They filed in, one after another after another. Surely I had yet to see Buried Alive this packed this early in the evening. Tons of fresh new faces. Pretty pretty deathrock boys and girls and even some Emo kids. And suddenly I started to feel old. Where did all these people come from? I'm continuously surprised. More, more and more came through the door. The line never stopped it seemed. I looked at Mark Splatter who was DJing and grinned at him as he watched the procession -- he had to be ecstatic at the turnout. And what band has the power to bring in people from every knook and cranny of the LA area? Cinema Strange of course - LA's traveling troubadours who seem to play more in Germany than in their home state lately. I have a feeling they've been dearly missed. I had read stories of their shows in Germany and saw tons of photos. I read about their show at C8 in Montreal. All accounts were positive and left me with high expectations.
As midnight approached I noticed more and more people weaseling their way towards the stage and decided I'd better go claim a spot for myself before the crowd crushed in. It didn't take long before the lights dimmed and there was a sudden rush of people towards the front. I was actually reminded of seeing concerts in stadiums where the crowds rush the stage, pushing and shoving til everyone was as tight as sardines. My god it was uncomfortable. It was madness. We were standing sideways, shoulders overlapping and body heat boiling. I thought to myself, hmm, this better be good.
And it was.
The band slinked onto the stage - literally - crawling low to the ground. A recording played "Reveil En Sursaunt D'Un Reve" off the new CD The Astonished Eyes of Evening as an intro and then they plunged right into "Ere The Flowers Unfold." Lucas's now familiar wail set in as the crowd watched, fascinated by his erratic movements accentuated by a bizarre mask he was wearing. He was terrifying to watch - the jovial person I knew had suddenly been possessed - twisting and contorting this way and that. The lights were dark but every once in a while I started to notice spots showing up on his all too-white lab coat. Wait. Drip. Drip. Drip. Yes.. yes.. there was blood oozing from under the mask. And this bloody apparition was flanked on both sides by fierce brothers grim -- deathrock guardians who would sometimes share secret grins between each other - perfect white teeth flashing. Covered in fishnets and lace they moved across the stage gracefully and with a catlike fluid ease. They made their way through songs like "Catacomb Kittens," the ghostly "Tomb Lilies" and the extremely dramatic "Mathilde In the Dirt" the crowd going wild and bouncing uncontrollably when the chorus kicked in.
And then we were treated to several of their older, more well-known songs. Later on Daniel would tell me that a glitch in the programming had brought up the wrong tracks so they unexpectedly played a different set then they had planned and might I say, it was a happy accident. The crowd went WILD in recognition -- faces shouting out the words and singing along, bodies trying desperately to dance in confined spaces. Everyone pushed and jumped and danced. It was incredible to be in a crowd that enthusiastic about a live band.
My favorite song of the night was "The Red And Silver Fantastique And the Libretto Of the Insipid Minstrel." The strange instrument Daniel wields (it's called an Omnichord - thanks Krissy!) during that song has the most transfixing affect. All at once it's a playful, fantastic, morbid fairy tale like something right out of a Tim Burton film. Lucas's voice glided along easily, otherworldly, and Mike's guitar echoed through vast corridors. It's an appropriate example of the magic of Cinema Strange. Overall the thing I noticed the most is how well they performed what I think would be hard songs to re-create live. More over, they did it with style and ease and animated character. There was never a dull moment and needless to say, everyone went home, their little black gothy hearts going pitter patter and their striped-legs dancing merrily along...
see all the photos from this event here
Cinema Strange Webpage: http://www.cinemastrange.com/
mp3 site: www.mp3.com/cinemastrange
Buried Alive: http://www.deathrock.com/buriedalive
@ Buried Alive (Hully Gully)
June 7th, 2002
~review and photos by Blu
From their webpage: "The name, Death In Dresden comes from a war crime that was unnoticed by the public due to the fact that the governments in charge hid it and denied it. Dresden was a non-strategic city in Germany where scores of civilians were repeatedly bombed. The city was in short burned to a crisp. And the name is a statement of our failed human existence and the song writer's lack of faith in humanity and any chance of a reprieve."I was excited to see this ambitious two-man project. I had heard their last show at Release the Bats was really good and having met Maury, the seemingly soft spoken vocalist/guitar player, I was sure we'd be in for a good show. I wasn't familiar with any of their music yet so that's always a bit of a disadvantage but I was hopeful nonetheless.
Hully Gully, the venue that hosts Buried Alive on the first Friday of every month is a bit south of LA and a little off the beaten path. It's not a dive, but its not your typical glitsy LA club either... and I think we kind of like it that way. The barmaids with their fu-fu hair remind me alot of girls I disliked in highschool (only they're friendly here) and occasionally there's a big burly biker or two but overall, its down right comfy. There's plenty of seating, the drinks are very reasonable and the food is cheap and delicious (especially at 1am - try the chicken strips...... mm mm good.) Food, drink and good music. I can't think of a better way to spend a Friday unwinding.
The band took the stage shortly after midnight. The first two songs were a bit touch and go as the band battled a few technical problems. Still, a steady beat and melodic rhythm was evident enough but Maury's vocals were either very low or he was holding back (or perhaps a combination of the two.) A few people up in the front row swayed to and fro. By the third song the band seemed to have found their performance feet and things picked up considerably. By that time Gitane Demone had arrived and had pulled yet more people up front with her to dance. She invariably inspired the crowd who began to move more and more and likewise, the band seemed to gain momentum. The last three songs - "the edge," "in the woods" and "the clip" absolutely kicked ass. Maury's vocals had become more assertive and the music seemed harder and more enthusiastically played. It definitely has its foundation in deathrock but I did catch a moment or two of fun nostalgic 80's darkwave bursting through I think. I, like everyone else, was eventually caught up in the moment and near the end of the show, the band had everyone dancing. Infact, as they left the stage, Maury half chuckling, pointed to Gitane and Brandon (who had danced the entire set) and said, "I'd like to thank my dancers..."
conclusion? Death in Dresden is a band who has huge potential. Next
time I'd really like to see them get comfortable enough to really cut loose
and let us have it. Come on boys - we can take it - give us all you got!
1. death and the game.
2. the cage.
3. blood of love.
4. silent fixation.
5. seduced by the night.
6. the edge.
7. in the woods.
8. the clip
in Dresden is:
Armand D. Crepit
Death in Dresden on Deathrock.com: http://www.deathrock.com/deathindresden/
Buried Alive: http://www.deathrock.com/buriedalive
Venus Fly Trap
Club Noir, London
Friday June 28
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
The theory, I suppose, goes something like this. If you book a lot of bands, and squeeze them into one night, you stand a good chance of bringing in a big audience. Book five bands, each of whom pull in their own fans - even if they only attract 20 people each, that's an instant crowd of 100. In a small venue like the 150-capacity upstairs room at the Garage, where Club Noir takes place, that would count as a good result.
This, I assume, is the reason why tonight's Club Noir has turned itself into a mini-festival, with five live acts and consequently reduced time for the DJs. As a fan of live music, that's fine by me - but if the intention was to create a big crowd out of the bands' individual fanbases, I fear something's gone wrong. The audience never climbs above 50 people all night, and that figure includes band-members. God knows how many actual paying customers are in - nowhere near enough to reach break-even, I'd say!
Why is the crowd so small? You don't have to look far for the reason. Club Noir clashes head-on with Tenebrae, a longer-running and more established club at Gossips in Soho, where the Descendants of Cain have a regular live slot. Although the two clubs theoretically occupy different musical territories - Club Noir is supposedly 'cyber', Tenebrae roots itself far more firmly in guitar-based music - in practice everything crosses over with everything, and *any* head-on club-clash in London will result in one of the two events losing out. It seems Tenebrae has definitely won tonight's crowd. It'll be interesting to see what happens in August, when Club Noir takes a deliberate swing towards the guitar-goth end of the scene, with live sets by The Faces Of Sarah and Corrosion. Now that amounts to an obvious attempt to steal Tenebrae's audience.
This kind of club-against-club rivalry can never be healthy for the overall scene, and as a general rule I disapprove heartily of it - but isn't it interesting that a cyber/electronic oriented club feels it has to steal a bit of the action from the guitar-goth end of things? That's a real turnaround from the situation that's existed for the last few years, when cyberstuff was in the ascendant. Are we seeing evidence that the much-vaunted resurgence of guitar-based goth is actually happening? Has the Mighty Bleep had its day? We shall see!
But enough club politics. Let's pay attention to the bands. Our opening act is Zwartenblauw, who I reviewed at their previous Club Noir appearance a few months back. That was their first ever gig: tonight, they're hard-bitten old campaigners by comparison - this is gig number four. At first glance, it's business as usual: there's the guitarist, hammering out some robust riffs while maintaining an impassive presence, and there's the vocalist, in her early Robert Smith hairstyle, giving us some feisty noo-wave attitude at the mic. But it's quickly apparent that Zwartenblauw have grown and changed and developed over the last few months. Their on-stage presence seems more confident - not that the singer was ever a shrinking violet to start with, but now the guitarist stands up front instead of hiding in the background, making Zwartenblauw look much more like a *band*, rather than a bedroom project that's been hauled into the limelight. The music seems to have been tweaked a little, too: it's not quite so dominated by the thumping beat as before - there's more going on, more to actually *listen* to. The sound mix isn't the best I've ever heard - the vocals are way too low throughout - but the band overcome this with sheer verve. The fact that their songs are rather neat, spiky little squibs of post-punk energy helps a lot, too. 'Talking To Myself' definitely passes the lodge-in-your-brain test.Yes, we'll definitely give Zwartenblauw the thumbs up.
I recall catching an I.O.N. gig long, long ago at the Falcon in Camden. Then, they seemed to be doing a fairly standard EBM/techno thing. Now it seems they've toughened things up, brought in a big, bad, guitar, and decided to rock out - in a rather surreal virtual-reality way. The line up is vocals, guitar, keyboard, keyboard, keyboard - so to look at you'd think they were still predominantly in the EBM zone. And then they crank up their noise, and it's a gritty rock-monster sound, underpinned by a walloping dance beat that doesn't so much back up the guitar as challenge it to a fight. It's an odd mix, but it works. Comparisons? Well, I suppose The Young Gods must be mentioned here - the original virtual-rock band! Or perhaps a mash-up of Apoptygma Berzerk....and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The singer, who looks like he's just rolled in on a skateboard, has a powerful rock voice - and thankfully *sings* rather than just going for the 'Huurrgghh!' noise we've all heard far too frequently these days. The whole package is unexpected (hey, I thought Club Noir was a *cyber* club? Didn't it say 'Electro special' on the ticket?) but very effective. The band throw in a cover of 'Enter Sandman' which is a trifle audacious - covering such a familiar song is surely a high-risk strategy, because if it doesn't work, *that* is what everyone's going to remember! However, I.O.N. pull off their version of Metallica's finest moment in fine style, giving the song a no-shit Killing Joke-style backbeat which gets even the most diehard cyber-types grooving away. We'll chalk that one up as a result for these virtual rockers, then.
If I.O.N. were something of an anomaly at a club which supposedly caters for the cyber/electro end of things, Venus Fly Trap are even more incongruous. This is a band with history: they've been around, in more line-ups than I suspect they'd care to remember, since the 1980s, and play the kind of robust alternorock that was once the main ingredient of Kid Jensen's alternative music show on Radio One, back when I was young and impressionable. It's quite nice, in a way, to find that this kind of music is still being made - although where it fits in to the music scene of today is anyone's guess. Sure, Venus Fly Trap are incongruous at Club Noir - but then, they'd be incongruous anywhere these days. Their natural territory is probably supporting Echo And The Bunnymen on a UK tour, circa 1984. The band come before us as a duo - guitar and vocals - and launch into a set of tunes which combine intelligence with attitude. It's a much more involving performance than the last time I saw them, supporting Altered States at the Underworld. At that gig, the band just seemed to droop disconsolately on stage, and trundled through the set without much passion. Tonight, they go for it in much more vigorous style. Perhaps the small stage is a plus point here: it concentrates the band's energy and pushes it out at us, while at the Underworld it all seemed to get lost in the ether. The set is cut short - it seems things are over-running - so the band fast-forward the backing track and wrap things up with a cover of proto-cyberpunk combo Suicide's 'Rocket USA'. A nice touch, given the supposed musical slant of Club Noir, although I can't help wondering how many people here tonight recognise the song. One for the old-skoolers, I think!
Angelbomb are a new band to me, but their presence in the second-top spot presumably means they've been around a bit and established a bit of profile. The singer, sporting orange mini-dreadlocks and a blue T-shirt, is the only splash of colour on stage. He comes across as confident and commanding, the immediate visual focal point. He's backed by three men in black, all toting guitars. Looks to me like we've got another band on our hands here who are more rock than anything else. Well, so much for Club Noir's 'Electro special' concept! Angelbomb fire up their noise, and, yes, they do indeed rock. In a Nine Inch Nails way. Sort of. Loads of energy, loads of writhing about on stage, and musically it's all nailed down to The Mighty Riff. If it were not for the fact that the beats are coming out of a box, rather than from a live drum kit (the only 'electro' or 'cyber' element on show here) I'd say an opening slot for the band at Ozzfest, or some other rawk extravaganza, would be a distinct possibility. What the hell, maybe Angelbomb should go for this sort of angle even with the beat box: the rock scene accommodates all manner of left-field stuff these days. I'm sure nobody would get hung up on their drum-free line-up. Their set is chopped short - the show is still running late - but they've made their mark.
At last, it's time for tonight's headliners. Goteki are, essentially, a rebranded version of Sneaky Bat Machine - a real-life collection of anime characters with a neat line in bouncy synthpop. Supposedly, the band's name-change hearalded a more serious approach - and tonight it's noticable that Sneakybat himself, in his capacity of lead vocalist, is somewhat dressed down compared to his previous incarnations as a cyberglam action figure. Why, he's not even wearing goggles! Behind him, keyboardist Crash 303 sports a beret that gives him a purposeful military air. Only Doctor A, at the other keyboard (Goteki are the only genuinely 'electro' band tonight) has dressed up in anything approaching the old Sneaky Bat Machine look. This stripped-down image is, paradoxically, a bit of an eye-opener - we've become so used to seeing Sneaky and his chums in full regalia that it's odd, in a way, to see Goteki looking something like a real band. And I use the words 'real band' deliberately: I think one of the problems Sneaky Bat Machine had was that everyone simply regarded them as an amusing novelty. A colourful, fun, collision between pantomime and manga, an entertaining spectacle on stage...but you wouldn't necessarily want to buy the album and take it home to *listen* to. I suspect the new band-identity, and apparent strip-down of the image, is designed to change all that. Well, the image-change certainly sends out a let's-get-serious message, but it's hard to tell if this has been accompanied by any beefing-up of the music. The soundmix, which has occasionally come close to adequacy tonight, dies on its arse as soon as Goteki take the stage. It's all bass and midrange, reducing every song to an identikit thump-thump-thump. Sneaky's vocal is swamped in reverb, and so far back in the mix it creates the bizarre impression that while Sneaky himself is present, his voice is still in the dressing room. The reverb isn't even knocked back between the songs, so when Sneaky speaks to the audience it sounds like he's addressing us from the bottom of a very deep well. The only song that emerges from the murk in half-way recognisable form is the old Sneaky Bat Machine hit, 'Boneshaker', which is greeted with somewhat relieved enthusiasm by the audience - at last, something identifiable enough to dance to! The band try hard to make it all work, but it's heavy going. I think we'll have to wait for the next gig before we can assess Goteki on their true merits.
A rather frustrating night, then, which raises more questions than it answers. A 'cyber' club which seems to think that four guitar-based bands out of five constitutes an 'Electro special' - and which seems intent on moving towards guitar-goth for future events? Has Club Noir lost the plot? Given the poor turn-out tonight, it certainly seems as if Club Noir is losing its audience. All five bands did well under trying conditions - but *why* were those conditions so trying? It strikes me that someone, somewhere, just isn't taking care of business - and certainly doesn't seem to know much about music! Club Noir has to either shape up - or close down. Which way will it go? We shall watch and wait...
see all the photos for this show here
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Angelbomb: [No website?]
Venus Fly Trap: http://www.spiralarchive.com
I.O.N: [No website?]
Club Noir is brought to us by Flag Promotions: http://www.flagpromotions.com
+ Seventh Harmonic
The Mercat, Birmingham
Saturday June 8 2002
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
They're rebuilding Birmingham. Again. The brutalist, self-consciously modern, grey concrete city centre which rose out of the rubble left by Hitler's bombs is itself being demolished, and replaced by brand new architecture with a lighter touch. Good old red brick replaces monolithic concrete slabs: a collision of traditional materials with 21st-century design thinking. Once it's all finished, Birmingham's going to look like Bladerunner - if they'd employed English Heritage to dress the sets.
Fortunately for fans of 1970s 'shoe box' architecture, the Mercat is outside the redevelopment area. It's an odd venue for live music - a small pub, squarely seventies-modern on the outside, faux-olde worlde on the inside. It was built during Birmingham's post-war reconstruction as a watering hole for traders in the nearby market - which means that on Saturday nights, when every other pub in town is crowded with drinkers, the Mercat is quiet and empty. The market has closed for the night; the clientele for whom the pub was built have all gone home.
Or, at least, the Mercat *would* be quiet on Saturday nights, were it not for the goths. Ian Mann, long-standing local goth promoter, has been running his Saturday night goth-slot at the Mercat for close on ten years now. It's a classic win-win situation: Birmingham goths get a regular hangout, the landlord of the Mercat gets some healthy Saturday night bar takings. Everybody's happy.
Because the pub is not designed for live music, there's an endearing 'Let's do the show right here!' feel to Mercat gigs. The stage is a temporary affair, plonked down on the carpet at the end of one leg of the pub's L-shaped bar. The PA and lights are portable, brought in for the gigs and trucked out again afterwards. The merchandise stall is a table in the bar; the dressing room is the pub kitchen. As you might gather, it ain't the enormodome.
For all that, over the years, just about every goth artist of note has played at the Mercat: Rozz Williams, Gitane Demone, Faith and the Muse, London After Midnight, Diva Destruction, Switchblade Symphony, The Last Dance - they've all graced that ramshackle temporary stage. For UK-based bands, the Mercat has been a regular tour stop-off for years. The Dream Disciples in particular have more or less made the pub their second home: they even recorded a live album here. This unpretentious boozer - which has absolutely nothing gothic about it on any other night except Saturdays - has secured its place in international goth-history. And when the gongs for outstanding contributions to goth-culture are handed out, Ian Mann deserves a gold medal. He's never pushed himself forward, never sought recognition or acclaim - you certainly won't read about him in any of Mick Mercer's books. And yet, he's created something special in this small Birmingham pub.
Well, that's the background. Now, let's do the show. Regardless of the Mercat's goth-scene history, and regardless of Ian's status as one of the unsung heroes of UK goth, this gig is very much business as usual for everyone. For Waterglass, it's the last stop on their UK tour - Andrew, the band's drummer, and Aidan, the bassist, are hanging out in the bar, looking somewhat the worse for wear and telling tales of too many late nights and too much of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. For Seventh Harmonic, it's a one-off - a quick jaunt up the M1 from their London base, and home in time for breakfast. The soundchecks are wrapped up as the first punters file through the door, greeting Ian and his crew as they come in. It's all very informal, almost like a party arranged by a bunch of friends, rather than the usual gig-experience.
Seventh Harmonic emerge from the kitchen and make their way to the stage, and the audience clusters around. Now, Seventh Harmonic are a rare thing: a genuine, home-grown, UK-based neo-classical, ethereal band. For years, the general consensus on the UK scene was that 'ethereal bollocks' just wouldn't work. The UK just wouldn't wear it - we all wanted to mosh. With a magnificent disregard of the UK goth-scene consensus, Seventh Harmonic simply went ahead and did their ethereal thing. And, to everyone's surprise (including, I suspect, the band themselves) they've notched up quite a fair bit of success. Perhaps this is because the band have such a distinct character - it's ethereal, but it's ethereal with attitude. If it's possible for a neo-classical band to rock, Seventh Harmonic do just that.
Kate, stage centre with her dulcimer (which she introduces to us as 'the amazing device') is the focal point of the show. Her vocals have that essential ethereal-goth purity, but there's a certain power there, too. Her dulcimer playing - which fascinates everyone at the front - is precise and yet apparently effortless. Over on stage right, Eilish, Seventh Harmonic's violinist, creates a sound that's stronger and beefier than you'd expect - a full, rolling sound which fills out the music. The violin is such an integral part of the band's sound that the music is noticably more sparse when it drops out. And on the other side, Caroline provides a rock 'n' roll reference point with bass and guitar. There's a backing track somewhere in the mix, fleshing things out and providing the rhythm, and occasionally I catch myself wondering what Seventh Harmonic would be like with a *real* percussionist. The music is rhythmically quite complex, so whether one human being could handle everything is a little doubtful. But after seeing This Ascension in Montreal recently, with their excellent percussionist in full effect, I'm quite taken with the idea. Most of the songs in the set tonight derive from the band's last album, 'The Ascent', which was recorded with a different line-up. Occasionally, that's apparent in the live versions: you can tell that Kate is trying to wrap her voice around vocal lines that were created by another singer. But there's new stuff, too, which gels impressively, and hints at good things to come when the band get around to recording their next album. The set finishes with a dulcimer solo, and it's fascinating to turn and watch the audience standing there in rapt attention as the notes tumble from the PA.
Waterglass are a distinct contrast to Seventh Harmonic inasmuch as they have a full rock-band line-up - drum kit and everything. Come to think of it, that makes them a distinct contrast to a large chunk of the UK goth scene, much of which is still soundtracked by backing-track bands of one sort or another. The small Mercat stage suddenly looks very crowded as Waterglass deploy their five members in front of their impressively large banner. Ah, you can tell a band that takes its touring seriously, when they make themselves a banner! Victoria greets us cheerfully and the band wallop straight into the set. It's a pell-mell experience, the music driving along to Andrew's powerhouse drum beats and Aidan's basslines, which go thumping out into the crowd and get everyone grooving. There's nothing like a tight, powerful, rhythm section to nail everything down and shove it all forward (er, if that's not a contradiction). Waterglass have (yet another) new line-up tonight: Pete, the guitarist featured on the 'Wisdom Like Silence' album has now left, and there's a new guitarist - whose name, alas, I cannot bring you - in his place. He seems to have every last note off to a T (is there a note T?) and I'm impressed by the way he barely glances at his fretboard. I scuttle around at the front, trying to find good angles for photos, and inwardly cursing the lighting rig which is so close to the band that he beams of light don't have a chance to spread out as they would at a larger venue. I must apologise to Rose, on keyboards, for the photo which makes her look like a green cardboard cut-out - that, I'm afraid, is what happens when there's an intense green light about eighteen inches from your head!
But it's the music that really matters, and Waterglass deliver in glorious style. There's a new album's worth of songs to play, and what cool and catchy songs they are. The Mercat fairly rocks to 'Departure' and 'Longshore Drift' - even the newer songs, which must be unfamiliar to at least some of the people here tonight, seem to connect and generate a response. It's a performance full of warmth and humanity, the kind of show which I think can only be created by a band who play it all live, for real, in real time. There's no way an audience can get this excited when they know that half the stuff they're hearing is on a mini-disc, or whatever. The positive atmosphere seems to be rubbing off on the band - it's a pleasure to see a bunch of people obviously sparking off each other, playing with that curious telepathy that sometimes exists between musicians, and which can never exist between a musician and a backing track. At the end of the set, when the band try to leave the stage, the crowd simply stands there, refusing to allow the band to walk back through the audience to the dressing room-cum-kitchen. Well, that's one way of ensuring an encore!
A classic gig, one of the best I've seen at the Mercat - and I've seen a few in my time. The combination of bands, venue, and that unique informal atmosphere just clicked tonight. Seventh Harmonic and Waterglass are stars, and Birmingham goths don't know how lucky they are.
see all the photos from this show here
(Check out the tour diary: "To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, my living room looks like the results of an experiment involving gorillas and LSD...")
Seventh Harmonic website: http://freespace.virgin.net/seventh.harmonic
Frustratingly, there seems to be no comprehensive, practical, generally-available Birmingham goth-resource on the web. However, try thesefor what they're worth:
The BrumGoth site for Birmingham goth-information (not fully accessible unless you're a member of the BrumGoth e-list): http://www.darkwave.org.uk/~bex/BrumGoth/index.html
The BrumGoth e-list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BrumGoth
A rather confusing Birmingham goth scene resource site - long on techie gimmickery but a little short on hard information: http://www.spraci.net/cgi-bin/menucat.cgi?area=x2birmingham&category=goth
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Montreal, May 31 - June 2, 2002
~by Uncle Nemesis
(photos by Uncle Nemesis unless otherwise noted)
The best ideas are simple ideas, and the idea behind Convergence was, and remains, as brilliantly simple as they come.
First, the essential background. The major goth-phenomenon of the 1990s was the rise of the internet as the principal means of communication and networking for the scene. It had to happen: the mainstream media's brief flirtation with goth in the 1980s was long gone, and by the 90s goth was treated with a mixture of hostility and derision (that's if anyone noticed it at all). Goth, fragmented and shut out, urgently needed some sort of unrestricted channel of communication. The solution was the internet, which came along at just the right time. Goth stuck two fingers up at conventional media, and promptly went online.
Nobody knows who first suggested the idea of an event where the virtual goth scene of the net could download itself into real life, and online friends could meet offline. However, back in 1995 - which, with a bit of leeway, we can argue was the year when goth-stuff on the internet first reached a certain critical mass - the idea crystallised into the event we know as Convergence. A bunch of Chicago goths put together the first one, and in doing so started a ball rolling that has never stopped.
years, eight cities, and eight Convergences later, here we are in Montreal.
Convergence VIII, 2002. Download complete. The party starts now.
Montreal is a three-way culture collision. It looks like the USA, it sounds like France, and our own dear Queen, gawd bless 'er, is on the money. The newspapers say that the Canadian economy is doing well, but you'd never guess from the drive in to centre-ville from Dorval airport - a long drag of closed-down factories, empty warehouses, vacant lots and grey concrete bleakness. The humble A4 road from Heathrow airport to central London looks like an elegant, tree-lined Parisian boulevard by comparison. Given the fact that Montreal prides itself on its Frenchness, that's quite an irony. Just as I was starting to think we'd stumbled into some sort of post-apocalypse Mad Max-style urban wasteland, the city proper opens out before us and it all starts to make sense.
For anyone used to conventional European festivals, Convergence immediately throws up an anomaly. It's all based around one hotel, block-booked by the organisers, where more or less everyone stays. The hotel plays host to the daytime events: in this respect, Convergence can't even be regarded as a festival in any standard form. It's more like a convention, a networking and social event...with a whole lot of partying, in local clubs and venues, bolted on in the evenings. Well, that works for me! The C8 hotel is the alarmingly posh Delta (you can tell it's posh - the decor is all tasteful shades of beige) where immaculately-uniformed staff take the sudden influx of black-clad weirdos entirely in their stride. I'm impressed - and rather taken aback, I must admit, to find myself addressed politely as 'Mr Johnson' at reception. Nuff respect to the goth massive. We certainly don't get that every day!
C8 officially commences with a meet 'n' greet session in the hotel's conference room. We pick up tickets and T-shirts. There are goths everywhere - which, I'll grant you, is a no-brainer observation if ever I've made one, but this is the first time that 'Wow - I'm at *Convergence*!' feeling really kicks in. There's a definite feeling of anticipation in the air. Everyone's fired up and ready to have a good time, as laminates are scrutinized for net-names ("Oh - so it's *you!*") and online friends (and enemies) meet. I notice a man in the corner with a keyboard and some technology. Closer inspection reveals this to be Mara's Torment, a one-man electro-ethereal project who is playing live for us today. That's 'live' as in 'occasionally touch the keyboard', but it's not bad stuff in a background-music-with-intelligence kind of way.
a rather odd bar arrangement which requires the purchase of a ticket from
a separate desk, which is then exchanged at the bar for the booze. Nobody
seems sure if this is a manifestation of some strange Canadian drinking
law, or whether it's something the hotel has thought up all by themselves.
Still, even at $7.25 per beer (expensive in any language) the bar seems
to be doing good business, assisted in no small measure by the arrival
of the UK contingent and their horror stories of missing luggage. There's
also a large crew of people up from Boston - at about six hours' driving-time
from Montreal (a mere jaunt in American-distance terms) C8 counts as almost
a local event for Bostongoths.
Friday night's entertainment takes place a few blocks away in the Spectrum, a large live music venue which, I'd guess, is Montreal's equivalent to the Astoria in London. Certainly the interior is tricked out in traditional none-more-black decor which is entirely appropriate for a goth event. Beers are sold in amusing plastic picnic containers, and the barman very kindly takes time out to explain to visiting English people that, yes, we *do* tip the bar staff round here. Don't blame me, mate, the only other time I bought a beer in Canada I had to buy a ticket for it. I know naught of your esoteric customs!
Once suitably lubricated, it's time for the revels to commence. Holding down that all-important opening slot, we have (deep breath) Captain Matt's Armada Featuring Axel (where Trevor writes all the songs and does all the work) introducing Insatiabelle. They look like Benny Hill's idea of a gothabilly band, with a long-lost relative of Ozzy Osbourne on vocals. Their crazily convoluted band-history, related at extreme and confused length over the last few months on the internet, sounds suspiciously like a tall tale somebody made up in the pub...but hey, I read it on alt.gothic, so it must be true. Tonight, the legendary Axel appears before us riding a giant green rocket-penis, which makes for an, erm, 'interesting' visual experience. And yet, for all the larking about and general are-they-taking-the-piss-or-what stuff, the band actually cut it surprisingly well on stage. Once Axel has unstrapped his penis and strapped on a bass, Captain Matt Etc (as I shall call the band in an attempt to stave off RSI) immediately look less like a bunch of chancers trying to wing it on a 'wacky' ticket, and a lot more like a real band. The set's made up of hoary old covers such as The Cramps' 'Primitive' and The Who's 'Stepping Stone', interspersed with what I can only assume are Captain Matt originals - certainly, I've never heard such songs as ' Swirly Goth Stomp' and 'Caspar Vs. The Super Zombies' by anyone else. I'm able to tell you the song titles with such confidence, by the way, because I managed to aquire a set list by devious means, and unless I receive certain bribes and considerations from the band I shall reveal that Axel's call for beer just after 'Paint It Black' was *scripted*! (Except that, oops, I think I just did....)
The next item on tonight's programme is not a band - it's a fashion show, where the inventions of eight different designers are paraded before us to a suitably left-field soundtrack. Now, I don't Do Fashion, as anyone who's ever taken a despairing glance inside my wardrobe will readily attest, so detailed descriptions of the outfits on show are, I'm afraid, a little beyond me. In any case, no announcements are made, and therefore there's no way of telling exactly who designed what. The best way to enjoy the show is simply to treat it as sheer spectacle. On this level it works splendidly, as a non-stop parade of dressed-up models prance and stride across the stage. The show, however, is stolen by the PVC-clad figure who cavorts and twirls wildly while suspended above the stage on a couple of bungees. There's no topping that, so let's bring on the bands again....
The second band of C8 is This Ascension. With all due respect to Cap'n Matt and his merry crew, I think we may call This Ascension the first *proper* band of the event. They're a new name to me. I'm astonished to find that they've been going, in one form or another, since 1988, although the current line-up is essentially late-nineties vintage. I'm double-astonished to find that their latest album, ' Sever', was partly recorded in Leamington Spa, England, with the great John A. Rivers in the producer's chair. Does this mean the band came all the way to the UK for studio work (which is astounding in itself - they actually had a budget that stretched to international recording sessions?) - but they didn't think to play a *gig*? I thought only Lacrimosa did things like that!
This Ascension are billed in the C8 programme-fanzine as 'fierce ethereal', which is such a dead-accurate oxymoron that I wish I'd thought of it myself. The band brew up a noise that's dense, layered and precise, and crackles with energy. The guitar sound is a thing of towering glory, but the focal point, the eye of the sonic hurricane, is the singer, resplendent in no-shit red hair and an even more no-shit PVC dress. She's got a marvellous, powerful but controlled voice (which sounds even better once the sound engineer remembers to push up the vocal fader, four songs in) and great stage presence - although the bass player, in full-on rock-out mode, does his best to grab the limelight. I'm impressed by the percussionist, who physically fades sounds in and out by sweeping assorted percussion-stuff past his mics...and then backs up the drummer by walloping his bongos *exactly* on the beat. It's rare to see (and, indeed, hear) really good percussion, but this is *good*. The final song is a bass, drums, and percussion stampede - a great rhythmic rush of sound that has real physical force, marred only by the guitarist (who doesn't play on this number) casually strolling across the back of the stage, sitting down, and swigging a beer, while the rest of the band play their hearts out, oblivious to this extra spectator. If I were This Ascension's manager, the guitarist would get a rocket up his arse in the dressing room for doing that. You simply *don't* spoil the show in that way - especially if you're a member of the band!
Bella Morte are our headliners tonight - and many in the UK contingent find their top billing hard to fathom. The only Bella Morte stuff that we in the UK have ever heard is the band's early album, Remains. For some reason, round about 1997 a whole load of promo copies found their way over the Atlantic, and thus it is that the band are always thought of in terms of that album in the UK. That's all we know of 'em. Now, Remains isn't a bad album in its way, but its mannered 'goth-band' vocals, bom-chuck drum machine sound, and up-and-down-the-scale keyboards just sounded far too derivative and polite for the UK scene in 1997. We wanted fire and brimstone and energy and verve. We didn't want another bedroom-goth outfit - and, frankly, that's how Bella Morte came across at the time. The prospect of witnessing exactly that bedroom-goth outfit on stage at C8 has many of the UK-crew heaving sighs of resignation and making a strategic retreat to the bar. Me, I reckon I'll give 'em a chance. So, I venture to the front...and find myself right in the firing line when the band come out and go 'KAPOW!' three inches from my face.
and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you that Bella Morte are not the band they
once were. Somewhere along the line, that mannered bedroom-goth outfit
of 1997 mutated into a roaring, storming, freaked-out punk-rock monster.
Bella Morte, 2002-style, comprise a manic, mohawked singer, all leaps and
bounds and grimaces and hollering, plus a mohawked guitarist who looks
like he should be in The Exploited: mad eyes, grinding teeth and grinding
riffs. There's a mohawked bass player (can we discern a stylistic theme
here?) who hunches over his instrument like it's about to come alive in
his hands, and, right at the back, there lurks a keyboard player who favours
the cut-off strides and spiky-top of modern MTV-punk. This is a *goth*
band? Well, yes - the energy and style may be pure punk, but there are
real lyrics and real singing here, all delivered with bucketloads of adrenalin.
Occasionally, an older song is thrown in, and the faintest glimmer of the
bedroom-goth band Bella Morte once were shines through. But the band have
given themselves an impressive make-over since those days, and the crowd
responds to their sheer energy by going mosh-mad. Suddenly, the keyboard
player makes a run from the back of the stage and launches himself into
the crowd - and starts up his own slam-pit! Well, you can't beat that for
enthusiasm. I'm left wondering whether Bella Morte want to be Bauhaus or
Black Flag. They seem to have elected to be a bit of both - and, crazily
enough, it works. I suspect the UK scene would love 'em now. Bet you anything
just one Whitby appearance would be all it takes...
It's Saturday, far too early. It's time for the Bazaar and the Zine fair, down in the Delta hotel conference room. Along with fellow UK-goth Morph, I've been volunteered by Natasha, editor of meltdown magazine, to set up a stall giving away free promo copies of the mag. Because we're *giving* the magazines away, rather than trying to sell them, we don't actually have much work to do. We set out the mags in an attractive display, and then sit back and chat to nearby stallholders, among them Marcus Pan who's touting hard-copy versions of Legends magazine. Just to maintain a StarVox presence, I scatter stickers around. I'm taken aback to find that many people don't know what StarVox is. A bunch of net.goths who've never heard of a goth-oriented webzine? Tsk! Must surf harder!
Everybody likes a freebie, and sure enough the free promotional meltdowns melt away like snow in summer. Once they've gone, there's time to look around the Bazaar. Just about everything a goth could want is on sale here, from fine art to fancy frocks. The one thing that's missing is a CD stall - which is a strange omission. There are several stalls selling corsets of one variety or another, but no stall selling music! Can we therefore conclude that the transatlantic scene is dominated by fashion? Or is it simply the case that no music retailer had a free weekend to do Convergence? If that was so, they all missed a great opportunity to do business - and also to build up those intangible (but vital) things like goodwill and presence.
In addition to the Bazaar, there are workshops and discussions going on in the side rooms - on subjects ranging from horror novels to hair extensions. But the evening's entertainments are looming, so it's time to get ready.
Tonight, we're back to the Spectrum for a four-band extravaganza. We kick off with an outfit from Montreal itself, the rather wonderful Bordello. I'm always excited when a band I've never heard of before comes out and *convinces* me, and Bordello do exactly that. They've got a clangorous, early-Siouxsie-via-Sonic Youth sound, and one of their two guitarists looks like mid-seventies Elvis. When he sees me down the front with my camera, he gives me a special sneer. I hope he likes the resulting photo! Bordello's secret weapon is their singer, a deceptively demure-looking young lady who marches right up to the mic and lets rip with a voice that could strip paint at twenty paces. She can do the sardonic growl, the smouldering croon, and the death-or-glory caterwaul, and sometimes she combines all this within the space of one song. If Courtney Love could hear this, she'd be thinking of taking early retirement before the set's half over. The band are clearly revelling in their performance: the boys in the band hurl themselves around like rock'n'roll sex gods, keeping things *just* the right side of self-parody. It's a fine line but Bordello know how to walk it. They throw in a cover of Alice Cooper's 'I'm 18' which, I suspect, illustrates where they're coming from, where their hearts lie, and what's in their record collections. All of which sounds cool to me.
Speaking of record collections, after Bordello's showstopping performance I confess I was a little disappointed by their two-song CD (apparently the only thing they've recorded so far) which features 'Down in the Shades', a surreal blues, and 'Free Ride', a slice of mutant rockabilly. Both of these songs are very powerful live, but the recorded versions, alas, are weedy and under-produced, with the vocals way down in the mix. I swear the loudest thing on 'Free Ride' is the drummer's crash cymbal, which drowns out everything every time he hits it. It's a pity the band haven't got anything on record which matches their live impact. That's got to be the next thing to take care of. Frankly, I'd pay money for a from-the-desk recording of the C8 set!
Quite how an electronic-based band such as Swarf could follow Bordello's guitar-driven assault was always going to be a tricky one. Would the C8 crowd accept a sudden switch to electronica, especially from a band who are virtually unknown on this side of the Atlantic? There's only one way to find out, and that's to get out there and do it. So, Chris and Andrew crank up their trademark Swarfbeats, and Liz rather nervously walks out and lets 'em have it. And....they're an instant hit. From my position right down at the stage, I turn and look over the crowd, and dammit but *everyone* is dancing, right the way to the back. The seating area at the rear of the venue is emptying as more people hurry down to the front, to experience this coolest of grooves. I confess I feel a little twinge of pride - I recall listening to Swarf's first ever demo, a ropey old home-made cassette which they were initially reluctant to let me hear, believing that the songs weren't good enough. But the songs *were* good enough, and I gave them a gig at the Underworld in London as soon as I could find an opportunity. Now, a couple of years and many more gigs on, they're taking Montreal by storm. It's a great feeling, watching a band that I championed at an early stage really getting somewhere. Oooh, it makes me feel all misty-eyed! But then, how could anyone fail to react to Swarf's insistent, catchy songs, those glorious soaring vocal lines, and Liz's good-humoured stage presence? When she confesses to feeling a little nervous because she lost her voice the previous week, and it's still not quite back to normal, you can almost feel the waves of goodwill coming off the crowd as everyone urges her on. Swarf's hits-in-the-making, 'Drown', 'Subtext' and 'Fall' get the entire place moving, one venue under a groove. A triumphant performance, and afterwards the band can't quite believe how well it went. If there was such a thing as a 'C8 <heart> Swarf' T-shirt, they would've sold by the truckload.
There's another distinct change of style now, as Cinema Strange emerge from the shadows and fire up their own bizarre soundtrack. There are three of them: a bassist and guitarist all dressed up in Batcave-era ripped fishnet and artfully sculpted hair, and a singer wrapped in a white sheet, his face hidden by a mask. Two polystyrene dummy heads dangle on strings from his arms. So this is 21st Century Californian Deathrock? Looks to me uncannily like early-80s London post-punk! Cinema Strange sound oddly familiar, too: they generate a slo-mo stomp-and-grind, the singer wailing through his mask like Andi Sex Gang with stomach ache. That's a reference point which I'm sure Cinema Strange would appreciate (er, I mean Andi Sex Gang, not the stomach ache) - I bet if I looked through their record collections I'd find plenty of Sex Gang Children and Virgin Prunes. Post-punk weirdstuff, rather than the more straightforward bands of the slightly later 'gothic' goth scene. It's a pleasure to find a band of today which takes its musical cue from that intensely creative, anything-goes, era which, alas, few people nowadays remember first hand, or even acknowledge as an influence. It's also a pleasure to discover that Cinema Strange's music has such an enthusiastic following - it's not 'easy' stuff, sprinked as it is with odd time-changes and almost Beefheart-style surreal interludes. There's a real crush down the front as everyone crowds forward to be as close as possible to the band. The boys ham it up like rogue troupers, the singer looming over the monitors like a lizard peering over a wall. His polystyrene heads dangle over the edge, and people in the front row reach out for them like cats playing with tempting toys. It's bizarre theatre, and the audience are as much a part of the show as the band.
The Chaos Engine have the unenviable task of headlining the night's entertainments. That might sound like a strange thing to say - why unenviable? Surely a headline slot on a big stage at a relatively major event with worldwide profile is every band's ultimate dream? Well, yes, but the down side of that is....you've got to *deliver*. And it has to be said, The Chaos Engine haven't got it easy here. By the time they're ready to take the stage, the crowd is thinning out as people leave for a session at Elektroshock, a goth/industrial/synthpop club elsewhere in Montreal that's offering free entry to C8 punters tonight, or for room parties back at the hotel, which are traditionally a big part of Convergence. It's particularly noticable that all the wild-haired deathrock fans, who were so much in evidence for Cinema Strange, vanish from the venue as soon as the band finished their set. Added to this, The Chaos Engine seem to have made a frankly rather misguided decision to deploy their four members around the large Spectrum stage like chess pieces on a virtually empty board. Everyone's at a set distance from everyone else, and apparently under orders to stay rooted to their officially-designated spot all night. Huw, whose implacable, glowering, presence usually makes a fine visual foil for Lee's crazed flailings, is stuck at the back behind his guitar monitor - entirely cut off from the rest of the band, barely visible to the audience, and so distant I can't even get a good photo of him.
it is that Lee finds himself more or less carrying the show by himself,
rushing about like a madman, whipping his dreadlocks to and fro, and wrenching
the vocals out of his throat as if his life depended upon making
it to the end of the song. Against the odds, it's an impressive performance.
Lee is in fine voice (he's one of a very few artists working in the industrial
field who can actually *sing*), and, notwithstanding the thinner crowd,
there's an enthusiastic bunch of dancers leaping about at the front. The
set is a quick-reference guide to The Chaos Engine's essential tunes -
older material like 'Employee Of The Year' rubs shoulders with new songs
from the latest album, 'Escape Ferocity'. It's all good stuff, but I find
myself wishing the band wasn't *quite* so static and distant on stage.
The encores rack up the entertainment factor, however, as the band launches
into Kim Wilde's ''Kids In America' with some severely embaressed members
of the C8 crew on backing vocals - and then, as a grand finale, they give
us Heaven 17's 'Temptation', sung as a rather ramshackle duet by Lee and
Liz from Swarf. A fine way to finish the night. We lurch back to the hotel
in good spirits. It was a close-run thing, and The Chaos Engine did rather
create a problem for themselves with their unhelpful stage-layout, but
in the end - they delivered.
Sunday dawns sunny but cold. Today, we're going on a tour of Old Montreal. I confess I was surprised to find that there was anything left of old Montreal - at first glance it seems like the entire city is a monument to the awesome majesty of 1970s concrete. Coming from the UK, where buildings that date back to the 1600s are relatively common, and anything 19th Century is considered dangerously modern, I've always found the transatlantic tendency to obliterate 99% of everything remotely old, and then make a big fuss over the 1% that's left quite odd. Still, Montreal has plenty of history if you know where to look, and at 2pm a posse of goths set off to find it. We hook up with one of Montreal's official tour guides, who proceeds to give us a Too Much Information tour of the old city (I didn't think we needed to go into the history of Montreal's banking sector in *quite* such detail!). Down by the river, there's one street corner that looks *exactly* like France, although much of the rest seems to have that generic 'old americana' look about it. Nice art deco skyscraper, mind. You know you're in a place which has a different take on history when something as recent as an art deco skyscraper is featured in a historical tour!
The tour winds up at the Notre Dame basilica, an imposing grey stone church which looks so squeaky-clean you'd think it was built yesterday. Now there's an irony. In Montreal, even the genuinely old stuff looks new. Here a slight logistical glitch manifests itself. Our pre-paid tickets should include entry to the church, but nobody on the pay desk seems to know about the arrangement. We either have to pay an extra two dollars, or duck out of the tour at that point. We decide to duck out. Two dollars isn't much (it's mere pennies in English quids) but there's something not quite right about having to *pay* to enter a church. What if you just want to *pray*? Has God been turned into a spiritual jukebox, two dollars a spin? Instead, we wander off on our own impromptu tour of Montreal's side streets, and stumble upon an interesting residential area with endearingly quirky-looking buildings that could've come straight out of a Jaques Tati film. I fully expected Monsieur Hulot to come put-putting round the corner on his velomoteur any minute.
Sunday night, and the grand finale of C8. We're off to a local club, Foufounes Electriques, which I'm advised translates as 'electric buttocks'. I strongly suspect this to be a Francophone Canadian joke on the rest of the world, but the club itself turns out to be rather cool. We arrive a little early (or the club is running a little late, I'm not sure which) and sit around in the downstairs bar drinking Jaegermeister and Coke while hair metal plays at noxious volume. Eventually, the staff open the door marked 'piste de danse' and we get to enter the club itself. Yes, it really is called the 'piste de danse', which is presumably an odd manifestation of Canadian French - surely 'plancher de danse' would be the more standard term? Still, 'piste' provides a splendid opportunity to make a bilingual pun about drunken goths - if only I could think of one...
club turns out to be a warren of different rooms and different levels,
all carved out of a steel framed building that must date back to the 1930s
(I'm surprised it's not featured on the historical tour). The place was
obviously not designed to accommodate loud music and stomping goths in
heavy-duty Nice Boots - the entire structure shakes alarmingly, like a
bouncy castle. But the atmosphere is great and the DJ selections are varied
and inventive. Scary Lady Sarah gets the dancefloor moving with a 'quality
goth you've never heard before' set, featuring everything from Mephisto
Walz to Belisha. Sexbat doesn't so much remix Apoptygma Bezerk as wrestle
them into submission on the decks, while Fross
has spent the weekend recording vox-pop quotes from C8 attendees, which
he then blends into the music of his set. It's like dancing to an instant
Nobody wants to leave on Monday. We'd do C8 all over again if it were possible. But real life beckons, and it's time to go. The consensus is that this was a classic Convergence. Old hands rate it as one of the outstandingly good ones. Because I've never been to a Convergence before, I can't judge C8 with that kind of perspective. All I know is that I've just had one of the best weekends ever. A truckload of thanks is due to the C8 crew - I know I'll be buzzing on this for months afterwards.
is it too soon to make plans for C9...?
see all our photos from C8 here
The Convergence VIII website (contains full details of the weekend's events): http://altgothic.com/c8montreal
index page will link you to more than 15 online C8 photo galleries:
bands of Convergence VIII:
The Chaos Engine: http://www.chaosengine.com
Bella Morte: http://www.bellamorte.net
Cinema Strange: http://www.cinemastrange.com
This Ascension: http://www.thisascension.com
Captain Matt's Armada: http://www.cmafa.org
Mara's Torment: http://www.corpusnet.com/torment
altgothic.com, the all-purpose Convergence resource site: http://www.altgothic.com
A brief history of Convergence: http://www.virulent.org/converg4/past.html
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
~by Steph Quinlan
(photos by Macross)
This year's incarnation of the annual net.goth gathering brings us to majestic Montreal, making this the second time that Convergence has landed on Canadian shores.
Friday night at The Spectrum kicks off the official first night of Convergence 8, and what better way to get the evening underway than a very special appearance by the one and only Capt. Matt's Armada Featuring Axel (where Trevor writes all the songs and does all the work) Introducing Insatiabelle? Do they still have the magic? All eyes are on the stage as four shadowy figures take their places.
As Trevor leans into his guitar and makes it sing, a tall figure in black appears from the black depths of the stage, with a huge green and purple riding penis poised between his thighs. The Mighty Sex-God Axel rides again. It was as if they'd never been away.
Capt. Matt is in fine voice, really letting it rip on classics such as "Cannibal Corsets from Outer Space", while Insatiabelle pounds the skins like nobody's business. In a surprise move, the Sinsational Sirens, once known far and wide as part of the band's entourage, join CMAFA for a spot of go-go dancing during "Casper vs. The Super Zombies".
All too soon, Captain Matt's Armada (where Trevor writes all the songs and does all the work) Introducing Insatiabelle are finished, and with a mighty flourish, they depart the stage, no doubt to start making inroads into the free beer.
Next up is a band I had been waiting for three years to see, the divine This Ascension. Hailing from Santa Barbara, CA, This Ascension performed at Convergence 3, just when I was venturing into the net.goth scene, and I was thrilled when I heard they were performing at Convergence 8. I did have some reservation though. Much as I love the sensual strains of many a darkwave siren, I'm often disappointed when I see them perform live. The more raucous atmosphere of the concert hall frequently overwhelms those voices that sound smooth and lovely in the studio, and I was hoping that This Ascension would deliver the goods.
Dru, clad in a very fetching black PVC gown and sporting shocking pink hair, steps forward into the mike and puts all my fears to rest. She mesmerizes the crowd with her sweetly aggressive vocals and I'm transported to another plain for the duration of This Ascension's set. Her voice, alternately low and sweet and piercingly high and pure, soars above the insistent beats of "Fuego Cayendo", while the band creates a perfect blend of sound and rhythm behind her.
With the exception of the bass player, who works the stage like a pro, the rest of the band keeps a rather low profile, preventing This Ascension from having a more energetic presence, but these are minor details overall.
Bella Morte? Now they are a true revelation.
My exposure to Bella Morte's studio work had left me with an impression of a band that were decent, but by no means exceptional. Without further ado, four fierce young punks storm the stage and proceed to set me, and the rest of the audience, straight as to just how damn good they are. Andy, the mohawked lead singer, explodes all over the stage, bellowing his tales of zombies and mayhem in a strong rich voice that reaches into the farthest corners of The Spectrum. The equally spiffily mohawked guitarist, sporting stunning cheekbone tattoos, grinds out one tight, hard guitar riff after another. The energy emanating from the band is contagious, and the floor is packed with goths bouncing enthusiastically to the fun happy goth-punk tunes.
Without warning, the keyboard player takes a running leap from the back of the stage, launches himself into the crowd and starts an honest-to-goodness-bodies-slamming-limbs-flailing mosh pit. I haven't seen this much energy from a Convergence audience in years! Andy surveys the pit approvingly and barks "This is what we're used to down in North Carolina!"
The next night, Andy reflected on Bella Morte's performance. "This is the first Convergence we've ever attended or played at, and I had a great time last night. It was a great crowd and everyone had a really good sense of humour."
"We feed off the energy of the crowd, and see what they're looking for." he continued. "Everybody seems really chill up here, and I get a real similar feel from all of the goth and sci-fi cons I've been to. I'd love to see one that mixes up punk and goth bands so that the music can blend a little, and the cool thing is that they did get a good variety of bands here (at C8) from across the genres."
Punks came, punks rocked, punks conquered.
The early stages of Saturday night find me in a rather sorry state of affairs. I had spent the day overseeing the Zine Fair whilst in the throes of mild food poisoning from some very dodgy Indian food I had unwisely consumed on Friday night. I collapsed in my hotel room after the Zine Fair, fully intending to sleep for only an hour or two. When I wake up, it's almost 9, and I've missed Bordello's set. Crap!
This up and coming Montreal band had impressed me with their CD single "Strap Me Down", and I had been looking forward to seeing them live. I'm happy to report that my fellow Starvoxian, Uncle Nemesis, had good things to say about their performance.
I throw myself together in record time, dash over to the venue, and arrive in the middle of Swarf's set. Swarf hail from Brighton, UK, and Convergence 8 is their first North American performance.
Chris and Andrew are stationed on either side ofthe stage, hunched over their keyboards, and in the middle of the stage, bouncing like a My Little Pony on speed, is Liz, Swarf's vocalist. An impossibly perky vision in neon pink hair extensions and a stunning corset with reflective white trim, she lets loose with sultry vocals that add the perfect amount of warmth to the smooth electronics, and the crowd loves it. Everywhere I look, people are dancing. Lee Chaos from Wasp Factory Records, Swarf's label, is bopping madly in front of the stage, his face almost split in two by a huge grin.
Backstage, an exuberant Liz tells me that the fates were conspiring against Swarf up until the last minute.
"It was quite frightening because I lost my voice and then our synthesizer broke, and we really didn't think we'd be able to go on. The fact that we made it onstage is amazing, and we were really amazed by the crowd, considering that no one knew who the buggery f**k we were."
"You just said buggery f**k." Chris, her bandmate, points out helpfully.
"Did I?" Liz gasps, and then ruins the effect by giggling helplessly. "Oh, don't put that in, it's really rude!"
Gracefully changing the subject, I tell Liz that her label boss, Lee Chaos, was getting down very enthusiastically to their set.
"He is like an anchor. If you can see him and he's smiling, then you know it's going well. We'll be doing the same when it's his turn tonight. I don't think North America is ready for The Chaos Engine."
"I'm scared for them" says Andrew, the third member of Swarf. "The audience, that is."
Out in the main room, Cinema Strange unfold like a twisted pantomime. Lucas, their singer, has obscured his face with white gauze, and a small white mask hangs over each eye. I assume he's able to see through the slits of the masks' eerie empty smiles. Styrofoam heads dangle from his wrists, swaying and bobbing with every gesture he makes.. The audience members closest to the stage bat at them like over-sized cats.
His androgynous wail is disturbing and enchanting, in much the same vein as Andi Sex Gang, Virgin Prunes and very early Rozz Williams-era Christian Death. Watching Cinema Strange reminds me of the first time I heard "Spiritual Cramp", all those years ago.
On either side of him stand two fierce visions in fishnet, lace, spiky black hair and death's-head make-up. All hail the return of the almighty Batcave.
The music is challenging and absorbing, and there are no easy "hooks" to latch onto. The tempo jumps all over the place, the melodies often double back on themselves, and all three band members keep pace with each other with seamless ease. The trio are clearly seasoned performers, and they prowl the expanses of the stage with serpentine grace. The audience is alternately entranced and confused.
"I really don't know how it went." Daniel, their black-mohawked guitarist, reflects afterwards. " It was kind of silly out there. We really didn't care how things sounded, but we were doing what sounded fun."
"Everyone said it went great, and although it's fallacy to take everyone's opinion as a whole as to what the status was, as far as our performance went, we performed well. Musically, I don't know how it went."
Cinema Strange certainly seen to have all the trappings of a modern goth band, but they also aren't ready to be pigeonholed just yet.
"I don't think we sound gothic at all." observes Daniel. "We dress up and we look kinda cool, but I can't even tell you what our music is."
And now, at long last, it's time for the evening's headliners, The Chaos Engine. Fronted by Lee Chaos, who also runs Wasp Factory Records, the band erupts onto the stage and proceeds to pummel the audience into submission. Hard, fast and loud, The Chaos Engine live up to their name. Lee throws himself about the stage with reckless abandon, his long braided mohican coming perilously close to inflicting bodily harm on the hapless audience members in the front row. Always one to thrown in something unexpected, Lee invites Swarf's Liz onstage for a duet on Heaven 17's "Temptation".
When the band departs the stage, the crowd howls for more. Obligingly, they saunter back onstage, but before they play some more, Lee Chaos has a request. "We'll only play another song", he says, "if Siobhan and Casper [the C8 organizers] get up here too."
Siobhan and Casper try desperately to run away, but a bevy of their closest friends surrounds them and forces them onstage. Hey, what are friends for? Lee Chaos is well pleased.
"You all know the words to 'Kids in America' don't you?" he bellows before launching into an ass-ripping version of the Kim Wilde tune we all know and love as Siobhan and Casper, looking adorably awkward, sing back-up vocals. Down in the front, we all dance like maniacs, singing the words at the top of our lungs. Nothing can touch any of us right then. We are pure and perfect and free.
In the aftermath, Lee reflects on The Chaos Engine's first North American performance.
"It was really hard work tonight actually, it was a very difficult gig for technical reasons. I didn't have enough toys!" he says earnestly. "That was my main problem. I've got a whole bunch of toys and strobes that I normally use onstage to navigate. When I'm jumping around onstage, I can't see, and so I have all these strobes strategically placed so that I know where the edge of the stage is. I couldn't bring those things with me through customs, and they're the musical equivalent of my comfort blanket. Linus has his blankets, and I have my strobe lights."
"It was a huge stage, which was really exciting, but it was like being naked, because I had to run about a whole lot." he adds.
*Corraled for a brief moment, Casper has only this to say.
"There are no adjectieves for how happy I am right now."*
It's 2:30 AM, most of the beer has been drunk, and your humble backstage tour guide is now off duty until next year.
Until C9, my friends.
see more photos from C8 here
The Convergence VIII website (contains full details of the weekend's events): http://altgothic.com/c8montreal
2002: Memorial Day Weekend
An overview by Matthew Heilman
(color photos by Kelly A, black and white by Thryn)
Projektfest totally snuck up on me. It seemed like only a few days ago it was months away, and then before I know it my fiancée and I are on the road to Philadelphia armed with Mountain Dew, two cans of Pringles, lots of smokes, and three CD books chock full of gloom and doom. We drove across PA from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia early Friday morning – an easy, beautiful drive until we reached Philadelphia and got all turned around. There is a small circular turnaround area just near the Benjamin Franklin highway. It suddenly became National Lampoon’s Gothic Vacation as we dizzied ourselves driving around this accursed loop attempting to pierce the traffic and get to the correct road. Soon enough we found the Hampton Inn, gave the keys to the valet and swore not to touch the car until we left, vowing to walk wherever it is we needed to go. The reality of the whole trip didn’t really sink in until we walked into the air conditioned hotel, and noticed a sullen boy sitting in the lobby in a Bad Seeds shirt engrossed in a small paperback novel. I turned to my right and see Johnny Indovina and Lisa Feuer heading to lunch most likely with a small group of People Who Looked Important. It was then that I turned to Sarah and said, “Wow, we are at Projektfest!”
Eight o’ clock drew near after a brief nap at the hotel, and off we went to the Trocadero. The venue has long been a Gothic haunt in Philadelphia. Over 100 years old, the Trocadero has a long history as a burlesque theater, art gallery, and cinema. Due to the historic nature of the building, smoking was only permitted in the designated bar area upstairs. Here, guest DJs from around the US spun while patrons mingled, had a drink, and caught their much-needed nicotine fixes before and after the bands. When we arrived, TheOneBob was spinning in the main room. His set was purely enjoyable, with favourites like The Church and Rhea’s Obsession, as well as lesser-known bands like Seraph Records’ Ashes. In the back room, my hometown DJ colleague Kelly Ashkettle was spinning low-key darkwave/ethereal tracks from Dead Can Dance, Attrition, and Sunday Munich. The atmosphere was spectacular indeed.
At 10PM, the first act of the weekend took the stage – the heart and soul of Human Drama, Johnny Indovina played an acoustic set of new solo material and classic Human Drama tracks, such as “Death Of An Angel” “This Tangled Web” and “Single White Rose.” Accompanied by Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Lisa Feuer on flute and Mark Balderas on keyboards, Mr. Indovina provided an intimate and delightful prelude to the evening to come. Dressed in black from head to toe, the most noticeable thing about Johnny Indovina is that he is just naturally so cool. His penchant for black has more of a beatnik eloquence that a spooky Goth pretense. Either way, donning his shades and black turtleneck, he seemed comfortable and collected, and it was easy to see that he was happy to be here in front of such a ‘well behaved’ audience. Johnny made a great connection with the crowd, asking if his music was ‘depressing?’ He simply just wanted to know, he asks. A fan clarifies that his music is just expressing the honest truth and possessed a genuine realism – sometimes examining the positive, sometimes the negative. Johnny appreciated the response and continued with his tender acoustic ballads and was warmly welcomed by the crowd.
I ventured upstairs to catch a smoke and see what was happening in the DJ room, and before I knew it, it was time to run like a giddy child back down stairs again. For me, one of the most anticipated acts on the entire bill was New York City’s Mors Syphilitica. I was very anxious to see how their Pre-Raphaelite Gothic Rock atmospheres translated into a live setting. The band revolves around the husband and wife duo of Eric and Lisa Hammer, and much like William Faith and Monica Richards of Faith & The Muse, a beautiful and genuine chemistry exists between the two musicians that fuels the band’s romantic mystique. Lisa appeared on stage in a form fitting black dress, her cinnamon ringlets framing her angelic face. A bashful smile spread across her lips as Eric followed close behind her. Both my fiancée and I were shocked to see Eric sans his infamous goatee – every picture I had ever seen of him, he was clad in a black suit and possessed a striking resemblance to Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Dracula. Now wearing a white tank top sporting his many tattoos and his dark hair streaked with blonde highlights, he now resembled Oldman as Sid Vicious. Lisa lifted her piercing ice blue eyes and began to sing, her voice low and honeyed and then to crescendo with spine chilling soprano trills. Backed by a tight rhythm section of bass and live drums, Mors Syphilitica produced a full, organic sound that was a sonic and atmospheric delight. Eric’s guitars shimmered gorgeously and roared ferociously when necessary. The only drawback, which would frequently appear throughout the entire weekend, was that the guitars had been mixed too low. The performance would have been three times as intense, however, I am guessing that the soundman was more concerned with the clarity of the vocals, which made perfect sense. Lisa’s unfaltering voice soared majestically above the music, and my guess is it would have even if the guitars were ten times as loud. The band’s set list included tracks from their recent Projekt release “Feather & Fate” as well as cuts like “Ungrateful Girl” from their prior release “Primrose.” The band’s recent material had not impressed me as much as the “Primrose” release, however, hearing some of the songs from “Feather & Fate” live definitely enhanced the appeal of the songs on CD. Mors Syphilitica was an astounding treat, even better than I had imagined them to be and exceeding my highest expectations – as expected, they were my favourite act to perform the first night and I couldn’t have been more pleased with their performance.
Mira took the stage a little before midnight. I had the fortunate pleasure of seeing Mira perform last summer, when they embarked on a small East Coast tour. Their performance in Pittsburgh was stellar – animated with intensity and energy that one would definitely not expect from such a lush, shoegaze inspired band. While Mira’s performance at Projektfest was by no means bad, they definitely did not seem to have the energy they had when I saw them before. I felt a little bad since this was most likely the first time most Projekt fans had the chance to see the band play live, and they really didn’t get a chance to see the band in their best form. The audience definitely did not complain and hardly seemed to notice – without a prior point of comparison, how would they? A substantial crowd packed up against the stage to see the band perform hits from their latest release “Apart,” and a few dozen bodies swayed around hypnotically to the rhythmic tribal beats of the band’s club hit “Space.” One of the most memorable things about seeing Mira is the enthusiasm of their guitarists - dropping on their knees and strumming the song’s chords in a frenzied manner or thrashing about frantically to the climaxes of the songs as if they were in a punk rock band. Definitely something you don’t see everyday and probably most didn’t expect it, but that is what is so unique about Mira. Yet as before with Mors Syphilitica, the guitars were a bit too low in the mix and the effect was somewhat dulled. Mira held the crowd spellbound for their 45-minute set, and a warm round of eager applause met with the final sustained chords of each song.
Lovespirals was the last to take the stage Friday night. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited and beloved band on the bill throughout the entire weekend, longtime fans of the band were anxious to finally see the band perform live. Love Spirals Downwards was the first Projekt band I had ever heard, and to this day, their first two releases (Idylls and Ardor) are among my favourite CDs. Over the years, however, the band has gradually adopted a new sound, culminating in the addition of new vocalist Anji Bee and the nixing of ‘Downwards’ from the band’s moniker. Now known simply as Lovespirals, Ryan Lum and Ms. Bee have forged ahead into a completely new direction, along with the addition of a live saxophone player, they fused the sounds of jazz, blues, trip hop, and lounge. I personally did not take to the band’s new style, but was definitely in a very small minority – the band provided a smooth, relaxing performance to wind down the evening’s festivities, graced by mellow shades of saxophone and Anji’s soulful vocals. The first proper Lovespirals release, “Windblown Kiss” apparently sold like hotcakes during and immediately after the performance. I sadly missed the ebow swells and lulling bass lines of old but was glad to see such a positive response for the band.
Saturday morning we woke up bright and early (noon) and got dressed to venture downstairs for the afternoon Merchant Bazaar. I could hear the strains of Judith front man Christopher David’s voice masterfully handling a rather well known David Bowie track and the acoustic strum of his guitar. Sadly, almost as soon as I arrived, his set had concluded. Disappointed, I turned around and to my immediate left there was a table set up for Middle Pillar Productions. “Goddamn,” I gasped, “they brought their entire catalogue.” An hour and nearly $300 later, my fiancée and I thought it might be a good idea to see what else might be available. Perusing the spooky craft of Thee Basket Boo-tique and then fine eloquent garments by Rose Mortem and Kambriel clothing (formerly Atrocities), we stumble upon a gorgeous collection of jewelry from Parrish Relics. One of a kind handcrafted necklaces, with tiny miniatures of Waterhouse, Leighton, and Frank Dicksee paintings, we were overwhelmed and had to buy more.
Soon thereafter, we were again greeted by the presence of Mors Syphilitica, for an afternoon unplugged session. Eric Hammer is indeed a witty man, explaining that his shades are not a rock star posture, but rather to conceal his blood shot eyes, having resulted from staying up all night and watching women’s softball tournaments with his bandmates. Lisa apparently got her sleep and the two bickered playfully and played stripped down versions of their more folkish tracks. Eric accompanied Lisa with both acoustic guitar and mandolin, as they played “Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier” and tracks from their “Feather & Fate” release. The duo bestowed an unexpected yet well-received surprise on us by covering a yearning bittersweet ballad we all know and love: The Smiths’ “Please Let Me Get What I Want.” Animated with sleep deprivation and good humour, the duo played through a remarkable set of charming medieval ballads. A lovely bonus indeed.
The Mirror Reveals were next up for an acoustic session, a band that was added to the afternoon line up only a few weeks before Projektfest commenced. This as well was a treat, as I had recently discovered the band and enjoyed them very much. Their line up included guitarist and back up vocalist James Babbo and lead vocalist Kit Messick, with Kevin Dunn providing hand percussion and Joanne Dalin on violin. I was enjoying the band so much, that halfway through their set, it donned on me that “oh yeah, there was a concert tonight too.” The Mirror Reveals were so good and engrossing, that I felt as though I had traveled five and a half hours across Pennsylvania just to see their acoustic show. The band played a touching version of the track “Julia” from their recent “Divinity” EP and scored major points with every elitist Goth in the room by covering Death In June’s “Golden Wedding Of Sorrow.” Reflecting back on the band’s performance, I would definitely say they provided some of the most rewarding memories of the entire weekend.
Lovespirals took the stage next, providing a stripped down version of their set from the prior evening. The band’s presence assembled quite a crowd, and due to my churning hunger pains, I snuck out to head back to our room, figuring the band wouldn’t miss me ;P After dinner it was back to the Trocadero for another splendid evening of music, with some of the most anticipated performers of the entire weekend.
DAY TWO – EVENING
We arrived just as Vidna Obmana and Steve Roach were wrapping up their dark ambient prelude. I am admittedly pretty unfamiliar with both of these artists, but had quickly regretted missing the performance, as it had sounded unfathomably creepy! Definitely plan on checking both artists out in the future. The world-renowned Scary Lady Sarah was to provide incidental music between live acts that evening. She represented the windy city with the moody shoegaze splendour of Arch Visceral Parlor and other assorted goodies. Sadly, Sarah didn’t get to DJ as much as we had hoped, but what she did play, as expected, was perfectly suited for the atmosphere.
After a drink or two in the upstairs bar, a few smokes, and admirably gawking at a mohawked couple who had looked as if they had meant to be at CBGB’s, it was time for Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Having seen the band before, I thought I knew what to expect, however, I was blown away by the band’s performance. Black Tape have always had a rather mellow reputation when it comes to seeing them live. Some people dig this, while those with shorter attention spans do not. This time around, Black Tape were undeniably captivating and elicited scores of applause. The line up included Sam on vocals and keys as expected, with Lisa Feuer on flute and back up vocals. We all caught early glimpses of Audra’s Bret Helm, who was on hand to provide acoustic guitar and vocals, and Unto Ashes’ Michael Laird, who contributed percussion and vocals as well. Standing confident and firm center stage was the star of the show, Elysabeth Grant. I had never seen her perform with Black Tape before, and I was blown away. Her poise was seductive, her voice was powerful, and she completely NAILED some of the early tracks that were originally performed by Oscar Herrera. In addition to singing, she provided snake-like viola passages. She looked and sounded fantastic, I could say more but I don’t want to gush or get smacked by my fiancée.
The first half of Black Tape’s set was extremely erotic and seductive, perfectly conveying the steamy atmosphere of the latest release “The Scavenger Bride,” with tracks like “All My Lovers,” “The Whipper” and early works that complimented the mood perfectly like “Overwhelmed Beneath Me.” I was extremely delighted by the amount of older and DARK material Black Tape selected from their discography. “One Last Breath,” way back from “Mesmerized By The Sirens,” was a splendid surprise. The lead vocals of the band’s long-time club hit “Across A Thousand Blades” was fantastically handled by Bret Helm, and Michael Laird performed a moving rendition of “A Livery Of Bachelors” from the new album. My skin broke out in goose bumps when the stark opening chords of “Decomposed By The Fires Of The Firmament” unfurled from the large speakers in front of me – one of my all time favourite songs and perhaps one of the darkest Black Tape songs ever recorded. All five of the band members chanted the ominous lyrics, Elysabeth tearing things up with her sultry siren’s wail, and the band brought their set to a close with this intense, emotionally overwhelming masterpiece from the “Lush Garden Within” album. I never expected them to play that song, and was totally psyched. Though I have always loved the music of Black Tape, and expected them to put on a great show, this exceeded my wildest expectations, and was absolutely mind blowing, even as I write this a week later, I am still flushed from recalling it.
It was going to be hard for Unto Ashes to top this, even though THEY were the band I was being gnawed alive by anticipation to finally see. When the band took the stage, it was immediately conveyed that they meant business. Ericah Hagle appeared like a wraith from the side of the stage, donning a white gown and an equally pale visage. Natalia Lincoln took her place behind the synths and Michael stood tall with a long frock coat and crouched to the floor wrapping his limbs about a sitar. Jeremy Bastard, the band’s newest member, appeared in his death rock glory armed with a heavily processed guitar sound that (even though it needed to be louder! Grr!) provided an unmistakable eeriness to the band’s entire performance. They opened with “Morte O Merce,” the opening track from their latest release “Saturn Return.” With it’s Eastern flavour and Petrarchan lyrics, the song meandered along slowly and spookily. The band sounded a little loose around the edges, perhaps not used to playing live? They tightened up a bit for “Curse” and “Glass,” as well as an unreleased militant dirge they simply title “War Song,” the band made up for any slight musical fumbling with their captivating stage presence. The band’s most well-known song “Serve Me” sounded excellent, however, and elicited the most enthusiastic crowd response and they continued along with the medieval folk of “They Killed Three Little Maids.” Funnily enough, the mohawked pair returned, with cameras – they were pals of Unto Ashes who had traveled down from NYC. During a quiet moment, they shouted out “play some Slayer!” To which Michael Laird flashed the devil horns, and Ericah started giggling, chiming in “How about some Emperor?” Michael then introduced “Teach Me How To Drown” as being from their “Reign In Blood” album. I so didn’t think I could show my roots at Projektfest. I thought I’d mosh, but figured Sam might have a breakdown. So I just swayed along to the suffocating gloom of Unto Ashes and was thankful to have finally seen them. A bit mellower than I expected them to be (I was waiting for them to come out and scare the living bejesus out of everyone – which Michael almost did with his frequent devil horn salute) but their performance was well worth the wait, even though they didn’t play “Conjuration To Lilith.”
Audra was next on the bill, marking their debut East Coast performance. The brother’s Helm were accompanied by long time pal and original guitarist Robert Stacy. Bret’s piercing stare and humble rock star pose was instantly received, as the band launched into “Midnight Moon Swing,” the opening track from their latest album Going To The Theatre. It was clear that Audra’s intent was to rock out – now the guitars were almost too loud. You can’t win, but it was definitely awesome and electrifying. The crowd was alive and jumping to “In Hollywood Tonight,” the band’s homage to the late Rozz Williams and a few macabre chuckles greeted “In My Basement,” the band’s tongue-in-cheek ode to obsession. “There Are No Snakes In Heaven,” another cut from the band’s newest album was also well received, coming across much punchier live. “A Walk In The Woods” and “Cabaret Fortune Teller” were perhaps my favourite tracks of the night from the band – they even inspired a friend of mine that had traveled up from Pittsburgh to buy the new album, even though he had never really paid much attention to the band before. Audra were definitely very energetic, did a great job working the crowd, and were very warmly received. The only thought that I could not help but have throughout the whole show was how much the band would benefit from a live drummer. Not because of the accidental false starts their drum machine made a few times, but just to enhance the rhythmic variety of the band. While Audra is probably the most up-tempo and rock oriented band on the label, they could definitely benefit from a fuller line up. Nonetheless, I loved them anyway and thanks to them, the second evening of Projektfest was beginning to shape up like one hell of a concert.
And then, what a good bit of the crowd had long been waiting for, the comic relief and gypsy themed spunk of Voltaire. I always sort of thought of Voltaire as a bit of a novelty act – “The Devil’s Bris” was amusing for a while, then the album got old. I loved the music, got a major kick out of the lyrics, but eventually, I just sort of neglected the CD. I never bothered picking up the other albums – that is just my personal taste. So I was not nearly as excited to see Voltaire as most people were. That is because I had never SEEN him before. Within minutes, I was cracking up, and was won over very easily. He steps up on stage, accompanied by a collection of nerdy classically trained cello, violin, bass, and drum playing rogues, and says to the crowd “Hi we’re Rammstein” and commences to kick out an acoustic folk parody of “Du Hast” – with his own special take on the lyrics. Soon thereafter, he launches into “Ex Lover’s Lover” and “The Man Upstairs,” both of which drive the crowd wild, with equally enthusiastic responses to newer songs like “Future Ex-Girlfriend” and “The Vampire Club.”
The music was top notch, but the true memories, of course, stem from the brief interludes when Voltaire addressed the crowd. During a moment of short silence, someone shouts out “Kenny G!” in reference to the band’s curly haired violinist – Voltaire hisses “ouch” while the embarrassed and irritated fiddler flips the middle finger. Of course, there are Voltaire’s now infamous ‘lists’ that appeared in his “Oh My Goth” comics. He made up a special one just for Projektfest – the top 13 rejected Projektfest slogans. I wish to god I could have remembered them all, or find them written down somewhere to share with you. Perhaps my favourite was “Welcome to Projektfest – come see our bands stand around and push play! Oh wait, that is Metropolisfest!” Also, “Projektfest 2002 – be in attendance as we finally reveal that Johnny Indovina, Eric Hammer, and Voltaire are NOT the same guy!” “Projektfest 2002 – where else can you see a pregnant woman playing flute?” And in reference to the numerous references to where to get good vegetarian food throughout the program, “Chinese Food Fest 2002! You Go Now! You Been Here Too Long!” Of course, I can’t remember these word for word, but hopefully you get the idea.
Voltaire was definitely beyond just amusing or novel. He even made me smile, which apparently many find to be a task and hearing “When You’re Evil” live definitely reanimated the appeal of the song. I actually began to rethink his whole routine and realized how lucky we all are to have such a multi-talented person around to entertain us Goth saps. We take ourselves way too seriously sometimes, and even though I don’t plan on running out and buying more Voltaire albums and will probably still huff when someone requests “When You’re Evil” for the umpteenth time when I DJ, I say kudos to Voltaire for reminding us that we really are all a bunch of black clad morons! I had a great time.
As expected, everyone was wild and ready to start a mini-riot afterward, but the night was over. Back to the hotels, and for some of us, my fiancée and I included, it meant a good night sleep before we had to head back home Sunday morning. Sadly, we couldn’t stick around for the third day of Projektfest, as we had to get home to DJ Monday night. I was really bummed to have missed the afternoon acoustic performances by Audra, Voltaire, and surprisingly, Android Lust. I am still trying to imagine what Android Lust, a predominantly Industrial band would do for an unplugged performance. Surely it was something else to behold. I have yet to attend one of Patrick Roger’s Dracula Balls, and was equally disappointed to have to miss this one, which featured the up and coming Darkwave stars Hungry Lucy and all the way from Europe, the melodic pagan themed Goth rock of The Dreamside. Over all though, the time we spent in Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend was fantastic. We met tons of wonderful new people, saw some spectacular live performances, and bought TONS of stuff from Middle Pillar. <smirks> What better way to spend a weekend, I couldn’t tell.
Top Reasons to be at Projektfest:
* Like Convergence 7... only without the retardation and gross incompetence
* It's not in Canada, and that's good enough for me
* Chinese food fest! And, oh yeah, a bunch of bands are playing.
* Finally, proof that Johnny Indovina, Eric Hammer, and Voltaire are not the same person.
* You've bought their CDs, you've seen them play live... Now watch your favorite Projekt artists get drunk and have sex with each other.
* Come watch our artists press the "play" button. Oh wait, that's MetropolisFest.
* Welcome to the first annual Voltaire girlfriend search. And, oh yeah, a bunch of bands are playing.
* Keeping you safe from techno-beep-beep shit for at least a few days.
* Love spirals into a human drama as Voltaire has a three-way with Audra and Black Tape for a Blue Girl and comes down with a bad case of Mors Syphilitica.
* C'mon,what else are you going to do on Memorial Day weekend? Go to the beach? We didn't think so.
* Depressed? Full of angst? Suicidal? Perfect, you'll fit right in.
* 12 bands, a t-shirt, a laminated card, and a sample of my DNA. What more could you ask for for 65 bucks?
(thanks to Larne for contributing these!)
see more photos here
Projektfest Website: http://www.projektfest.com
The Gatherings Website: http://www.thegatherings.org
Dracula’s Ball: http://www.draculasball.com
Projekt Records Website: http://www.projekt.com
The Mirror Reveals: http://www.middlepillar.com/mpp/mpp987/index.html
Judith (Christopher David): http://www.asthetik.com/judith/
Android Lust: http://www.androidlust.com
Hungry Lucy http://www.hungrylucy.com
The Dreamside: http://www.dreamside.nl
VENDORS that we can attest for ;)
(for a complete list of vendors, visit: http://www.projektfest.com/vendors.asp )