Incubate 2015

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  • Let's get one thing out the way early: my Incubate experience was cut short in a crush of ankle and pavement sometime on Sunday. I’d had a good run though, so to forego Wire and the interminable closing party at Extase—one of many venues I’d visit over the weekend—wasn’t too much of a drama. On Friday I got kicked in the face seeing Converge, and narrowly missed the same fate on Thursday. I was covered in bruises, had hands full of grit and a slightly looser set of teeth, but you know what? It was totally worth it. Taking a battering was all part of package. Held in the Dutch city of Tilburg, the week-long event is a loud and rowdy affair, teeming with mosh pits, heavy headbanging and heavier beer drinking. But it’s not all blood, sweat and tears. At the other end of the spectrum there's an entire theatre program featuring electronic fringe artists like Laurel Halo, Burial Hex, Yasunao Tone and Russell Haswell. The Knife performed a political art piece, while PC Worship, the New York psychedelic-meets-grungy punk group, ended up being one of the festival highlights. Tucked away in the cosy Studiozaal and doused in darkness, sitting down felt like the best way to receive their noisy theatrics. I couldn’t say the same for Burial Hex. Swallowed up by the gaping main Concertzaal, Clay Ruby’s ritualistic, ambient techno would have been better suited to some sweaty black hole. Somehow watching the stage from fold-down chairs didn't do the show justice. It all felt a bit like Le Guess Who? in Utrecht. In terms of the artists, there was a lot of crossover between the two Dutch festivals, except that if Le Guess Who? had electronic music on a leash, Incubate had it running wild. Thursday started nicely with Plastician dropping grime and Ed Rush doing his hard-hitting drum & bass thing. I kept up a fairly loose, venue-hopping approach all weekend, and heavy UK rockers Spectres were one of several suck-it-and-see rewards for doing so. Dead Neanderthals were another, putting in one of those rare clock-stopping performances with just a sax, a drummer and a guest guitarist. O/H, though, who were performing as part of an Opal Tapes showcase, were on my list from the start. But Richard Oddie and David Foster never seemed to fully gel, unable to convey the magic of their recorded music from the stage. Saturday was all about techno with Perc Trax, R&S and Diagonal Records all hosting showcases at the same time. Bleaching Agent put in a casual EBM warm-up before slipping into something a bit more pumping. I popped into NHK’Koyxen, just because. I was hoping for something maverick, but what I found was fairly straight-laced. Lakker, though, didn’t disappoint. The Irish duo turned out one of the best sets of the weekend, a melange of cinematic soundscapes and hard-as-nails techno. It was beautiful, and simultaneously fluid and disjointed. But despite all the label parties on offer, it was Mr Scruff that drew the biggest grin of the night. Even with the likes of Ekman and Helena Hauff putting in solid DJ performances, you just have to the love the unpredictability of a Mr Scruff show. Billed for a mere three hours this time—six or seven is more his thing—he managed to cram in the surprises, always giving the crowd exactly what we never knew we wanted. Tilburg is a real rough-hewn gem. The city itself its pretty gritty and metal as hell but there’s charm and culture beneath the scurf. And Incubate seemed to carefully cater for everyone. You could go to the pub venue, Little Devil, and roughneck it with the locals, or step into Paradox and toe-tap to free jazz, or even chance a bus to Natuurtheatre—an open-air amphitheatre on the outskirts of town—for a death metal, doom ritual blood letting. And when you wanted a break from the music, there were food truck festivals and beer festivals and Sunday markets and art shows and film screenings and forests and beer-brewing monks to explore. In short: Tilburg rocks and Incubate rocks harder. I can't wait for next year. Photo credit: Ed Janses (lead), William van der Voort (synths, rainbow), Niels Vinck (Dead Neanderthals)