Well, another month and another festival report. I’ll say straight off the bat that this is not going to be an objective review or anything, Species is now particularly special to me as it marks my first festival appearance DJing`(2nd + 3rd times doing it live in front of an audience). I had tremendous fun preparing the sets and got real buzz performing them. This was the first Species, indeed the first weekend-long festival by and for the Goth / Alternative subculture to be held in Ireland. Whitby, Infest etc. have been running successfully in Britain for some time, WGT is largest and best known of the various festivals of its type to run in Europe but up until now, in spite of small and reasonably active scenes in various parts of the country, nobody has attempted anything like this here. In the past the site has played host to the Alien Vibrations festival as well as various private gigs and parties, which have all run successfully and become fixtures of the scenes this events cater to. The promoters Illiocht and Harriet are both Goths of the old school and wanted to do something for their own subculture this time. Rather than just a straight up gig or rave of the sort the site has seen in the past this was meant to be an Arts Festival that would of course contain music as an important component but also be a showcase for different types of Art work, performance art, dance and poetry. As such I would say that it was a brave effort to do something new for the scene in this part of the world. While not everything went according to plan it was certainly fun to be a part of and observe and I reckon that a good few lessons have been learned for the next one.
Alright, before I get into it I’d like to get the few negatives out of the way
first. There’s two types of weather that you get at camping festivals, the type
you want and the type you definitely don’t want. The weekend of Species saw two
solid days of the sort that you definitely don’t want, in fact it was some of
the worst weather that the site had seen since the height of the winter.
Rain-storms overnight, drizzle when it wasn’t lashing, high winds that knocked
over the graffiti wall that had been erected for the festival and the Marquee
that was intended for the Gothic tea-party on the Saturday afternoon. I’ve seen
some bad festival weather in my time and this was up there with the worst. I
was staying in the performers cabin so I luckily didn’t have to get wet but
those camping were not so lucky and a lot of people left after the first night
and a good few people who had been intending to come down on the Saturday ended
up not coming. To be fair, it did give the extremely beautiful part of the
Irish countryside we were in a bleak Wuthring Heights-esque ambience
appropriate for a Gothic Arts festival, but picturesque though it was – that’s
not what you want at a camping festival.
Aside from that the organises also had a bit of bad luck early on when
Facebook’s fascistic algorithms that decide whether people are using their real
names or not flagged the account of the co-organiser Harriet and decided that
her facebook handle was too flamboyantly Welsh to be that of a real person. So
aye, Facebook is essentially racist against the Welsh, either that or it thinks
they’re a mythical race like Tolkien’s Eldar or the Riddlers. The upshot of
this was that the events page which was in Harriet’s name ended up being shut
down on the eve of the event which no doubt cost the organisers a few punters.
The equipment on site was put fairly through its paces too. There were a few
issues with the decks and some of the other hardware, which led to the schedule
slipping a bit on the Saturday night. That said, Ambrose the sound-tech struggled
manfully with the various pieces of kit and kept everything pumping along
almost single handedly all weekend and any sound problems that came up got
So aside from what were essentially teething problems and things well beyond
the reasonable control of the organisers it was a pretty good weekend. The site itself was amazing. We were right up
in the mountains in Leitrim and the few times the weather cleared up you could
see for miles around you. The Great Hall of Illiocht - the converted barn that
serves as the main stage - had a new wooden interior to stop the bass rattling
the corrugated metal walls of the hall. Like rest of the site it was kitted out
with artwork and served as a showcase for the artwork of the co-organiser
Harriet as well as other local artists from amongst their crowd of friends such
as Belfast underground art-scene veteran Andy Brown. The rest of the site was
bedecked with wall paintings and objet d'art.
Artwork was also provided by some of the attendees, aside from Harriet's
paintings and Sculpture about the site, walls and surfaces were made available
to artists to decorate for the occasion.
There was also a small market place from the Saturday afternoon onward with
prints, stickers and books featuring original art by Harriet, cupcakes, and
alternative clothing and apparel by Bella Muerte.
The music was a mixture of the various branches of the broad church of musical
styles that come under the banner of Alternative. As such it was an eclectic
and enjoyable mix. It all started off suitably weird with the first act I saw
on the Friday, a Belfast based producer called Monty performing as BendingWrongs. The first thing I clocked as he was setting up was an Aphex Twin logo
on the back of the laptop he was performing off, which I immediately took as a
good sign. He played a set of industrial-y glitch IDM, all of which he’d
producer himself. I found it very enjoyable, I particularly liked the last
track which started with the vocals from Energy 106 classic Discoland that
descended into chopped breakbeats and acid bleeps.
After him was more original productions, this time from festival organiser
illiocht as his dark ambient / horror core musical project Kraven Brainz. That
was good fun, all spooky noisey sounds and horror samples (and a few Adventure
Time LSP ones in the last arrangement for the crack).
The next act I saw were Sugarplum Suicide. Apparently they had a few technical
issues at the beginning of their set with their laptop / drum machine. I didn’t
catch any of that and what I saw of them was great.
After was Venus de Vilo, Gothic singer songwriter. It was good fun like Amanda
Palmer doing cabaret on a sort of tongue in cheek horror-pops tip. the tunes
were quirky and amusing and she was very good at engaging the crowd. Would
definitely go see her again if she played Belfast, just sorry didn’t get any
There were a series of DJs playing old school synth classics and some
club-industrial the ret of the night. One on the friday I particularly enjoyed
was Alex who played a lot of industrial dubstep and a couple of Igorrr tunes.
In terms of the DJing that was the highlight of the Friday for me. I didn’t
stay up too late to see any of the DJs who were on later as I had some work of
my own to do the next day.
Saturday was my day. I had two sets to perform, my 2nd and 3rd public
appearance DJing. Prior to the event after being booked I messaged Illiocht
through the events artists page on Facebook to ask what time they were thinking
of putting me on at, saying I could play a relatively chill / ambient set if I
was on early or a harder more rave one if I was on later on. Next thing the
first schedule goes up and I have two sets, one on the saturday afternoon and
another midnight Saturday night / Sunday morning. Well played.
I was actually in a little bit of a panic when I saw that at first because it
was like twice the amount of prep to do. In the event it actually worked out
well, I didn’t have time to meticulously plan every track progression and every
mix like the last time I’d played out on Halloween. I just about had time to
get together a collection of tunes that I wanted to play and I felt sounded
good together. Which was good because that's really what you ought to be doing,
and along with being able to beat match and read the mood of the room and play
accordingly, what the art if DJing actually is. I knew with each set how I
wanted to start, some tunes I’ve always wanted to hear through a proper sound
system and a notion of how I wanted to finish. I also had a good idea of what
to do with some of the harder tracks to mix out of and what would actually just
mix well enough with anything else.
The early set at 3pm in the afternoon was a selection of tracks I felt would be
appropriate for a civilised mid afternoon goth disco. I started with a little
of what I would call Urban Gothic. Urban Gothic isn’t a genre of music that
currently exists as such, Its just how I like to characterise a range of the
stuff that I like and like to play when given the chance. Its anything
fundamentally dark, moody and / or industrial thats also conspicuously based on
4/4 beats. It covers the darker more industrial ends of UK Bass music, some of
the slower and more sombre ends of breakcore (i.e. End.users more hip-hop tempo
stuff) and the breakbeat-y / Glitch / IDM music coming out of the industrial
scene from lables like Hymen, Tympanic Audio etc. So the set started with a
little of that (Ambient into industrial hip hop breaks into Gothic
vocal-dubstep into a really deep sub-y Scorn remix of Glory Box) and followed
into some 4/4 beats and kept it there. I played a few classics from some of the
pioneers of the genre, dropped an acid techno-y danceable remix of LFO’s Industrial
/ EBM track Tied Up as a small personal tribute to the legend that was Mark
Bell (sadly taken from us last year), some Gloomcore and some new stuff thats
only been out in the last couple of years. This all went down extremely well,
the crowd in the Great Hall that I could see were extremely appreciative and as
it wasn’t particularly windy at that point the music was carried all over the
festival so loads of people who weren’t actually there but did hear my set came
up to me after to tell me how much they enjoyed it.
Spurred on by this initial success I was well in the mood for my later set, but
that was hours away and I enjoyed catching some of the other stuff that was on
in the meantime.
Deathness Injection were properly class. They do industrial noise off live
hardware while playing out a performance piece that is like a live Tool video.
Thats about the closest I can come to describing it, you can check out some of
their performances from their youtube but they don’t quite do the live
It was at this point that hilarity ensued with the equipment, one of the decks malfunctioning and the proceeding were pushed forwards. Among those were the gorgeous Deby Discosue performing as DiScoSwitch who gave us an LED assisted dance routine to some dark industrial beats, which looked amazing.
Ambrose aka DJ Flesh the sound tech followed with an all vinyl set of old school electronic Post-Punk and New Beat. It was great to have an all to rare opportunity to hear this stuff on a decent rig and he finished on Joy Divisions Disorder which is a long standing personal favourite of mine.
After that it was time for my second set.
So having requested a late set if they wanted me to bring some heaviness and been given one I took that as leave to go for broke with my hardest stuff, which I did. I broke out a lot of powernoise tracks that I’ve personally been busting to hear over a rig since I started getting into that style of music, mixed it in with a lot of Industrial Techno, hardcore and breakcore. As with the last set I had a bit of an idea where I wanted to start but kept it loose enough and only decided the opening track going through the playlist I’d assembled about an hour before I went on. Appropriately enough since I was rocking one of his “Keep Industrial Weird” T Shirts it was a Caustic tune. Of the three times I’ve played live no this one was by far the most fun, I was able to get properly into it and I think that comes across in the recording. The very last track I actually threw in at random, the ending I had envisioned I came to a little ahead of time leaving me enough time for one more and it was just like ‘what do I want to hear, what could I just drop on here that would sound amazing?’
I was buzzing coming off stage, I felt like I’d one well and I got a lot of positive feedback from the people i spoke to after. One girl told me her brother is a hardcore producer and having a familiarity with both that and the industrial scene she had never heard anyone else mixing them together in the same set and really enjoyed it.
It was quite late by the time I was finishing but the nice thing about small festivals in the middle of nowhere is the informality of the proceedings, a lad from Dublin DJ Annatar came on after me and played a set of aggro tech and club industrial, haven’t really been into that stuff for a while but i liked a lot of the tunes he was playing, that Neuroticfish “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Ha!” cover is another long standing personal favourite and hearing it actually gave me second wind and enough energy to power through into the next morning.
After that Ambrose had caught second wind and me and the last couple of people that were still knocking about at that time sat up and bopped about to him playing through some of the rest of his extensive vinyl collection into the wee hours.
My lift left early enough on the next morning and the event was only on until the Sunday afternoon so theres not much more to report. All I can say is that i had immense crack playing and enjoying the rest of the fun on offer. Illicit and Harriet have no illusions that this is going to mushroom into a Glastonbury or even much beyond the site capacity of a couple of hundred people but they will be doing it again next May bank holiday. I look forwards to this quite intimate arts festival for the goth community turning into a fixture of the Irish alternative scene and will be interested in seeing some of the plans for this one that had to be put aside due to the weather come to fruition and what it’ll be like after some of the lessons have been learned from this time around and teething issues have been ironed out. I’d recommend next years to anyone else in the scene who is interested in supporting something local and a bit different. It’s a great opportunity to touch base with the scene on the rest of the island, we have such a diverse alternative scene here with such an array of very talented people who’re a part of it but it’s also so fragmented that it’ll be good to have something to draw it all together and that this has the potential to be just that.
So aye, Species 2015, amazing crack. Will be back next year, watch this space.
(Net stop, Forbidden Fruit)