I saw maybe eight square blocks of Sheffield while I was at Resistanz festival, and their fine details have been lost in the perpetual clash of the titans between hangover and jetlag taking place inside my head from the moment I set foot on British soil. What I can tell you is this: apparently they like industrial there, and although that’s perhaps not a surprise considering it’s the city that gave us Cabaret Voltaire, I don’t know that I was prepared for just how many people I would end up sharing my weekend with, pressed like a hoard of neon and black-clad sardines into the dingy, well-loved interior of Corporation.
My own rivet festival experience limited to consistent attendance at Kinetik, and I found myself curious as to how another multi-day event might run, and to what differences might manifest. As it turns out, it wasn’t altogether different; you have a few bands you plan to watch, a few you know you’ll skip, a few you miss for whatever reason (eating, smoking, chatting with friends, trawling the stalls for merch) and a couple that surprise you. You spend a goodly amount of time with friends old and new, drink a lot (can’t beat those ridiculously cheap bar prices, tall boys of Red Stripe for 2.50, vodka and cokes for 60 pence, jager for what I believe technically counts as a pittance) and it’s all over before you know it.
Even with the best of intentions I didn’t manage to catch every band in action, but of the ones I did see, a couple of performances stand out as the true highlights, at least to my colonial palate. As such, I’ve decided to write them up as a list of sorts for your consideration. Other attendees are encouraged to leave their impressions in the comments to provide a more global view of what seemed to be a very well-attended and enjoyed event. Before I get started, I’d also like to take a moment to thank Adam from A Model of Control for the use of a few of his photos (his far more comprehensive write-up is here, and well-worth the reading) and Marco Visconti for a hook-up to the event itself. Cheers, Resistanz: I enjoyed you and look forward to perhaps meeting you again some day, provided the stars align and my liver hasn’t suffered any permanent damage from your generous and powerful libations.
“Aesthetics are everything/Beauty is agony” is the lyrical tag from Surgyn’s “Aesthetics”, and by crikey did they ever deliver on the tongue-in-cheek premise of that line for every moment they had on the Friday night stage. Immaculately made-up in matching skeleton body cages, blazers and pants so tight you could check for the circumcision, the lads from Scotland hit the stage like a spritely pair of irreverent party monsters, playing up the camp elements which originally drew my attention to them in the first place. Playing to crowd that clearly knows and loves them and their lithe, camp EBM style, they didn’t waste an ounce of time they were afforded, strutting, voguing and generally playing their image as a couple of funtime boys past the proverbial hilt and right off the tip of the sword. On a night that found them bookended by aggression, their unapologetic wink-nudge attitude was bracing. Sharp as stars indeed.
To be totally honest, there was a very little I had heard from C2E to excite me for their set early on Saturday, although I had resolved to make a point of catching them based on some positive things I had heard about them from our friend Nick Quarm at Brutal Resonance. His advice proved to be solid, as a three piece made up of vocals, guitar and synths (the latter played by the.Invalid’s Seamus Bradd, by far one of the most enthusiastic and friendly people I met over the weekend) kicked a hole in the evening’s proceedings and the proceeded to fill it with hard EBM and harshly delivered (but mostly unaffected) vocals somewhere in the punk/hardcore continuum. While many of their songs felt a bit lacking in dynamics, favouring consistent four on the floor drums and pumping bass, singer/programmer Dayve Yates has some honest-to-god genuine stage presence, wielded with wild abandon in service of connecting to a crowd that was still getting warmed up for the evening’s festivities.
It’s a toss up between whether I enjoyed iVardensphere’s Saturday night blowout or Voster’s opening salvo on Sunday more, but I’ve decided to highlight what was until just the other day an unknown quantity. The trio made up of iSphere’s Scott Fox, Iszoloscope’s Yann Fausurrier and ESA’s Jamie Blacker (the latter two also serving as members in good standing of iVardensphere the previous evening) made good on the promise of their just released EP, managing to stretch its five tracks of apocalyptic electronics into a full-set of muscular dance music. Far more than the sum of their parts (a partial list of which might include Fox’s talent for roaring analogue synth bass, Fausurrier’s ear for texture and clever transitions and Blacker’s intense, barking vocals) Voster were unmistakably having fun up there, Jamie bouncing back and forth with a gleeful abandon unknown during his habitually severe ESA sets, while his bandmates laid down a rush of explosive beats not totally removed but not entirely similar to each of their solo projects. Having knocked over his whisky during one particularly athletic series of dance moves, Blacker lamented it being half-emptied to which Yann replied with a deadpan “Jamie, the bottle is half-full”, possibly the funniest and most memorable bit of stage banter of the whole weekend.
Alter Der Ruine
Fresh from their recently announced resurrection, a two-piece version of ADR made up of Mike J and Mike T were perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole weekend for me. Not because I didn’t think they would be good, (in fact I was looking forward to seeing their funky mutant brand of industrial more than any other act on the festival bill), but with the combination of wild spontaneity on stage combined with the apeshit response of the crowd, leaving me completely stunned, all my expectations washed away in a tidal bore of sweat, shouting along and enormous smiles. From the moment Treveloni and Jenney kicked into the intro of “I Am Drugs”, the first two minutes of which found Mike T dancing with the kind of reflexive, spastic abandon you rarely see outside of a bedroom dance party, to the bare-assed stage invasion by practically every other artist at the fest during the “Relax and Ride It” finale (for which a significant portion of the crowd had donned fake mustaches purchased at a local party store), Alter Der Ruine owned the stage, the floor, and the booty of anyone fortunate enough to be present. Even more remarkable was the fact that they got away with sliding three promising new songs into the middle of their set with nary a dip in the crowd’s interest. That’s how good Alter Der Ruine are, and if their next release has even a fraction of what they can accomplish live on it, it’ll be their best yet.
“Are you prepared for some dumb German techno?” asked Sascha Klein at the beginning of his headline set on Sunday, his grin betraying no small amount of surprise at the incredible outpouring of love for Neuroticfish that belied the five years of inactivity since the release of their last album Gelb. Leaning heavily on tracks from that record, along with promising new songs that didn’t fall far from the supremely catchy futurepop tree, and backed by uber-producer Henning Verlage on keys, there was more than one moment in the triumphant set when Klein was obviously taken aback by how well-loved his songs were. From mega-hits like “Wake Me Up” and “Velocity” (during which tears were visible in the eyes of more than one person in my vicinity) to personal favourites like “The Bomb” and “Suffocating Right”, it didn’t seem like there was a moment the crowd wasn’t right with him, raising their voices and hands in appreciation for whatever role the music of Neuroticfish had played in soundtracking specific moments in their own lives. The exchange of sentiment took on an almost physical quality with each passing song, and by the time the fading notes of “I Don’t Need the City” signaled the end of the set (and in fact the live portion of the weekend’s events), the sense of release was palpable, on-stage and off. Genuine moments of emotion can be a rarity in electronic music performance, I count myself extremely lucky to have been a party to this one; uncynically and with a healthy dose of nostalgia and promise for what lies ahead, Neuroticfish made up for their hiatus of half-a-decade in roughly an hour.