After sleeping off the effects of a moderately vengeful hangover, blame for which I charge a combination of lack of tax on German liquor and my personal weakness when in any proximity to Jägermeister, I head down to the venue a little later than planned. Meaning that I missed bands luxuriating in names like; Trailer Park Sex, Defrackt and Juggernaut. I apologise profusely to these bands, but the pain was real.
My first band of the day is Klone, who are trying their damndest to put on an entertaining show, but in my current state, their dirge-y, sing-a-long prog isn’t really the stuff of dreams. But they are pumping the room full of atmosphere and so I resolve to catch them again when my internal health status isn’t lingering at ‘Death Feasible’.
What I really want is a long sit down, a cup of tea and a cuddle with my head pressed against the bosom of my wife, but she has absconded into the city for a spot of fabric shopping. Leaving me stumbling like a rubber-faced goon around the concrete canyons that make up EssigFabrik. What I do have is Aeolist and praise be to JC if this isn’t exactly what I need.
Sporting a much changed line-up from when I last saw them, Aeolist are still playing their glorious EP all the way through. Causing 25 minutes of stunning excitement to cascade over those assembled. Despite the sound in the 2nd stage being less than ideal, they cut through these problems with the casual grace that belongs only to the seriously talented. Ben Sutherland and Dave Klussman, both recent additions to the fold slot perfectly into their respective positions and boost the sound with the natural enthusiasm of new-kids.
With all the British bands (save Heights and Monuments) playing the 2nd stage this year, each of their sets become a check-point for the UK-Tech-Fam to assemble and support their friends. This attitude is concentrated at the moment because next to play below ground are The Sun Explodes. So I decide against running upstairs to catch Destiny Potato, who I am reliably informed “Fucking Smashed It Mate”, to provide comfort and familiarity to the Carlisle lads as they set up their gear.
TSE have driven here from the very top of England and are determined to make the most of their first ever European show. Drummer Jaime is playing as though he’s been told he’s dreaming and is desperate to prove otherwise. Sweat pours off them collectively as their brows furrow in focus and smooth in synchronised release.
Their music skilfully walks the line between poppy naturalness and techy abrasion and in this semi-humid atmosphere is working a kind of magic over the mostly German crowd. Front-man Dave Maclaughlan’s usual trouser dropping exuberance is only thwarted by a power-surge/sporadic electronic event, which wipes all the bands patches from their effects unit and reduces their laptop to no more than a folding piece of plastic. But apart from such technological chaos they are fantastic. A fact which is reinforced by a conversation I overhear between 2 Germans as we file out of the venue into the piercing sunlight: “’I thought they were going to be terrible, but I was wrong.’, ‘Yeah, that was a lot better than I expected’” Any praise given that unwillingly must indeed be golden!
After 90 minutes of excitedly bouncing along to music I know intimately, I feel human enough to indulge in some alcoholic lubrication. So after purchasing a beer I valiantly attempt to gain access once again to the 2nd stage to catch what I can of Atmospheres, several members of whom, had shown us the sights of Antwerp the previous week. But due to over-whelming demand I was unable to set foot inside. From outside they sounded ace, but as to their stage show I cannot testify.
Here lies one of the more frustrating aspects of Euroblast. After transferring to Essigfabrik 4 years ago the festival has grown consistently, to the point where the disparity in the sizes between the Main and second stages has ceased to be a charming quirk and is now genuinely obstructive. This problem is magnified by the low ceiling, low stage combo in the 2nd arena, the consequence of which is that unless you are at the very front or 6’6” you cannot see anything. It must also diminish the enjoyment of bands booked to play there, especially if they are headlining. Having 2nd stage headline billing at a festival should assure you a substantial crowd, but here it limits you to around 150 people, which is much less than bands far lower on the bill in the Big Box. None of this is the fault of the Euroblast collective, who are a damn fine group of people. It’s simply down to the festival having grown to fill this particular suit of clothes, which are now fitting rather too snugly for constant comfort. Perhaps it is time to find a new suit?
Next up on Stage 1 is The Algorithm, who draw a massive crowd, packing the big room front to back. The show is a good one and Rémi is looking suave in his sharp collared disco shirt, but what punctures the magic for me is that their sound provides neither the soul juddering drops of real dance music or the bone crushing malevolence of genuine metal; it is satisfied occupying the no-mans-land between the two. They have certainly carved a niche for themselves here, but for me it is like butter spread over too much bread, just a bit thin. But what do I know? I’m writing about music rather than making it.
I try and pull myself together by smoking cigarettes and talking bollocks, which in my brief sojourn on this planet I have found to be a fine restorative action. All of which I am sincerely grateful for since I am about to be pummeled by No Consequence.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen these Guildford natives live and in the intervening period they have released a new record, Virmana, which is probably my favourite album of theirs to date. However the controlling nature of the 2nd stage means that the crowd assembled is much smaller than one should expect. Fueled by this and the fact they have probably been psyching themselves up all day, the opening few songs of their set are nervy and packed with self awareness. Indeed, during these salvoes Kaan keeps thanking the audience for “spending their Friday Night with us”, almost as a salve to his own deflated expectation. But once the band launch into Coerce/Conform from previous album IO, all their frenetic tension dissipates and they are able to charge through the set with a verve that is relaxed, charismatic and powerful. Their new material really allows them to spread their wings and drive forward; becoming slightly more progressive yet retaining that earnest muscularity on which they have made their name. The rest of the show is the best I have ever seen them and with the room slowly filling to a more billing appropriate level, they finish on a high and have every right to feel justly proud of themselves.
I shuffle towards the main stage with my short steps portraying a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Not because I don’t like Monuments, far from it. But I have seen them so many times since The Amanuensis was released, the feeling of familiarity with this set has overwhelmed any excitement I have, allowing no serotonin re-uptake, leaving me flatter than a glass of Coke at the bottom of a mine shaft (research carbonation at pressurized depths for this metaphor to make sense). But they play a good show. It is my first time seeing them with new sticks-man Anup Sastry behind the kit. His style is a lot rounder and less staccato than Mike Malyan’s and so the vibe of the whole show is of the crowd adjusting to this slightly less aggressive Monuments. It’s not that its a bad show or a poor performance, it’s just there is little to inspire the band or their fans present to any great feats of exultant extravagance. All the usual stage-craft is worked through but by this point in the extensive Amanuensis tour, they have been reduced to the status of trope.
There were After Party gigs which I am sure provided mondo excitement. But I am old and my knees hurt and the prospect of staying up until 4am, without suitable chemical sustenance is basically impossible.
– John Whitmore