest input), and your views may differ from mine. And if my take on your band isn’t entirely complimentary, sorry, but that’s the way I saw it. It’s nothing personal.


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Opening a three-day Infest has always been a tough gig, but opening the four day edition? Best of luck to Grave Diggers Union, who found themselves playing to a hefty crowd, and perhaps a mix of circumstances meant that they fluffed their lines somewhat. I was quite impressed with what I’d heard of them on record prior to the festival – and intriguing amalgam of drone, goth and post-punk basslines, but here their sound was clearly hampered by some issues, that caused a delayed start. This left a band that perhaps weren’t especially high on confidence rather flustered. It certainly wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, and I was left with the feeling that I should catch them on another, better day.

Zeitgeist Zero setlist

Domestic Blitz
Diamonds
Don’t Pop My Bubble
Pushed to the Edge
United In Black
Toxic Twisted
Dance of the Fallen

No such problems for Zeitgeist Zero, a band I’ve been listening to or seeing live for what must be fifteen years or maybe more, and their joy at finally getting on an Infest bill after all these years was obvious to all watching.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Zeitgeist Zero

Theirs was an electro-goth-rock blast of a set, with – in a pattern that was repeated time-and-again over the weekend, and isn’t as common as you think – a set that wasted no time in experimental or unknown moments, sticking to a policy of playing their strongest, catchiest songs. Unexpectedly for me at least, this meant mostly more recent songs, with no place for songs of old that I might have expected (particularly the brilliant Party for One), which to me confirmed just how much this band have leapt forward. My favourite moment? The glee of band and crowd as neon-lit bubble guns were brought out for Don’t Pop My Bubble, a reminder, if any were needed, of how much fun live music can be.

There were smiles, but perhaps not so much glee in the much-anticipated Peter Hook & The Light set. By some distance the biggest and best-known artist booked for Infest in the twenty years of the festival, there were obviously a handful of devoted Hooky fans who’d turned up just for him, but otherwise it was a horde of the usual Infest-goers who attended to get a glimpse of a man and the songs he was involved in writing that arguably helped to shape much of the music that has been played at Infest over the years.

A perhaps unexpected element of the set was that despite this being a broadly electronic festival, Hook decided here to concentrate on Joy Division material, with just a handful of New Order songs later on. Not that this was a problem, mind – frankly I never thought I’d have the chance at all to see these songs performed live, never mind by someone who lived through it all.

Peter Hook & The Light setlist

Dead Souls
Isolation
Digital
Disorder
New Dawn Fades
Twenty Four Hours
Transmission
She’s Lost Control
Shadowplay
Heart and Soul
Temptation
Blue Monday
True Faith
Ceremony
Love Will Tear Us Apart

From the off, though, it was obvious that we had a hour or so coming up that, as my friend Matt put it afterward, was unquestionably “all killer, no filler”. A run through pretty much every Joy Division song I could ever want to hear live and then some, it was delivered faithfully but with deep, deep feeling – even after all these years it was obvious that the events and the songs of the time left scars on Peter Hook.

While the audience participation on inevitable closer Love Will Tear Us Apart was a lovely moment, it wasn’t a patch on some of the other songs played. My long-time favourite Transmission crackled with life and cynicism, as it should, while She’s Lost Control steadily cranked up the power and the chorus, when it hit, was scorchingly good.

Just a year ago, too, my wife and I took a (very early for an Infest Saturday!) train across to Manchester, just to spend time at the True Faith exhibition at the Art Gallery, and one of the exhibits was a loop of two shows, one Joy Division (1979 sometime, at the Apollo) and one New Order show from 1982. One revelation to me from that was how savage Dead Souls was as an opening track, and to my joy that was the opener here, and it had a punch and snarl that the recorded version somehow never nailed.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Peter Hook & The Light

Another moment from that same looped video was a ten-minute version of Temptation, but the version played at Infest was equally joyous (and sprawling in length), but was the later version with the additional “Oh, you’ve got green eyes…” bit, which then promptly earwormed us both for much of the rest of the weekend.

One moment we’d feared – thanks to it playing a central part at a friend’s memorial service last year – was when True Faith was eventually rolled out, and my wife and I spent the whole song stock still, holding onto each other trying not to bawl our eyes out. The whole set, frankly, was glorious, but the emotion – and life memories attached to so much of it (and we cannot be the only ones where this was the case) – found it incredibly draining in the aftermath, but then, I guess I should have expected this.

Joy Division – and in a different way New Order – cast an enormous shadow over alternative electronic (and goth) music. Their styles – and Hook’s basslines – have been endlessly copied, refashioned, even covered, and their influence has never really waned, even if no-one has quite managed the epic sense of space in their respective sounds. It was a privilege to see this.

That said, I rather felt for Empirion having been scheduled after that. I’ve seen them a few times before, so feeling emotionally wiped out, we ducked out early on Thursday night and recharged for Friday – marking the first band I’ve entirely missed at Infest in some years.

Friday openers DEF NEON were one of those bands quite a few people were curious about, that was for sure. I had the benefit of having seen them before, at the BEAT:CANCER show in London last November (Into the Pit: 203), and here they perhaps impressed even more. Emily still has an astonishing vocal range, and guitarist/synth wizard Mickey unleashed a guitar solo within the first song (I still can’t remember the last time I heard a solo like that at Infest, if I ever have), before they both continued to impress with half-hour set that stuck two fingers up to genre boundaries and instead roamed wherever the fuck they pleased. I managed to miss a quite unexpected cover of Killing In The Name (such covers became something of a theme for the weekend), but I was impressed enough without needing to hear that.

Infest: 2018: Bands: DEF NEON

I was certainly more impressed with DEF NEON that I was with Siva Six. 2004 called, it would like it’s Aggrotech back (and it is welcome to it). I long since stopped listening to growly vocals and beats like this, and sorry folks, this set wasn’t enticing me back. Rather better, unsurprisingly, was the atmospheric industrial power of Iszoloscope. Yann’s project has long had a distinctive sound (something surprisingly difficult sometimes, in the noisier end of industrial), and this was an excellent, solid set that was also hugely popular.

The Friday night headliners were one of those bands that had they stayed together longer in the first place, perhaps would have played or headlined this festival a long time ago. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the rejuvenated Cubanate are arguably better and more focussed than ever in their return, and certainly vastly better than their “last” show in London in 1999, where they were supported by a then up-and-coming band called VNV Nation.

Cubanate setlist

Colossus
Barbarossa
Hate Song
Joy
Junky
Body Burn
Isolation
Annihilation
Lord of the Flies
Kill or Cure
It
Oxyacetalene

Encore

Ordinary Joe

Indeed, since their return, I’ve already seen them twice – in Chicago at their first return show, at Cold Waves V (Memory of a Festival: 027), and then last year in London (Into the Pit: 195) – but I wasn’t, of course, going to pass up a third opportunity to see them live.

They didn’t disappoint, needless to say – even two new songs, the first of which opened the set, didn’t halt the unstoppable momentum that they have once they get going. Marc Heal seems to step into a persona onstage, ranting and roaring away in a manner very different to his offstage normality, that’s for sure – and that delivery only enhances the aggressive power of Cubanate live.

Barbarossa sounded better than ever in particular, the blistering build and release of a satrical war anthem sounding uncomfortably appropriate in these times, and other highlights were the pulsating, rhythmic kick of Junky, and the rampaging snarl of Kill or Cure – which was the track that finally unleashed an energetic, all-smiles moshpit, to the chagrin of some who were less enamoured with something that doesn’t happen too often at Infest. But it was Cubanate. What did they expect?

Infest: 2018: Bands: Cubanate

The new songs were good, too, especially the slow-paced, heavy-as-hell opener Colossus, which maybe showed a side of Cubanate we’d not seen too often before – taking the foot off the throttle was never really their style, but oddly enough it suits them better than we might have expected.

Things were finished off in the now-usual way. It seems to get faster every time, and the sheer amount of bass amid it threatened to pull the floor out from under us – and it’s easy to forget that Cubanate were among the first industrial bands to dig into drum’n’bass, and while eyebrows were raised at the time, many others now do similarly – before a gigantic roar met a cathartic Oxyacetalene that was one of the moments of the weekend for me.

No simple “heritage” act, this – Cubanate were simply ahead of their time in the first place, and it is obvious now that their time is now. I look forward to more new songs.

While we stayed out for a while on Friday night, calling it a day sometime between 0100 and 0200 (ish), it was obvious on Saturday afternoon that a great many others had partied considerably harder, and there some rather grey faces by the time doors opened and we were ready to go with the first band of the day.

That opening band on Saturday were Flesh Eating Foundation, a group I’ve long been aware of and have wanted to see live in a decent-sized venue for an age. It turned out that quite a few others did, too, as the crowd was of an impressive size once they got going.

Fronted by John E. Smoke – certainly the only deaf/blind musician in our scene that I’m aware of – and ably assisted by three others, this was a chaotic, hugely enjoyable set that took in performance poetry, seething industrial punk and some personal politics that only added to the rage inherent in the songs. Songs from the new album, entitled We Are F**ked, neatly sum up John E. Smoke’s experiences in particular with disabilities in Austerity-era Great Britain, and also showcase the band’s work with circuit bending of the oddest instruments.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Flesh Eating Foundation

Also a mention for guest “punk poet” Adam Probert, who as my wife put it, had a hell of a “presence” as he glowered out at the crowd, leapt on speakers, leapt into the crowd (!) and just generally made mischief when not unleashing his furious vocals.

The closing song, though, was probably the best-judged cover to feature in any set across the four days – a searing, bulldozing take on The Fall’s Blindness that with John E. Smoke’s own life experience, was probably the best Fall cover I’ve ever seen.

In fact, this band were one of three exceptional opening acts over the weekend, and unlike just about every other band over the weekend, were avowedly political – indeed I was rather surprised to see how little political comment there was. Look out for an interview recorded with the band later in the week (it will take a little time to transcribe it!).

Infest: 2018: Bands: Adam Is A Girl

Adam Is A Girl that followed were an interesting proposition, a German, female-fronted electro-pop band that seemed to have some great tunes, and an interesting approach to rhythm (one song had a great, martial-drumming beat) that set them apart a bit from their peers. The live performance felt a bit…sterile, though, but I’ll absolutely be going to listen to some of those songs again on record.

There was no danger of sterilty from Yura Yura, a French artist that signed to Hands in recent years and very much harks back to past times on the label – a circling the vortex kinda sound that is intimidating to most, and joyous to a select few. Noisy industrial acts like this are divisive, that’s the point, but this was an excellent set that I suspect left a few ears ringing afterward.

I’d actually dropped out of that a bit early, to give me time to be able to prepare for ACTORS properly. I’ve been loving their album It Will Come To You since it was released earlier in the year (only time constraints in recent months have stopped me from posting a full review), and having heard other positive reviews from other European shows in the Spring, I was very much looking forward to it.

They didn’t disappoint, either, their electronically-enhanced post-punk on record transformed to a heavier, rockier take on it onstage without losing any of the impact of the great songcraft on record. Every song hit the mark (particularly the mid-set, one-two punch of L’appel Du Vide and Slaves, two of the best songs they’ve done), and it was obvious too that the band were enjoying things as much as the vocal crowd were.

Infest: 2018: Bands: ACTORS

There are a whole load of bands as the moment marking themselves as post-punk, but few of them are actually pulling the style forward rather than just doing what has already been done. ACTORS are one of those bands looking into the future. Come back soon, folks!

Liebknecht marked, if I’m not mistaken, the fourth time Daniel Myer has played live at Infest, in his fourth different incarnation (he’s also played as Haujobb, Architect and Destroid, if I’m recalling correctly). His policy of separating his different work explicitly makes a lot of sense, even if it seems to create a dizzying array of side-projects, and Liebknecht is very much his industrial-techno project. It also perhaps has an aura of mischief and humour around it, something often lacking from his other work, and was given away here by part of the set that involved House of Pain’s Jump Around (bad timing on my front meant I missed it, choosing that moment to pop outside for some air).

Humour isn’t exactly something that runs through the songs of Mesh, though. A band whose darker synthpop sound has often been based around themes of love, loss and memory, I can’t ever imagine comedy covers, or puns within their songs.

Mesh setlist

Intro
My Protector
You Didn’t Want Me
Tactile
People Like Me
The Fixer
Little Missile
I Fall Over
Leave You Nothing
Last One Standing
The Traps We Made
Friends Like These
From This Height
Taken For Granted

Encore

Born To Lie

That, by the way, is absolutely fine, as there is no need for them to do so, and they are great at what they do. They’ve been around since the mid-90s, played Infest the first time around as far back as 2002, and are one of those bands who have built a dedicated fanbase who seem to follow them everywhere (at least one friend returned to Infest from Chicago this time around, as Mesh were playing). This was my sixth time seeing them, by the way, and I’ll be back again for them at Black Celebration in October.

Mesh seem to know this, and so don’t dissapoint in their sets, with a healthy dose of old songs as much as the new material that they will be promoting at the time, and this was exactly what happened here – although after more recent shows, it was perhaps notable that there were more hits and less ballads this time around.

What’s still impressive is that after seven albums (and a remix album, and two live albums…), they are still producing songs much-loved by the fans. The Fixer, a mid-set standout, is a soaring dancefloor track with a trademark huge chorus, while Taken For Granted has long-since taken it’s place as the set-closer, after fans initially continued the refrain across the wait for an encore (and indeed still do!), and here, after losses of friends in the Infest family in recent years, it felt all the more appropriate.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Mesh

But none of that was matched by the emotional rollercoaster that Friends Like These was, with a slideshow on the video screens of various photos of Infest-goers over the years accompanying it – and needless to say an awful lot of those photos included Tails. Years and years of memories flashed into our minds all at once, and I can’t be the only one who found it both joyous and extremely hard emotionally as it all came flooding back.

I needed a big hug after that set, but amid the sadness I was also able to appreciate how brilliant Mesh still are, even well into their third decade as a band.

Once again, I rather passed on final Saturday act SΛRIN, not for not wanting to see him – he was brilliant supporting The Soft Moon in London earlier in the year – but simply because I needed a break. Especially as just after his set finished, the so-called “Doofwagon” (in it’s fourth incarnation) was rolled out outside, complete with upgraded sound system and a glitterball, and festival stalwart Lee Chaos unleashed an impromptu Judder set on the terrace that judging on the way everyone was dancing, could easily have continued all night had there not been concerns over the noise at 0200!

Across my network of friends, I get a lot of recommendations for new music. I have promos sent to me, CDs passed to me, or simply a message and a link going “check this out”. Last summer – at Infest, in fact – I was passed a CD of a Sheffield band I’d not heard of up to that point, containing a sweeping, dramatic song called Spotlight, that pretty much immediately had my attention.

Promenade Cinema setlist

Polaroid Stranger
The Quiet Silently Wait
Cassette Conversations
Credits
As The World Stops Revolving
Spotlight

That band were Promenade Cinema, and when their debut album LIVING GHOSTS was released earlier this year, I took the chance to catch up with them for this website (Talk Show Host: 047), and their influences and considered approach to their sound rather intrigued me. In addition, I’ve been listening to this album on near-repeat as I adore it. So, I was rather hoping that they’d be as good live.

Happily, they didn’t disappoint. As befits their lush, quasi-retro, cinematic sound, they were easily the most glamorous-looking band of the weekend (and the only one to bring wine onstage with them!), and from the off had a big crowd wrapped around their finger, with recent single Polaroid Stranger proving a smart, catchy opener to pull the waverers in, as Emma’s wonderful vocals got centre stage from the off.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Promenade Cinema

In fact, they didn’t put a foot wrong through the whole set, even when a fire alarm went off for a few seconds and threatened to derail them. A sign of their confidence onstage by that point was that they were able to simply shrug it off and continue regardless, and that stutter was quickly forgotten as they picked up again.

I’ve also never seen a band at Infest on this early in the day get crowd participation (a call-and-reponse during a brilliant Cassette Conversations), or be roared off at the end of the predictable closer of the aforementioned, glorious Spotlight. An utter triumph for the band, this, and one they well deserved. If you missed it, all fool you, and regardless of whether you did or not, actually, go and get the album, stat. They also play in London on 21-September at Exit The Grey. Yes, I’ll be there.

A curious, mainly unknown quantity for most was German act MASSENHYSTERIE, who I’d only heard of thanks to her recent guest appearance on the ESA track Carry The Noose. There was nothing so hard and heavy here. It was broadly entertaining, slightly risqué synthpop with German vocals, and visuals that on many occasions hinted at BDSM themes in the lyrics, something carried over into J Hysterie’s look onstage – a dominatrix-esque latex outfit.

Infest: 2018: Bands: MASSENHYSTERIE

The real surprise came in the choice of covers. I recognised one instantly, the other I had confirmed later (thanks Jonny). The one that made me go “what?!?” was when I realised she was doing a relatively light, poppy take on Rammstein‘s infamous Bück dich (here’s a live video of the original to remind you why), one of my favourite R+ songs. Even weirder, in retrospect, was her also taking on Mo-Do’s long-forgotten Eins Zwei Polizei!

Either way, this was a fun set – nothing technically or cerebrally challenging, frankly, but enjoyable nonetheless.

One of my most anticipated bands of the weekend was V▲LH▲LL, a previously shadowy duo who had chosen the cloak of anonymity amid their slow-paced, Witch House-oriented beats, creepy atmospheres and heavily pitch-shifted vocals. My early exposure to the group was in their spectacularly dark split releases with the equally shadowy M‡яc▲ll▲, and what has been really interesting to watch has been their evolution since then. The cloak of fog around their sound has dissipated somewhat, and their most recent album Grimoire perhaps resulted in a more accessible, if still very dark, sound – they talked more about it with me on Talk Show Host: 044.

Infest: 2018: Bands: V>LH>LL

Live, then, was an interesting proposition. No sign of a laptop onstage, thankfully, but a table of electronics manipulated by the duo as well as both roaming the stage on vocals. The effects of the heavily treated vocals in particular came across well (and the recent single Ormens Offer sounded here like The Knife at their darkest), and the slow, heavy beats certainly made for a very different sound on the Infest stage (with a one or two exceptions, this slower sound loosely associated with Witch House has been conspicuous by absence here). Not everything sounded perfect, in fact, much like ∆AIMON at Cold Waves in 2014, there was a much more raw feel to this.

Where everything really came together, though, was in closer Down In The Woods, where of all things the Teddy Bears’ Picnic is sampled and twisted into a nightmarish, creepy-as-all-hell lament. Four minutes of aural horror, it was a perfect way of showing just how dark this kind of music can get.

Unsurprisingly, they were a divisive proposition among the Infest crowd (there were few who were undecided on them afterward, that was for sure), but with my prior knowledge of them I guess I knew broadly what to expect, and I enjoyed the set a great deal.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Elegant Machinery

One band that had rather passed me by prior to their announcement for the festival was Swedish band Elegant Machinery. A band that have a history that goes back thirty years or so – with a few breaks – and also political connections, with a former member of the band now a member of the Swedish Parliament for the Swedish Democrats (and rather unpleasantly like Nigel Farage, from what I can tell). It actually turned out I was familiar with a couple of their songs, and their performance was energetic, catchy, and their bright, punchy synthpop very much appeared to be enormously popular with the crowd.

Another divisive performance on the Sunday came from STRVNGERS. A Canadian duo who made lots of friends over the weekend offstage, very much getting into the festival spirit (and I can confirm were lovely, friendly people, having met them on Friday night), put in quite a striking show. Maria was a hell of a presence onstage – in studded leathers and heels, there was something of Prince in the movements, and, indeed, a distinct soulful feel to the darkwave/electro/post-punk (best of luck categorising this, as I’ve entirely failed every time I’ve tried to do so thus far) music they produced.

Infest: 2018: Bands: STRVNGERS

That said, they appeared to struggle badly with some issues in their sound, with a guitar that was far too loud eventually ditched in apparent frustration, and in general the sound seemed unusually muddy (most bands this weekend actually sounded very good, so it was unfortunate that this happened) – which I couldn’t help but feel knocked the wind out of their sails a bit.

Despite all this, quite a number of people were enthusing about them afterward – and their merch seemed to be selling well – so they certainly reached many. I’m still on the fence somewhat – there are some phenomenal songs across their two albums so far, but I think they still need to make clear their own musical identity yet as I don’t find the albums all that…coherent?

It is still a relatively new project, though, and there is time for more development, more new songs, and I’ll certainly be listening with interest in the the future.

Filling a spot that is often a band to make you dance like loons – the last set before the Sunday headliners, almost a “last chance to dance” thing, I guess – this year was This Morn’ Omina. I’ve seen them a few times in recent years, having been listening to them on record for the best part of a couple of decades, and their ritualistic, drum-led industrial-techno has always been an awesome live experience.

This Morn’ Omina setlist

Ayahuasca (Let’s Shift Together)
(The) Ninth Key
Kachina Red (The End of the World)
One eYed Man
(f.l)
Iboga
The Immutable Sphere
Garuda Vimana
(The) Rûach (of God)
Maenad

Encore

Epoch

Here, though, they surpassed all my expectations and threw out a set that left us gasping for air by the end. Mika and his band were utterly relentless, having honed the often lengthy, epic tracks down to sonic capsules that were pretty much all peaks. There was barely a let-up, and I think it dawned on us down the front exactly what we were in for when the perennial dancefloor favourite One Eyed Man was tossed away within the first four songs!

What’s really interesting to me is what underpins the sound of TMO, and how it is used. As Mika noted in an interview here with the band last year (Talk Show Host: 030), their songs explore the ritualistic elements of various religions, and how those rituals create similar responses to the ecstasy of the dancefloor. Combined together, they bring out extraordinary, devotional responses, as they did here with a big crowd that clearly was ready to dance, a lot.

Infest: 2018: Bands: This Morn' Omina

I could be here all day picking out highlights, but particular moments stick in the memory – the primal, animalistic roar that kicked The Immutable Sphere into life, the choral ecstasy of Garuda Vimana – indeed it was a set so awesome that there wasn’t even room for the pummelling, recent album highlight of Tir Na Nog.

One of the highlights of the weekend, I couldn’t stop grinning at the memory of this afterwards.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised when it was announced that Aesthetic Perfection would be headlining the Sunday of the festival – in effect closing it. Are they really a big enough band? I was listening to them early on – and I still have the first three albums on my shelf, of which the second, A Violent Emotion, was #1 on Countdown: 2008: Albums on this ‘site – and while they had lots of potential, I’ve for a while thought that the best days of the project were behind them. I mean, they’ve been ok, but nothing I’d go out of my way for.

Judging on the size of the crowd when they came on (and that I had to get through, to get to the photo pit), I was rather proved wrong. A whole lot of people wanted to see them, and a whole lot of people were very happy to see them, too.

I caught the first few songs from the photo-pit, and the impression I got was that with a live drummer (I’ll get to that in a moment), it rather unbalanced the sound as all I got was the thumpingly loud drums, and most of Daniel Graves’ vocals – I couldn’t hear the synths at all. Dropping back a bit later on, I could hear it better, but it was still not a great balance.

Infest: 2018: Bands: Aesthetic Perfection

Graves is very much the charismatic frontman onstage, smiling and gesturing to the crowd, even pointing at a few he recognised, something of a difference from the bitterness and anger that infuses so many of his songs. A Nice Place to Visit seemed a good place to start, and it was nice to hear the pounding, tirade of fury that is The Great Depression, too. But the volume of the drums was uncomfortable, frankly, and I dropped back before heading off to find a drink and never made it back.

Oh yes, that drummer. I was very surprised indeed to find that Daniel Graves (who as I recall had been critical of what went on in the past) had taken on ex-Combichrist member Joe Letz as his drummer for this date and presumably others, in light of the storm previous comments and posts had caused (and saw him dropped by The Birthday Massacre pretty quickly once they came to light). It certainly wasn’t announced in advance that Letz was playing with the band here, and I did wonder if his outfit – a dress, mask and long-haired feminine wig – was to disguise who he was onstage. Certainly when word got out that he was playing, a number of people I know chose to avoid this set entirely.

Infest: 2018: People

It certainly left a bit of a bitter taste, and maybe took something of the shine off a headline slot from an artist who has risen from obscurity to headlining festivals in not much more than a decade. AP may not be entirely my thing any more, but Graves deserves better than to be playing with discredited musicians, or having a performance defined or remembered for it.

Post-bands on the Sunday, though, there was a notable relaxation as the usual closing events took over, with dancefloor insanity thanks to Udo and Matt Kohl on the main floor, and the Underworld (Manchester-style!) reunion in the Escape Bar. For us, it was time to say our goodbyes, see many friends one more time for the weekend, before we left for our hotel and the relatively early train home on the Monday.

I’d rather forgotten just how draining a four-day festival can be (I’ve long vowed I’m not doing longer than that, after five solid days at Festival Kinetik in 2011 nearly wiping me out for a week afterward), and I was definitely thanking past me for booking the Tuesday off work too.

But no matter how exhausting, this was another reminder of how much I love this community that has built around Infest. A group of disparate friends, with often disparate interests in what we call “industrial” or “electronic” music, many of who have been friends for most of their adult lives now – we come together when things aren’t great, and we celebrate when they are. I’m proud to be part of it, and proud to say that it is by a long chalk my favourite festival – and this was the best edition of it in years.

Twenty years of it have been wonderful, and have created amazing memories. Here’s to the future, starting with Nitzer Ebb headlining Infest 2019.

One thought on “Memory of a Festival: 030: Infest 2018

  1. Thanks for the great review. The unknown song in the This Morn’ Omina set was (fl)
    To be found on the album: The Drake Equation.

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