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Incubate 2015 - Wednesday

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Jazz theatre is not something I'd previously experienced but Vonk do it with aplomb. The Marquis de Sade had something to do with the early part of their show and once their numbers had beefed up to six from three the bible got a look in as well as theories on the need to tell stories. The rest of my notes on the show are as follows:- Pythonesque, the Duchess of Cambridge, The IT Crowd so make of that what you will. Picture also such diverse elementsas clay flower pots, machine parts scraped with screwdrivers, a length of hose with a funnel, a mouthpieceless clarinet and an apple all being used alongside the more conventional cello, guitar, xylophones etc. and you may gain some idea of the experience.

Happy Meals opened the night at Hall Of Fame and their set recalled early Sugarcubes along with a distinctly Eighties dance edge hovering around in the midst of the heavy drum machine beats. A world away from Lewis Cook's work with The Cosmic Dead.

Merzbow and Full Of Hell were pretty far from hardcore at the time I chose to see them. Sax, drums and noise noodling so again one for the aficionados, of which a fair sized number had turned out.

Los Piranas, over at Dudok, provided some welcome light relief with their engaging and utterly upbeat modernisation, via psychedelia & free jazz, of traditional Colombian styles. There closing number was a thoroughly unexpected but playful & uplifting version of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. A very fun act to catch.

Local boys Radar Men From The Moon need no introduction to their hometown crowd and so just launch into their hypnotically entertaining set of overdriven and spaced out instrumental wonders back over at the Hall Of Fame, which is slowly taking on the role of favoured mid-sized space.

Back to a skewed version of the Sixties next in a Stadskelder that thankfully has the air con on this time around. The Glockenwise share territory with the likes of the Black Lips but the Portuguese quartet bring their own thrashed-up style to the party too. A fine warm up for what was to appear here later, especially the supercharged rendition of 'Leeches'.

Dudok definitely seems to be the party & feel-good venue tonight as Dengue Fever had some good crowd interaction as well as bigging up Los Piranas and Sun Araw who was playing across town later on. They came over live like the fun party band they've always sounded like on record with their unique reimagining of south east asian Sixties rock. On the way round the corner there was just time to stop in to Extase to catch a number by eclectic Spanish duo Za!. Mixing looped tribal chants over a funk/thrash metal base the pair were clearly having a ball on stage and the decent sized crowd were clearly getting exactly what they wanted.

The Melvins yet again pulled in a near capacity crowd Midi, Buzzo opting tonight for the all-seeing eye on his get up. Newer material seemed to be the order of the day with the main body of the crowd rather calmer than last night, content just to bop along rather than get into the pits and so forth. A pit or anything close to it wasn't at all possible back at Cul de Sac where young Belgians El Yunque were forced to mainly occupy the space in front of the stage due to the act after them having a kettle drum attached to their drum kit. Overcoming the lessening of sight lines between them and their own drummer they whirled around like dervishes and did the crowd's dancing for them as they hammered out their noise-rock with enviable displays of energy. Special mention has to go to the drummer who looked like he'd been caught in one of this week's regular rain showers, such was the amount of sweat pouring off the lad. An utterly committed band who hopefully will go on to gain wider acclaim.

Feeling in the mood for a seat it was off to Paradox now for yet more non-jazz in the city's premier jazz club. Iguana Death Cult are a homegrown surf/garage/psych quartet and so had attracted a fair sized crowd for their fast & loud performance. Hook-wise they were a bit lacking, rather making up for their influences mixing down to a rather generic final product by giving an exuberant performance. Trying to sort out camera issues occupied my foreground whilst they were on in the background.

More Belgian noise came from tonight's penultimate band, Ghent's Mind Rays, another element of Richie Dagger's Garage Basement at the Stadskelder. Theirs is a sound that ranges from classic Pixies to the rawest, unpolished garage punk whilst covering the shortest distance possible in between. Another act packing out the oven that is this small venue and giving the crowd what they demanded.

Finally tonight it was earplugs-in-time for Teeth Of The Sea at Hall Of Fame. Anyone not already deafened by Merzbow or The Melvins would certainly have been finished off here as the band thundered out their work along similar lines as when last experienced at the 2014 Liverpool Psych Fest. They arrived on stage a tad late so the fact of that could be felt propelling them to new heights of noise and greater emotion in their playing. The organ-shaking beats rolling off the stage were enough in themselves to signal this as the performance from which there was nowhere else to go tonight.



Incubate 2015 - Tuesday

  • Published in Live

Evening two of Incubate 2015 starts off with a walk to the Hall of Fame, housed in what was previously an NS Rail machine shop or something. As per the previous night the first act taken in are Belgian. Partisan are so new they apparently have no internet prescence as yet (other maybe than this). Theirs is a pretty edgy punk/post-punk amalgam that is hampered only by noticeably large amounts of tuning up.

Heading down to Midi it's time to catch one of this year's undoubted big names as Merzbow is playing the second of his three shows, solo last night & tonight with Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi (tomorrow's show is with Full Of Hell). An appreciative crowd is in situ by the time I get there & the two players are respectively pounding away on the kit and doing all sorts of guitar murdering and button pushing to create an unholy racket. Not for the first time tonight will my enjoyment of utter noise be tested to the limit due to a seeming lack of a head & a tail to the piece being performed.

Round the corner I go in search of something more akin to recognisable music and pitch up at Dudok, which seems to be in one of the city's older buildings with a good vaulted ceiling which hints at good acoustics if the sound's mixed right. First onstage for the Rats On Rafts showcase are Dutch indie quartet Nouveau Velo. They experience a bit of difficulty in hearing each other on stage and so are maybe initially rattled by that but for me they never seem to get into anything resembling their stride, sounding too earnest and lightweight to really make any impact.

Keen now to finally get the night underway as far as actually enjoying a performance I'm thwarted yet again at Cul de Sac as Holland's Tamarin Desert can't quite convince me with their take on Byrds etc.-ish '60s sounds. Flat vocals and a lack of the sort of element Umungus had last night sees me head off after a couple of numbers. Thinking a change of musical style might be the catalyst required I head off to the Paradox jazz club for the second of Jasper Stadhouders' performances with his Improv Ensemble (all six of the group's performances over the festival will be released as a boxed set in the coming months).

The club's well set out and you can clearly picture it with candles on the tables and performers doing their stuff on stage to awed silence. The Improv Ensemble are though, as the name suggests, improvising away like mad and whilst they can probably all tell what each is doing or about to do and so join in it all comes across as folk just making whatever noise they feel like in the hope that it somehow fits into the whole. Jazz has its shades like any other music and this just happens to be one that doesn't suit me. Still, as I have a seat and the facial expressions of those involved (particularly the central drummer who seems to not play more than he does play until the dual drum workout near the end of the piece) are interesting in themselves, I hang around and catch the soundcheck of Khyam Allami, master of the Oud. Unassuming and clearly affable his workouts on the instrument just to get the levels right are thrilling enough that I'm hopeful that by the time he came back on stage the audience had bulked out and were treated to something special.

On now to tonight's second act with two drummers as The Melvins play the first of two shows at Midi. They've drawn the first truly big crowd of the week and so the balcony has been opened up, where I mange to plonk myself in a pretty comfy seat and marvel at King Buzzo's Paisley printed muumuu as the quartet pound away. This is great grunge rock performed for a crowd who know exactly what they want & are exstatic to be getting fed it. There's a small pit to the left of the stage but in the main it's just one single entity swaying and bouncing as the band play with hardly any let-up. It'll be interesting to see how tomorrow's show compares.

Buoyed by Buzzo et al's envigorating performance I head back up the road to Hall of Fame to see further hardcore from Belgium in the shape of White Jazz. Theirs is definitely the highlight show of the night for me and it's viewed by a barely double figure number of people. Where are all the pit starters from the Cheap Drugs show? Wherever they were they missed a searing performance from a band that put all their effort into supporting the sterling work of their mesmeric frontman who's firmly in the Rollins/Ian MacKaye mold. Only the destruction of a guitar string & the inevitable delay whilst that was replaced roused me to head off and see what else was happening.

Stage times started to be missed around this point so I wandered back & forth between the Stadskelder, Cul de Sac & Dudok attempting to see The Vickers, Girl Band and Useless Eaters. All were eventually seen to some degree or other. The Vickers giving out a good '60s performance of fairly psychedelic elements with a bit of beat attitude, Girl Band focussing a lot of angst and power into their show (Dara Kiely performing in a wheelchair clearly had some extra stress to exorcise despite also looking half-sedated when not howling his head off) and Useless Eaters smartly channelled the sound of '80s US punk to a packed house.

And that was it, until it turned out I could get a lift rather than wait for the bus by heading back to Paradox to see the end of Jeffrey Lewis's Sonnet Youth (readings of poems based around Sonic Youth songs) performance. This I duly did, joining a mere handful of punters watching him rather stumble through the final bits of the show. Not though that it wasn't without some gem-like moments - his being slightly put on the spot by having to reveal to Gary Lucas that he didn't really see the point of Jeff Buckley when asked to join a tribute show to the late singer/songwriter and the classic deluded rock star tale of the time Johnny Marr had the bright idea of having his tweets illustrated with Jeffrey being the artist in question. As he was the first to admit more (or even some) rehearsal of the night's material would have been wise & as it was I've seen him better in the past. Still, I got a lift home.

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