Concerts – Depeche Mode
This month, New Dark Age is proud to host a review by renowned writer and world-hopping DJ, Andi Harriman — journalist, lecturer and author of the definitive text on post punk music and goth culture, “Some Wear Leather Some Wear Lace.” Here, Harriman applies her knowledge and reporting skills to the genre’s biggest concert of 2018 in the greater NYC area.
June 7, 2018
by Andi Harriman
On June 6, when arriving to Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, you knew exactly what was going on. Black-clad Depeche Mode fans congregated en-masse outside of the venue, seemingly loitering in the comfortable pre-summer evening. But no. It was the line for security, a wait that lasted around 30 minutes…if lucky. It was a misstep of Barclays, a problem that should have been treated with more ease and fluidity instead of the somewhat chaotic scenario we were thrust into. But, after DM’s two performances last fall at Madison Square Garden, Barclays was NYC’s last chance to catch the trio on their Global Spirit Tour — so a lengthy wait in line was no hassle or obstacle for us devotees.
Anyone who has been to multiple shows this tour — or any for that matter — understand there is a predictability in Depeche Mode’s setlists, only with minor changes each performance. These variations come especially during Martin Gore’s solo renditions, an intimate part of a DM concert that has been tradition since the early to mid 1980s. The gem of the night was Gore’s rendition of “The Things You Said” from 1987’s Music for the Masses — an utterly heartbreaking cult favorite, one that had us singing along, clutching with adoration to each and every lyric.
Of course Dave Gahan further proved — as if we needed reminding — that he is truly a rockstar, strutting up and down the catwalk, flaunting his dance moves. Fewer songs from Spirit were played live this time around, replaced with some tracks from the 1997 Ultra album, including the grungy “Barrel of a Gun” and “Useless”. It’s interesting to note that the band didn’t play a single song from their 1980s catalogue (if you count their 1990 Violator album in that vein) until about halfway through the concert with “World In My Eyes” — a somewhat unpredictable arrangement for a band who found their fame in the decade of the eighties. However, maybe that’s the point. DM, with their god-like status, don’t necessarily need the cushion of tracks from their formative decade to prove their worth.
As Gahan left the Barclay’s stage at the end of the night, he shouted, “See you some other time!” — a change from his past goodbyes, ones that often hinted at a future tour. “Could this be the last?” we all ask, waving our overdrawn bank cards and arms full of merchandise, wistfully praying for just a little more Depeche Mode.
Set List at Barclay’s Center:
Revolution (The Beatles song)
It’s No Good
Barrel of a Gun
A Pain That I’m Used To
(Jacques Lu Cont remix version)
World in My Eyes
The Things You Said
In Your Room
Where’s the Revolution
Enjoy the Silence
Never Let Me Down Again
I Want You Now
Walking in My Shoes
A Question of Time
Das Ich Besucht Amerika
St. Vitus/ QXT’s
German electronic group Das Ich, fronted by Stefan Ackermann, Bruno Kramm and NJ’s own DJ Damian Plague were on stage at St. Vitus in Brooklyn and QXT’s in Newark on successive nights at the end of the month, June 29 and June 30 respectively. Three DJs were at the turntables; host Xris Smack, Sean Templar and the adorable DJParadox.
Singing, screaming, roaring Stefan took center stage between his dual keyboardists who sported costumes and headgear that suggested a menacing, deranged carnival. Ackermann’s tightly pulled facial and neck muscles, his skinny torso, the wild array of his remnant hair radiating off of his shiny cranium and his over-the-top delivery served as his stage outfit.
Dating back to 1989, they have produced around 10 studio albums. These performances, along the “Das Ich Besucht America” tour, are to introduce new material intended for an October release, among which was the single “Was Bin Ich?” American audiences are actually witnessing material that has not yet debuted in Germany.
Pounding, brutal mechanical rhythms paired with vehemently yelled, repetitive mantra-like vocals prevailed. Minor key, synthesized melodies persevered through the wild and madcap stage performance. There was a lot of interaction with the crowd during the hour and a half set, including some provocative political pontifications from Bruno. The packed crowd at St. Vitus was thrilled and electrified.
Opening for Das Ich was Street Fever, an entertaining and hypnotic one-man project of Louis Bash, consisting of emphatically-cadenced electronica spiced with Bash’s athletic jumping around, while wearing red, diode-lit goggles on a full-face, leathery mask from which dangled Cthulhu-like tentacles.
New Dark Age attended the Brooklyn performance hosted by club night, Stimulate, but we have it on good word that the Newark show the following day was equally exciting. St. Vitus is an excellent place to watch a show. The bar is atmospherically lit, large and comfortable. Most importantly, the stage is raised high enough for even the height-challenged can stand back and watch the show over the heads of the crowd.
The Red Party
On Saturday, June 9, Sean and Mandan Banshie Templar celebrated the 11th Anniversary of the Red Party, a virtual eon by the standards of the NYC post punk scene.
Starting out on a rainy night eleven years ago, playing the Cure on a stereo at a dive with incongruous red walls on Orchard Street, the idea has been from the beginning to buck the electronic and synthpop trend of the current millennium by featuring old school goth. None were more surprised than Sean himself when — on successive nights — the floors became packed with guests dancing to Specimen, Virgin Prunes and Christian Death.
So this night was even more festive than most iterations of the Red Party. New York-based alternative rockers The Hunt performed an updated, heavy, almost symphonic brand of punk to the delight of the packed crowd at Mercury Lounge, where the Red Party is in monthly residency. Ana Vice, Matt V Christ and Jarek joined Sean at the proverbial turntables, providing strictly post punk, goth and coldwave, both before and after the live set.
Annabel Fagan provided calorie-rich cupcakes decorated with delicious little red skulls. A “Who’s Who” of NYC nightlife was present with the likes of William Welles, Xris Smack, gorgeously blonde Jennifer Bobbe and glamorously groomed Jeffo!
Other Nights Out
Other events during the month included Memento Mori at the Pyramid. (Technically doors were on May 31, but the party was happening after midnight turned to June 1.) Memento Mori will have moved to Friday for the June 29 occurrence at the Pyramid.
Father Jeff’s long running Necropolis club night at Windfall had a successful turnout June 2. Goth celebrity Aurelio Voltaire made the scene (in both senses.) Jeff’s other main event, Ward 6 took place on Saturday June 23.
Court of Lazarus and Procession
These two completely independent and separate events kept the lower East Side lively on Sunday, Father’s Day. The latter event went well into the morning hours of Monday.
Defcon is, of course, a weekly event every Saturday at the Pyramid downstairs. On June 23, it hosted a tribute to Wax Trax, the label famous for EBM, industrial, etc.
QXT’s in Newark offered the most reliably enjoyable calendar of events which included dancing every Friday and Saturday, a Mad Max-themed party, open mic nights, local band performances, internationally known recording artists, and a major synthwave festival (see last month’s column). The DJs stuck to an ‘80s repertoire on June 8 and June 29, in keeping with the theme of this party which takes place every second and last Friday of the month. This is the twice-monthly event that my wife has me take her to on each occurrence of “So ‘80s” at QXT’s.
Mary Shelley (2017)
How a 19-year-old girl came to write one of the most important novels of all time is almost infinitely fascinating. Mary Shelley’s gothic, romantic novel is considered the first full-length book of science fiction. The issues covered in her book span a formidable spectrum of human issues, with references to Greek mythology, physiology, mortality, abandonment, disillusion and vengeance, to name a few.
The motion picture Mary Shelley is co-written by Emma Jensen and Haifaa Al-Mansour, who also directed and who interestingly grew up in Saudi Arabia where there are no movie theaters.
This biographical movie captures the Zeitgeist of the early 19th Century Europe, when the contributions of women were dismissed and generally disregarded, when theories of the occult competed with the discoveries of electricity and chemistry and when the ideas of Romantics, like Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, were all the rage.
Every scene was a work of art. The cinematography by David Ungaro is beautiful in the extreme.
It deals with the tumultuous relationships between Mary and her political philosopher father, William Godwin, and with her poet/lover, Percy. The story is riveting. Passion, poetry, politics and intellectual issues are present. Historical and literary threads are woven throughout. The production re-creates the milieu, the costumes and scenery of the period, but the whole vibe of that era, with authentic sounding dialogue that captures the mentality, the intellectual and the philosophical discourse of the day. It manages to support several contemporaneous controversies in multiple plots. Plus, it succeeds in telling Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley’s story and the story of the beginnings of women’s rights in the English-speaking world.
Most importantly, this film gives us the relationship between Mary Shelley and the monster, explaining her rationale — proto-feminist is the best way to describe it — for creating him. Some of the conclusions at which the film arrives may be speculative on the part of the film’s writers. Accepting the film as it is requires a suspension of disbelief on these issues. Multiple biographies of Mary Shelley are available in print for those who wish to verify the feminist theory put forth in this motion picture. For me, that’s the best explanation available.
What more could a fan of Frankenstein want?
Museums & Galleries
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination
The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting an extraordinary, paired exhibition, simultaneously held at both the MET 5th Avenue and the Cloisters, featuring fashion and aesthetics of intense interest to those with Gothic sensibilities. We picked Father’s Day to visit the MET 5th Avenue half of the show.
The Costume Center downstairs in the Tisch Gallery has liturgical vestments, including crowns and hats worn by popes and ranking members of the Church hierarchy during highly ceremonious events. Here you will view opulent, intricately ornamented and jewel-encrusted robes, capes, scarves, shoes and headdresses that were handcrafted by girls and young women under the supervision of nuns, taking decades to complete. Embroidery with microscopically fine threads of silk, silver and gold achieve levels of artistic achievement that can only be compared to the grandest masters of Renaissance painting. No photography is allowed in this space.
Upstairs in the Medieval galleries — and interspersed among the pious religious icons and crucifixes of the standing collection — are church-inspired costumes by modern designers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Here’s where the goths will find themselves at home. Crucifixes and cruciform designs adorn black-clad mannequins, dressed as if for an underground nightclub. Sexy angels and virgins in outlandish that are ecclesiastical in ornamentation float on pedestals or hover from the ceiling, intermingled with medieval religious icons that are part of the standing exhibition.
The exhibit has been going on since May 10 and will close on October 8. It demonstrates that Catholic aesthetics cross over into goth. It is not to be missed.
Morbid Anatomy Season – Closing Garden Party
The venerable institution, the Morbid Anatomy Library, having taken up temporary residence at the Fort Hamilton Gatehouse of Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, held a celebratory closing gala on Friday, June 29 to mark the closing of the library and the first exhibition held at that location. Library leadership Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier served as hostesses to a garden party where wine and snacks were available in abundance, as were nostalgic devotees of the museum, faithful followers of the library and a few celebrities like Evan Michelson of the Science Channel’s Oddities and Manhattan’s antique-and curio mine, Obscura.
Gracious Cristina Marcelo led the interested on a tour of some of the most impressive and magnificent mausoleums, monuments and noteworthy graves within walking distance. Others milled about chatting and imbibing while taking in the exhibit on the first floor of the gatehouse and the library on the second floor.
The Morbid Anatomy Library and the exhibit will be closed for the summer.
Hanzel und Gretyl
This is the ninth album for Hanzel und Gretyl on Metropolis Records, and it continues in the tradition of that Brooklyn, NY duo in its attempts to provoke paranoia with its ironic and over-the-top references to Satanism and Germanic spirit. There’s sarcasm in the exaggerated, hyper-Germanic, demonic themes and black metal style of this album and of this band in general, and there are intentional, if arcane puns in the titles.
The first track e.g. is titled “Golden Dammerung,” its name an echo of Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” (Twilight of the Gods). It, like the final, eleventh track sounds to be an ecclesiastical choir, with a tremulous, echoic effect as if sung in a cathedral or medieval monastery. There’s just enough percussion and rhythm to remind the listener of both tracks’ relationship to rock music.
The next several tracks are more clearly heavy, bombastic, guitar-driven death metal. Hoarse, raspy lyrics (“We rise as demons”) and screaming guitars soar above the minor-key background chants. The listener will hear riffs that are reminiscent of Rammstein, whom Hanzel und Gretyl seem to occasionally emulate and parody. Female bassist Vas Kallas sings the fifth track, “I Am Bad Luck,” a menacingly slowed-down, plodding piece in a clearly enunciated, subtle hiss.
At around the halfway point in the album, the pace picks up with speed metal, twisted guitar licks and mantra-like repetitiveness in a tongue-in-cheek song, “Trinken mit der Kaizer.”
The irresistible seventh track, “Hellfire und Grimmstone”, references the Brothers Grimm fairytales while echoing the biblical threat of “hellfire and brimstone,” and provides an opportunity for the singer to roar his lowest vocal depths of bass. Actually, a lot of this album is irresistible owing to its combination of symphonic, choral and death metal elements. Virtually each of the eleven tracks benefits from this formula, each in its own way.
“Unter Alles” (under everything) is a spoof of the German nationalist cry, “Über Alles” (over everything) and is sung mainly in German suggesting that it is derisive in intention.
Much like early Laibach, they spoof the elements of Teutonic nationalism while they seemingly revel in it. Not everybody gets it, and there are those who fly into a rage on the assumption that Hanzel und Gretyl are fascists. Some have wrongly accused them of being neo-N-z-s. Lighten up! It’s all in parody, and — I might add — good music. What should one expect from a band headed by a guy who calls himself Kaizer von Loopy?
- Golden Dammerung
- We Rise As Demons
- Black Six Order
- I Am Bad Luck
- Trinken Mit Der Kaiser
- Hellfire und Grimmstone
- Unter Alles
- Kinamreg Kinatas