Monday, 11 May 2015

Species 2015

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 resolved sharpish.
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 better photos. 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 experience justice.

Tragedy Vampires
Also awesome but completely different were the gothic rock outfit Tragedy Vampires. They were great, tight musicians, the lead singer clearly loving being able to smoke on stage. I had a great time bouncing around to their harder punk-y numbers, they were also good crack after, hang out and spoke to me and my mates and give us some of their CDs. They’ll be playing the Distortion Project in Belfast next month along with some Psychobilly and horror-pop bands, if that sounds like your cup of tea it’ll be well worth checking out.

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)

1 comment:

  1. Bats in a barn! What could be more perfect than that...and all on home grown soil too...perfect! Sure, wing your way across to WGT, Amphi, M'era Luna or my personal favourite, CP, yet also get with your local tribe too...get your a·Goth·e·car·ies emporium's fix of the ghoulish and the dark right here on home grown Black! After hearing about this festival last year when it was too late to attend and now having read this brilliant report, I know where I'll be pitching my tent up by The Great Hall of Illiocht with the The Tuatha De Danann in The Iron Mountain!