TRADITIONALLY, THE MORE specialist music event books bands with analogous styles to keep the niche customer super-served. This isn’t the case with Tilburg’s Incubate festival. This September 16-22, Incubate’s organisers again excelled themselves in finessing piquant juxtapositions, not least via two themed nights at the central 013 venue. After Friday’s Nordic black metal rumble with founding berserkers Mayhem and Immortal, Saturday’s Acid Flashback presented 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald and DJ Pierre (anyone for a corpse-paint/ smiley bandana combo?)
But, MOJO knows there are ample entertainments besides the big stage acts. Held across 25 venues in this compact and pleasant city in the south of the Netherlands – a strong volunteer ethic and lack of commercialisation also appeal – Friday’s rambling brings metamorphic Peckham harpist Serafina Steer, Anna Von Hauswolff’s visionary spook-rock and artful Scottish indie combo The Yawns. Come the relatively un-Satanic hour of 9.30pm, though, it’s time to find out if Mayhem can indeed bring a nuclear-strength pulse of intense evil to nullify all other music.
The reassuring presence of six pigs’ heads on stage promises a gross kind of Hammer film showbiz, and their blizzard of pummelling drums and the terrible shrieks from caped singer Attila are initially striking, and the fans – including two corpse-painted jokers in pastel bathrobes - seem happy. The following day, Incubate’s organisers say they received a mystery “gift” from the group – as this is a band who’ve said they used actual body parts as stage props, we’re probably better off not getting the full awfulness.
"Can Mayhem's evil nullify all other music?"
Then it’s over the railway tracks to the Hall Of Fame to hear veteran rapper Masta Ace demand more real hip-hop and voice a tribute to Rakim. He runs over time, impacting on the set by new Stolen Recordings signing East India Youth. The group’s William Doyle responds with aplomb by cranking up the more refined strains of next year’s debut LP into a banging kraut-house set, seemingly headbutting his keyboard as he goes. Take that, Masta Ace.
The following morning at the Studio venue, there’s a vinyl market for such Dutch indie labels as Subroutine and Blowpipe, plus bands. First up are Amsterdam’s unisex soft-psych indie four Earth Mk II, the ’80s movie score moves of Hunter Complex and the moodsome, Cocteaus/Joy Division sounds of AC Berkheimer, whose bassist Dagmar gamely rocks on while heavily pregnant. By way of contrast, over at the Duvelhok venue, the Electro Cha3bi Wedding Party is going on, with roughneck Egyptian MCs Sadat and Alaa Fifty rhyming over storming Middle Eastern rave noise. There’s also a live link to a simultaneous party in Cairo, with one man on the ground phoning in a demand for an immediate revolution in the Netherlands.
He’ll have to wait – Grumbling Fur are on at the Paradox. After a slightly awkward public soundcheck, the underground duo’s experimental noise emanations amount to a good-humoured afternoon séance with zither, cello, unorthodox beats and synthpop vocals. It’s a flavoursome aperitif for the robust instrumental heroics of Poltergeist, the new band of Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson from the Bunnymen, at the NWE Vorst. Turning their faces to the cold north wind – and wearing white arctic anoraks, alongside hardhitting drummer Nick Kilroe – the material bears the unmistakable patina of the parent group, with Sergeant’s guitars ascending over the frozen landscapes like snow geese rampant.
There’s time for quick look in on Gang of Four (with a fresh-faced new singer, guitarist Andy Gill’s now the last original man in the lineup) and lo-fi synth pop oddball Geneva Jacuzzi, who advertised for some nude volunteers to do handstands on stage, but ends up with deflating sex dolls being thrown around the boisterous crowd. The unmistakable sound of A Guy Called Gerald then draws us to the 013; while DJ Pierre’s house set seems a little lacking in the 303 department and 808 State come in their live band incarnation (In Yer Face and Pacific State are still mighty), at 2am Ceephax Acid Crew arrive to pump up the electronic squirming, sending the ravers off home with their heads resolutely ringing.
Sunday is, as if preordained, a day filled with space rock; De NWE Vorst hosts not one but two projects by Sheffield’s reclusive synth magus Adi Newton. Firstly, T.A.G.C (AKA The Anti-Group Communications) play their cosmic ambient music from inside a giant cube upon which are projected abstract shapes and various interstellar images – a striking experience in the completely darkened venue. Later, Newton’s back in his Clock DVA guise, wearing a white boiler suit for a gruff-voiced but popworthy synthetic presentation reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s live show, or even an occult Pet Shop Boys.
In keeping with the theme, bushy California quintet White Manna play hypnotic Hawkwind-esque riffage over at the Extase, with the Dikmik noise generator role taken by Korg-worrier Michael Dieter, who sits largely obscured by centre-parted curtains of hair. The night ends on the Heuvel, the city centre’s hotspot for bars; at the Cul De Sac, Brixton deviants Fat White Family walk between tightness and collapse and come over like a ravine-teetering combination of Totale’s Turns-era Fall and, thanks to their organist, The Coral. Singer Lias – who has a monastic tonsure in honour of proto-punks The Monks - Iggys it up shirtless on the floor, fighting with an unreliable microphone and notions of taste. Scurvy knaves, but dashed entertaining.
As ever, the last hurrah is Dutch-themed closing party wig-out at the Little Devil, where DJ Joost alternates singalong schlager tunes with such stirring anthems as Party Hard by Andrew WK and Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. He also spins the Nottingham Forest/Paper Lace record We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands, a top ten hit in the Netherlands in 1978. As the tributes to Brian Clough and the team boom from the speakers, a wild conga line forms – a suitably looped-out final image to take from these unique, surprise-packed and frankly glorious three days.