Netherlands Incubate Festival 2012 Recap

Cheshire Agusta of Stinking Lizaveta behind her drumset. | Photo by Neil Mach

Now in its eighth successful year, the Incubate Festival, which is held in the university town of Tilburg in the Netherlands, attracts an international audience to celebrate an eclectic variety of sounds and experiences, as well as hosting conferences and art projects, like independent film screenings and inventive exhibitions.

“The spirit of creativity, innovation and D.I.Y. ethics is strong in Tilburg. We like to support cutting-edge culture […] but we also care about independent thinking. For this reason, this is the best ‘open source’ party in the world,” the tour leader of the “Tilburg Tour for Incubaters”  told the crowd on Thursday evening. This popular walking tour, one of the fringe events that takes place during the week of the festival, aims to help visitors orient themselves around the maze of narrow streets, alleys and winding lanes, and also provides a welcoming introduction to the strange stories behind the many extravagant buildings and landmarks found in the city.

Tilburg during Incubate Week was recently described by Pitchfork as a city whose  “[E]very last square inch [is] littered with pre-amps and patch cords.” It is spread over at least 28 distinctive city center venues, and it sometimes seems as if the party has taken over the entire metropolitan area. The works of art and music gradually tend to “leak” into the many corners and crannies of the old city middle, becoming a natural part of the heartbeat and soul of the city.

This year huge posters of joyful mothers adorn almost every wall, board or any other available flat surface. This major art project is a celebration of the “beauty and diversity” of the mothers of the city, featuring photos submitted by residents (the tiny portraits have been transformed into giant placards) becoming a city-wide artwork.

Darsombra, live at Incubate Festival 2012. | Photo by Neil Mach

On Friday evening, after sipping a couple of strong beers–“Tripels” in Heuvel–we made our merry way beyond the original site of the infamous Bat Cave (now a day care center). The Bat Cave was the spiritual home of Dutch punk rock in the 80’s. The music venue 013 opened in 1998 and replaced the original “Bat Cave.” 013 is the largest popular music venue in the southern Netherlands and hosts many of the major Incubate acts.

Then we went to the Little Devil bar, a pub/club specializing in live and heavy music, from blues to black metal. It has a renowned underground atmosphere and a sweat-stained , beer-soaked character. The veteran Philadelphia-based power-trio Stinking Lizaveta were playing. They have only started recently performing again after drummer Cheshire Agusta was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver (June 1). The accident partially crushed Agusta’s left shinbone. We  were very pleased to see the band playing a vigorous live set at Incubate, and especially pleased to see Cheshire giving her all.

Kiera Fox of Maria & The Mirrors. | Photo by Neil Mach

At the Little Devil we also saw an incredibly hypnotic performance by Brian Danilosk. When he is not going berserk with his Meatjack project, Brian is a self-contained solo act known as Darsombra. The musician uses an extraordinary range of sound cards and assorted pedals to create the vast, multi-textured cathedrals of sound during his performances.

Later, we went to the world-famous Paradox club, a place that specializes in spontaneous music and experimental jazz improvisation and is one of the most respected jazz venues in Europe. Here we saw the wild energy of the London-based trio Maria & The Mirrors whose powerful duelling drums, other-worldly screaming vocals and a wall of electronic vibrations, created an extraordinarily powerful vortex of psychedelic sounds.

Described by The Quietus (August 2011), as “One of the best music and arts festivals in Europe” the Incubate week in Tilburg is a feast of sensory delights and an amazing amalgam of musical styles. It’s highly recommended for anyone who values creativity and innovation above anything else in modern music.

Incubate 2013 is already in the planning stage. It will be held September 16 to 22 next year in Tilburg.


–Neil Mach

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