Weather-wise Sunday was probably the best day of the whole length of Incubate, a fitting high to end a great week on. We started the day off completely hidden from the sunshine though as Finland's Speedtrap were our first act of choice. Having to compete with a food festival on the doorstep of Hall Of Fame possibly lessened the crowd they drew but the spirit of Eighties speed thrash metal is I very safe hands with these lads so if that's your cup of tea then you should see them at the first opportunity that presents itself.
One hotdog and a stroll southwards later we were in the more sedate company of Surfer Blood at the Muzentuin. A band clearly happy to be playing for anybody anywhere they'd a great rapport with the crowd and John Paul Pitts hopped of the stage for a walk amongst them at one point. Surfy, indie and cheery - perfect for the outdoor experience. A short walk back into the centre meant we caught the tail end of No Joy's punchy set in Extase. The band suffered the same rather muddy vocals that Tess Parks had earlier in the week but, given their overall sound, this was less of an issue and the crowd were jumping around at the front of the stage quite the thing so it obviously wasn't spoiling the overall enjoyment being had.
The south now held us in its grip for the next few acts. It's about 20 years since I last saw Robin Proper-Sheppard play so my knowledge of Sophia's output is basically non-existent but they have some solidly rocky tunes (enhanced to great effect at one point by extra backing vocalists & drummer) and 'Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black)' contains potent emotion. Great Lake Swimmers were holding the fort in Muzentuin when we exited the Concertzaal and they went over well despite the audience not being much up for a singalong. 'Your Rocky Spine' and 'Expecting You' provided two of the highlights of an engaging show and they even found time to big up their touring partner Meg Baird, whose show we were unable to make.
Taking the short walk back into the Concertzaal we settled in for another of the festival's big bands - Giant Sand. Oddly only on stage for an hour there was no messing about as Howe Gelb had barely managed to strap on his guitar when they started into 'House In Order' from new album Heartbreak Pass. With the constant sound of cicadas underlying the set this went on to be 60 minutes of philosophy, jokes, anecdotes and fantastic music including 'Tumble & Tear', 'Texting Feist' and a cover of Leonard Cohen's '1000 Kisses Deep'. Entertaining on many levels this was a band in peak form and Gelb should maybe wait just a bit longer before retiring the format. Good too to see himself and a few band members making it along for a while to the festival afterparty.
Outside again for one last show on the grass, this time from Neneh Cherry & Rocket Number Nine. New song 'Bullshit' was getting an airing when we arrived (grabbing a coffee from The Village's shed on the way) and despite a comment against nostalgia 'Woman' and 'Man Child' followed it after some tech issues were overcome. Making our way up for the closing show at Midi we just had time to catch a couple of Willard Grant Conspiracy songs in the atmospheric setting of the Pauluskerk. Willard seems to be a man as concerned about the news as anyone but he was equally involved in the everyday to point out the oddly doubting timeline in the church's wall that has a question mark around where it's guessed that Christ will return. Another one of those shows it would have been nice to have had the time to see the whole of.
Wire were this year's closing act & as their a favourite that I've only managed to see once previously it made sense to watch them here. Unfortunately the onstage volume lead initially to one of the few errors in the whole week as a guitar amp managed to fall from its perch and there were various buzzings causing consternation on stage. Once those were fixed however things proceeded smoothly although with indistinct vocals at times. The band seemed a bit looser last year up the road in Utrecht however and that was possibly also why the hall of Midi wasn't packed to the gunnels as I'd expected it would be - too soon for some to see them again. The festival did though close on a very upbeat musical note for some of us though as Euro/Ethiopian jazz/rock/noise outfit uKanDanZ still had half an hour to play at Dudok. They managed two encores as well and looked like they'd have happily played all night as they were having as much fun as the wildly dancing crowd. In Asnake Guebreyes they are blessed with a singer in possession of all the charisma and showmanship of the classic soul singers whilst the band pound and blow away with gusto making for a fantastic if maybe unorthodox party band.
A great week all in then and one from which a lot of other festivals can learn. Thanks to Joost van Abeelen for initially getting in touch about MG covering the event, Steph Byrnes for assistance during it and most importantly Peter & Els for being such great hosts.
Further festival photographs of varying quality can be viewed here.