donderdag 26 mei 2016

Wave-Gotik-Treffen 2016, part I: If only it could always be winter and always night... (the music)

When I walk out of the station on Thursday afternoon, May 12, I bump into a traditional long line of extravagant goths who immediately want to receive their wristband for the 25th edition of the Wave-Gotik-Treffen. I have no patience for this and head for the hotel immediately. Along the way, I can still taste the atmosphere Leipzig enjoys throughout the year, when not trampled by black folks. Leipzigers are a colourful bunch. Literally: dyed hair and piercings are everywhere. You regularly see punks and emos. And goths of course, because even outside the WGT, Leipzig can rely on a very big dark scene.

Thursday, May 12

The big jubilee party was to be held on Thursday in a theme park, and again, we can witness an endless line of people waiting to get on the bus. I am not that enthusiastic, and I decide to take a look at the Gothic Pogo Festival, which is organized independently and simultaneously in Werk II. Gothic Pogo aims at batcavers and minimal wavers, and organizes parties all over Germany. The festival is at its 11th edition in Leipzig. At the entrance is a message that racists, sexists and homophobes are not welcome. I feel very welcome, though I found it bit less sympathetic when my friend and colleague Dimi was denied access two days later because of his Death In June t-shirt. On a positive note, there was a very beautiful exhibition by Incestum and Danjela Diamond at Werk II, which showed metal insects and other strange animals in an obscure cellar lighted with red light and candles.

There are no big names on the program, but perhaps it's an opportunity to discover promising new groups. Lizard Pool isn’t one of them, though. Their third-rate English indie rock is full of clichés and deserves to disappear quickly into the anus of music history. Dividing Lines by contrast plays decent batcave including mohawks, tribal drums and screaming guitars. That is what the public what the public here wants to hear, and I enjoy it too.

Friday May 13th

I visit the Agra-plain - the beating heart of the WGT - to pick up my wristband. This place holds the probably largest gothic market in the world, with clothing, footwear, jewellery, CDs, books and other accessories. Something tells me that you can spend quite a lot of money here in only a little time. Fortunately, I restraint and I just eat and drink something I hear the theme park yesterday was very nice, but there were tons of people and you had long queues everywhere.

A goth with hay fever, how is it possible... Oh, if only it could always be winter and always night, it would not happen to me. Fortunately, there is a pharmacy right across the Felsenkeller - one of the dozens of locations around the city for concerts - where I start my musical program with a portion of gothic rock. Golden Apes can be situated somewhere between gothic rock and post-punk. (Please don’t tell me that it's all one and the same, you infidel!) They apparently enjoy great success in Germany, and rightly so. The Angina Pectoris is a goth legend of the German 80s. They perform for the first time in 15 years, and you can clearly hear that. The musicians are not attuned to one another. The guitarists come from the metal scene and do not realize that they should let their guitars echo widely to make credible goth rock. The result is a kind of pitiful hug rock metal. I get out of here.

Before I go to the Shauspielhaus - the stage for connoisseurs in Leipzig - I can overhear a nice conversation at restaurant. Someone explains that it is ‘Wave-Gotik-Treffen’ in the city. ‘It’s a pity that there are not as many here now,’ someone else replies. Goths here have almost become an attraction for the average resident, and that’s fine with me.

In the Shauspielhaus, you will not hear any beats or heavy guitars, but mostly neoclassical music. We can perfectly illustrate this by Kirsten Morrison, a lady who also plays keys with Lene Lovich. She stands alone on stage, armed with a violin, a harpsichord and an impressive soprano voice. All the rest is pre-recorded. Her magical songs are based on poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Rumi, Shakespeare, Rimbaud and William Blake. Kari Rueslåtten is perhaps an odd choice for the WGT, but there is a large and devoted audience in the room to listen to her. This is certainly not intellectual music, but both the texts and the slow music are in line with the better melancholic pop.

The Deadfly Ensemble - the avant-garde folk group of Cinema Strange singer Lucas Lanthier - sound much more batcave live than on CD. It will be up to the guitars played by Steve James - also active in Christ vs. Warhol - and the impressive bass and drums. Only the cello of Marzia Rangel - also active in Christ vs. Warhol - and the folk guitar of Lanthier give the sond a folky touch. The dancing and singing style of Lanthier and especially the horde photographers photographing exhibit a group with a great sensibility for absurdity. Nice concert.

Saturday, May 14

Today, I have only one venue on the program: the Taubschenhall, whit a lot of good stuff for the real batcavers. With Christ vs. Warhol for example. Alas, I am not the only one who wants to attend the concert. On arrival, I am informed that the hall is packed and that I can’t enter. The smartass I am puts himself at an opening at the bar where he can see the guitarist and an occasional glimpse of the singer, and where he can enjoy this delicious set. This is batcave from the top shelf. Several new songs are played, and that’s good since their only album dates back to 2010 (we also found a promo CD from 2014 at the merch stand). I look forward to a new CD from this wonderful band.

We only know Lene Lovitch from the song ‘Lucky Number’, but she appears to have other lucky numbers. She brings a very successful show with wacky new wave. We sometimes found Tragic Black too screamy to be called death rock, but any doubts are professionally cleared by a grand performance by the extravagant trio. The newer work goes back to the classic death rock sound. Guitarist Stich can also excel with a song from his former group All Gone Dead. Tragic Black closes with two songs by Christian Death (‘Death Wish’ and ‘Skeleton kiss’).

With ‘The Grey Eyes of Evening’ and ‘Quatorze exemples autheniques du Triomphe de la musique décorative’, Cinema Strange delivered two classics in the batcave revival of the new century. Then, for some stupid reason, they quit. That’s very sad, but we are so happy to see them perform exclusively here again. Because Cinema Strange was so exceptionally original in almost everything they did: their appearance, the vocals, the melodic bass and guitar lines, the constant rhythm changes, the imaginative lyrics ... They gave a great performance, but without any prospect for new work.

Sunday, May 15

The festival hosts more than 243 performances at 75 venues (I also include all museums, exhibitions and sites where lectures or special events occur). However, you can grab only four or five performances a day. The program is designed so that each venue has a coherent range of bands that are stylistically closely related. Moreover, groups can play here longer than at other festivals, so we can enjoy the concerts even more.

Aargh, a flat tire - I happen to do all my trips by bike - I cannot get in the Volkspalast in time for performances of Winter Severity Index and other beautiful things. Once the defect is resolved, I'm headed straight to Agra. This time, I feel no constraints to spend a lot at the gothic market. But that's not the reason I'm here. Although I believe that Leipzig is an opportunity to discover or see exclusive smaller groups that never come to Belgium, I make an exception tonight and I'm going to watch a few classics in the Agra-Halle. There is some criticism of this hangar which is converted to a concert venue, but it's the only room that can receive 5,000 persons. Thus, the biggest and most popular groups play here. Lacrimosa is one of them, and I never miss a chance to see them live.

Diary of Dreams is playing here too, as on just about every dark festival. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen them live. I have often said that their CDs are interchangeable, but always of high quality, and that goes for their performances too. It is noteworthy that Adrian Hates is very proud of what the group has produced in the current line-up, for there is much from the last CDs in the setlist. These songs, however, are nicely interspersed with older classics as ‘MenschFeind’, ‘Giftraum’, ‘Kingdrom’ and ‘Butterfly:Dance’. Remarkably, nothing is played from the success album 'Freak Perfume'.

Lacrimosa is playing for the seventh time at WGT, which makes them the band that has performed the most at the WGT. It was WGT organizer Michael Brunner who persuaded Tilo Wolff to perform live with a first show at WGT in 1993. Who knows, if not for him, Lacrimosa could have remains a studio project. That would have been a pity, because they are phenomenal live. Their set includes a lot of songs from the last album ‘Hoffnung’. A very dark album, and one that has really touched the fans, as I can measure from the reactions in the audience. But of course, songs are played from all periods. Both Tilo Wolff (in the masterpiece ‘Stolzes Herz’ and the old gem ‘Crucifixio’) and Anne Nurmi (with beautiful ‘Apart’) are in an excellent condition.

I thought I would go to sleep after Lacrimosa. The WGT indeed starting to look like a war of attrition. But there still appears to be a band on the programme. Grandpa Punk John Lydon will occur with his band Public Image Limited. Since I have seen an episode of Reynebeau & Rotten, I have serious doubts about this lad. But I also read that the reunion tour of PiL received much praise. And after this performance, I need to add my name to the praisers. The old sacks play really well and manage to create the right atmosphere. Much to my astonishment, I must add.

Monday, May 16

I’m disturbed. Christine Plays Viola was programmed but neither Christine nor her viola can be seen. Instead, there are five furry guys on stage who play (nice) gothic rock. I want to hear violin and hurry to the Shauspielhaus where Saeldes Sanc will be playing. We first heard from this project of Hannah Wagner by their coopertion with Schwarzblut, and we could not suspect that the project would be so popular. Or could it be due to Ernst Horn, the man behind Deine Lakaien and Helium Vola, who plays with Saeldes Sanc? Hannah Wagner certainly looks disarmingly girlish and authentic with her stunning red gown, her pregnant belly and her bare feet. But she can provoke laughter and astonishment, and above all, she sings like a nightingale. When after a wonderful show, Wagner and Horn intone ‘Withering Heigts’, we feel lifted to withering heights and we realize that we have discovered something really extraordinary here.

I initially had my doubts about The Visit. Only cello and vocals? Is that enough to impress? After a performance by Saeldes Sanc? It is though, as appears after a few songs. Voice and cello complement each other perfectly and can be used in a varied way. The duo from Canada succeeds, to their merit, and they reap the appropriate praise.

When you listen to the music of the Sangre Muerdago, you would not think that they come from the Galician punk and metal scene. It all sounds so soft and harmonious... But it involves some sort of criticism against a capitalism system that reduces people into mindless consumption and production products. Songs from their latest brilliant ‘O Camiño Das Mans Valeiras’-CD - ‘the way of the empty hand’, an allusion to how material wealth should not be equated with spiritual wealth - alternate with older and new works, with also a lot of instrumental pieces. Beautiful.
The fight against sleep has increased in intensity, and to avoid falling asleep in the soft seats of the Schauspielhaus - it almost happened during Sangre de Muerdago - I'm going to take a chance to get in at the concert of Pink Turns Blue. Unfortunately, the queue before the venue approximately
corresponds to the capacity of the room. Returning to the Schauspielhaus is not an option, because people are lining up there to see the heavenly Irfan. What's left? The Felsenkeller? Well, it’s on the way to my hotel.

Korpiklaani, a Finnish group of forest workers who understand the art to look like a bunch of freaks, are already playing excellent folk metal with violin and accordion. I will not fall asleep here, that’s for sure. Though the inevitable last notes resonate here also. On the way to the hotel, I wonder whether I should be sad or glad it is over. It was wonderful, but it would have been impossible to keep up at this pace much longer. Sleep well Leipzig. Make beautiful dreams. We’ll see each other again next year.

Xavier Kruth

Pictures by Xavier Marquis: Cinema Strange, Tragic Black, Christ vs. Warhol, Public Image Limited, Lacrimosa (in Roeselare)

Read part II: There once was… (the history)

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