Right from the off you can see that Incubate has a decade's worth of experience under its belt - keen eyed staff ready to sort out your wristband, festival publications etc. even on a Monday when things may well be quiet & the start of the week blues could be in play. Not that they won't have been working at a high pitch for months already. Either way it's clear that nothing would be beyond the realms of possibility for these people.
Staying 30 minutes outside of the city centre combined with hanging out with mein host means the festival opening event passes me by but I make it into town in time to drop in to Cul-de-Sac to catch the last couple of songs from Belgian quartet Umungus. They pour out a nice line in drawn-out stoner/prog instrumentals and immediately that feeling you expect to experience often at such an event exerts itself - "I wish I'd seen more of them". Cosy yet also inspiring you to nod along or more, their output is very easy to lose yourself in.
Second on tonight's personal bill is another Belgian act - Kiss The Anus Of A Black Cat. With a name like that they deserve at least one song's length of anyone's attention. Previously they've played neofolk (whatever that is) but tonight's show at Midi kicks off in a distinctly gothic vein with the four-piece pulling no punches and launching straight into towering rock noise mode. Stadium-level stuff in a mid-sized hall that no doubt built and built as the set progressed. Having a need to try and locate a bus stop for the end of the night I nipped off after a couple of songs and walked a couple of blocks over to Little Devil to see what Cheap Drugs were like.
Hardcore sums it up neatly. No nonsense, pit-inspiring noise from a great energetic band. The sort whose energy you can feed off for hours as they seem to be supercharged. Little Devil's backroom live space is probably not suited for the claustrophobic but it was exactly the right place to see this bunch and I'll make the point of seeing more acts here as the week progresses.
Back to Midi now and a slight change of pace, if not intensity, as it's time to see The Soft Moon in action. A good-sized crowd has made it out to see Luis Vasquez & his players and they get what they expected as the band's full-on, uplifting yet doomy set rolls over them. Vasquez does at least offer up some chat and thanks to the crowd so there's also interaction on that level too which is always good to witness. Here's their new video for good measure.
Time for another walk and a further reduction in intensity as Kevin Morby is plying his solo trade over at De NWE Vorst. Dapper in a practically all white ensemble he's also pretty chatty and gives a meaningful performance of 'Harlem River' to an undeservedly sparse crowd. As he says himself though there are a lot of options in town, especially for a Monday night but no one who saw him will have felt they made a bad choice. Finishing off the night with the score Belgium 3 - USA 4 ends up being the way to go as Wand are the penultimate choice at the Extase venue.
Unfortunately the vocals sound ropey upon arriving and after less than a song's worth all manner of guitar amp engineering is required. Cory Hanson describes the situation as "typical festival" in a tone that could be taken a couple of ways but mainly he sounds fatigued so maybe they've been on the road too long (in support of forthcoming album 1000 Days - watch out for our review next week). Either way it means a short walk around the corner and a longer viewing of The Shivas.
The Stadskelder turns out to be the basement bar in an otherwise respectable looking hotel; another of tonight's narrow rooms with a bunch of musicians sweating away at the far end whilst (in this case) a tiny crowd looks on appreciatively. Photographers come close to outnumbering fans but that doesn't put the trio off from delivering up a great sun-drenched, Californian sound with surf elements and nods to Redd Kross and suchlike. A world away from the wood-panelled room in the bowels of a Dutch hotel and the rapidly cooling night outside but all the more enjoyable as an end to the night's entertainment for that very difference.