2018 has been yet another jam-packed year in terms of events. From small intimate gigs, to huge festivals, it’s been a pretty wild ride! Needless to say, as is tradition with end of year rundowns, it’s time to reminisce and do a list of my highlights…
10 – CHROM; Exit The Grey, [:SITD:] + Terrolokaust; Electrowerkz, London (21-22.09)
Okay, so this is two events in one, which I know is cheating, but they both blurred into one to make a fantastic weekender. On the first night, the venue may have been a bit of a weird choice, but the intimate size of it only enhanced the atmosphere. Dicepeople were interesting, Promenade Cinema were sensationally beautiful, and CHROM’s show was an energetic, storming set. The Exit The Grey clubnight was a great after-party too, and makes me want to try and attend more of their nights. Alas, I ended up being fashionably late to the gig the next night, due to the amount of partying from the night before. Biomechanimal’s performance was hard-hitting, delivering a visceral performance, and [:SITD:] had an extremely atmospheric show. It was more energetically charged than I thought it would be, and made the atmosphere incredibly lively. Terrolokaust were a nice surprise, as their show hadn’t been heavily promoted. Even so, they were powerful, and sent the entire room into a massive frenzy. The combination of these two events over the space of one weekend felt like a mini-festival, the timing could not have been better.
9 – Foundations Festival; Manchester (14-15.12)
Damn the timing of my end of year roundups! I’ve been so busy sorting all this out, that I didn’t get time to review Foundations Festival, as it literally happened the weekend just gone (at the time of posting this article.) It’s a shame, as it was a fantastic event that I would’ve loved to have reviewed properly, if I’d had the time. Plus it surprised me in a lot of ways. As with last time, there was a superb selection of grassrots music, and I managed to check out sets from Still Forever, BeinE, Val/Kyrie, Goteki, Shanghai Beach, Promenade Cinema and Ill. Each artist put on fantastic shows, with a wide spectrum of styles on display, proving to be a strong lineup. This time round, other elements that were present at the 2016 event came more to the forefront, so we were treated to other forms of entertainment, such as art installations, panels, and spoken word performances. This added a whole new dimension to the proceedings, giving the festival it’s very own unique identity. I’m not normally one to attend performances of poetry, or short stories, but I found myself captivated by how gripping it all was. I was particularly blown away by the Poetry vs Noise segment on the Friday evening. It’s great to see a festival evolve in such a way, there was a definite community spirit that could be felt throughout the course of the weekend. It was no ordinary event, it was one that was a celebration of the artistic talent that’s out there, and it was truly inspirational.
8 – E-Tropolis Festival; Oberhausen, Germany (17.03)
This year marked the first time I ventured to Oberhausen to attend E-Tropolis Festival, and it surpassed all my hopes. First off, the venue itself, the Turbinenhalle, is a spectacular venue. As the building was an old factory, it still had the rustic look and feel, there even being some remnants of the old machinery. For an Industrial themed music festival, I have to give top marks to the locale of choice, it’s perfect, and made the atmosphere feel ever richer. Eisfabrik, Chrom and even Aesthetic Perfection put on some amazing shows. The highest point of the entire event was seeing Frozen Plasma. They put on a storming set, and being amongst the first to experience “Safe. Dead. Harm” was wonderful. Their set was so good that I can only describe it as euphoric. This would have been higher in the ranks, if it wasn’t for VNV Nation’s poor showing, or should I say Ronan Harris’ diva attitude. Despite this, the event was still entirely worth attending, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat (minus VNV, of course.) Having an extra day of recovery, I got visit Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, a huge park containing an old iron works, to remind Germany of it’s heritage. It was a grueling 3 hour walk each way, but the park more than made up for it. The sights were absolutely breath-taking, especailly when it was lit up in the twilight hours. I could have honestly spent an entire day there. Sadly, with it still being winter, it was a bit too cold to stay for long, but I’d definitely like to visit it again (only in the summer next time.)
7 – Beat:Cancer Winter Tour; Electrowerkz, London (13.10)
I’ve always known Mark Haigh an co. to host a great line-up of artists for their cancer charity shows, but this year’s winter tour in particular stands-out as one of the strongest yet. Not only did each band put on a fantastic show, but there was a huge diversity on display. Paresis brought an aggressive mix of Aggrotech and Metal, Deathboy had a more rock vibe, with an Industrial flair, there were the space-like vibes of Vieon’s Synthwave sound, Sirus had a brutal barrage of multiple electro influences, and Xenturion Prime delivered Synthpop goodness. It was such an amazing night, that it was difficult to stand still to the catchy tunes being performed. This did make it a bit difficult to pace myself, as I was doing the all-nighter at the Slimelight club night afterwards, but it was definitely worth the pain. Throughout the entirety of the event, there was not a single dull moment, and I honestly cannot fault any of it. I have no idea how they’ll top this one, but knowing them, they’ll find a way, they always do. I eagerly await to see what lineups they have in store for us next year with baited breath.
6 – The Prodigy – No Tourists Tour; Birmingham (10.11)
After seeing The Prodigy at M’era Luna in August, I was quite happily impressed, but it felt like they’d slowed down at bit in their old age. Colour me surprised then, because their headlining show in Birmingham in support of their latest album, No Tourists, was absolutely intense! Sure, they still had some breaks where they opted for ambient moments, or crowd banter, but the atmosphere was too electrifying for that to really matter. The setlist was perfect for the night (even if a few songs were abridged), flowing fluidly with a few twists to subvert expectations, adding some surprise moments. The biggest surprises of all were the deep cuts of “Everybody In The Place” and “Fire”, the latter of which hadn’t been performed live since 1992. It made the event feel even more special and memorable. I genuinely can’t think of any other tracks that needed to be added. I can honestly say that this was the best I’ve ever seen them, and they more than proved that they still very much have it. It was unrelenting from start to finish, and one of the best parties of the year.
5 – Nightwish – Decades Tour; Birmingham (11.12)
I expected good things from this show, but I never expected it to be so spectacular! Having not really listened to them properly before, this was my first ever Nightwish gig, and it served as a proper introduction to them. Needless to say, after this incredible night, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t listen to them a lot sooner. From start to finish it was absolutely electrifying, and surpassed all my expectations within the first few songs. The combination of hard-hitting Metal and beautiful symphonic elements were increased tenfold in a live setting, it was truly something to behold. Floor Janesn’s vocals were stunning throughout, switching between belting out notes, to an operatic style seamlessly, her charisma projected massively. The whole band had a huge presence, and clearly loved every minute of it. This was all topped off with a superb setlist that spanned their discography, as well as a stage setup with stunning visuals, brilliantly timed pyro and firework effects, and these elements only enhanced the theatrics even more. It was flawless from start to finish, and I can honestly say that I’m now converted (and no, I’m not going to stop thanking you for giving me that ticket, Dave!) So, when is their next tour?
4 – Call The Ship To Port + Amphi Festival; Cologne, Germany (27-29.07)
Once again, I visited Cologne, Germany with a group of dear friends to attend Amphi Festival, and it did not disappoint. The most major difference for me this year was that, for the first time ever, I managed to attend the Call The Ship To Port pre-party. I can confirm that it was an absolute blast, and the highlight of the entire weekend. It was such a unique experience to see a handful of great acts whilst sailing down the river Rhine, plus the small size of the venue gave it an intimate atmosphere. Covenant’s performance of “Call the Ships To Port” (which, funnily enough, the event is named after) was electrifying. As for the main event itself, it was as fun as ever! [X]-RX, Unzucht, ASP, Solar Fake, Oomph! and And One put on superb performances, and were the best of the weekend. As a side-note, if anyone was near our group for And One, apologies for the insanity that ensued, it was just so much fun! There’s only a couple of reasons why this isn’t higher on the list. First of all, the queueing to get into the Theatre Stage was still ridiculous, and unless you’re there early, then you’re not getting in. We queued for most of [:SITD:]’s set, and only got inside in time for the last two songs. Secondly, on the Sunday, I ended up falling slightly ill, due to some dodgy food that I bought at the site (at least, that’s what I suspect.) However, those weren’t enough to spoil my weekend. Because we stayed an extra couple of days, we got to do a bit of exploration too, which was a nice bonus. The bone room in The Church of St. Ursula was stunning, and the chocolate museum was a great experience. Plus, who can say no to free chocolate?
3 – Lacuna Coil – ‘Nothing Stands In Our Way’ 20th Anniversary Show; O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London (1.19)
When it comes to Lacuna Coil, I’ve always known to expect a brilliant live show. However, I never expected anything like this! For the one-off 20th Anniversary event, they pulled out all the stops, and then some. You’d expect any band to do such a thing for a landmark occasion, but Lacuna Coil took it all to the next level, with some stunning theatrics. The additional pyrotechnics, lighting effects, set design and back-up dancers added a whole new dimension to their show, making it a full-on performance. It was like Lacuna Coil meets Cirque Du Soleil. As a bonus, we were treated to tracks from all-across their discography, including rarities, and even some that had never even been played live before. Finally being able to experience tracks like “Senzafine” live, after waiting for so many years, was an absolute joy. The entire band gave it their all, and it was pitch-perfect perfection. Best of all, the DVD/Blu-Ray recording of the show was released in November, so we can relive these glorious moments forever. This event completely blew my expectations out of the water, and I genuinely feel that there are no words that can even describe the magnitude of it. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that this is not only the best Lacuna Coil show I’ve ever been to, but one of the best shows I’ve ever experienced.
2 – M’era Luna Festival; Hildesheim, Germany (11-12.08)
So, this was a complete contrast to last year. At M’era Luna 2017, the rain poured down all weekend, and it ultimately resulted in a pretty dull time. This year was the complete opposite; the sun beamed down, and it was absolutely glorious (perhaps sometimes too much so.) Needless to say, I was more up for partying this time round, and more than made up for the lack of it last year. There were some excellent performances throughout the weekend, the most notable including Eisfabrik, Rabia Sorda, Apoptygma Berzerk, Frozen Plasma, Front 242 and Eisbrecher. This was also the year where I fell in love with traditional folk music, particularly when it came to In Extremo’s excellent show, that fused the sound with Metal, becoming an unexpected highlight of the entire weekend. The amazing weather meant even more hanging out at the medieval market, which meant I got to experience even more of this fantastic music. When it comes to outdoor camping festivals, M’era Luna once again proved itself to be king, and puts our UK camping festivals to shame. On the way to the festival this year, with Goths on a Bus, I was considering skipping next year’s event. However, I had such a brilliant time, that I jumped at the chance to go next year! Once again, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Adrian Atkins and his crew for making it possible for us to even get there in the first place. Can it be next summer now, please?
1 – Infest Festival; University of Bradord, Yorkshire (23-26.08)
I may have seen less bands than I’ve ever seen at any Infest, or even any festival I’ve ever been to, but this year’s event was still spectacular! The bands I did manage to see blew me away enough anyway, especially the incredible performance from the mighty Def Neon. For me, the reason I enjoyed it all so much was the atmosphere, and how much fun it all was. It’s always a fantastic event to attend annually, but this year in particular felt like something truly special. Maybe it was because it was the 20th anniversary? Or maybe it was because of the extra day? Who knows. Either way, it was the best one yet! I’ve always said that the choice in venue, at the University of Bradford’s Student Union bar for the band performances, and the university halls acting as accommodation, makes it feel like no other festival in the world. Some call it ‘goth summer camp’, but I like to say it’s like a goth freshers weekend. Each year, almost all of my favourite people from the UK goth scene gather, and it becomes a massive non-stop party, where you can really let your hair down without a care in the world. On this occasion we had a few new faces joining us too, including some lovely German friends. It genuinely feels like a world of it’s own, as if you’re stepping out of reality, and into a dream-like world. There is genuinely nothing else like it; being in the midst of an impromptu rave, within a uni block crammed with goths, whilst some hard tunes blare out is nothing short of euphoric. I felt that the bonds with my friends was stronger than ever, and that the partying was the most intense it’s ever been. It’s a shame that it all felt like it was over in the blink of an eye, but there’s so many memories from it that I’ll cherish forever.