We’re back at Incubate Festival in the Dutch town of Tilburg to see all of the weird and wonderful this alternative music festival has to offer. Tilburg is in the midst of its last warm summer days and on our way to pick up a ticket we already see a lot of familiar faces. Incubate, we’ve missed you! Instead of having a week-long festival, this year Incubate has split up into three different editions (May/September/December), of which the four-day long September weekend is the biggest.
But if you think they toned it down this year, you’re sorely mistaken because not only will roughly 100 bands take to the stage, they also have exhibitions, debates, theatre performances and even their own game arcade.
A quiet kick-off on Thursday was not in the cards. One of the best parts of the night started off straight away with the very promising sounding Golden Dawn Arkestra. We are welcomed at the venue by a haze of burning sage and arrive to a sight that is immediately seared into our brain. On stage we see a fantastic blend of headdresses, 70’s style sunglasses, conga drums and synthesizers and the music covers a wide range of genres from afrobeat to psychedelia. And all of it is covered in a funky disco vibe. If that isn’t enough to keep your attention, one of the singers/dancers gives a captivating performance with luminous hula hoops. Golden Dawn Arkestra is basically the visual manifestation of an acid trip and it is fantastic!
Later that night we dive into the other side of the spectrum when Sonic Youth legend Thurston Moore graces the stage. Full of nostalgia and nervous anticipation we shuffle to the largest stage of the festival, the 013 venue, which packs over 500 people. The band enters the scene almost reluctantly and during the first few songs the gig feels a little like a campfire that doesn’t yet want to catch on. The set alternates between slow, dreamy songs and garage and noise-rock, in a way that makes you realise how much of Moore’s influence was in Sonic Youth. There’s a casual coolness to his attitude, but right towards the end he does a wild improvisation on guitar, which is met with elated cheering. However, he doesn’t take all the credit because the band surrounding him, amongst who is Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, are all incredibly talented musicians and only together they managed to set the fire blazing.
Apparently 013 thought their entrance area was lacking in entertainment because while leaving Thursten Moore we’re met by a karaoke corner where people are giving it their all. Over the weekend this proves to be a very popular spot for people to show what they can, can’t and particularly SHOULDN’T do. On the last day of the festival we felt very sorry for Yob’s merchandise guy, who was set up right next to the karaoke booth all evening and looked as if he just had the last of his soul drained from him. Now we’re huge fans of casually lounging around in Tilburg during the Incubate Festival and one of the number one places to do that this year is not the karaoke corner, but the host of the official Incubate afterparty: Café Extase. With their semi-secluded outside hangout it’s a great place to sit down on one of the picnic tables. Covered by a huge parasol, the place has an all-round cosy feel and you always find someone there who’s up for a chat.
If you like to submerge yourself into the avant-garde side of the festival, you can’t miss out on the Iconostasis, a modular pavilion set on the grounds of an old textile factory. Today, drone artist Otto Lindholm performs there in silent disco style. Armed with cordless headphones, you can watch him play the double bass and manipulate the sound with a wide range of electronic machines and pedals. As soon as you take the headphones off, only the sound of the double bass remains.
The Friday night turns out to be one sweaty brew of jumping, moshing and dancing. We kick off with a personal highlight, because discovering new acts at Incubate is fun, but even better than that is seeing one of your favorite bands in the line-up. Never one to do things with less than 120 percent energy and passion, Amsterdam based Vitamin X absolutely brings down the house in Extase. Earlier this year they graced Netherlands Deathfest in 013, but we discover that smaller venues are almost always better when it comes to punk as they give us the littlest (but most enthusiastic) circle pit of the festival. It’s old-school hardcore-punk with an edge of thrash and a major kick in the face of capitalism. Frontman Marko Korac is such a ball of energy that for a moment I’m distracted by the entertaining sight of seeing our photographer Suzanne run around and struggle to get a clear shot of him in the extremely dark and foggy room. His intensity is contagious and within minutes we’re all moshing and trying to hit each other in the face with an inflatable seal that appeared out of nowhere.
With the sweat still streaming down our backs, we run to the small basement venue of V39, where Parisian band Rendez-Vous is already halfway into their ominous sounding post-punk set. There’s barely any light and the band is only illuminated by a few dark-blue lights. The high-rush adrenaline of the Vitamin X show is gone before we even manage to order a beer. From the first note on we’re unable to shake the connection to Joy Division, due to the singer’s deep voice contrasting with the almost happy sounding synth tunes. For a French band, they sound ridiculously British. Some people are melancholically bobbing along while others are full-on dancing.
LA based garage-rocker Mike Krol and his gang bring us back up to speed at Cul de Sac. They are dressed up as bandits in striped shirts, with Mike even donning a mask and a cape. The hyperactive singer is not convinced that it’s more fun to be on stage than in the crowd, so in the end we’re all in a joint effort at keeping the cord of his microphone in the air, while moshing all around him. We end the night with the heavy shoegaze of Nothing, who manages to give some energy to what started out as a very relaxed type of music. The sound, especially the drums, is set extremely loud and maybe that’s exactly why people started moshing. Yes, during a shoegaze band. You heard it here first.
One of the coolest added things this year is the Incubate Arcade. During this interactive exhibition you can play several games, distributed over the different halls of the small theatre NWE Vorst. The games range from the weird (controlling an on-screen caterpillar by rolling around in a sleeping bag, with as goal to eat as many digital apples as possible) to the downright fun (a computer game called ‘Anatomically Incorrect Dinosaurs’ – I will let you fill that one in, yourself.) One of the coolest things we encountered was the Pain Station, which makes you put your hand down on a small metal plate and play a game of Pong against a friend (or enemy), with the other hand. Whenever you lose a game, your hand gets punished by either an electric shock, a wave of intense heat or several hits of a small whip. As they say: it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt… and someone will get hurt.
WORDS BY CÉLINE HUIZER
PHOTO’S BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS