Ben Harris (bjh21) wrote,
Ben Harris

Sing to me, all you voices of doom.

This year, for the first time, I went to the Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig. Clare and David have been going for years, but this year they managed to persuade several friends to join them, and thus last Wednesday evening eight of use caught the daily direct train from Cambridge to Harwich International. Five trains, one ferry, and an unexpected pizza in Berlin later, we were in Leipzig.

As might be expected, a group of eight people couldn't agree on anything much, so we started to do different things pretty much as soon as we left Leipzig Hauptbahnhof. I'll use first-person plural pronouns to refer to whatever group I was in at the time without trying to remember who that was.

We arrived in Leipzig on Thursay evening, and on Friday morning converted our tickets into the wristbands that would keep us entertained for the next few days. The first entertainment they provided was a trip to the Museum der bildenden Künste, where I was entranced by something orange, amused by drinking vessels, and awed by a statue of Beethoven.

Our first musical entertainment was Jordan Reyne, with guitar and loop machines, stompy boots and horns. "Of course, he wasn't a gentleman, or I wouldn't have written a song about him." After Jordan's set, I took a tram full of goths (free with a WGT wristband) to the main festival site in the south of the city. I had intended to see Bergtatt in the Heidnisches Dorf, but I was confused both by the timetable and the layout of the site and ended up having dinner outside the Agra before going in for the last two bands of the evening. Deine Lakaien were the only real disappointment of the weekend for me: their music didn't really work in the cavernous hall of the Agra, and technical problems with the singer's monitor didn't help. Eisbrecher on the other hand were great fun, but it says something that I can't remember a single one of their songs.

On Saturday, we got up slightly early for a trip to the Grassi Museums, of which I chose to visit the Musical Instrument Museum first. It was full of instruments, some sensible and many utterly ludicrous. I now know what a glass harmonica looks like and how a clavichord works.

After the museums, we wandered over to Sixtina, an absinthe bar that puts on bands in its courtyard in the afternoons of WGT when little else is happening. There we saw molllust and heard their rather marvellous kind of "opera metal". They were hampered only slightly by the need for the guitarist to change the batteries in the singer's radio transmitter mid-song, a feat that earned him a round of applause. Next up were Eigensinn, a much more conventional but very entertaining metal band.

I knew how I wanted to end my Saturday evening, but was at a bit of a loose end at the start, so I followed Clare over to the Stadtbad for The Present Moment. They were about as uninteresting as I expected, but the building was quite interesting and they passed the time until I left for Ashes You Leave at the Schauspielhaus. They were much more my cup of tea, even if they did lead me to suspect that "acoustic" means "without a drummer".

One of the first things I'd worked out about my schedule for WGT was that Saturday evening was likely to end with Substaat and Ari Mason. Thus I found myself over at Moritzbastei watching the locals watching the goths and waiting for Clare to turn up for moral support. The room felt fairly crowded, but we had no difficulty getting to a good position and Substaat turned out to be precisely the bouncy Norwegian synthpop I'd been hoping for.

Ari Mason was my favourite new discovery while sampling this year's WGT bands, with twiddly sythensizers and softly interesting vocals. WGT was to be only her second show as a singer, so I wasn't sure how it would go, or whether she'd be scared off. I needn't have worried: she was fine, if slightly larger in real life than on my computer. After the show I acquired myself a T-shirt -- the only band merchandise I acquired all weekend.

Sunday began with a (relatively) early morning trip to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, a huge modernist monument to a 19th-century battle, enhanced on this occasion by a choir performing in the singers' gallery. A staircase winds its way to the top, first spiralling up a wall, and then threading up through the thickness of the dome. The view from the top gave Clare an opportunity to point out various other WGT venues we might go to.

My original plan for Sunday's music had been quite simple, involving a run of electronic bands in one location, but I felt like I'd already had enough synthesizer karaoke, so I made a new plan involving more real instruments and much more travelling. Our first plan was to try to see Die Kammer, but once it became clear that we were likely to be waiting on a staircase for quite some time for a concert involving only two of the band, the lure of absinthe slushies from Sixtina across the street became too much.

My next plan was for a trip to the Heidnisches Dorf, which I now knew how to find, and a band of Dutch folk pixies called L.E.A.F. They were quite entertaining, and came with a bonus contact juggler. Then back into town for Jo Quail who did magical things with an electric cello and loop machines.

Then I went back the Heidnisches Dorf again for Arkona, who were interrupted a couple of songs in for an announcement about a found child. It was interesting watching the contours of enthusiasm move through the crowd during the set: there were definite lines behind which people were standing still and not clapping. By the end of the set, though, the band's energy had pushed the dancing contour well behind me.

After Arkona, I wandered over to the Agra where there was plenty of time for Clare and me to persuade one another that Wikinger Blut slushies were a good idea. Somewhat to our surprise, we turned out to be right. That having been discovered, we went inside for the last band of the day, Mono Inc. Mono Inc. had probably the showiest performance I saw all weekend. They had flames, explosions, and a teleporting drummer. They played with the audience and got us to sing along. Their music was pretty good, too, and left me with an earworm or two and a title for this post. We left before their encore so as to get a not-ludicrously-crowded tram back to town.

Monday, like most days, started with a quick museum trip, this time back to the Grassi Museums, where I showed Clare my favourite musical instruments and she showed me her favourite applied art. Then, again as usual, to Sixtina, where the "surprise" guest was Unloved. I can't remember any of their music, but I must have enjoyed it as I stayed to the end of their set even though that meant that it was rather hard for me to get into the main room to see Meystersinger. Meystersinger were more memorable, dressed in matching silver dresses, lit from below, and singing in harmony over an electronic backing. The experience was made stranger as the best place I could find to watch from was half-way down the stairs into the cellar, where the singers were visible through gaps in the balustrade.

Monday evening was a bit awkward, since there were two excellent bands on at Felsenkeller, but some terrible ones in between, so I needed to find something else to do in the gap. Still, it was worse for Clare whose two favourite bands of the weekend were on opposite one another. The first band at Felsenkeller was Otto Dix, who gave a rather good show. They were notable not only for Michael Draw's voice but for his movement and tendency towards miming the entire plot of each song. In the middle of their set, the rest of the band left the violinist alone on stage for a solo piece. At first the audience were a bit uncertain about this, but he gradually won our favour and got a huge round of applause before the rest of the band came back.

While Clare ran away to hunt punks, Duncan and I went in search of dinner and Die Kammer. For a Monday evening in a major German city, we found it surprisingly hard to find a sausage in a bun and ended up at the Moritzbastei buying felafel. We still got to the Schauspielhaus with ten minutes or so to spare, but there was a queue stretching out of the door and a nice security person told us we were unlikely to get in. Given that, joining Clare at the punks seemed like a good idea.

We found Clare on the balcony in Täubchental watching Rezurex. They were quite jolly and had a sparkly yellow double bass. Their gender politics left a little to be desired though. The Other were next, and if nothing else I think I can now distinguish between psychobilly and horrorpunk. Mid-way through their set, though, we left to go back to Felsenkeller.

Diorama are probably my favourite band, so I was quite excited when they were announced for WGT and it seemed fitting that that should be my last band of the festival. We cautiously arrived a little early, so we got to find a spot near the stage and watch the band setting up before the show started. They were great and I spent most of their set bouncing enthusiastically, especially at "Ignite", which is probably my second-favourite Diorama song. At the end of the main set, Torben received a single red carnation from the audience.

Diorama's encore began softly, with Torben alone playing something that I eventually recognised as the introduction to "Das Meer", which is both my favourite Diorama song and slow enough that I could get a bit of a rest. A few songs later, they finished with "Child of Entertainment" and we left to find a tram back to our hotel.

The next day was full of trains as we wended our way back across Europe back to Cambridge.

There are many other things I want to write about WGT, but this has already taken too long and it's surprisingly hard to find the words. I will say, though, that it was both more fun and more civilised than I'd expected, and there's a fair chance that I'll be back in some future year.

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