Damnation Festival – Part One
Editors’ Note: Astute readers will have noticed that we’re fond of breaking things into several serialised parts here at Demon Pigeon. That’s because more parts means more articles and therefore more output for less actual work. The problem with Damnation Festival is that it’s a compact, one-day affair. Spoilsports. Not even we are lazy enough to try and milk a triptych of articles out of a 12-hour festival. Until now, that is.
Rather than arbitrarily breaking the event into three or more chronological chapters as we normally would, we’ve instead decided to present to you the same review, written from three different and entertaining points of view from the assorted writing staff who took themselves off to Leeds for the day. It’s basically a bit like Rashomon, except with less Toshiro Mifune and more Carcass. This first installment is by lovely Geoff Owen.
Leeds is constantly trying to do things to make people think it’s better than Sheffield. Whether it’s having bands like Hawk Eyes and Humanfly release some of the best music of 2013, (Humanfly have split up now anyway, so 1-0 Sheffield) or finally building itself an arena to lure the likes of Nickleback and Elbow further up the M1 (We got The Wanted, Leeds—so suck it up!) The latest of these was a one-day festival headlined by someone called Carcass.
I headed over from the magnificent Steel City for a day, purely for research purposes, and to make sure there was no danger of Leeds’ attempt at a festival troubling the magnificent Sheftival of 2012.
When I arrived at Leeds it was raining but by the time I got to the venue it had stopped so I’m willing to let that one slide. Damnation had taken over the whole of Leeds University Students Union for the day, and it’s always amusing to see the reactions of people who have just popped in to get their NUS card renewed or grab a potato from the potato shop. I also overheard two ticket touts having an extremely detailed conversation about the amount of black clothes on show. Big shout out goes to the guy next to me at the pasty place that ran off towards his friends yelling “SOMEONE’S JUST BOUGHT A VEGETABLE PASTY!” It was good to have the day begin by having my food choice loudly ridiculed. I hope he gets some good dinner party stories out of the experience.
Anyway, I missed the first four bands because I was crying into my vegetable pasty but I had the rest of the day meticulously planned out in my phone calendar. It was only after I arrived that I realised I hadn’t left myself any time to wee, drink, sit down or walk between the stages. Thankfully, Year of No Light sorted that problem out for me by banging one drum during soundcheck for so long that it made that whole stage run 15 minutes behind schedule all day. To be fair to the double-drummered, triple-guitaristed, no-singered, silent film-soundtracking French doom-drone-ambient shoegazers, once they did get started they sounded magnificent. The records are heavy, but played live the songs took on new levels of atmosphere and enormous massiveness. Five vegetable pasties out of five.
I caught Shining just in time to see them channel Bill Pullman in Lost Highway.
Fortunately, this was not followed by a terrifying man approaching me and telling me that he was in my house, leading me to wake up in prison having transformed into another person entirely. Instead I went and saw Dyscarnate.
I enjoyed their vest-metal, and was tempted to bust out some Biohazard arm movements but it was too early in the day for synchronised jumping armchops. Also, I’m 35.
The next full set I saw was from The Ocean and was without doubt one of the highlights of the day. The set was made up entirely of songs from this year’s Pelagial album which we reviewed here. There was a lot more jumping around and extreme stage diving than I expected, having never seen the band play live before. In keeping with the album’s theme of plunging deeper into the depths of the ocean, we were treated to a back projection of some truly messed-up undersea creatures and some boobs. As a regular viewer of Octonauts on Cbeebies, I enjoyed spotting some of my favourite characters. There was the vampire squid, the angler fish and the giant octopus. It was a shame we didn’t get to see the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaa or the Nackerwhacker, but they probably had to cut those out to fit the boobs in.
I managed to grab some tea (dinner, for you southerners) without being ridiculed this time, although I think I went a bit overboard with the ketchup. If only Veggie Pasty Guy had seen that, he’d have had another excellent Damnation story to tell. “ERMAHGERD SOMEONE PUT A BIT TOO MUCH KETCHUP ON THEIR BURGER AND IT WERE OOZING OUT OF THE BUN!”
Crippled Black Phoenix were up next and even though they didn’t manage to get through their whole set, denying us the chance of a Burnt Reynolds sing-along, they put on a great show. CBP were probably the least “metal” band on the day but the fact they didn’t seem out of place on a bill that included bands like Negura Bunget, God Seed and Conan is a testament both to the band’s excellence and the festival organisers’ ability to put together a diverse yet cohesive bill.
I saw a couple of songs by Cult of Luna who seemed to be on crushing form but I was already starting to feel anxious about getting good position for Carcass so I headed over to the main stage and plonked myself front and centre with no intention of moving. I’d also been feeling anxious about the possibilities of a high level of twat attendance for the headline set, as the effects of a whole day of booze and moshing began to take its toll on the stinky, lank-haired throng. I needn’t have worried though, as on top of being an expertly curated bill and a slickly organised event, Damnation 2013 also managed to attract a pleasingly small number of gig twats.
Carcass’s headline set was everything I hoped it would be as I entered full-on pit mode for the first time since Killing Joke last year. (I used to go in the pit all the time but then I took an arrow to the knee/hurt my ankle a bit at an Anthrax gig.) There was an infectious sense of joy coming from both the crowd and the band as Carcass ripped through a career-spanning set, songs from this year’s magnificent Surgical Steel slotting in perfectly alongside classics such as Heartwork, Corporal Jigsore Quandary and Genital Grinder. The band seem genuinely happy to be back and the joy spread upstairs to the posh balconies where members of many of the day’s other bands had gathered to watch. Essentially, it was a room full of people grinning, moshing, hugging, moshing and grinning. In an emotional moment towards the end of the set, Ken Owen came onstage to play some drums and thank the fans and I got some dust in my eye.
The set ended with a Black Star/Keep On Rotting medley and that was it, the day was over, ending as all good days should: With three Demon Pigeon writers standing in the rain next to a bin.