Here we are at the London gig of The Cruxshadows' never-ending world tour. In defiance of all accepted wisdom, we have a packed venue on a Monday night. The Cruxshadows have a strong following these days - sufficient even to overcome the dreaded Monday factor, the one day of the week when it's generally assumed you can't get a decent crowd in to any gig. And yet, The Cruxshadows have pulled 'em out of the woodwork. This is obviously a band with clout, a band which can make things happen. Their relentless touring has paid off. They've built up an audience by putting in time on the old-fashioned gig-circuit slog, often making a point of taking in remote towns and smaller venues which many bands would simply overlook. It all goes to prove that this strategy can still pay off. In fact, it's ironic that The Cruxshadows have played live around the UK more extensively in recent years than many UK-based bands. While our lot are sitting around moaning that it can't be done, a band from Florida - of all places! - simply gets out there and does it, and gets a result. There's a lesson to be learned there.
But before The Cruxshadows themselves appear on stage, we have some support bands. Chillburn come from the Netherlands (although you'd be forgiven for thinking they are a US band, going by the vocalist's curious American-as-a-second-language accent), they're all dressed in white, and they're allegedly an industrial band, or at least that's how they've been promoted at this gig. I say 'allegedly' an industrial band because their music is actually pretty straightforward rock. A few samples and some jerky stop-start rhythms bashed out on their electronic drumkit are the only concessions to their supposed left-field aesthetic. The bassist and guitarist have a fine repertoire of rock 'n' roll leaps and jumps and shapes, the singer goes into full-on rock-god mode, and it all....well, rocks, basically. Their songs don't particularly stick in my brain, aside from 'Supermodel', which has a nagging, insistent beat, a belter of a chorus, and is poppy enough to be a hit single. But that's a one-off. At the end of the set I've more or less filed the band in the 'good at what they do, but it's not my thing' slot. I suspect that, deep down inside, Chillburn are a fairly regular rock outfit. I get the impression that they've just speeded everything up a bit and thrown in some electronic stuff in a bid to appear slick and modern and cool. But I bet if I went round their houses I'd find they own plenty of Soundgarden albums.
And now, Katscan. Their angular, sleazy, electro-punk is a probably as far as you can get from regular rock without leaving the planet. They're back with a new line-up (on stage, at least: Katscan is otherwise vocalist Martino Diablo's solo project) which features a keyboardist in Suede-style indie-glam gear and Mr. Diablo himself, looking very businesslike in a Katscan corporate tie. He stalks the stage and raps out his lyrics of surreal sleaze, fixing the crowd with a half amused, half cynical stare all the while. It's Katscan's weirdo-glammy-punky attitude which makes the band stand out from the keyboard band crowd. They have more in common with Specimen than VNV Nation, and although the fact that there's only two people in the Katscan live incarnation means the stage isn't exactly crowded, somehow there's a weird presence about the band which means they fill the space quite effectively. The music is tough, street-smart electronica; 'Stutter Cut' particularly hits the spot with its controlled freak-out of a chorus. It's good to see an electronic band which has a bit of an edge, and which avoids the trap of simply recycling banal party-party jolly-ups. Katscan are probably pathologically incapable of uttering the words 'Put your hands in the air!' - and for that, we should all be profoundly grateful.
The Cruxshadows pull all the latecomers and stragglers in from the bar. The band troop on, and all of a sudden the stage seems to be crowded with women in minimal PVC costumes. The Cruxshadows' line up, which under normal circumstances is two boys (on keyboards and vocals) and two girls (on guitar and violin), has been expanded by the addition of two scantily-clad go-go dancers, one on each side of the stage like the set of a 1960s TV show. Now, cynics might say that this is a blatant attempt to play the sexxy deth chyx card, and it's certainly noticeable that the band have no trouble at all in grabbing the close attention of the male half of the audience. But what the hell. The Cruxshadows have always operated a policy of 'Give 'em what they want'. Check the evidence: their music is danceable in an EBM-lite manner, so it appeals to the club-kids. But it also features chunky guitar, so there's something for the gothic rock fans to latch on to. Their lyrics typically run the goth-gamut from relationship-angst to mystical myths 'n' legends stuff - all bases are touched in that department. The band's male/female line-up could be purpose-designed to capture the widest cross-section of the audience - and now, with the addition of the sexxy deth chyx dancers, there's even more appeal to the sector of the audience which, if we are to believe music biz research, buys the most CDs and goes to most shows: young males. Add to this a relentless 'tour everywhere' strategy and you have all the ingredients of a successful band.
All except one - we haven't mentioned the frontman yet. And here The Cruxshadows trump everyone else on the circuit, because in Rogue they have a unique asset, the factor which really makes the band. Part shaman, part acrobat, part vaudeville ham, he's the focal point of The Cruxshadows' show. At first, he isn't even on stage: as the band crank up the music he begins his spoken introduction from behind the backstage curtain. When he finally emerges, he gets a cheer all to himself. Sure, that's a hoary old showbiz trick, a shameless clap trap, but he gets away with it. And then away the band goes, into a set based around the band's new album, 'Wishfire'. Rogue prefaces the songs with a series of presumably scripted introductions, which, along with the songs themselves, seem to tell some sort of mythological story. It's not really possible to follow every nuance - perhaps you need to know 'Wishfire' to get it - but it's all highly conceptual, obviously rehearsed to the hilt. A theatrical presentation, rather than a spontaneous rock show. But what the hell, it's different and it works - and Rogue's intense, mad-eyed stage persona certainly commands attention. He has a habit of thrusting his face alarmingly close to the audience, singing *at* individual people in the crowd. Some of his victims look very frightened, some grin delightedly and get into the spirit of it, while others are very British about the whole thing. They stand there, expressionless, stoically pretending that nothing unusual is going on and there isn't really a spiky-haired loon declaiming melodramatically about ancient myths three inches from their noses.
The well-drilled nature of the band is revealed whenever Rogue indulges in his trademark schtick of jumping into the audience to deliver the vocals via his clip-on radio mic from the middle of the bemused and startled crowd. Whenever he does this, the violinist takes a step forward to occupy the stage-space Rogue has vacated, a move so seamless you'd almost believe it's choreographed. Unfortunately, the resulting visual image - four girls, in line across the stage - makes The Cruxshadows look like a goth version of the Spice Girls, so it's rather a relief when Rogue clambers back to take up the conventional lead singer's position.
Then we come to part two of the show: there's a brief break, in which Rogue abandons the concept and his scripted introductions, and greets the audience before the band launch into a set of older material. There are yet more forays out into the audience: at one point Rogue carries a chair out into the mosh, and, standing on it, appears head and shoulders above the crowd, gesticulating wildly like a tic-tac man at a very unruly racecourse. It's all made possible, of course, by his radio mic, which is strapped to his head throughout the gig, making him look like a manic cyberpunk cab dispatcher - but there's a down side to this particular piece of technology, too. Because the microphone is at a fixed distance from his mouth, there's no chance of using mic technique to assist the vocals - no going in close to emphasise the bass, no going slightly off-mic to help the high notes, or to fade the vocal slightly at the end of a line. Given that Rogue has a somewhat limited range to start with, and his on (and off) stage antics obviously leave him out of breath, a bit of help in this way would be useful. As it is, there are several points in the show when Rogue's vocals become little more than a breathless, monotone chant. Not that anyone seems to mind too much - the crowd reaction is enthusiastic throughout - but I can't help thinking that placing this kind of restriction on an already somewhat restricted singing style isn't necessarily the best idea.
As a grand finale, the band give us 'Marilyn, My Bitterness', the only real oldie in a set which is generally biased towards more recent material. And in yet another manifestation of the band's showbiz schtick, a bunch of fans are hauled on stage to dance around and have their moment under the lights. The Cruxshadows have pulled off another great show: everyone goes home happy.
Personally, I feel slightly detatched from The Cruxshadows experience. I'm not a diehard fan, so I find myself stepping back a bit, both literally and figuratively. I can appreciate what the band do - and, indeed, I can sometimes discern the nuts and bolts of their show in a way that the real fans, with their more emotional involvement, might not be able to. I can see how The Cruxshadows always seem to favour the pre-planned over the spontaneous; well-rehearsed moves over rock 'n' roll risk-taking; scripts over ad-libs. Their gimmicks - Rogue's expeditions into the crowd, the audience-on-stage stuff at the end - is effective, although it's not new any more. It's all very much expected of the band these days, and sure enough the band give the fans what they expect. And sometimes I wish that Rogue would simply stand still on stage with a good old Shure SM57 in front of him, and just *sing*, dammit! But hey. For all that, the band have got a show that works, and the sheer grit and determination to get out there and carve out a *career*. In a world where so many bands never quite progress beyond the part-time hobby stage, that in itself is worth a cheer.
see all the photos from this concert here
The Cruxshadows' website: http://www.cruxshadows.com
Dancing Ferret, The Cruxshadows' label: http://www.ferret.com/discs
Wings Of Destiny, The Cruxshadows' booking agent: www.wod.de
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
The Psychedelic Furs
With special guests:
The Ordinary Boys
Sunday August 18, 2003
Club Laga, Pittsburgh
~review by Matthew
To some of the most legendary bands, Pittsburgh must be known as ‘most skippable’ city when the time comes to plan the itinerary of their tours. Some of the most painful skips were the Bauhaus reunion, Sisters Of Mercy’s 1999 jaunt, and more recently, the Banshees reunion. But to add to that list, right at the very peak of my discovery of Echo & The Bunnymen a few summers ago, I learned that Ian and co. were on the road with Psychedelic Furs and were coming nowhere near Pittsburgh. This, of course, sucked. And of the numerous tours I have missed over the years, that one probably was one of the most disappointing. However, I got to at least reconcile half of that disappointment, for I learned not even a week before the concert, that Psychedelic Furs would be performing in Pittsburgh, at none other than Club Laga, the venue above The Upstage, where I DJ Saturday nights.
My interest in the Furs was reinforced last summer after I became a devoted addict to VH1 Classic, a digital cable subsidiary of the network, that shows nothing but videos from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Among the many impressive videos that are aired regularly from classic New Wave and alternative bands, the Psychedelic Furs are mainstays on the channel. Being that I am embarrassingly young to have the tastes in music that I do, I figured I ought to explain how the hell I know who these people are, and why I was so happy to see them; that and also to give VH1 Classic a well-deserved plug.
So without further delay, let us get to the show. The first performance of the evening by the Ordinary Boys was a pleasant surprise. Even though they were local to Pittsburgh, I had never seen or heard of them before. They provided a delicate blend of moody Shoegaze pop with a decidedly Eighties flavour, and immediately helped set the tone for the nostalgic evening ahead. Bearing an appropriate band moniker, these four musicians were yet another reminder that image is not everything when it comes to music of this nature, and that more often than naught, the best and most emotionally affective bands are usually quite inconspicuous. In that respect and many others, the Ordinary Boys were a delightful blast from the past. Their sound recalled bands like the Mighty Lemon Drops and the Railway Children, therefore culling from a well rarely tapped these days and yielding a result both fresh and familiar to the audience. Backed by a tight drummer and 4AD schooled bassist, the band’s rhythms were locked tightly and paced with languid grace, as streams of shimmering overdriven guitar and airy synths mingled to create an engrossing swirl of pleasant sound. The vocals were soft and plaintive, and though predominantly unintelligible, the wistful emotion was conveyed quite well. Whatever ‘gloom’ present in the band’s sound was tastefully subliminal, for they were hardly sunny but still managed to tug lightly at the heart, finding a careful balance between the beautiful and the brooding. At one time Pittsburgh produced a few extremely noteworthy alternative bands – among them lowsunday (who were inked by Projekt a few years back) and before that, The Garden, whose reputation almost borderlines upon legend. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ordinary Boys, if they continue to perform regularly and start marketing themselves more aggressively, could follow in these footsteps.
Next up was Charlotte Martin, whom I believe was supporting the Furs on quite a few dates on this leg of their tour. Still flying high on the melancholic rock of the Ordinary Boys, I was hoping for another ‘rock’ based line-up to take the stage. But I saw only a upright keyboard and stool situated center stage, and before long, a shy waifish girl with gorgeous, wavey golden locks timidly approached the instrument and sat down. Ms. Martin then commenced to charm the audience with her own personal take on the familiar singer-songwriter meets quirky pianist formula of Kate Bush and Tori Amos. In my state of mind, I didn’t have the patience for this kind of thing. I had come for the Furs, and was spoiled by The Ordinary Boys. No time for Toriphiles, however woeful my journalistic subjectivity may seem at this point. I really hate to be dismissive, but the vibe just wasn’t right for her set. The whole thing was far too intimate as well for the rather open Industrialized venue. The crowd didn’t seem to have the same aversion I did, so I suppose we can just chalk it up to a matter of taste, and I like loud angsty music and she was quiet and demure. Fair enough? I at least observed the first song she performed, and she played remarkably well, with some playful pauses that tricked the audience into mistaking that the song was over. She smiled shyly and continued over the ill-timed applause and finished her song. She had a good voice, played well, and had a sweet and humble aura, but nothing grabbed me by the throat and said, “You must listen.” However talented she may be, I don’t think she was a very appropriate warm up for the Furs – and the reflective spell cast by the Ordinary Boys was somewhat undone. Even though my ears did briefly perk up from the conversation I was having in the club’s lobby when I noticed she was singing the words to The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and then later New Order’s “Blue Monday,” the atmosphere was better suited for 2003 in a hip coffee shop, rather than 1983 at the Hacienda. One day perhaps, I will be ready to visit her neck of the woods – perhaps under more complimentary or better-suited circumstances.
Before too much time can pass, I am wedged in comfortably with only one row of people between myself and the stage which was too be graced by the Furs in a matter of a few moments. I was psyched, and I turned around briefly to assess the crowd, which seemed to have doubled in size. People seemed to have crawled out of the woodwork (or more likely, the caged in bar area) and there was a very healthy mixed crowd of folks ranging from their early twenties to possibly forties – some in colourful retro attire, others in plain every day jeans and tees, and then a small crew of Goths and punks hoping to hear “Sister Europe.”
At last the lights dimmed and the Furs appeared, first drummer Frank Ferrer, followed by guitarist John Ashton and session keyboardist Amanda Kramer (formerly of Information Society). Bassist Tim Butler, apparently the rock star of the bunch, emerged in a dark blue suit, adorned with a sharp mop of blonde hair and a pair of sassy black shades. Once Richard appeared there was a collective warmth deepened the already voluminous round of cheers and applause, and Pittsburgh was greeted with his affable grin for the first of many times throughout the evening. The majority of their set came from the band’s second and third albums, Talk Talk Talk and Forever Now. “Love My Way,” the band’s seminal hit which was resurrected recently for the “Wedding Singer” soundtrack, appeared quite early in the set, surprising me a bit since I figured they’d save that one and “Pretty In Pink” till much later.
The first thing I noticed about the Furs is how infinitely more electrifying these songs are live when compared to how they were captured in the studio. The darker toned “Only You and I” appeared third in the band’s set, and I remember thinking, “Hmm, wonder what album this song is from?” I later realized that I had this song since it appeared on Forever Now and I have a much greater appreciation for it after hearing it live. “Run & Run” sounded fantastic, with a charging drive and was a song I had very much hoped would have made their set list. They followed these with some more melodic tracks, including “Ghost In You,” “My Time” and “No Easy Street,” which stood out in particular due to John Ashton’s atmospheric guitar effects.
The band recharged quickly for rousing and feisty versions of “President Gas” and “Dumb Waiters.” The band’s Post Punk punch was clear and vital, fueled mostly by the dynamic fills and fluid tribal cascades that drummer Frank Ferrar pounded out. They continued their pattern of a few ballads before succumbing to refined glossy attacks, first with “Heartbreak Beat” and “Heaven” which crashed rapidly into “Mr. Jones” and a exhilarating rendition of “Into You Like A Train,” my second favourite Furs’ track (the oft-overlooked “Soap Commercial” taking the cake). “Pretty In Pink” brought the show to a faux close and all the fans that came merely because they own a few Modern Rock comps felt that they got their money’s worth, while the rest of us nervously anticipated the encores. I must admit that I cheated. I was close enough throughout the entire set that I was able to see the set list. So I knew what to expect. However, it still didn’t blight my enthusiasm when the band returned to the stage in order to perform the lugubrious “Sister Europe,” perhaps the band’s one and only song that could be thought of as being somewhat ‘Goth.’ At any rate, I was pleasurably aghast and swayed to the murky tendrils of sound that crept across the languid snap and plodding boom of percussion. “Sister of mine…home again” Richard’s distinctive voice wailed, and I stood, breaking the hypnosis for a moment, only to think of how lucky I am to have finally seen this band live.
The set list I had snuck a peek at throughout the show had listed two more songs – “Forever Now” and “India” – the latter of which I was looking forward to with great anticipation – but for whatever reason, the band chose to go with a shorter set, and “Sister Europe” was indeed the finale. It looked as though the Furs’ were in great shape and were having a wonderful time, certainly happy to be back on the road, and above all warmed and humbled that their fans still love and remember them. Seeing the Psychedelic Furs was a rare treat, and one I will cherish for some time to come.
* Psychedelic Furs photos: Matthew Heilman
Ordinary Boys photo (which was actually taken at THIS show) courtesy of the band's website
Charlotte Martin photo courtesy of her website
The Psychedelic Furs are:
Richard Butler – vocals
John Aston - guitar
Tim Butler – bass
Frank Ferrer – drums
Amanda Kramer – keyboard
Psychedelic Furs “Burned
Down Days” - Official Fan Site:
The Ordinary Boys:
Thursday August 14 2003
~photos and review by Uncle Nemesis
Verily there must be something in the air. Not only are a bewildering array of long-split bands reforming for another throw of the dice in 2003, but all manner of old-skool artists who never actually split up, but have been spending the past few years in hibernation seem to have chosen this year to re-enter the fray. Who would have guessed that 2003 would see both Kraftwerk and Killing Joke releasing new albums - and within a few weeks of each other, too?
Killing Joke's career has been more chequered than most. One of the original post-punk bands, the story goes that they originally formed, as was virtually obligatory for bands in those days, from a chance meeting in a dole queue. One concept and a handful of rehearsals later they were ready to cut a swathe through the après-punk undergrowth. Their weaponry was simple, but it was deployed with devastating effect. The flamethrower guitar riffs of Geordie Walker, the powerhouse drumming of 'Big' Paul Ferguson. Gritty, funky basslines courtesy of a former Sid Vicious lookalike and reggae aficionado known as Pig Youth...or Youth for short. And, on keyboards and vocals, a face-painted, bug-eyed, ranting prophet of the apocalypse called Jaz Coleman, a man with the stage persona of a bomb caught in mid-explosion. Not that you'd have known their names from their early album sleeves: like Pil at the time, Killing Joke kept themselves anonymous. Their early album artworks are masterpieces of implacable minimalism. No names, no credits, no thank-you lists. All you need to know is in the music.
I remember seeing Killing Joke at the Lyceum in London, in 1981. It was one of the first big gigs I'd ever been to. I was a teenage wannabe-punk at the time, fresh up from Cheltenham, and I was mesmerised. It's not stretching things to say that something happened to me on that night. Some emotional charge jolted through me, some sort of synapse-snap occurred somewhere in my nervous system, some weird electrical spark jumped the terminals in my brain. Or perhaps a penny just dropped. Whatever it was, the effects are with me to this day. I remember hanging precariously over the battered gilt bannister of the balcony staircase, the mosh seething beneath me, Killing Joke's rampaging punk rock disco swirling about my head. The heat, the lights, that pounding, pounding rhythm - and Jaz Coleman, a pressurised canister of barely-repressed fury, calling up a mad and dangerous energy with a glee that seemed hardly controlled. If he hadn't been stationed behind his keyboards (Jaz was, in those early days, that rare thing: a keyboard-playing frontman) I'm sure he would have launched himself at the audience like a human missile. This, I remember thinking to myself, is *it*. This is the stuff. Don't ask me to define it any more precisely than that - all I knew was that there was no going back after *that* experience.
Incidentally, on the flimsy basis that I had previously lived in Cheltenham, I liked to claim an entirely spurious kinship with Killing Joke. Odd though it may seem, that self-same leafy and agreeable Gloucestershire town was where Killing Joke had started out - and where young Jeremy Coleman had attended Bournside School, an establishment derided as 'the posh kids' school!' by those of us who attended the somewhat more rough 'n' tough Cleeve Comprehensive. Over 25 years on, Cheltenham is rather proud of Killing Joke, probably because Jaz is the nearest thing to a pop star the town has ever produced - Gustav Holst, The Chaos Engine and Inkubus Sukkubus notwithstanding. Every time the band does something newsworthy, the local newspaper, the Gloucestershire Echo, interviews Jaz's mum, Mrs Gloria Coleman, who can usually be relied upon to recount some heartwarming tales of young Jeremy's days in the school choir. Now, let's just pause for a moment and think about that. Jaz Coleman...as a choirboy. Picture the scene: rows of angelic faces, shining with spiritual purity, uplifted in song. And right in the middle, our very own junior prophet of the apocalypse, puce and quivering, eyes out on stalks, hollering with all his might about THE DOOM WHICH IS UPON US! Choir practice at Bournside School must have been quite interesting.
But it hasn't always been easy to be a Killing Joke fan. When Youth left, taking his nimble, funky basslines with him, he was replaced by Paul Raven, who was basically a straightforward rock string-thumper. Whether as a consequence of this or not, Killing Joke's mid-period albums drifted alarmingly close to generic alterno-rock territory. The absolute nadir, for my money, was 1985's Night Time - a bland title for a bland album by an increasingly bland band. Of course, this album contains Killing Joke's two big hits - the woeful sub-stadium rock of 'Love Like Blood' and the asinine 'Eighties', upon which Jaz undertook to inform us that 'We're living in the Eighties!' Yes, thanks, Jaz, as a matter of fact I had noticed. Fortunately, as the 90s rolled around, Killing Joke rediscovered some of their original fire. Dirt, Extremities and Various Repressed Emotions was, against the odds, a roaring monster of an album, and when Youth rejoined for 'Pandemonium' it seemed as if the Quality Control department had returned at last from a very long lunch break. Even the gigs were back on form. I remember hanging over the banister of the balcony staircase at the Town And Country Club in London - a different venue, a different staircase, 20 years since my baptism of fire at the Lyceum - and yes, it all still worked. That weird electrical spark was still jumping the terminals in my brain.
And so, at last, we come to the Underworld in 2003. It's been a long, strange trip for both the band and the fans, but Killing Joke aren't ready to quit yet. There's a new album out, a big tour, and another revised line-up which sees the return of Paul Raven on bass (a fact which makes me frown dubiously) and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters on drums - a fact which seems just plain surreal. This is a secret gig, a warm-up for the bigger shows, and a chance to simply have some fun.
Naturally, the Underworld is sold out, and equally naturally there's the inevitable generic indie band in the support slot. Nobody pays the slightest attention to them, which may be rather unfair, but they're simply the wrong band at the wrong gig. I fill in time thinking of more appropriate bands who could've usefully supported Killing Joke tonight. The Narcissus Pool, perhaps, who famously blagged a support with The Damage Manual in Bristol, and by all accounts won Geordie's seal of approval. Or maybe Arkam Asylum, whose manic, punky freak-outs arguably place them slap in the Killing Joke ball-park - and they're on Wasp Factory, who, of course, can claim a Cheltenham connection. I wonder, did either of these bands - or indeed, any of 'our lot' - even think to try for the support tonight? If not, why not? Is this yet another case of a cool opportunity slipping past unobserved, because nobody's got the gumption to think out of the goth-box?
After the traditional endless farting about by a succession of roadies, Killing Joke themselves stroll on stage. No great ceremony, no intro tape - all of a sudden, they're just *there*. A nameless keyboard player scurries into position. Dave Grohl, an amiable-looking bald geezer (what happened to his rock star hairdo?) scrambles behind the drum kit like he plays small club gigs every night of his life. Geordie is lean, reserved, and wears his customary air of detatchment. Raven appears to have come dressed as Benny from Crossroads. In a beanie hat pulled down low, he looks entertainingly gormless. And there's Jaz Coleman himself, the former choirboy from Cheltenham, grinning like he's just renegotiated his pact with the devil on far more favourable terms. He's dressed in a bizarre shapeless tunic, like two halves of a tarpaulin stitched together, his hair is an unruly black mass, and it looks like his face has been jointly painted by the make-up artists for Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, and Kiss, after they'd all spent the day down the pub. Old Killing Joke fans in the audience nudge each other and smile. There's an equation that's never been known to fail: the more loony Jaz looks, the better the gig will be. And tonight, Jaz looks encouragingly like he's right off his rocker.
There is no mistaking that keyboard riff. 'Requiem' kicks things off, and although this is one of Killing Joke's (relatively) slow songs, the moshpit explodes. As I'm unceremoniously shoved face-first into the monitors, I notice with a sudden burst of laughter that they've been nailed into position! Tim the Underworld engineer obviously knew what sort of gig he was in for tonight. Jaz leans out over the rampaging mass of bodies, his eyes fried-egging as he roars out the words like microphones haven't been invented. Geordie just leans back and does that curious, relaxed wrist action with his right hand: his playing style is almost lazy. You just can't believe that his laid-back strumming is producing *that* massive, clanging noise. As the song shudders to a close, Jaz is grinning all over his painted face. He knows what's coming next. Geordie unfurls a churning riff. It sounds like something from 'Revelations' - but no, it's a new song, 'Total Invasion' from the new album. The mosh doesn't stop, and there's no reason why it should. The god of catharsis has descended upon us tonight, and there's no letting up and no letting go. And there's definitely no resisting riffs as big and dirty and brutal as these. This is music as bulldozer. It just rolls right over you, and, dammit, sometimes you just need this. Sometimes you just *need* to abandon yourself to that relentless bastard bulldozer, and its manic, grinning pilot.
It's old song/new song tonight, evidently. 'War Dance' nearly rips the Underworld apart. With a fine sense of irony, some people in the crowd point at Jaz when he gets to the line 'You've got something nasty in your mind', but his grin just gets wider.'Blood On Your Hands' is another riff-monster from the new album. And then we hit the dancefloor at the punk rock disco, with the glorious staccato rhythm of 'Change'. 'Seeing Red' is a blur; 'Tension' just snaps like steel wire that's passed its point of no return. This is uncanny: the band are playing their oldest material tonight, songs from the first two albums, and then dropping in the new stuff. It's as if that gruesome mid-period, the Paul Raven years of the 80s, had never happened. What, I wonder, must Raven himself think of this? All the songs on which he played have been unceremoniously junked from the set list. But there he is, the old thumper, walloping away at his bass while throwing ludicrous rock-animal poses which, I have to say, really *don't* work. Not with that stupid beanie hat. Sometimes, bizarrely, he wedges the body of his bass into his crotch - steady, now, Raven, too much of that and you'll be doing yourself a mischief, mate.
Fast forward to the end. The bulldozer just keeps rolling. 'Whiteout' - one of the newer songs, recorded with Youth. Where are you tonight, Youth? Feet up in Battersea? Counting your Bananarama royalties? You should be *here*! 'Frenzy' - ah, the one and only Paul Raven-era song in the set. 'Psyche' - the B-side to the original 'War Dance' 7" single, and one of my favourite songs OF ALL TIME, I don't mind saying. And then Jaz finds the eye of the hurricane, a moment of quiet: he just stands there and sings one word. 'Asteroid!' The crowd erupts. This is a new song, yet plenty of people are familiar with it. It's a pell-mell romp, a full-tilt charge to who cares where. The momentum just sweeps us along. And then, suddenly, it's the finish. 'Pandemonium' wraps things up, and that's it. There is no more. The moshpit is full of human wreckage. Killing Joke leave the stage as unceremoniously as they arrived. They don't take a bow, they don't milk the applause. Their work here is done: thanks and goodnight.
Well. Was that good? Judging by the fact that I can hardly stand, and sundry internal organs seem to have been displaced, yes, it was. Oh, it wasn't subtle, that's for sure, and the lighter touch of Youth - his dance sensibility, his ability to *swing* those basslines where Raven just thumps along, was much missed. But, dammit, that worked. That was *necessary*. The verdict? Killing Joke are well and truly back. They're mad, bad, probably quite infuriating to know - and, if you give them half a chance, they'll clasp their gleeful greasy fingers around your soul. This time round, take that chance and let 'em take it.
see all the photos from this concert here
The new Killing Joke website
(based around the new album and tour):
A Killing Joke fan site (best place to go for archive information, discography, etc): http://www.killing-joke.com
A very detailed Killing Joke
biography, including an album-by-album rundown of the band's career, and
an impressive digest of the many different line-ups. Takes the story up
to the 'Pandemonium' album. Does not cover the latest line-up or release.
Another Killing Joke biography,
short on early detail (and with some infuriating spelling mistakes - 'Metalica',
for heaven's sake!) but with some interesting info regarding the band's
90s incarnation with Youth on bass. Does not cover the latest line-up or
Bournside school (where the posh kids go!): http://www.bournside.com
Cleeve School (where the tough kids go!): http://www.cleeve.gloucs.sch.uk/index.htm
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Descendants of Cain
August 1, 2003
~review and photos by Jezebel
How do I start something that should have a HUGE disclaimer before I start? Yet at the same time, the disclaimer has become plural and may or may not affect the possibility of you reading this.
I deal with them as necessary of course.
One: I am not a full fan of death metal, goth metal, well, metal of any kind in general. No..that’s not true. I like Bon Jovi (and I am not ashamed to admit that)…and I do like some goth metal. Look, let’s just say that you won’t find me head banging anywhere anytime soon, but I will listen to it and may appreciate it.
Okay. So…when my partner (see – disclaimer) became involved with NFD, I was underwhelemed. Yes, it had a serious line-up (Tony Pettitt of original FoN, Simon Rippin of Nephilim and Bob White of Sensorium) and there was a possibility of some label interest and back-up with Jungle, but as a music I cared about? Okay. I had to. My partner was in it and I am very supportive person.
So for weeks rehearsals went on. There were sessions of 12 hours. There were shorter sessions that I am sure were mostly at the Dev. Or were those the longer sessions? I am not quite sure. Whatever, it all was to culminate in an announced Launch Gig at Minglings, in Camden, on August 1st.
Or was it?
Nope. I got to see them at a secret gig at the Underworld on July 30th. The band used the “new band” night at the venue to have a dress rehearsal. Work out kinks, feel it real, live. As dress rehearsals go, it went well. I mean, you don’t have anyone at your dress rehearsal generally and there weren’t many people here either.
I won’t say much about the gig. As it was a dress rehearsal and that wouldn’t be fair on the band. I wasn’t supposed to see it per se in the role of reviewer so I won’t take advantage of the privilege that my position as a partner of a band member allows me. But I will say this…..it wasn’t half bad.
So hey – it’s time for the Launch.
The venue was in Camden Stables, at the recently opened Mingling restaurant. Supposedly Chinese, the last time I was there having drinks, there seemed to be steaks and chips (fries) being served. Whatever. It was taken over and made into a sauna, um, I mean, venue, for the evening.
Opening up was Descendants of Cain who are now a foursome….including a new guitarist, Steve Gerrard, freeing Daryl to be the lead singer. He thanked me later, as they were just about to start and I noticed his shoes were on. Daryl performing with his shoes on? Never. I screamed, he de-shoed and the set began. The new line-up is sharp, tight and definitely an improvement. There is something rather different to the sound now, perhaps the guitarist giving a new edge gives a new mix and sound to the music. Perhaps the detachment of the guitarist from the music, as he didn’t create it, gives it a nuance that wasn’t there before. Perhaps the band know their material so personally that it is hard to be objective (that is the only word I can use here, I feel) about it.
I give credit to the band. With this new line-up came a huge amount of technical difficulties that were impossible for the sound people at the venue to overcome as the set went on. Being the true professionals that the band is, they apologized, explained they would rather not continue if they weren’t going to be able to perform the music correctly and left the stage. It takes real presence and real professionalism to do that. Ultimately impressed with them.
And the time was for NFD…but um…hello? We are missing some of the band. There was a full moon out, must have been. As we now understand that Simon and his girlfriend had been mugged coming back from the local shop with beer. Both okay, but Simon and Bob have gone out to find and probably kill the gang of teenagers with broken bottles that confronted Simon and Thom.
Back from their mission (and thankfully, they were unable to find the gang of little idiots), they took the stage. At least I thought they did. Yep – there was movement. Too much smoke made it impossible for anyone to see the band and/or breathe. It was definitely overkill.
The set was tight…the set was strong. You are going to get the inevitable comparisons to Nephilim but not perhaps rightly so. This is a page of out that book, but perhaps it’s not the exact book, but the sequel. Now we can say that all sequels are not as good as the originals, but we aren’t talking movies here, we are talking music. And when a sequel involves the evolution of a sound, the pushing of what it was into something different, then the sequel is a better thing. What is impressive of the band is the tightness. As if working for years together, they rocked and rolled and made it seem all so easy, when we all know it really isn’t. I know the band has been in rehearsals breaking themselves to make this work – but this was more than that.
Even when they were joined by Peter Yates, it seemed there was no glitch, just the addition of another layer.
Okay –another disclaimer. I know all these guys. All except one have been to my house, had some burgers and watched videos. I like these guys, so reviewing them is difficult. (Damn you Uncle Nemesis for being away this weekend!). So….as I have just been glowing in my review – which is true and honest – I must now talk about the bad things.
I have mentioned the smoke. It was god awful and made watching the music horrific. And the venue was so disgustingly hot that people were actually going outside to listen because it was cooler. And the lighting was really poor.
Okay – Okay….I will get back to the music.
I think there are only two things which I can say constructively negative about NFD. One – they need to move. With that much head banging music going on, there needs to be some sort of ACTION on stage. DO something. To me, and maybe I am wrong, but metal music is just as much about the show than it is about the music and to see everyone basically gazing at their instruments, shoes or the wall just doesn’t cut it. I want excitement, and some action on stage.
And two – Bob’s voice sometimes doesn’t enhance or work with the music, it fights it and conflicts with it. There is only so much regurgitating phlegm sound I can take anyway, and Bob’s voice is strong, but it just seemed to never really change, no matter what the sound. And as that was the great thing about the music, that it actually had starts and ends to songs, that songs were distinctive, is a great thing. But Bob needs to do that as well. Otherwise, it just felt like you could lift the vocals from one song and put it into another and you wouldn’t have known the different from the original vocals you replaced.
And to continue with the more violent part of the NFD experience, we had a great idiot in the front of the stage, who decided to try to beat up a woman. Thankfully two friends of the band were able to, let us say, subdue, him and he was “removed” from the venue.
And finally, the most perfect way to end the launch. NFD blew apart the sound system. Destroying it.
The reviews? I heard one person say “cool, too much smoke.” Another called it “the tightest gig I have seen for a long time.” And “bloody good stuff” from another.
Me? In my sensible shoes I say, hand Bob a tissue for the phlegm and rock on! I don’t know if they will set the world on fire, but I do think that if people (and even their own label and website) can put aside the Nephilim attachment, they have a chance. I know that is very difficult. FoN was/is an icon in this genre and Tony Pettit (bass) an originator. But this is NOT FoN and once people can stop, sit up and try to listen to it for what it is instead of where it came from, perhaps it will have a chance.
Just let’s do it without the smoke, explosions and fights!
see all the photos from this concert here
Descendants of Cain
Steve Gerrard, guitar
Darryl Kruger, voice
Philippa Moore, keyboards
Iain Smith, guitar, support voice
Tony Pettitt, bass
Simon Rippin, drums
Pete “Bob” White, vocals
Stephen Carey, guitar
Chris Milden, guitar
Saturday July 26 2003
~review and photos by Uncle Nemesis
'Tis the season for old bands to reform, it seems. Skeletal Family are the latest bunch of 80s-vintage goths to regroup and get out on the gig circuit after an absence of....well, in this case, it must be almost 20 years. As always when an old-skool Brit-goth outfit makes a comeback, I find myself sifting through the haphazard shreds of my memory to try and conjure up a few recollections of the band as they used to be.
I particularly recall seeing Skeletal Family support Siousxie and the Banshees in 1984 at the Brixton Academy - a gig which cost the outrageous sum of five pounds, the most expensive gig-ticket I'd ever bought up to that point. I remember swearing a solemn oath that I would never pay that much for a gig ever again! But although five pounds was a high price for a gig ticket in '84, this one was worth it. The Banshees were, of course, great, and Skeletal Family were on a roll that night. The boys in the band were, as always, a fairly anonymous bunch, dressed down, standing back, squinting at their fretboards, leaving the visual focus of the show entirely to Anne-Marie. Not that this was any kind of problem, because she effortlessly carried the show with her trademark combination of natural presence and, paradoxically, a kind of jittery, skittish, highly-strung anxiety. I often thought her performances were fuelled by sheer nervous tension. I remember her lunging forward at the audience, her hair a dramatic back-lit halo, and then twitching back, as if she'd suddenly realised just how close she was getting to the roaring, swirling crowd. She was a unique and marvellous frontwoman, and she gave Skeletal Family their identity.
All of which means that it's a bit of a disappointment to discover that Anne-Marie is not part of the 2003 version of the band. Apparently she expressed some initial interest in the reformation, and even posed for a publicity photo with the lads, but since then she appears to have dropped out again. At any rate, Skeletal Family's first comeback gig in Leeds earlier this year saw the band fronted by their *other* singer, Katrina, who had originally joined in 1986 after Anne-Marie left to form Ghost Dance. A perfectly authentic line-up, of course...but not, perhaps, the line-up everyone was expecting to see, especially as the band's website never quite made it clear whether Anne-Marie was in or out (and, in fact, still doesn't!)
Just to make everything even more confusing, tonight's gig features yet another vocalist who is not mentioned on the Skeletal Family website at all, although there's a brief credit on one page to 'Debra Smith' who has 'helped to make the July gigs possible'. Whether or not this is a reference to the new singer is, unfortunately, left obscure. Meanwhile, a recent an announcement in the band's Yahoo group credits the new singer as 'Claire'. So, who, exactly, *is* fronting Skeletal Family these days? Even the band don't seem too sure - or, at least, they've decided to conceal this vital piece of information under several layers of confusion.
As a result of all this, when the band eventually arrive on the Slimelight's rickety stage, I find myself having to suspend my disbelief somewhat to convince myself that this really is Skeletal Family. The lads are still a bunch of dressed-down, heads-down, no-nonsense musos, although over on the keyboards Karlheinz is sporting a nifty new wave skinny tie. To that extent, it's business as usual, since Skeletal Family's identity never really depended on the backroom boys anyway. But when Debra/Claire/whoeversheis picks up the mic and the band launch themselves into a set of the Skeletal's finest moments, it's almost as if I'm watching a covers band. A very good covers band, make no mistake about that, and in any case songs like 'She Cries Alone' and 'Promised Land' are always going to be classics whoever's singing them, but when I compare *this* version of Skeletal Family with the memories in my head, I have to admit it comes up as a 'not found'.
The vocalist is excellent in her own right, and although she has to struggle a little with the soundmix - in which the vocal fader is never really shoved up as far as it should be - she can certainly deliver the goods. She doesn't attempt to reproduce the style of the band's previous singers - and, don't get me wrong here, I don't expect, or want, her to do so. She has her own brand of sassy confidence, and, with her net top, long blonde hair, and bets and bangles she could almost be Madonna in one of her 1980s noo-wave-trash personas. She works the stage as if she was born to it, but always keeps a little something back. She never falls into the trap of 'Hello London, it's great to be back!' fake bonhomie - not that she could've done that anyway, since you can't be 'back' without having been there in the first place. She gives the band a contemporary edge, a fresh identity which doesn't hark back to any previous Skeletal Family incarnation - and here, I think, we hit the crux of the matter.
Because Skeletal Family's identity was so hugely wrapped up in the image and persona of Anne-Marie, any version of the band which does not include Anne-Marie will always seem a little ersatz. And yet the band's new singer is so good in her own right it seems silly not to press ahead with the reformation project, because, if you disregard the past, the present line-up of the band actually works very well in a contemporary, here-and-now manner. Personally, I think the way forward might be for the band to relaunch themselves as something related to Skeletal Family...while not actually *being* Skeletal Family. Call themselves 'The Skels' or something. Keep the reference there, but ditch the notion that this *is* the band which set the 80s scene alight. And then concentrate on setting fire to the 21st century.
Skeletal Family are back - but are they Skeletal Family?
see all the photos from this show here
The official Skeletal Family website: http://wwwskeletalfamily.com
The Slimelight: http://www.slimelight.net
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to
Type O Negative
w/ Lacuna Coil
August 1, 2003
Metropol – Pittsburgh, PA
~review and photos by Matthew
Seeing Type O Negative perform has been an annual tradition for me that dates back to 1995, when I first saw the band on the last leg of their “Bloody Kisses” tour. I didn’t fully realize how regularly I had seen this band. It is just a given that if they are in town, my sister and I automatically go. Even though my tastes have grown and I am listening to a lot of different music than I was in high school, I never get tired of seeing Type O. They always put on an entertaining show, that has enough gloom and doom to appeal to my current fascinations and enough metallic frenzy that makes me wax nostalgic over my troubled lonely youth. Type O Negative has always been synonymous with autumn in my mind. It is never officially fall until we have seen them play. But Halloween came early this year, and though the sun was still frying the collective masses, I walked away from their show last month feeling as jolly as I can possibly get. My senses were perfumed with the phantom smell of burning leaves, a ludicrous longing for a glass of red wine, and an insatiable craving for Brachs’ candy corn. They have that quirky transitory power to make you feel young again. If there is anything at all vampyric about this band’s music, it is the fact that it temporarily suspends your age.
Lacuna Coil took the stage at promptly 7:30 pm, as scheduled. What’s nice about these ‘bigger’ shows is that they start on time. The Century Media darlings had come all the way from Italy to join the Brooklyn based-bloodsuckers, and it was the band’s second appearance in Pittsburgh. Having seen them before, I was prepared for the band’s tight-knit and rousing performance, and I knew what to expect when I suspect a good bit of the audience did not. What’s interesting about Type O Negative is that they draw an incredibly eclectic crowd, ranging from Goth fans, metalheads, punks, hardcore kids, and a growing number of Joe and Jane Normals that get a kick out of the whole Munsters: The Musical vibe of a Type O show. And because of this diversity, opening bands tend to have a difficult time getting the crowd to warm up to them. I mean, what other shows have YOU been to where the chant “You Suck” is an affectionate show of appreciation? It’s all well and good when Type O is greeted with this repeated phrase, but the joke isn’t funny anymore when the opening band hears those words. At that point, they better start ducking because the miscellaneous objects are going to start flying. Luckily for Lacuna Coil, they didn’t meet the same fate that Lycia and HED(pe) met in the past.
Lacuna Coil held their own very well, though not with the same degree of confident majesty as when they headlined Club Laga back in the spring. A good quarter of the audience cheered with genuine enthusiasm as they comfortably rushed through tracks from their latest release “Comalies,” and the bands melodic blend of ethereal metal and dark rock wasn’t lost on the audience in the least. No jeers or sense of discontent could be detected, which is a good sign at a Type O show. Being that most folks probably already heard Evanescence on the radio, they were already somewhat privy to that sound and were either jamming along or standing with their attention fixed upon the cramped stage.
<Steps on soapbox> Being that Lacuna Coil have been all but plagiarized by the pseudo-Christian sap rock that took radio by storm, it was cool to see people react and see how this music is REALLY done. Honestly, it sickens me to think of the success that Evanescence continue to reap while Lacuna Coil, a band with twice as much power and sincerity, not to mention more technical and advanced songwriting, is constantly looked over by the mainstream rock press and MTV while “Bring Me To Life” was played ad nauseam all summer long. From a completely subjective standpoint, and as a music fan, it just pisses me off and is yet another demonstration of how hypocritical the music industry is, and that money, not quality, is the bottom line. </rant>
The blissfully rap-free and authentic ‘beauty and the beast’ vocal stylings of Cristina Scabia and Andrea Ferro were provocative and animated, but not quite as intimate as I had seen them interact before. I think the band was a little uncertain of themselves, or at least expected the audience to be more involved with their performance, by way of singing and clapping along, jumping up and down, etc. And when the audience wasn’t overtly demonstrating this kind of enthusiasm, I think it gave the band the wrong impression. They themselves seemed slightly discontent, even though the audience was as warm as they probably would have gotten for an opening act at a show like this. The highlights of the band’s set were without question the heavier moments – that is one thing that Lacuna Coil have that Evanescence certainly doesn’t have, and those are passages of straight forward yet moody heavy metal. While most of their material hovers around the same mid-pace, there were several angsty and crunch heavy moments throughout their set, causing the entire band to engage in some intense full-body swaying and synchronized headbanging. Yes, bands still do that, even the ones that appear all epic and eloquently poetic or what have you. Cristina’s tiny frame probably thrashed the hardest out of them all. There is no mistake that she is in her own world, and that she is pulling the ugliest parts from within her soul to the surface, laid bear for dissection and judgment from, in this instance, an audience that was foreign to her on nearly all accounts. Her oval face was a constant mask of emotion, and her hands were without fail either clenched tightly at her side or pushing tightly across her stomach, so that the band’s soaring choruses could reach their most stately heights. “Senzafine” a song sung completely in their native Italian, was received warmly by the crowd – a perfect instance of how music transcends even language and conveys what words often fail to present. (Then again, how often can you really hear the singer at a metal show?) Whatever it is that Cristina and Andrea were saying, the acutely emotional “When A Dead Man Walks,” which features some of the finest vocal melodies and guitar harmonies the band has ever produced, was a monumental moment in the band’s set. The same song was what really captured my attention at their previous show, and Cristina’s bittersweet pleading at the song’s chorus pierced me just as sharply as it had before. “You’re killing me…killing me…once again!” Ah, but what a sweet death indeed.
It isn’t often that an opening band is this good, and if you have ever been slightly ‘iffy’ about Lacuna Coil, it will only take seeing them live once to assure you of the command they possess of their art. I definitely relished in the high quality warm up, even though the band set to the take the stage next believes that their best music should be considered the ‘least worst’ of their repertoire.
And that was for the most part, what constituted for Type O Negative’s set, the seventh time I had seen the band. Four awkward looking shadows emerged on to the stage, one of which was infinitely taller and more menacing than the rest, and when the green houselights came up, I couldn’t help but chuckle to see all four members of Type O Negative were dressed in teal hospital scrubs. Yet all the while, mechanized sounds of grating Industrial scrapes, wailing sirens, and shrill feedback droned on as they took their places on stage. Welcome to the world of Type O Negative, where the surreal pairing of grim humour and misanthropic self-loathing meet and make a merry dance. The audience was temporarily blinded by a sudden burst of white and green lights and the Drab Four unexpectedly ripped into “I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else,” the epic whirlwind of self-hatred and wounded singular misogyny from their debut. It was easy to see the band was in full force and came out with all their batteries charged. (And speaking of batteries – you will note that I have neglected to provide photos of Type O’s set. This is because my batteries were NOT properly charged and my camera died a premature death. Sorry.) Up next was the darkly erotic fan favourite “Wolf Moon.” Now, as many times as I had seen the band play, they never did that track in Pittsburgh before and they finally did it for the first time last year. I didn’t expect it this time around, but sure enough, almost as soon as the words passed from Peter’s sepulchral throat, the place was in an uproar, nearly drowning out the eerie antique harpsichords that Josh provided for the intro. Despite how many avant garde post punk bands I discover from 1981, I doubt anything will ever displace my love for this band. “Anesthesia,” arguably the darkest cut from the band’s latest release Life Is Killing Me, followed next. I never would have expected to hear that track, and surprisingly, it was the only one from the new CD that made the set list, beside the first single “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” that appeared later in the show. I was totally psyched to hear this track live and never in a million years did I think they would have done it. It was at this point that I realized, damn, this was going to be a helluva show!
Three ominous chords began to ring out soon thereafter, three ominous chords that every Doom Metal fan has engrained in their psyche almost as deeply as the face of the first member of the opposite sex that had ever spurned them. Those chords belong of course to Black Sabbath’s self-titled dirge, which TON has always included, at least partially, in their live shows. The song’s intro was all we had the pleasure to hear tonight, as a ghostly and very familiar choir cut icily through a sudden silence – “A cross upon her bedroom wall / from grace she will fall / An image burning in her mind / and between her thighs…” And like that, the slinky sludge of “Christian Woman,” the band’s second biggest hit, was rattling the hell out of the rafters. I still don’t think Jesus Christ looks anything like Peter Steele but even after ten years (it really is almost that old!) the anthematic crescendo of the song still holds up!
All the black clad girls sighed with pensive desperation when the humid piano lines of “Love You To Death” began to reverberate with a sense of lonely tongue in cheek grace. However, the song’s massive groove is irresistible, and buried beneath the lovelorn clichés is a genuine sense of romantic hope. At this point in the show I am struck again with nostalgia and I recall that girl in ninth grade for whom I wasn’t good enough, and this attests to the song’s power and success. The band drove the coffin nail in even further with a hypnotic and trance-inducing rendition of “World Coming Down.” I totally zoned out during the song’s breakdown, where only his lackadaisical bass lines and samples of Gregorian choirs accompany Peter’s heartfelt vocal performance. One of those unmistakable moments of genuine musical power that demonstrates that Type O Negative is more than just a silly band that pokes fun at hair dye, polygamy, and neurotic Catholic virgins.
Before I could start to feel too sorry for myself, the density is broken by the frenzied thrash punk of “Kill All The White People,” which gets the pit goin’ real good. Keeping things up-tempo, but with a decidedly much more sullen tone, “Prelude To Agony” followed next. This was, for me, the absolute highlight of an already fantastic show. For those of you that don’t remember this track or know this one, it originally appeared on the debut CD (and also on the live follow up, bearing the simpler title “Pain” on that one). The song starts with a charging, groove oriented march and volleys between faster, thrashy passages and impossibly heavy doom parts. The song gradually descends deeper into a bleak state of psychotic fantasy, where Peter, through his cathartic art, ritually murders the woman that ripped his heart from his otherwise impenetrable chest. This track just gets incredibly dark toward the end, where the rhythms crash to a pummeling halt, and the dreary cacophony is interrupted with the sampled sounds of a jackhammer and a woman’s anguished groans. Admittedly amateurish, juvenile, sexist, and probably to some people, just plain dumb, it is to me one of Type O’s most disturbing, heaviest, and most frightening moments. As if it couldn’t get any more sinister, between the breaks, Peter snarled menacingly in what I can only assume was either Russian or German. God only knows what he was saying, but the man looked incredibly evil and as inhuman as he ever has. For a second, I almost bought into all the silly ‘vampire’ stories about the towering frontman! It was chilling, and fulfilling. I could have gone home then and been satisfied. But there was more to come of course, and the band predictably destroyed the frigid unease of “Pain” by jumping into the be-bop decadence of “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” and the band’s new similarly paced, structured, and executed single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Me.” But the night could not have ended without the obligatory, sing-a-long of the band’s immortal hit “Black No.1.” I mean, personally, I would have rather heard “Gravity” but this very well may have been the most fulfilling set I had ever heard them do. They just slammed right through the songs, sounding remarkably tight and heavier than ever. Especially when it came to Johnny’s drumming – it seemed as though the mics were set up to pack a deeper punch than I remember from the past. The mix was balanced, clear, and utterly encompassing, and it is really only live that you begin to appreciate what a unique sound Type O Negative possess. Granted, there are thousands of Goth Metal bands out there, but Type O still reign at the top. As always, after the bass strings have been ripped off and Josh’s keyboards are hanging in complete disarray, Peter took a moment to share a round of sincere and appreciative applause for the crowd, “Without whom,” Peter assures with a shake of his massive fist, “we wouldn’t fuckin’ be here. Thank YOU!”
All in all it was a fabulous show. Due to the relatively low amount of songs from the latest CD, I would venture to say that the band might swing through the US again later in the year or early next year, but its still too early to say. Whatever the case, if they do embark on a second tour, go see ‘em. You won’t regret it. The new album is out and has apparently been selling quite well. If you don’t have it yet, pick it up. Be sure to catch the latest video for “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” which has been airing on the resurrected Headbanger’s Ball on MTV2 (Saturdays: 10pm – 12am).
Lastly but certainly not least, call your local radio stations, email MTV, and pester the hell out of ‘em to play Lacuna Coil instead of Evanescence. Check out Lacuna Coil on tour with Anthrax in September.
TYPE O NEGATIVE:
CENTURY MEDIA RECORDS:
Turn Pale: The Saving Grace
~by Matthew Heilman
(Photos courtesy of Turn Pale’s website and Riley Manion)
June 30 – Johnstown PA:
Menoher Sportsman’s Club
I was three years old when The Birthday Party imploded for the last time on stage and I obviously wasn’t attending the latest experimental music concerts at the time! But Turn Pale makes up for my parents' unfortunate timing, by providing music and live performances, which must be the inherited equivalent for the current generation of active Goth and dark music fans. They have the ability to expose a whole new generation of kids to how it’s really done.
I have been championing this band for close to two years now, and each of my reviews glow brighter and brighter with admiration and awe for this quartet of Bloomington, Indiana musicians. And it is not without reason, nor is it blind adoration or hyperbole. Just read through some of my last few reviews from May and June and you may see that my praise does not always come so easily. Ask any of my friends or DJ colleagues and they will tell you that my jaded crankiness for what passes as ‘Goth’ anymore has reached a bitter misanthropic peak. I could continue to allow my disdain and disgust to drive me into reclusive hibernation from the scene; a scene I will be the first to admit I feel alienated from, and a movement where I truthfully have no place and have the growing feeling that I no longer belong. However, I could just say the hell with I don’t like, dismiss it, and focus my attention on what ELSE is happening right now, and find stuff that is truly amazing, and worth writing home (and to StarVox) about. So that is what I will do, because despite the direction that the club scene is going in, I still believe that my tastes in music are relevant and could be appreciated by a vast variety of music fans. There is no band that I want to write more about right now than Turn Pale.
A current phenomenon that is raging out of control, a ‘trend’ that we have addressed before here at StarVox, is the fact that weekly club nights in bigger cities have replaced the long-time tradition of attending live concert performances. But this is a whole other can of worms, one I will decline to open because I want to stay positive. Optimism and the embrasure of it, is my July resolution. So needless to say, Turn Pale could not find an adequate gig in my home city of Pittsburgh, so my fiancée and a friend (hi Justine!) traveled to Johnstown PA to catch what I have been touting as potentially the most exciting Goth band active today.
Johnstown is a smallish town, about an hour and a half East of Pittsburgh. The drive was spectacularly pleasurable, traveling upward into the mountains, away from the heat and toward the tranquil shade of trees. Fueled by Mountain Dew, tobacco, and mixed CD-Rs with old school PIL, Wolfgang Press, Damned and Captain Sensible tracks (which led to a mischievous sing along of “Wot!”) -- we were in great spirits when we finally arrived at the Menoher Sportsman’s Club.
A fairly large crowd of Indie and Emo kids mingled on the lawn, played horseshoes, Frisbee, and talked with their friends. Apparently, this is what the Indie kids have to do in the relatively rural setting of Johnstown. They should be applauded for taking the initiative to find something constructive and rewarding to do with their time. It appeared to be a well-knit and organized community of friends and music fans. We of course, stood out like sore thumbs – being the only remotely Goth looking kids around. We just sort of kept to ourselves, and hung around anxiously awaiting Turn Pale’s performance. It was nice to find a soft patch of grass in the shade and enjoy the late summer evening breeze, and swat at gnats that sought to claim our Mountain Dew. We caught up with the Turn Pale guys and we chatted a bit, and as I had always expected from the emails I had exchanged with them, they are extremely down to earth, friendly, and almost shy individuals. After our pleasant conversation about music, their current tour, and other miscellaneous stuff, we were even more excited to see them perform after the realistic and formal connection we had made with the guys behind this music we have been quietly worshiping the past few months.
There were four other bands on the bill, all of which I am assuming were local. Because I hadn’t initially planned on doing a write up of this show, I neglected to snag the flyer to see who it was that was actually playing. All the bands however, were very well received. The first of which were a melodic pop punk type band. Not our thing AT ALL, but I have to give props to their drummer because he was quite good and had some great fills. The second act was actually incredibly good, and I am very disappointed I didn’t catch their name. Imagine if you will a confident but admittedly amateur tribute to Big Black and Neurosis. They were incredibly loud, brash, and quite animated. Falling all over each other, screaming their brains out, and making a kind of cacophonic noise that had more in league with early Industrial than it did with Hardcore. Though a little unrefined and rough around the edges, the band delivered a good set and I would be psyched to see them perform again. They were followed by a relatively good Emo/Indie act. The vocalist alternated between guitar and keyboard duties, where he played a few melodic piano parts that segued into loud swells of moody rock. All in all, I had to say the bands were pretty cool and considering their local ‘lets start a band and have fun’ status, all of the bands seemed to hint of greater things if they stick to what they are doing.
Soon it would be dark. And ever so appropriately, Turn Pale began to set up their gear. Within a matter of about ten minutes, they were ready to go. As lame as this may sound, I honestly began to get butterflies. Despite the rather understated settings, the wide rectangular clinical room, the lack of a real stage, etc – I was genuinely excited about what I knew was about to ensue. I watched as Marty set up his drums, and Chris tuned his bass and Nick tinkered with his amp and floor palette of effects pedals. There, truthfully, was no real atmosphere during the previous bands’ performances. They just played, with the waning sunlight coming through the windows or the florescent overhead illumination and did their thing. Turn Pale however provided what I can only assume is one of their live trademarks – big ominous red floodlights and intelligent strobes: which I don’t think people were at all expecting. And how WERE these Emo and Indie kids going to react to a band like Turn Pale? Would the band be well received? Or would the audience just be confused or turned off?
Soon enough, Michael Anderson, Turn Pale’s captivating frontman, began pacing rapidly back and forth muttering his appreciation to the previous bands. He continued pacing – left, right, from one of the wooden pillars framing the make-shift stage to the next, spinning on his boot heal, head down, muttering, in a barely audible, but inviting mumble “We are Turn Pale, and we appreciate all you beautiful people for coming to see us play. We have some songs tonight, we hope you will enjoy them, we hope that you will dance.” All the while the rest of the band had their backs to the audience, quietly tuning their instruments. The surmounting tension was incredible. And at a very imprecise and sudden moment, a moment that only the band was in tune with, while everyone else stood waiting, not knowing WHEN to expect, let alone what -- there was a loud CRASH as Marty began to pound his snare with unbridled force and immediately plodded into the dense militant march of “Slow To Drown,” from the band’s debut release “Kill The Lights.” Chris began to pummel the body of his bass and Nick turned around to unleash his shrill scratch of angular barbed wire feedback drenched guitar upon the unsuspecting crowd. And then there was Michael, stomping to and fro, while his confrontational wails, shrieks, and playful crooning just sucked the air right out of the room. “I want you to be here, but don’t speak! Just move your hands around in the air!” He pumped his fists with a rallying cry, lightly punching the low ceiling, gesturing wildly at the doe-eyed audience, flailing about like a wild beast soon to be unleashed from a lengthy captivity. The song’s propulsive march soon shifted seamlessly into a groove-laden blend of PIL/Gang Of Four inspired death disco, while Michael playfully shook his assets and accosted the nodding audience members, while an unexpected burst of strobe lights shimmered throughout the shadow-drenched room.
Without missing a beat, the band bled into “Light Melts Away,” an addictive offering of cascading drum fills, rolling bass lines, and ringing guitar harmonics. Michael continued to creep about, contorting his lean frame into various arachnid-like and threatening poses, jumping onto the remarkably stable card-table that housed the mixing board. Falling to his knees and wailing, jumping up and down with teasing menace. The sense of urgency and energy in the songs never waned for a moment, as the band forged into the frantic buoyancy of “Peaceable Kingdom.” Turn Pale had most of the crowd entirely in a state of arrested curiousity and awe. Granted, some of the less adventurous headed for the door, but a good two thirds of the 50+ crowd remained to see what all the noise was about. To the delight of my fiancée and friend, the band launched into the looming gloom of “In Sight” – a pounding dirge of a track which I have been pushing hard in my playlists at Ceremony. The stark erotic rhythms lurched beneath the icy trickle of Nick’s guitar riffing, while Michael wailed against the plights of ‘minimum wage labour:’ “How am I to get anything done / when the days keep flying by? When the days keep – FLYYY INNNG BYYYYY – Where do they fly to? Where do they FLYYYYY to? ‘Cause I want to go there tooOOOOoooo…”
It felt as if I had waited a lifetime to see a Goth band reach a state of such brutal intensity and flawless sublimity. It truly was at this moment that I felt that I was witnessing a band comparable only to The Birthday Party or the early sonic atrocities of the Swans. Turn Pale brought the place “DOWWWWN to the GrrowwwwnnnnnNNDDD”
They cut through more tracks from their debut CD, as well as introducing a noteworthy new track they had only performed twice before. They closed with “The Very Center Of It All,” where Michael continued to accost and tease the audience, creeping along shaking hands and even mock biting a shaggy haired Indie rocker. “I am on the road and it’s so nice to meet’cha MEET’CHA.”
And at last, gasping, sweating, and spent, Turn Pale’s set drew to its close, leaving myself and a good many of the other audience members standing in the same state of exhausted fulfillment. Immediately, the band’s merch booth was swarmed with curious kids, who had surely never been exposed to anything quite so powerfully dark, yet rich with a kind of decadent disco sleaze and coursing with such surreal energy. I certainly had never seen anything quite like them -- with my own eyes, in the flesh, merely inches away from me – before that moment
Perhaps I sound like an overzealous and obsessive fan of this band. Whatever. I continue to spread the gospel of Turn Pale, this time with even more irrefutable evidence to their power and potential. Their debut release is a landmark addition to the history of Gothic music, and an intricate chart for the course of its future. They very well could be the band to give the diluted jaded world of Goth a much-needed kick in the ass. Turn Pale deliver the kind of Death Rock that well reputed bands like Bella Morte, however great and successful they may be, they present only a cartoonish appetizer for the kind of Goth that WAS and the kind of Goth that Turn Pale IS. They are Goth without the fatiguing self-pity, and sans the worn out willowy ethereal interpretations of melancholy and beauty. They are socially and politically conscious, without being preachy. They do not subscribe to the same worn out clichés of adolescent sadness, juvenile spookiness or tongue in cheek cheese. They bring Goth back to its confrontational and energized Punk roots, foregoing the predictable fusions of synth pop, world music or metal, and do so without any chance of mistaking the purity of their alchemy. And if you want to dance, put away the drum machines and hearken to the groove that Mr. Marty McVicious will lay before you. No machine or computer can ever recreate the electric crackle of a live band, especially one with such determination, force, and urgency as Turn Pale. Finally, after the endless stream of basement projects, after the decline of Gothic Metal’s unfulfilled promise, there is a potent hint of a musical revolution in the air. BUY this band’s material! BOOK this band! DJs: SPIN this band! They are the saving grace of Goth. All they need is the chance to begin their conquest.
Turn Pale is:
Michael Anderson – vocals
Chris Lombardi - bass
Nick Quagliara – guitar
Martin Sprowles – drums
Turn Pale – Official Website:
What Else Records?
~words & opinions by guest writer Phil Alias
(photos by Dennis W. Friend )
We're getting better here in New York. After the unfortunate rise of techno and generic synthpop to mainstream dominance in the goth scene a couple years back, not to mention our thick-headed civic leaders' ongoing grudge match against nightlife, it seemed like the future of "dark alternative" club nights would primarily involve mobs of nouveau-ravers with Marilyn Manson t-shirts, too much makeup and telephone cords in their hair.
Granted, that's still full in effect. But the combined forces of both 80s revivalism and the high-beam spotlight on the New York music scene (each of them scary things in their own right) have, not unlike a leaky radiation shield at your neighborhood nuke plant, created alarming mutations in our local wildlife. The sudden overexposure of Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have reintroduced the Pat Benatar-meets-Vivienne Westwood look for an entire new generation of young women. Nobody could really deny Interpol steal licks from the Smiths and the Chameleons. People are wearing Joy Division t-shirts to seem hip, and they're actually dancing to rock music again, whether it's cranking straight ahead 60s-mod-revival style from bands like Dementia Thirteen, or the PiL/Clash-influenced disco punk slung by the likes of the Rapture or Radio 4. A lot of us seem to be walking around in general consensus that things would be a lot cooler if it was 1982. And I feel alright.
Paradoxically, the weird new wave/postpunk nights circulating around NYC bars and smaller clubs, or even the more mainstream hipster congregations at "hot spots" like Lit or Piano's or the floating Motherfucker parties, remind me a lot more of why I started hanging out at goth and punk clubs in the first place. Yes, there're attitudes and poseurs and scene politics and stupid rich kids with too much money for cocaine. But there's also a sense that new and different things are going on, and you're right in the middle of it. You could, conceivably, walk into a place with no signifying marks of an established subculture and see a great new band that you weren't expecting at all.
Which brings me around to my point; Terrorsex Cabaret, brainchild of local (and sometime Starvox contributor) Jeff Wengrofsky, a.k.a. Jeff W., the artist previously known as DJ Professor Jef. Terrorsex Cabaret runs monthly at club Luxx (in fabulously trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn), one of the flashpoints for the emergence of the latest incarnation of the New York scene which best known as the birthplace of "electroclash" (you call it "new wave revival"). First lets clear up any misconceptions; Terrorsex is not a goth night, it's not a deathrock night or a new-wave night or a rock night, though the bands on any given bill could range from punk to deathrock to 20s-retro torch songs to experimental instrumental. Sometimes it's rowdy, sometimes it's quiet. Sometimes people dance 'til the wee hours, sometimes they're on their way home to bed as soon as the bands end about 1-ish.
What it is in scads is a genuine "dark alternative". Jeff's created a venue for both his own personal obsessions, great local bands, obscure local bands and acts arguably too weird to fly anywhere else. I'd venture to say that more than two years ago, without the collision of the scene factors I mentioned above, a night like this probably couldn't have existed. ("You want to spin the Birthday Party? At a club? Who's gonna care?") Highlights so far have included unusual bands like Jim Sclavunos's The Vanity Set (Bad Seeds inspired weirdness), The Centimeters, from LA (synth-based, inscrutable, amazing), Beaut (featuring the ex-members of Stiffs, Inc. for those in the know) and Kid Congo and his Pink Monkey birds, plus the Error Sex go-go dancers and a rotating roster of morbid New York DJs.
The June edition of Terrorsex Cabaret was possibly the most intense thus far, featuring experimental musician Thomas Truax, long running New York underground band Skeleton Key, and crowd-packing locals World/Inferno Friendship Society ("Think of them as Oingo Boingo's more punk cousin," I always say.) Eighteen-year-old punks in Converse sneakers mingled with 23-year-old dominatrixes, life was good.
For this past weeks pre-Fourth of July ("the most TERRORSEXY date of the year"...Independence Day...America...death...draw your own picture), installment Jeff put together a more deathrock-oriented bill featuring Indiana postpunks Turn Pale, creepy rockers The Brides and dark rockabillies Memphis Morticians (both of New York), and yet more hard driving, horror rock camp by headliners Shadow Reichenstein from Texas. Luxx is a relatively small venue (though entertainingly decorated in a sort of unconscious eighties-kitsch style, including a seating area fenced in by chrome go-go poles) with a sound system that occasionally proves inhospitable to live bands. Having said that, everyone sounded great, except for Turn Pale, who I inadvertently missed completely. (Look, I got prep time to think of...looking this good isn't easy, and I'm not doing it for ME. I'm doing it for all of YOU so you can have a quality nightlife experience. Wait, I'm off topic.) But their CD is great, and judging from the effusive praise already residing on this site, they don't need me to plug them again here. And, once again, there was a good, solid turnout, the culture clash du jour stemming from the co-mingling of New York's tenacious old school goth/deathrocker types with the rockabilly crowd coming in for the Morticians.
It sort of brought to mind a passage from Mick Farren's sci-fi novel The Long Orbit, where he claimed common ground between the goth and greaser subcultures "where Elvis met Baron Samedi on some Southern bayou crossroads." (I'm paraphrasing. Poorly. Forgive me.) In fact, many of the rocakbilly types in attendance were dressed in black as a nod to the Morticians' morbid schtick, and everyone seemed to get along nicely.
Which leads me to another important point, before which I have to repeat that all the bands were great and I really enjoyed myself. Big thumbs up to everybody.
Now here it is: Someday I'm going to find the guy who decreed that "deathrock" necessarily implied camp or involved rockabilly, and JACK THAT MOTHERFUCKER IN THE NECK WITH A BROKEN BEER BOTTLE. (Uh, no offense to you, Jeff.) Although stuff like Shadow Reichenstein and the Morticians are way above your usual par for the course, I'm sick to fucking death of going to so-called "deathrock" shows on the East Coast and having to deal with the fact that the bands usually sound like third-rate imitators of either the Cramps or the Misfits.
I mean, The Cramps are great, but lets keep the flavors a little more separate. Most of your postfix "-billy" bands sound alike, and I'm not into their scene; my Lindy Hop sucks. I don't Jitterbug. Fuck all y'all. (Don't worry, folks, I'm 75% kidding). Bad punk is bad punk, whether or not they're wearing Halloween makeup. What I want to see is some honest to God weirdos taking out their alienation on synthesizers, too many effects pedals and, hopefully, the audience (which, evidently, should make me doubly upset I missed Turn Pale). Screw all this you-know-the-flavor posturing. Give me something I DIDN'T expect to see, CAN'T nail down to two primary influences. (And THEN tart it up in black clothes and lipstick to please my aesthetic needs.) What was great about so many of the original deathrock-tagged bands was that they sounded unpredictable and were oh-so-very-serious (OK, I'm not talking about 45 Grave, but still...), at least about shock value if nothing else. And when they were throwing a sense of humor at you, it was most often either in such an either deadpan or eccentric way that it didn't register as funny in the same way as many current bands' "We're spooooooky, kids, get it? Wink-wink" post-Munsters yuck fest. I'd like to go to a deathrock gig for a change without having to describe the majority of the bands playing in terms of "camp" or "schtick." The joke's getting thin. I'm sick of hip irony.
But these are my personal problems, and rather than alienate readers or bands by airing them out at greater length, let me just close by thanking Terrorsex Cabaret for actually providing the sort of venue that's wide-open enough for me to have this kind of aesthetic tantrum. If you find yourself in the City around the first Sunday of the month (well, usually), drop on by the Luxx and check the scene out for yourself. It should be...strange.
TERRORSEX CABARET is a monthly event held at Club Luxx in New York (256 Grand Street, Williamsburg).
We only implicate the ones we love: join the e-group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/terrorsexcabaret
Bizarre Vampire Bazaar
Featuring: The Deep Eynde, Worms Union, Frank the Baptist,
VooDoo Church, Seraphim Shock (among others...)
Oct 19 & 20, 2002
Naga -- Long Beach, CA
~review and photos by Blu
(except "moonlit view from BVB" from the GBS webpage)
Every year as a pre-Halloween party, Blade Rhino and Gothic Beach Studio run a fun-filled weekend long event in Long Beach called The Bizarre Vampire Bazaar. Last October was my first year attending and I was quite impressed with the organization and professional way in which it was run. One look at their website should be enough to impress any visitor. Located at a restaurant and club called Naga in a scenic part of Long Beach, GBS invades for the weekend taking over the building as well as the parking lot. In addition to the restaurant (which serves wonderful Thai food and remains open for most of the Bazaar), there is a stage and bar inside where most of the main musical acts perform. Outside there is a merchant area with dozens of tents complete with electricity powered by a generators, an actual Big Top Tent where some of the theatric acts are performed, an outside stage and an outside rig for a highwire act. The logistics for putting this thing together make my head spin but Blade has pulled it off 7 years in a row.
I spent most of the day time hours meandering around the merchant tables. The variety was pretty good (although I was dismayed to seem some empty tents - this place should be bulging at its seams!) and I was well impressed with the local artistic talent. The spooky and delightful glass work of Ladislao Loera (Frenzy Art) had me dropping by again and again trying to decide what to buy. Other tents housed merchants like Eye Scream Jewelry, Carpe Mortem Records and Dark's Art Parlour. (You can check out all the vendors from 2002 here).
Starting at 3pm each day and running into the evening there were performances on the outside stage that were FREE and obviously all ages (if you can imagine such a thing!) Saturday these acts included the varied talents of: Esencia Flamenca (traditional dance performer), Richard Rumble The Hypnotist, "Cry of The Banshee" Screaming Contest with Prizes & Giveaways, Dark Muse (performer/musician), Eric Dethcheez Freak Show (performer), The League of Vampiric Bards (performers), Jennifer Hope (musician) and Vegas In Space (band).
Sunday's free outside acts were: Kenny Klein (performer), Eric Dethcheez Freak Show (performer), Domiana & Analyn, Draculove (band), Worms Union (performance band), Drain of Pain Vs. Sin and the debut of Dawn of Ashes "A Harsh! Industrial Noise War." Additionally every evening around sunset we were greeted with the rumble of a group of hearses that circled the event and eventually parked nearby for gawkers like me to ooo and aww over.
Inside starting at 6pm each day Club Eternal re-incarnated itself and if you were 18+ you could go in, hide from the sun and shake your booty to the sounds of local DJs, again, for FREE until 8:30pm.
The only time you ended up paying admission were to see the main live acts: Second Skin, Heavenly Trip to Hell, The Deep Eynde, Babyland, Frank the Baptist, Voo Doo Church, Seraphim Shock, The Vamphear Circus (in the Big Tent) and later in the evening, Club London (in the Big Tent). For what was being offered, the admission price was well worth it in my opinion.
I spent alot of time at the Carpe Mortem booth where I helped Michelle Mortem sell her wares and eye passerbys. There was certainly not a lack of scene sub genres present. Everything from deathrock to punk to industrial to vampire and fetish. Later on we had some help from some of Michelle's friends who turned out to be the best salesmen in the place and alot of fun.
The first acts I saw, unfortunately, were a disappointment. We've reviewed Jennifer Hope on StarVox before but I didn't know much about her live show. Up on the stage was a petite, blonde girl signing along to a backing track, no band, and heartbreakingly off key at times. She would coast along - ethereal and angelic and then - wince - off key. Again and again. I'm not sure if the monitors were set so she couldn't hear the backing track properly or what the cause of that was, but it was a hard to listen to. Better luck next time.
Next up on the outside stage was Vegas in Space. I had met their bass player earlier in the year when he was flyering at Ghoulschool for one of their shows. Tall, blonde and very glam-rock in style, I was curious to check them out. The band took the stage and out poured fairly generic Hollywood Rock n Roll which would have been entertaining enough until, while aiming for a photo, I saw the lead singer spit on the crowd. What the hell? I took a step back. Maybe he just had something in his mouth? I aimed for another photo and he did it AGAIN. Infact, it looked like he was purposely trying to hit people. And that was enough convincing for me. I was off back to the Carpe Mortem booth, completely perplexed.
The Deep Eynde
I missed Dark Muse and Second Skin which I heard went over well, but managed to make it inside to catch one of my favorite bands - The Deep Eynde. Having run into their bass player, Daniel (the Fly), earlier who was decked out in a suave Johnny Cash get up, I was looking forward to seeing Fate Fatal in what was described as yet another brilliant costume.
And Fate never disappoints.
Covered from head to toe in red and complete with feathers, prosthetic ears and horns; he appeared before the crowd as some hellish demon come to party. The scars on his back, almost a thing of gothic myth now, were all the more spectacular washed in color.
Against a clever haunted house backdrop created by someone at GBS, the band romped through its more popular catalog of songs. Fate jumped and leered and danced around like an aerobics instructor on speed never failing to amaze me that he's still able to sing during all that physical exertion. And if you've never heard him sing well -- what are you waiting for? Fate's some bizarre concoction of old crooners like Elvis and Sinatra, mixed with rockabilly's style, cabaret's showmanship and, punk's anger and energy. At times he'd jet out into the audience sharing the mircrophone with fans more than willing to belt out the chorus with him on songs like "Dead Alive." On drums, Hal Satan wailed away like a madman, always impressing me with the power he adds to the set. The Fly was smooth and cool on guitar while Sean Vomit added the necessary bouncing bass lines. A perfect Deep Eynde set and clearly one of the best performances of the day.
I had to leave before the industrial band Babyland went on at midnight but I heard from several people that they were very good indeed.
Sunday started off with another walk through the merchant tents to see if I could resist temptations once again. I was particularly interested in the Day of the Dead Calendars and photos done by a local artist. It seemed a whole new cast of characters were wandering around which made crowd watching fun while hanging out at the Carpe Mortem booth again.
At 7:30 on the outside stage the band Worms Union set up. I was immediately intrigued. Their equipment included several sets of percussion and the performers were dressed in strange, exotic costumes. They seemed like a mysterious band of gypsies. Their cards read "ancient music from a primitive future." Wonder if they've ever hooked up with Apocalypse Theatre? They seem cut out of the same cloth.
Their performance consisted of highly energized tribal-sounding songs propelled by numerous drummers (at least three I counted at one point), guitars, bass and vocals complete with fire dancers in front of the stage for extra punch. Almost every musician swapped places and instruments demonstrating their mastery in multiple disciplines. The vocals were mostly done by a very elegant girl dressed in red whose voice was clear and strong. She occasionally hopped down and wielded some fire herself.
The feel of those drums resonating in your chest, the amber skyline lined by palm trees, the breeze off the not-too-distant ocean, all combined to make it a perfect setting. The crowd responded with eyes wide full of wonder and hearty applause. They were enchanted - and so was I.
Frank the Baptist
Kicking the activities off inside was a performance by San Diego's Frank the Baptist. The "master of hooks" dressed in his suave trademark top hat drew a good crowd with a large group of Release the Bats regulars in loyal attendance to swoon and dance to the melodies. It always delights and surprises me to see so many people in a crowd mouthing the words to songs and singing along. This was no exception. Solid rock-n-roll guitar riffs, moving drumming and Frank's smooth as velvet voice made for an excellent live show. Recommended highly if you get a chance to see them.
For some of us, tonight's events were made more special because it would be the first performance of the newly reformed Voodoo Church. Deathrock.com describes them as "an enigmatic deathrock band of superior quality, [that] arose from the early california death-rock horror punk scene in 81-82, which helped inspire the current gothic movement, amidst bands like Christian Death, Super Heroines, and 45 Grave." Having met Tina Winters (vocalist and the only remaining original member) and their new guitarist, Syn, and his lovely wife at Release the Bats, I was excited to see them perform live.
Shane (Release the Bats/Element) had the honor of introducing them to the audience. They hit the ground running and hardly gave the crowd a chance to catch its breath. Clearly this was a band who did not have any pre-performance stage fright. They worked the stage as if they owned it. Elegantly dressed in a long coat, Tina looked every bit a vixen poised to lead such a band, her experience showing in the way she commanded attention. Syn, wielding a brutal guitar was a nightmarish combination of priest-turned devil; bass player Randy was tall and handsomely fierce as he played his bass with anger and Frank was the ever steady but powerful drummer that kept their unrelenting beat. Unapologetically more metal sounding with Syn taking the lead on guitar, they performed an updated version of "Live With the Dead" which was familiar to most deathrockers. Some people really liked it, some people say they prefer the old version but make no mistake, Voodoo Church is not about re-visiting the past. "Piece of Hell" was a personal favorite of mine that night as it was the perfect piece for Tina to strut her stuff as one powerful deathrock diva snarling the chorus line "I am your own piece of hell." Another old song remade was "Steeple Walls" which was haunting as ever, Tina weaving a dark world above floating guitar lines and tumbling bass. Their most powerful song was "Dungeon Freak X" with smoldering vocals and a group chorus around sinister themes. Tina cooed, "This is the sound of blood, this is the smell of steel, this is the taste of hate, this is the love I feel...is this fantasy or reality, welcome to my home." For me it was a rare treat to see this first performance of a band that was and is a deathrock legend.
Seraphim Shock was one of the first bands to be reviewed in StarVox. I remember when they played live in Atlanta at the Chamber while the Riviera was closed for renovations. Charles was nice and gracious and gave us a great interview on a whole range of things. Later on, I'd be glad for that meeting when he was so frightening during their live show. You would have never guessed how nice he was under all that makeup. They put on a good show - the stage decorated with pumpkins while Charles leered and jumped at the crowd. I saw them again later at the first GothCon in 2000, where they had demanded enough space to install all their props which included, at the time, a full sized bed for their satanic-nurse/dancers to romp around in. I remember them flashing signs at the audience "Hail" and "Satan" and I remember thinking I wasn't too impressed with the satanic cheerleading bit but whatever. I was there for the music.
Two years later and I was curious how the band had progressed. I heard that Charles had turned into a bit of a fitness freak and took his weights on tour with him. There must have been some truth to that because he was wandering around before the show with a wife-beater on, muscles bulging. Girls were swooning and fainting at the very sight of him, no doubt. Boiled down to just a three piece and not demanding space for unwieldy props, Seraphim Shock 2002 seemed to be a more polished, more confident machine than before. Charles was the showman up front and shirtless for almost all of the performance, barking out choruses and striking poses to music that lended itself to such things - heavy, grinding, thundering rock. Except for the thundering part: the electronic percussion was quite underwhelming and lost behind all the other instruments. The guitars were forceful as were the vocals and the electronic beats just lacked the power to back them up. During one song Charles would dramatically point on beat during the chorus and I suspect the desired effect was supposed to be something like a gunshot but it just didn't work. I kept thinking how much a live drummer would have improved it and how much a hard cracking rimshot would have done the trick just fine. But there I go on my Live Drummer rant again.
I had hoped the days of satanic cheerleaders were over but nay, I suppose it's just too much of a gimmick to let go and before you could bat an eye, two "school girls" complete in uniform hit the stage and were soon undressing each other and making out. Men where drooling and forgetting all about the music. It's not to say that this type of gimmick doesn't work -- if that's the crowd you're trying to attract. In my old age maybe I'm getting a bit grumpy - but that stuff bores the hell out of me and has nothing to do with the music. It's old. It's been done. It really adds nothing to the show unless you're a 18 year old boy full of hormones. If you want to put your live show on par with porn shows, then march to it and maybe someone will pass the lube around but I'm not buying. It seems ironic to me that a band who wants so much to be taken seriously would keep wallowing in juvenile show themes. I will keep hoping for something a bit more serious in the future.
2003's Bizarre Vampire
All in all I have to say the weekend was much more than I expected it to be and I have high hopes for this year's event and will hopefully get to see more performances. Already onboard for entertainment this October will be Tony Lestat's (Wreckage) new project Ghost Train, from Salt Lake City Tragic Black, LA's The Last Dance, Stolen Babies (who have an interesting but incomplete webpage and are self listed as "alternative" on mp3), Masters of Reality (a Black Sabbath tribute band and although I'm not much of a fan, they're damn good at what they do), Voodoo Church and more.
Merchant-wise this year will feature the first ever Deathrock Black Market booth brought to you in part by Release the Bats, Archaic Manuscripts and StarVox featuring music, gifts, post mortem, clothes and more. Dave assures me they'll have all kinds of RtBs goodies so if you're around, come on by and hang out!
Keep informed on the 2003 Bizarre Vampire Bazaar by checking the website here.
see all the photos from this event here
Gothic Beach Studio Website:
The Deep Eynde