I am blessed – or cursed – with an ability to fall asleep anywhere. When my brain decides it’s time, that’s it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve dozed off in the cinema, but I’ve managed it in nightclubs too, and now also at an Alien Sex Fiend concert.
This was part of In-Fest 98, a selection of Goth, industrial and electronic bands which took place in Bradford the weekend just gone. Went up with Rob Dyer, ‘Dark Star’ editor and veteran of the previous TC trip to Hamburg (yeah, I’ll get round to reporting on it eventually). We took the coach — not a difficult decision, given that the train fare was exactly three times as expensive. It was just about survivable, though I think five hours on a bus is about the limit for me.
Our accommodation was in halls of residence, and this took me back a few years it must be said. All those little things I’d forgotten about — like having to take your keys when you went to the bathroom, and having a room at which an Inspector of Prisons would look disapprovingly. But, hey, for fourteen quid a night, who’s complaining? And most of the rest of the floor was packed with like-minded people, so it was a bit like attending Goth U.
For despite the title, the audience was almost exclusively Goth in appearance. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, for there were plenty of Winonas to admire i.e. small, cute and dressed in black — readers are referred to ‘Beetlejuice’ for an example. While there were a couple of serious hippos on view, the general opinion was most favourable: as Rob Dyer pointed out, “Goth girls *know* how to dress”. Though the perpetual scowls were not particularly enhancing; how are you supposed to tell when Goths are enjoying themselves? Are they looking miserable because they’re unhappy, or just ‘cos they’re Goths? I suspect the latter, going by the way the song which got the dancefloor most packed was that Goth classic, er, ‘Barbie Girl’…
However, the most memorable sight of all was actually a bloke. From the shoulders up, he looked like a card carrying Hell’s Angel, and possessed enough tattoos to get him executive membership at any Yakuza golf club. This was nicely counterpointed by the leather corset, PVC trousers and platform soles. That, was a man extremely confident of his sexuality. Though precisely WHAT that sexuality was, I wouldn’t begin to contemplate. Instead, I just remember the Douglas Adams quote: “the things…the people…the things are ALSO people.”
- Dust to Dust. Turned up a bit late, due to an essential stop for a local curry (and very good it was, too), so only got three of their songs, all covers — a Goth tribute band?
- Leech Woman. Impressive percussion, using such things as acetylene cylinders and an angle grinder, which sent showers of sparks into the audience. Vocals disappointing, with all the intelligibility of Napalm Death.
- Ultraviolence. Hardcore techno. One man and his sequencers, accompanied by Leech Woman’s angle-grinder and two go-go dancers, one of whom was also a fire-eater. Press your head against the loudspeakers, and wait for the nose-bleed. Me like.
- The Horatii. Almost traditional Goth, yet also possessing a quirky sense of humour, which was endearing. Hell, maybe it’s just a big joke after all. Vocalist again a little underwhelming, but not bad, and had a nice rapport with the audience.
Saturday morning dawned bright and early…well, bright, anyway. Headed into town to explore a bit, pausing for the obligatory greasy breakfast. Bradford town centre is compact, and hilly, with plenty of character, and a good selection of shops. Rather nice. A copy of VR Baseball, four Xena comics, a book about Lara Croft and some pine kernels (don’t ask!) later, it was back to the campus for a marathon ten-hour session.
- Sneaky Bat Machine. SOOOOOO Goth they had to be a parody, though it was some time before we were sure. I think flinging rubber bats into the audience gave it away. Doom-laded electro-pop, bonus marks for particularly insistent merchandise flogging, even trying to sell the window behind them.
- Man(i)kin. A real find, perhaps the band most likely to make it, with an excellent wall of electronic sound. Their vocalist, looking like a young Dave Gahan, needs work but, remarkably, this was their first time live, so we’ll give them the benefit. Most impressive.
- Passion Play. Maybe it was just in comparison, but this lot were utterly forgettable. No stage presence at all, and nothing new or of interest, though in their defence Goth music is perhaps not at its best on a bright and warm August afternoon. Next, please.
- Squid. Replaced Libitina (out due to an “industrial accident”): thrash-goth, worth catching before the lead vocalist commits suicide or his throat explodes. The former seemed more likely, until they did the theme to “Dad’s Army”, which made up for missing Libitina’s notorious ‘Gothic People’ cover.
- Nekromantik. A fairly lifeless duo, one on vocals, the other on keyboards. Their more upbeat numbers worked well enough, yet the rest proved insufficient to keep our interest, and we retired to find seats and played ‘Count the Babes’ for a while.
- Alien Sex Fiend. A long-time veteran of the scene, having been around since the 70’s, yet Mr.Fiend’s pasty-faced keyboard-backed doodlings were not what was really needed at this hour. Even at about ten minutes per song, it took him half an hour to deliver anything with a beat. From standing, I sat down with my back to a pillar; then closed my eyes to listen to the music…the next thing I know, a security guard is kicking my feet and asking if I’m alright.
Picking myself up, I managed to remain conscious for the last couple of songs, and then meander home experiencing a Bradford kebab. Something of a first to have one that comes in naan bread, and very messy it is too, with the assorted sauces spraying out over the vicinity. Trekked back to the hotel and crash out — the next morning, we discover Man(i)kin are actually just down the corridor from us!
Bradford city centre was almost deserted on Sunday, save for ourselves and a few other stray Goths wandering round, blinking in the sunlight and trying to find anywhere open that sold food before getting the bus back to London. Net result: shattered, hungover, broke, and having had a rather good time. Roll on In-fest ’99.