The first rainy, windy days of September blow in independent music festival Incubate. But you won’t catch us trotting through muddy fields while drinking beer from plastic cups, because this art, music and theatre festival takes place in the lively heart of Tilburg city. Notoriously home to Roadburn Festival, Tilburg proves there’s more to it than just its large music venue 013. Amongst the venues used during Incubate are a church, an old cinema, a theatre and a skate park, alongside a range of bars scattered throughout the town. Each of the bars stick to their own theme; for instance Paradox has mainly jazz and avant-garde artists while Extase is the place to be for rock and psychedelic. Our home base for the week was Little Devil, the infamous metal and punk den of Tilburg.
Being a seven-day-long marathon of a festival, Incubate offers an impressive program. Every day you can pick from an incredible range of things to do: you can participate in the music quiz, watch a theatre performance, visit an art exhibition, see a film, do a beer brewing masterclass and hopefully you’ll still have time to watch your favorite bands perform. During the week, the music program doesn’t start until six so there’s plenty of time to explore the town and the entire culture Incubate brings with it.
But in the end, music is what we came here for and we didn’t have to wait long for the first excitement to creep in. Punk legends The Melvins played two exclusive shows this week, the first one rolling in on Tuesday. Big Business members Jared Warren and Coady Willis once more joined Dale Crover and King Buzzo for a loud and mesmerizing show at Midi, a former cinema where the comfy red seats are still visible stacked up behind the bar. We wish we could’ve been floating over the stage just so we could constantly watch the drummers captivatingly mirroring each other on a fused double drum set. As Jared Warren leaves the room after ending the last song with a hypnotizing “So long, we’ll never see you again”, Dale Crover pipes up to the microphone, singing “Until tomorrow, tomorrow, there’s another show, tomorrow, it’s only a day-,” Yeah, we were all guilty of singing along.
Trying to ignore the lingering realization it is a Tuesday, we pay a late night visit to Dudok and stumble right into Irish post-punk/noise act Girl Band. On the top floor of a former Catholic school, holy figures watch down on us from the stained glass windows as we try to catch a glimpse of singer Dara Kiely through the haze of legs kicking through the air. He’s suffering from a torn ligament and is determined to make up for his lack of running around, which means we mostly has view of an erratically shaking head of blond hair. Despite the religious feel to the location, Girl Band brings about an almost demonic amount of noise. Had it been up to Kiely, he would’ve crowd-surfed right with us in his wheelchair.
The best things at Incubate always happen when you get sidetracked from your plans because you accidentally run into something else. On our way into town to see Dead Neanderthals, we pass the Hall of Fame. This venue is set in a large old building next to abandoned train tracks, which nowadays houses the town’s indoor skate park. After dragging ourselves away from watching the skaters go on with their day as if Incubate is a film playing in the background, we end up in a backroom where Belgian hardcore punkers Daggers are creating the musical equivalent of a Molotov cocktail. In an explosion of noise and distortion, they took our after-dinner apathy and kicked it right up our ass.
Still experiencing aftershocks from the deafening volume in the Hall of Fame, we ended up at the old cinema again, where Dead Neanderthals were tasked with curating the Thursday. They had invited UK noise rockers Three Trapped Tigers to open the night and Norwegian blackjazzers (is that even a word?) Shining to end with a bang. Their own show is nothing less than a wall of sound. Just layer over layer of noise. We hear dark jazz, some metal, some industrial, and all of it blends neatly into a ball of pure awesomeness. When their set is finished, we overhear a guy saying: “Wow, now there’s noise and there is noise.” Sums it up, really.
Shining shows us exactly how sexy metal can be. Frontman Jørgen Munkeby almost makes you forget there’s an entire band behind him. The rawness in Shining is by now far gone and their music is so rhythmic it’s nearly impossible to stand still and look cool. From the hairstyles and matching black outfits to the technical precision with which all the instruments collide, everything is razor sharp and ever so slick. They put up a theatrical and energetic performance in which Munkeby and his saxophone often take the spotlight. Loud and in your face but, man, so super, super smooth.
In a haze of sweat and with our hearts still beating in Shining tunes, we stumble outside, only to land in the middle of a gathering. An unplanned gathering, that is. It happens a lot at Incubate. In front of every venue, people meet in the streets. Not only is the entire Tilburg music scene present at the festival, so are a lot of people who only see each other every year at Incubate (and maybe Roadburn). Meeting new people is easy, as “wow, what a show” seems to elicit reactions from pretty much everyone present outside, regardless of the show. It’s hard to think it’s only Thursday and the main part of the festival hasn’t even begun yet. But sleep is for the weak, and the Little Devil doesn’t plan on closing at midnight.
WORDS BY CÉLINE HUIZER