see all our photos from WGT 2003 here

Wave Gotik Treffen
June 6 - June 9, 2003
Leipzig, Germany
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis

The Medieval Market at the Moritzbastei, the Parkbuhne Stage, and Neo-folk at Haus Leipzig
Featuring live bands (in order of appearance):
Bloody Dead And Sexy
Inkubus Sukkubus
Wayne Hussey
Fire And Ice

Saturday. Blazing sunshine and a temperature into the 30s. This, apparently, is the hottest June in Germany for over 50 years. Welcome to the wonderful world of climate change. Over in Washington DC, George Bush sits back and fans himself with his unsigned copy of the Kyoto agreement. Here in Leipzig, mad goths and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun.

From a goth fashion point of view, it's interesting to note the various strategies adopted by WGT attendees to cope with the heat. Some favour the simple approach of leaving most of their clothes off. If you're doing the ripped fishnet deathrock look (an image favoured by a significant chunk of the WGT crowd this year) you're already half way there, of course. But you can always go that little bit further. Leipzig must be one of the few cities in the world where a girl can walk down the street wearing gaffa tape over her nipples and very little else, and nobody raises an eyebrow. After 12 years, the good burghers of Leipzig have seen it all before. The alternative strategy, of course, is to pretend that it's a bleak winter's night, dress accordingly in multiple layers of goth-black, and shrug off the heat by sheer power of mind-control. A black parasol to create a portable pool of shade is the season's must-have accessory: if you haven't got one, an umbrella will do the same job. If all else fails, go to the Agra and jump in the fountain.

We, however, have started our day with a visit to the medieval market (as distinct from the medieval *village*), a motley assortment of tents and stalls set up on top of the Moritzbastei - the last remaining fragment of the ancient defences which once encircled the city of Leipzig. A network of underground chambers and tunnels opens up, incongruously and dramatically, in the middle of the modern city, providing an unexpected sight of sixteenth-century brickwork amid post-war concrete. Today, the subterranean chambers host a variety of restaurants, bars, music venues and clubs - it's here that many of the WGT's 'after hours' clubs take place. The market on top manages to be both crowded and relaxed. We hang out and watch a bagpipe band tuning up, but when they show no sign of actually starting to play, we decide to move on.


One tram ride and one walk in the park later, and we're at the Parkbuhne stage. This is perhaps the nearest the Wave Gotik Treffen gets to the 'traditional' festival ambience - a crowd of pleasantly pissed goths lounging around in the sunshine, in an open-air amphitheatre which looks as if it was originally built for pastoral performances of the works of Goethe and Chekov. Today, the stage has been tricked out with some heavy-duty rock 'n' roll hardware, and the first band on is Deutscheland's own deathrock crew, Bloody Dead And Sexy. This band's natural habitat is probably a dark, smoke-filled club in a cellar on the bad side of town. Here, blinking in the sunlight, they seem a little out of place. The singer braves the ultra-violet rays and comes forward, leaning out over the edge of the stage in a bid to engage with the audience. The rest of the band hang back in the shade of the stage canopy, squinting at their instruments and leaving their frontman to handle all that pesky 'stage presence' stuff. The result is a performance which doesn't quite come roaring out at me in the way that I thought it would. It's a good old punky racket, but I'm standing in the crowd, expecting the X factor to kick in at any minute, and it never quite does.

In fairness, Bloody Dead And Sexy hold their own, rattling and caterwauling through a set of songs which seem equally influenced by Specimen and 999, but that essential spark that tells you you're in the presence of something special just doesn't flare into life on this occasion. I can't help thinking the band would come across much better at a late-night show down in the depths of the Moritzbastei. Bright sunlight and an open-air stage just isn't their thing. The crowd, most of whom are deathrock'd up to the nines, gives the band their full attention and polite applause, but it's too hot to mosh. I think I'll have to file Bloody Dead And Sexy under 'good but not great' until I have a chance to see them in more appropriate surroundings. They'd probably fit right in at a Camden Underworld gig in London, although I don't know whether the band would ever consider venturing that far. This is the great paradox of the present-day deathrock scene: it's all inspired and heavily influenced by the London scene of the early '80s, but none of the current bands have ever played London - or, indeed, as far as I'm aware, have ever expressed any interest in doing so. The first band to hit London will score quite a coup. Hey, Bloody Dead And Sexy - that's a hint!

We seem to be in the middle of some sort of blood theme here. The next band is called Bloodflowerz - spelt like that, presumably so that when you search for the band on the web you don't get a load of stuff about The Cure. Bloodflowerz are a metal band. And, curiously enough, quite a straightforward metal band. Not nu-metal, not goth-metal, not anything-metal. Just...metal. All their songs are classic, full-on, headbang-frenzies of the old school. It's timeless stuff, I suppose, and it always finds its audience. You could imagine Bloodflowerz supporting Saxon in 1983, or the Deftones in 2003, and they wouldn't seem out of place at either gig. The band's principal asset is their singer, a feisty rock chick who could probably sing her way through concrete. She's obviously enjoying her time on stage, bounding around with great enthusiasm, grinning hugely all the while. For me, she's the saving grace of the band. I'm not a metalhead, but I know when someone is enjoying what they do, and is impressively good at it. Next to her, the bassist strikes some ludicrously exaggerated RAWK poses, spreading his legs so wide the crotch of his PVC strides stretches alarmingly. I'm willing him to split his trousers, but, alas, it doesn't happen. I'd like to think his rock-god posturing is all done in a spirit of knowing parody, but I have a horrible feeling he *means* it. And that, in the end, is where Uncle Nemesis and Bloodflowerz part company. Verdict? A good singer fronting a band who thought 'This Is Spinal Tap' was a training video.

Ah, the home team at last. Inkubus Sukkubus, one of only a handful of UK-based bands at the WGT, follow on, and theoretically they should fit in very well. After all, what they do isn't a million miles from the Bloodflowerz - they just do it without plunging headlong into the metal zone. It's a slightly restrained performance, however. The punishing heat seems to have taken the edge off the Inkies' usual ebullience. The afternoon sun is shining directly into the stage now; there are no shadows and nowhere to hide. Rather pointlessly, someone's decided to fire up the lighting rig, which makes no difference at all to the stage in visual terms - it just throws out yet more heat. The band display impressive grace under pressure, and rock it up as much as the oven conditions of the stage will allow. Candia runs about the stage, getting the audience involved, making contact across the photo pit. The crowd seem favourably disposed towards the band, if a little bemused - the enthusiastic reception of the band's UK fanbase is conspicuous by its absence here, and at a guess I'd say much the Inkies' lyrical themes go straight over the heads of this deathrock/goth/metal crowd. Inkubus Sukkubus can't count on the cheers of recognition which normally greet their Pagan anthems here; they're having to win over the audience simply on the basis of the music and the performance, and under this relentless sun that's just not easy. By the end of a set they've snatched a victory on points, but in all honesty it wasn't a knockout show. I get the impression the band are rather relieved to leave the stage - I bet they collapsed in the first bit of shade they found in the backstage area!

By the time Ikon are ready to begin the sun has disappeared behind the trees, so the microclimate of the Parkbuhne arena becomes a little more temperate and there's a bit more point to the stage lighting. As far as my befuddled old memory can tell, Ikon are playing the same set as they gave us a couple of days ago in London - in fact, the guitarist is even wearing the same T-shirt. I just hope he's done his laundry at some point between the two gigs. Now that the cool of the evening is starting to kick in, the audience starts to loosen up a bit and move to the music, and Ikon themselves seem on good form. Their customised take on the Joy Division sound clearly hits the spot with the crowd, although it's the cover of 'Ceremony' which seems to win the most approval. That, as it happens, might be a bit of a mixed blessing in the long term: how are Ikon going to carve out a career of their own if they simply become known as the band which sounds like Joy Division - and does a Joy Division cover? In this festival setting, however, it all works very well. The glam-rock guitarist takes advantage of the large stage to demonstrate all his best moves, and the atmosphere (ha!) is good-humoured and enthusiastic throughout. It occurs to me that Ikon actually make a rather good festival band: their music has just the right blend of familiarity and individuality to handle a festival slot in front of an audience which isn't necessarily their own. Alas, the schedule is slipping, and the band have to cut their set short. They end on 'Psychic Vampire' and leave the stage to an enthusiastic burst of applause.

And now, that dodgy old bloke from The Mission. Now, I've never been much of a Mish fan. The band always struck me as a fairly workaday conventional-rock outfit, and I've never been one for conventional rock. *Un*conventional rock - ah, now you're talking. But the Mish always seemed to be desperately clinging on to the coat-tails of the Classic Rock Tradition, and I was never impressed by that. I've always been more interested bands who'd gleefully rip the entire coat apart. I mean,  just why *did* we fight the Punk Wars? So that Wayne Hussey could have a career as a standard-issue rock messiah? I don't think so!

So, it's a bit of a surprise to find myself here, waiting for Wayne to stroll out with his acoustic guitar and his bottle of vino, and give us the Mish's greatest hits, solo style. Frankly, if it was up to me, I'd be outta here, but Bunny Peculiar, whose musical taste is in every other way impeccable, is a bit of a Mish fan and she particularly wants to see Wayne do his stuff. OK, then, Hussey - show us what yer made of, mate.

The Wayne Hussey solo acoustic show, is, as you might guess, a minimalist, stripped-down experience. No pyrotechnics, no rock 'n' roll shapes. Wayne sits on a stool and regales us with certain highlights from his past, between swigs of red wine - something which, incidentally, I half-suspect he's doing for effect, just to play up to his reputation as a sozzled old carouser. Some of the songs are delivered to the strumming of his guitar, others feature pre-programmed backing tracks. There's a brief keyboard interlude - 'Now, how does this thing work?' mutters Wayne to himself, as he sits at his synth. The set is, by and large, old favourites, the big tunes of the Mission's heyday - and it seems, from glancing around at the crowd, that most of Wayne's audience these days comprises middle-aged goth couples who go all misty-eyed when their hero plays 'their' song. When 'Tower Of Strength' comes up, the thirtysomething couple next to me gaze nostalgically into each other's eyes and promptly start snogging. I don't know where to look! There's a new song, which sounds more or less like all the old songs - it certainly features Wayne's trademark greetings-card lyrics: 'I would do anything for you...I would lay down my life for you...' Ho hum. Another one for the middle-aged lovers market, eh, Wayne? The only slight surprise is a cover of The Cure's 'A Night Like This', which curiously still sounds like a Cure song even when stripped to the acoustic basics. You can almost hear Robert Smith's ghostly voice joining in. To finish, 'Like A Hurricane', 'Deliverance', and off. Well, that was relatively painless. At least it was a short set.


Bunny Peculiar wants to see some neo-folk bands. I want to see anything that isn't Wayne Hussey. So off we go to Haus Leipzig, a club across town which, on Saturday at least, is hosting all the folkie stuff. Haus Leipzig turns out to be a big concrete block of a place, the kind of venue which, in former times, was probably called the Josef Stalin Memorial Drill Hall Number One. Fortunately, the inside looks better than the outside - it's an atmospheric (although swelteringly hot) dance hall about the size of London's Electric Ballroom. What with this being the neo-folk night, I'd expected the audience to be full of blokes with severely cropped hair, grey shirts and frighteningly intense expressions. As it turns out, the crowd is much more varied than that - everyone from old-skool goths in scruffy Bauhaus T-shirts to full-on medievalists in flowing robes is represented. But they've all got frighteningly intense expressions. For some reason, neo-folk seems to attract this kind of obsessively devoted fanbase. The artists in this genre are treated with such exaggerated respect it's almost as if the fans believe that the gods have come to walk among us - and yet some of 'em can't even sing, as anyone who has suffered the off-key warbling of Tony Wakeford will know only too well.

As we arrive, Fire And Ice are getting ready to start their set. Fire And Ice is a typically dramatic name for what turns out to be a group of acoustic musicians - guitar, cello, percussion - who play a very delicate and traditional-sounding folk, the kind of stuff you might hear in a pub in Cumbria on a winter's night when all the tourists have gone home. Watching this music being played to a large audience of devoted fans at a goth festival is really quite surreal. The main man of Fire And Ice is Ian Read, a mild-mannered chap who looks like a retired schoolmaster. In his publicity photos he always seems to be wearing dark glasses, which give him a faintly forbidding, gangsterish air. On stage, without the shades, he looks...well, just mild-mannered. His past involvement with such bands as Current 93 guarantees the audience's interest, but even without these connections I think he'd have no trouble winning over the crowd. Because Ian Read *can* sing, in a very precise, controlled, rich tenor, which somehow commands attention.

He simply stands at the mic, barely moving, and the audience hangs on every word. Some of his songs are traditional folk-ditties, pleasant, comforting pastoral songs - or, at least, that's the way they seem, until he gets to the bit about the body swinging from the high gallows tree, or laying his lover's cold clay corpse where he full soon may follow. There does seen to be an awful lot of death in Ian Read's songs. Death - and Norse gods. Those seem to be his two principal subjects. If he's not experiencing the gruesome death of sundry lovers or family members in a bucolic countryside setting, he's contemplating his own journey to the halls of Valhalla. These apocalyptic themes sit rather uneasily with his own unassuming presence, but curiously enough, with a certain suspension of disbelief, it actually works rather well.

The audience listens with rapt, respectful attention, and then at then end of each song they nearly lift the roof with football-crowd whoops and roars. The intensity of their enthusiasm is almost surreal - such a surge of noise after such quiet music. Eat your heart out, Wayne Hussey - *your* acoustic set didn't get a reaction like this!

Changes are next on stage after Fire And Ice. Apparently they're a legendary '70s-vintage folk group from the USA, although more than that I cannot tell you, since my knowledge of '70s folk is sadly incomplete. After the every-song-an-apocalypse approach of Fire And Ice, their relaxed, west coast-style strumming and singing is quite a change, and their amiable between-song chat creates the impression that we're sitting on a Californian beach in the cool of the evening, having a happening with the local bunch of hippies - well, almost. Personally, I can't quite tune out the hard concrete floor and the hot Leipzig night, but they *almost* take me there. They play a few songs from their  new album, which, it seems, is a collection of sea shanties. I have to smile. As the final act on neo-folk night, Changes come across as an incongruous window onto a more innocent world.

And that was Saturday. Two days down, two to go...

...continue to Part 4