Diary from a Goth festival: Infest 2017

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What’s it like at a Goth festival? I’m asked this a lot, and afraid I can’t confirm assumptions of ritual sacrifice, moshing, and crying in a corner- there’s a lot more yoga, tea drinking, and hugs than you might think.

 

Pre-festival:

For me, the festival experience begins way before arriving- preparation such as coming up with clothing and makeup looks, and finding out about the bands on the line-up is definitely all part of my enjoyment.

 

Infest prep: Sketching outfits and makeup ideas

I really enjoy the creative process of planning looks, and have started to sketch both clothing and makeup ideas to bring things to life, and to help visualise how things fit together. I really enjoy planning in general, so will admit to having several lists to make sure I don’t forget a crucial accessory for an outfit!

 

My strategy for music is to create a Spotify playlist, taking top five songs from all bands on the lineup and listening through a few times, digging deeper into any that particularly stand out. Once the festival schedule is announced, I’ll also make a little spreadsheet to highlight the “can’t miss” bands, and plan outfit changes so I can fit everything in. I find that a little effort in advance makes things so much easier while at the event!

 

Friday:

The journey to Bradford was not an easy task with a giant suitcase full of boots, a wig attached to a mannequin head packed into a tote bag with bubble wrap, a rucksack with tech. equipment, and a shoulder bag of food (mostly chocolate and Percy Pig sweets- festival essentials!).

 

After some unpacking and a fight with the shower in my hotel room, I ventured out to sample local cuisine and meet friends for a delicious Indian meal. Fully refueled, it was time to get ready for the first night out. I chose an easy to assemble look as I only had about 50 minutes before I needed to be out of the door.  I opted for my favourite go-to red/black smokey eye, and threw on my giant backcombed black wig. The outfit included PVC and mesh Lip Service leggings, a bandage wrap dress, and my “comfortable” boots to ease into things…

Friday at Infest- warming up for the weekend!

The first band I saw at the festival were probably my favourite of the entire weekend: Accessory (Germany). As well as stomping good tunes and great live vocals, they put on an energetic show, featuring a giant flag, which they later told me was stapled to a broom handle- excellent improvisational skills!

Accessory at Infest, 2017


“hundreds of people mourned the balloon’s passing with a loud, simultaneous “NOOOOO!””

This performance also included one of my favourite moments of the festival: there seems to be a trend to float balloons with lights inside above the crowd. It’s pretty satisfying watching them bobbing around, float down towards you, then bash them with your hand to launch them off over other people’s heads. There was a really cute moment in the middle of a song when a balloon was squashed with a loud, tragic “pop”-  hundreds of people mourned the balloon’s passing with a loud, simultaneous “NOOOOO!”. This was so loud in fact, that the vocalist heard it and struggled to sing the verse through laughing so hard!




The headline act for Friday was Rotersand (Germany). Their material is fantastic, but it’s fair to say I was waiting for “Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy” sampling the Daleks from Dr Who over a really heavy base line. Balloons were trumped here by a giant inflatable Dalek that was launched over the crowd throughout the entire song. Because of it’s size, it did not bob gently above like the balloons, but instead frantically darted about, lurching from side to side. Extremely funny- see my Instagram account for a video of this!

“Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy!”

The remainder of the evening was spent, gin and tonic in hand, catching up with people from all over the UK, sometimes only seen at festival events, and a little more dancing to DJs (G&T placed on the floor during this part- safety first!).

 

I headed back to the hotel at a well-behaved 2.30am to dismantle the outfit, battle the shower once more, and get some much-needed sleep.

 

Saturday:

I love waking up on the Saturday of a festival, remembering where I am, and feeling the excitement and adrenaline rush in! Time to check my phone and see what folks were up to. There were groups having generous breakfasts in two pubs in town, but I opted for taking my porridge, blueberries, and homemade protein balls (ooh err missus) over the the university halls and have a quiet start with a friend.

 

“we settled into a gentle yoga practice to stretch out our festival muscles”

In a very non -stereotypical Goth move, we sat outside on the patio in the sun drinking tea, and it was a perfect start to the day. Vitamin D replenished, the general sense of well-being continued as others arrived and we settled into a gentle yoga practice to stretch out our festival muscles, to a playlist of chilled songs, largely from bands on the festival line-up.

 

Post-yoga hugs, we headed out to the venue for a peruse of the market stalls selling clothing and accessories from independent makers and alternative suppliers. I treated myself to a high-waisted mesh skirt from a brand called “24Hrs”, which will be nice paired with shorts underneath or leggings for a more casual look.

 

I made an effort to check out the first band of the day,  Riotmiloo (France), as one of only female fronted artists on the line-up, and with an interesting sound. It was a pretty good turnout for a noise act at 4pm (!), and after some sound issues were resolved, they gave an impassioned performance.

 

After the show, I headed home to re-do my eyebrows in pink (as you do), scoff a cheeky falafel and hummus flatbread wrap, and back at the venue in time for Empathy Test (UK). This was my first time seeing them live and I enjoyed the change to a gentle tempo and songs driven by gorgeously smooth vocals. I did a bit of partnered fusion dancing with a friend, and really enjoyed taking a temporary break from stomping it out!

 

After the band there was another dash home, this time for a longer stretch to change into my vintage/drag queen inspired look for the evening. This was a getting ready session with a lot of “firsts”- first time applying a lace front wig, first time doing a super colourful eye makeup look, first time wrangling loose glitter, and first outing for my new latex skirt.  I had a lot of fun with this look and really happy with how it came together from sketch to final result.

 

Drag/vintage inspired look for Saturday night

“there’s nothing quite like a large German man hitting a girder with a metal pole”

Back at the venue in time for a classic performance from headliners, Die Krupps (Germany). I was very happy that they played my favourite of theirs, “Schmutzfabrik”. This track featured rhythmic bashing of a xylophone-type instrument made from metal girders- for me, there’s nothing quite like a large German man hitting a girder with a metal pole that screams “Saturday night”! In suitably dramatic style, this was dismantled at the end of the set, girders tumbling onto the stage- excellent stuff!


 

The rest of the evening at the venue was spent chatting with friends and meeting lovely new people. I even had a very sweet, role reversal moment when one of the bands asked me for a picture in my mental outfit- I was very flattered!

 

Next it was after party time back at one of the university hall dorms. Infest is such a great festival because you can choose to stay on site, use the kitchen facilities, and congregate in the lounge areas. We shared whisky and dark chocolate (where has this combination been all my life!?), and discussed important topics such as cheese preference and future gigs.

 

Back at my hotel (selected over halls because adding bedding to my luggage list just isn’t going to happen!), I set to work peeling off various things that I glued onto my head 9 hours earlier, and time for bed around 6am.

 

Sunday:

I enjoyed a very indulgent start to the day with breakfast in bed- tea and instant porridge (a fancy one I brought back from Copenhagen), while watching Anchorman. After a bit of a stretch, and pulling on Cyberdog leggings and cotton jersey tunic, it was time to head to the pub for the traditional breakfast Pimms: because fruit = vitamins!

Sunday Breakfast: they’re both orange, so equally healthy, right?!

Next we headed to the venue for the afternoon tea party in aid of MIND charity, and in memory of Tails, a very dear member of the scene who is no longer with us. It was a lovely event, with DJs playing swing music and a very naughty selection of cakes on offer. I chatted with the DJs who turned out to be Lindy Hoppers and Blues dancers from Bristol- we had a cheeky swing out to some Louis Prima in a fitting tribute.

 

“witch house: an occult-influenced subgenre of electronic music”

The first band on my list to see on Sunday was Sidewalks and Skeletons (UK). This was my first live experience of witch house: an occult-influenced subgenre of electronic music, perhaps most similar to drone, but also evoking vast Gothic soundscapes reminiscent of bands such as Bauhaus (more posts on this to come in future!). My favourite track is “Slow Motion”, which samples Amy Lee’s vocals from Evanescence’s “Bring me to Life”, but morphed into something completely unrecognisable. Hats off to the schedulers here- the show was perfect for this time of the festival.


 

During the 30 minute break between bands, the weather was gorgeous so we sat out on the grass and played an adult version of Articulate via a phone app. This was hilarious and I was particularly proud that my friend was able to immediately guess “Geordies” from me blurting out “Byker Grove!”- the only thing I can say in a vaguely Geordie accent!

 

Next on the line-up was something completely different: Vampyre Anvil (USA). I had only heard the one song before the festival and immediately added it to my favourites, so I was hopeful for a good gig. They didn’t disappoint- their set was cracking to dance to, with elements of gritty, old-school industrial sound, but definitely with their own unique twist. Their live performance also included two live drummers, something that I always really enjoy.  

 

Back to the hotel to get ready for the final evening of festivities. Sunday night was another experimental makeup look: my first time using the “fishnet stocking over the head” technique, popular not only with bank robbers in movies, but also sci-fi characters and alternative acts of the 1980s. Aside from the disturbing half way point when you think this can’t possibly end well, I was quite happy with it after the “big reveal”. My outfit was designed for ease of movement- a lycra dress I wear for blues dancing because it’s extremely stretchy, with a latex corset over to add a bit of cinch to the waist, but still flexible enough to move in easily. Footsies were treated to platform wedge trainers, because: it’s Sunday night and they’ve suffered enough!

The “fishnet over the head” technique in action for Sunday night

 

“Their tribal industrial sound was completely different”


Last time I saw iVardensphere (Canada) they had seven live percussionists. SEVEN! I had high expectations going into this, and they were completely met. Their tribal industrial sound was completely different to anything else on the lineup, and their show was unique, featuring the only drum solo of the festival. Nice work!

 

I will confess to only seeing a small part of the headlining Revolting Cocks (UK/Germany) show, as a sit down was definitely needed by this point! I did manage to stomp along to “Beers, Steers, and Queers” though, so I’ll count that as a win.  

 

Post-bands, there was a food break (a delicious bean stew and brown rice from the festival catering), a little more dancing to the DJs, before spending approximately 45 minutes saying goodbye, hugging everyone for the final time, and attempting to leave (but completely not wanting to!). The final task was to pack up the hotel room, which by this stage resembled the aftermath of an epic fight in an eye shadow/wig/glitter factory, and get a relatively early night before journeying back to London the next morning.

 

I’m something of an Infest veteran, but can say that 2017 was definitely one of my favorite events. The bands were excellent, varied, and on top form, and I felt relaxed as the atmosphere was so friendly. The experience was one of time spent laughing with friends, dancing our collective arses off, discovering new favourite songs, dressing up to the nines (maybe even the elevens!), trying out new creative ideas, doing a bit of shopping and a lot of people watching, and keeping myself going with delicious food and a couple of gin and tonics here and there. A pretty perfect weekend- I’m counting down until Infest 2018 already!

Zoë

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