In truth, it was all planned from the start and with the assistance of the davefish travel agency he, kantti, mrph and I had a loverly sojourn in Leipzig planned where we could take in some dodgy goth bands and generally party as much as possible - then a bt more. Some of this at least we managed.
Thursday started weill as I was up on time, packed and out of the house without any problems. Even the roads didn't put a dent in my happiness as I had time to get some petrol (handy) before visiting Chez keris to collect our travel agent. Then to another part of Coventry for mrph and off to Luton airport. London Luton as I should say seems to be famous for one thing - being the home of easyjet. Any problems I expected failed to materialise and the service was actually pretty good - there was a chance to check-in, grab a sandwich, some water and reading material (Private Eye, Wired and New Scientist for the trivia fans) before joining the free-for-all to find a seat on the plane. easyjet being, well, easyjet we were dumped off at a slightly compact minor Berlin airport but thanks to Germanic efficiency it was only a short ride to the centre of Berlin and its fantastic multi-storey station before going on to Leipzig on a swanky Inter City Express train. Actually, the first train journey was nice too - but mainly because I like double-deckered trains.
However, standing at the station in the cold and rain I was reminded of grufti telling me how it was always lovely and warm in Leipzig and how warm clothes should be left at home in preference for cut-down combats and lightweight tops. Lies I say!
We reached Leipzig at about 7:30pm and then found the hotel which was very well positioned. We did decide to go "where davefish thought it was, rather than towards the big sign that said "Marriot" initially. I'm still not quite sure why. A very quick change and off to the Moritzbastei for MODCOM - Ronan from VNV's side project designed to make skinfitz salivate at the gear he uses. I was very impressed. So impressed in fact that soon after it finished I went back to bed. The plan was to start the party lifestyle, erm, the next day.
Friday was the start of the festival proper, so it was off to the Agra to get wristbands and passes. This was achieved with surprising ease and it was nice to get a photo of myself to carry around on a piece of plastic. We wondered around the viking market for a little bit, paid brief attention to some horns and bagpipes, then headed off (via the included tram travel) to the Parkbuhne to see the our first bands. This is an outdoor venue and seeing goth bands in the daylight remains odd and was a bit of a throwback to the slightly weird Depeche Mode/Sisters of Mercy gig at Crystal Palace in 1993. The acts we actually saw we pretty mediocre and failed to set me on fire. I wanted to write more, but I've already forgotten most of what they were like.
Then we decamped to another venue, Werk II, which is a lovely warehouse with a real raw industrial feel about it. Accessory were playing when we got in the door and I was gearing up for a bit of dancey/EBM (Accessory) - but unfortunatley after they finished the music genre continued to flip-flop around to some more guitar rock (Witt), then synthy goth crooning and I was soon pleading for mercy (Catastrophe Ballet). I bumped into kissmeforlonger and Nick (?) on the tram which was faintly surreal because I wasn't aware she was going to be there - and there's nothing quite as odd as double-taking someone in a foreign country even though being there makes perfect sense.
davefish and mrph suggested that it would be worth the effort to see Lacrimosa, so off we went again back to the Agra for our thrid venue in the same night. Unfortunately they were also a bit dull, and went on too long. After then there was a wait until 01:10 for Nitzer Ebb. I was expecting slightly more than "Fixmer/McCarthy with different backing" and I got it to some extent. Was very good and probably worth sitting through Lacrimosa. Mind you I had a lovely falafel on the way into the venue so I was feeling pleased with myself.Finding a free tram back to the city centre at 2:40 was very pleasant, especially compared to any public transport experience in the UK.
Saturday started with a bagel, then a chance for some shopping at the Agra. I surprised myself by actually buying some clothes (this is noteworthy - I don't do it often) so the afternoon's bands were punctuated by a quick run back to the hotel room. This meant I missed shooting S.I.T.D. except from the crowd, but it's not as if I haven't shot them before. The Agra, where we spent the whole evening, was pretty electronic/noise, with the exception of Cat Rapes Dog - who I'm not sure how to classify. VNV Nation headlined with their typical solid performance. They played some good tracks, but are a bit too safe and reliable at times and slightly unexciting as a result. Though that's probably down to over-exposure. After the bands it was back to dump bags at the hotel then a couple of hours clubbing at the Moritzbastei where my earplugs and I enjoyed dancing to a bit of heavy ebm/noise and pottering round the lovely venue which, as linked underground vaults full of weirdos, was more like a scene from The Matrix or Blade than any UK club. Bed about 3-ish I think.
Sunday was building to be a little bit of a disappointment as Decoded Feedback, who I really enjoyed at Infest, had cancellled. However there was an unexpected chance to see Ooomph! who I first discovered on Swiss music TV a couple of years ago and are pretty unknown outside German-speaking Central Europe as far as I can tell, so I hadn't ever expected to see them. Lola Angst were very strange, with a fake pipe organ and ballerinas but some cracking sounds; Metallspürhunde won "ugliest front man of show" and although they started well lost it as time when on; and Cephalay did a pretty solid performance, but having musicians with LED headsets really doesn't work in daylight and there were some Blutengel moments with a semi-dressed woman writhing as backing entertainment which was more comic than anything else. Oomph! were clearly a cut above all the others in production, confidence and sound. They're really a rock band with pretensions but the crowd was going wild for the catchy anthems and the stage presence. kantti reckoned later that the recorded version we heard was less-guitar and better for it, which is probably fair, but it was excellent. It was the night of straitjackets though - two bands used them on their lead singers. Is this a German problem with out of control frontmen? After Ooomph!, kantti and I decided to head off to the "strict dress code" fetish party. Rather than a more intimate affair as one might expect, this was actually about 1500 goths in various states of dress (many of whom should have been wearing more and many of whom had not paid any attention to a dressocde) where we had the misfortune to catch the Genitorturers (urgh! nasty noise) and other than that sat, chatted and listened to music until about 05:30. Cough.
Actually the funniest thing about the party was trying to find it. We knew "a tram line" and "a stop". The plan was to get off the tram and follow some goths. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea. About 40 of us got off onto the platform, looked around at each other and realised none of us knew where we were going. Cue mutterings in German and some rapid translations by some Dutch people who could understand "them" and "us".
Monday was a bit of a false start. We met up with ant_girl for some lunch and it was nice to catch up even if she did run off without paying! This was a chance for more EBM/Industrial. Glis I'd seen the week before so wasn't rushing. I caught a couple of shots from the crowd and was a little uninspired by what I heard; Tactical Sekt had a good go and definitely had their moments; God Module were frankly terrifying - the biggest frontman I've ever seen and I was afraid if he tripped there would be deaths in the photo-pit - but they played a storming set; Sonar were terrible to photograph (two men playing keyboards facing each other in crap light) but were excellent to move to - discovery of the weekend really; Feindflug should have "worked" for me better than they did, but I much prefer the recorded stuff as the live drums clashed in my head with the electronic pads; And One, Germany's answer to Depeche Mode (apparently) should really stay there! Actually that's a little harsh as they weren't bad and did a couple of good songs but after the previous acts their electronica "Bodypop" seemed limp.
Then back into town for an hour of clubbing (well, queueing for food and a brief chat with ant_girl, kissmeforlonger and grufti) then it was bed so I'd be in a fit state to drive the following evening without falling asleep.
Finally Tuesday was mostly travelling. There's something heartwarming about trains and airports full of goths - it makes the whole thing seem to last longer. Anyway, finally got back to Birmingham about 9pm - and relax.
It was a fantastic experience overall - there were loads of people but unfortunately not all that much to eat and dehydration was a perpetual risk. What I wasn't prepared for was each photo-pit being jam-packed with German photographers. They were pretty much all either so full you couldn't move for three songs or even worse where there were shifts of photographers - 30 people each shot one song until 90 people had a go over the course of the three-song limit. To prove a point look at this shot: It looks like I'm in the middle of the crowd - but actually it's densely packed photographers.
Thanks to davefish for organising, mrph for guiding services and kantti for bag minding. Roll on next year!
Not looking forward to seeing my mobile phone bill though!
Right, better do some work now...
As ever, click thumbnails for larger versions.