Review: Incubate Festival, The Netherlands
Words by Hadley Hickson - Published on October 3, 2014
Last weekend a couple of dedicated Scenewave representatives trekked down to Tilburg, The Netherlands to see the weird, the wonderful, and the downright spectacular step into the limelight at Incubate Festival. Incubate calls itself an “annual celebration of cutting-edge culture,” and takes pride in showcasing acts that make music well off the beaten path.
It boasts the most eclectic line-up imaginable – close to 300 acts playing over seven days with anything and everything from free jazz to post-classical to black metal to industrial house to psychedelic freak-funk rubbing shoulders in an orgy of blood sweat and beers. Gigs are spread out over the township, in venues running the gamut from the town church to an electro-friendly warehouse basement. It really is an extraordinary festival, 100% unique and totally committed to letting its freak flag fly.
There were dozens of sets at Incubate that blew our little minds but for the sake of expediency we’ve put together here five of our favourites. Up and coming spacewavers Waiver, our campmates and Incubate veterans, deserve a special mention and shout-out for showing us the ropes and pointing out some must-see bands. Here it is.
Torn Hawk is the moniker of audio-visual artist Luke Wyatt. He mixes glitchy, off-kilter electronic beats with drifting guitar loops, and pairs them with surreal video collages of mutated VHS home videos, kitsch movies and vintage porn. The integrated experience is mind-warping. It creates a disorientating landscape where the original videos are stripped of their initial context and meaning, and turned into a freakshow of ad hoc connections. The musical soundtrack is relentless and totally enveloping. Instead of being a parody of 80’s kitsch, the performance comes across as an absolutely sincere and unique construction.
Excited to meet potentially the only fellow Australian at Incubate, we showed up to a surprisingly full Tilburg Theatre to catch the inimitable Mick Turner. Turner is perhaps best known as guitarist for The Dirty Three, but his performance at Incubate was a showcase of his solo work – beautiful sprawling instrumentals that twist and turn before finishing for the most part where they started. Turner’s guitar is the anchor and centrepiece of the performance, supported by a backing bassist and drummer, and occasional female vocals. The show was a masterclass in musical expression. Songs ebb and flow, pulled in different directions by a subtle change of chord progression or the light touch of a violin bow. For the most part the mood is solemn, but when the music crescendos it’s impossible not to be on the edge of your seat.
How on earth do you write about this band? Goat’s peculiar brand of shamanistic psychedelia takes inspiration from the voodoo traditions of their tiny hometown of Korpilombolo, Sweden. It’s a show that has to be seen to be believed. All band members wear masks and costumes of varying degrees of grotesqueness, and the two female vocalists launch themselves around the stage like frenzied witchdoctors conducting a séance, shaking wooden staffs and howling through their glittered masks. Believe us when we say it’s fucking weird. It’s Cirque de Soliel crossed with a medieval carnival crossed with a North African funk festival. But above all it’s insanely fun. The worldbeat grooves are infinitely danceable, and the crowd is more than willing to suspend disbelief and step right in to Goat’s dimension. The band’s bizarreness never feels gimmicky, it’s backed up by murderously tight instrumentation and a total commitment to their music. Not a band you ever want to pass up on seeing.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Silver Mt. Zion hail from Montreal, sharing three members and an anarchist post-rock ethos with the slightly better known Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Their music is something special. Intensely serious, unflinchingly political, these songs demand total attention and trade in bare-knuckled emotional catharsis. Strings and guitar alternately soar and jab, competing for sonic space. When the five instruments come together it’s total headbanging bliss. Most songs clock in at over ten minutes, but the focus never wavers and the audience are wide eyed for the entire 90 minute set. It wasn’t until the music stopped that we realised we’d had goosebumps from start to finish.
Tuareg blues-wizard Omar ‘Bombino’ Moctar closed out the last day of Incubate with a ferocious hour of African guitar virtuosity. It can take some time to get past the image of four Tuareg tribesman tearing the house down in a town about as far from Agadez, Niger as you can imagine. Listen to the music though and it’s clear that these guys know their instruments the way that Stephen Hawking knows his three times tables. It’s absolutely blistering. Bombino handles his guitar like a live snake and spins out blues licks that could melt iron. Up on stage he looks like the happiest man alive. The crowd laps it up and the room descends into a sweat soaked groove pit. The vibe is good, and everyone is happy to contribute when Bombino asks for donations to help provide clean drinking water to parched central-Africa. It’s a terrific note to finish Incubate on, and everyone files out of the room wrapped in a warm bubble of fuzzed out blues exuberance.