Hooked On Peter, And Joy Division.
I spent the weekend at Holland’s Summer Darkness festival, an industrial music event celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It was my first time outside the UK in six years, my first trip to mainland Europe in fourteen years or so, and the first industrial festival I attended as a punter, rather than working as crew.
The city of Utrecht is beautiful, architecturally and aesthetically, and the sun shone all weekend. I was there with a good friend, and it was her idea to go to this festival based on the line-up – many of our favourite bands played, including ones we count as friends: Combichrist, Nachtmahr, Aesthetic Perfection, Surgyn, Straftanz, Terrolokaust, Suicide Commando. I especially wanted to see Peter Hook, closing the Sunday night (and the whole festival) with his new band, who pay tribute to and exclusively play songs by his first band Joy Division.
The festival is held over five venues, spread widely across the city, and we quickly discovered that from our hotel it took forty minutes to walk to the venue we would most be in, the other venue being approximately halfway along the route. With an hour of DJing between each band, and lots of dancing, it made for long walks home – me in steel-toecapped boots, my friend in uncomfortable heeled platforms. So, by Sunday night, after a day of excellent bands, but tired and hungover and sore and with no enthusiasm to see someone with whose music she had no familiarity, she wanted to just go back to the hotel and let me go to the final gig by myself.
Ordinarily, I’d be fine with that – seeing a band alone – her argument that you don’t speak to anyone during a gig echoing my own belief. However, as we had made the trip abroad together, and knew few others in the city, and would be returning home the next day, I knew I would prefer her company, and asked her to join me as a favour – free to leave after a couple of songs if she wanted. It took a bit of persuasion, but she relented.
As planned, we went up the stairs to find a seat, no intention of dancing, and quickly found a wide but low raised platform for sitting on, so far from the stage that our backs rested against the wall. I sat beside her, and she demanded “Go and see the band” – our view obscured by everyone standing on similar platforms and at barriers in front of us. I walked forward and had a look, but realised immediately that there was no visual aspect to this band that interested me – I sat back down, knowing that I just needed to hear the music played live.
And that is what I came to realise, that I NEEDED to hear Peter Hook playing the songs he created as part of Joy Division.
We were joined a short while later by Ollie and Ross from Surgyn, and my reason for writing this is the complete difference in perception that people have. For me it was the perfect gig – hungover, tired and sore, but sitting in silence with my three other friends from Glasgow on either side of me, just enjoying the music and enjoying each other’s company. No talking, no distractions, no outsiders, just us and the iconic songs I love. I got lost in the moment, and understood why I’d felt compelled to be here – my closest friend introduced me to Joy Division and New Order. She was my first proper girlfriend, and 11 years later remains my truest ally. She took me to Borders to see Tony Wilson reading from his novelisation of the “24 Hour Party People” screenplay; a film that we saw when it was then released on her birthday. I vividly remember those experiences, I remember my nearest friends when I did my degree were similarly into those bands, and so I have a lot of personal shit attached to that music.
Then there is the story of Ian Curtis, as depicted in the aforementioned film/book and in “Closer” (based on his widow’s biography of him) – the epileptic and intense poet who penned their lyrics and who hanged himself on the eve of their first US tour.
I knew my friend didn’t want to be there, but it was only after the main set – during the rapturous applause – that I realised that Ollie and Ross were not impressed either, expressing verbal disparagement. All of them stayed until the end though, and I’m really glad that they did – I could not have foreseen a better way to experience that gig: surrounded by newer friends and immersed in memories of old ones. The perfect end to the night, and to the festival, at least for me – they might disagree.
“No language, just sound, that’s all we need know, to synchronise love to the beat of the show.”