May 12, 2017
A new dance night, Svmmon, self-described as a “decadent, dark experience,” opened at the downstairs space of the Talon Bar in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section on Friday, May 12. And, no, it is not misspelled. Host deejays Joe Hart, Andi Harriman and Hi-Fi Hillary filled the air with new and classic goth, darkwave deathrock dance music. Heard during the night were such prime movers as “Poison Door” by Sisters of Mercy, “Stranger” by Clan of Xymox and “The Calling” by Death in June. A rather repetitive video loop showed silently on a brick wall in the passageway between the bar and dance floor. The bar was well stocked and the friendly barista a most adept and accommodating mixologist. There was seating along the walls for those who needed a rest from hoofing it.
An early highlight and photo-op occurred when gorgeous ecdysiast Casandra Rosebeetle took to the dance floor in black, fetish-inspired attire and—to musical accompaniment—removed her garments right down to and past an attractive lingerie outfit and beyond.
Facebook counted around 62 attendees. There appeared to be at least that many. It suffices to say that the place was packed to capacity with enthusiastic and black-clad dancers and imbibers.
For an opening night event, Svmmon appears to have set some kind of attendance record for a small, downstairs venue, portending a very serious revival of the Goth scene in the greater NYC area.
Tribute Night – SIN/Battle of Los Angeles/Schism
June 2, 2017
There aren’t many ways to better spend a musical evening than taking in the performances of three superbly accomplished bands as they pay tribute to three of the best bands of the ’90s. So, for the third time in as many months, we headed to the venue where SIN, the region’s top Nine Inch Nails tribute band, opened the night.
Lead guitarist Keith Williams, mastermind behind Tool tribute headliners, opened SIN’s set with a virtuosos rendition of the short, menacing riff known as “Pinion” from the Broken album. Lead vocalist Byron Huares then led the group on an eight-song set, starting with “Terrible Lie” and then “Head Like A Hole,” the monumental piece that lays at the roots of the whole electronic-industrial craze of the ’90s.
At one point, a semi-transparent screen went up between the stage and the audience, on to which elaborate animate graphics were projected. When the screen came down, Byron was stripped to the waist except for leather forearm gauntlets and a blindfold-mask of black tape.
Proceeding through the NIN time sequence, SIN next executed faithful selections from Downward Spiral, “The Fragile” and “With Teeth,” then returned to Downward Spiral with “Closer,” remembered for its shocking phrase that ends with “…like an animal,” and which changed forever the acceptance of the “f-word” in the world of popular music. Their set concluded with “Burn” from the movie soundtrack of Natural Born Killers and “Wish” from the debut EP Broken.
Besides keeping faithful to the strenuous vocal demands on the NIN oeuvre, Byron threw himself enthusiastically into the physicality of the style, capturing Trent Reznor’s early, acrobatic stage style.
Speaking of physicality, nothing could top Battle of Los Angeles’s lead vocalist, Christian Alcantara, who performed the stunts of leaping and hopping while also capturing the cadence and timbre of Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha’s defiant rap.
The tribute set list, dubbed “The Battle of Hoboken,” consisted of nine songs, all familiar to fans of RATM, starting with “Bombtrack” and “People of the Sun.” Alcantara’s angry vocals and wildly animated stage ballet was set against a backdrop of grainy black & white and color videos displaying politicians mouthing platitudes, street demonstrations, military displays, and riots. Favorites like “Bullet in the Head” and “Bulls on Parade” kept the crowd in constant motion, although fortunately a mosh-pit never emerged in the relatively tight confines of Maxwell’s back-room performance space. The set concluded with a ferocious performance of RATM’s signature piece, “Killing in the Name.”
The final act, Schism, masters of Tool’s music, has been reviewed in glowing terms previously in these pages. What more can be said about what is surely one of the most accomplished cover bands ever to take the stage, covering what is one of the most impressive musical projects of all rock history? Superb vocalist Angelo Rivera is supported by left-handed guitarist and band mastermind Keith Williams and his virtuoso team of Sean Murray on bass and Don Pusateri on drums. Touring since 2001, and now increasingly in demand nationwide, Schism is acknowledged by Tool itself as the best purveyors of their original sound.
Their set that night covered a broad swathe of Tool’s oeuvre, delving deep into the formidable complexity of Tool’s works with such favorites as “Sober,” “46 & 2,” and “Prison Sex.” Schism is so well versed in Tool’s body of work that, as at previous shows, they called to the audience for requests of any and all songs by the band, easily satisfying all requests and leaving nothing is off limits.
The audience, as on each prior performance of Schism which I have witnessed, was stunned and awed by the sheer mastery and delicious re-creation of Tool’s revered repertoire of hits. Energized, yet transfixed by the music, the crowd rocked rhythmically in place, many mouthing the lyrics that were long-ago committed to memory.
May 27, 2017
On the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, DJ Fr Jeff Ward held yet another occurrence of the long-standing, revered dance night featuring “new wave/ dark dance/ goth/synth and industrial,” as he likes to describe it. In addition to his usual hospitality-related duties, Chris Savo was observed installing sound insulation to contain the music within the confines of Windfall’s fancy bar and dance floor. As usual, the friendly and capable bartenders Gerard and Julia kept imbibers happy, and a sizable crowd danced the night away in defiance of tradition of leaving town on the Memorial Day weekend. And as usual, dancers were motivated to enjoy the dance floor early on with such irresistible masterpieces as “Love Come Quickly” by Pet Shop Boys, “Where Greed Talks” by Wolfsheim and “The Silence” by The Rope; and later on by “Military Fashion” by And One, “Kick in the Eye” by Bauhaus and “An Eye for the Main Chance” by Rosetta Stone.
Le Poisson Rouge
BODYLAB, dedicated night of old-school EBM/Industrial, returned to LPR where it got its start. A growing following of NYC Industrialists attended. The night featured DJs EISDRIVER (QXT’s, Assimilate) and STRYKK9 from Philly (DeMolition, Spellbound) laying down the heavy EBM beats that kept the dance floor moving. This night was a special tribute to the Industrial act Spahn Ranch and featured an all Spahn Ranch guest DJ set by the band’s vocalist Athan Maroulis.
May 27 & 28, 2017
QXT’s in Newark hosted an extraordinary two-day festival focused on the revived popularity of what is termed “synthwave,” the retro futuristic style of techno-wave that adapts newer technology to ’80s darkwave synthesizer-based music. This may in fact have been an unprecedented gathering of no less than 20 bands representative of the genre plus eight deejays steeped in the style, supported by sound, lighting and video specialists with the same aesthetic sensibilities.
Tickets were priced at $40-$50 single-day, $70-$80 for both days depending on how far in advance, and $60 single-day/$100 at the door.
New Dark Age didn’t attend, but reports from those who did termed it a unique experience and spectacular success.
A listing of bands the first night included Magic Sword, mysterious group whose songs are featured in video games; Betamaxx, famous for the Kung Fury movie soundtrack; Dead Astronauts in their only USA performance; Trey Frey from Philadelphia; The Rain Within from Charlottesville, VA; Boaconstrictor; and Protector 101 out of Ventura, CA.
The second, full, day-into-night event started off with Dance with the Dead in their first East Coast appearance; Gost; Bit Shifter from NYC; Night Club (L.A.); Teeel from Trenton, NJ; Street Fever (L.A.); Defiant Systems; Arcade High (Pittsburgh); STRNGR; Skeleton Hands (Cincinnati, OH); AEON Rings (Brooklyn); Hunterquinn (Cincinnati); AndaruGO (Cincinnati); and The Encounter (NY).
June 2, 3 & 4, 2017
Governor’s Ball, held over three consecutive days and night in New York’s Randall’s Island Park, was just too large a commitment in time and money for New Dark Age to fully attend, but the lure of Tool as headline band on closing night, Sunday, was irresistible. So our crew set out late Sunday afternoon, enduring unbearable traffic jams to reach the ferry slip where we boarded one craft in a steadily running shuttle service that ran from Manhattan’s East River shore to the park on Randall’s Island.
Disembarking there, then traveling on foot, we hit each of the four active stages, mingled with countless throngs of young—very young—attendees, and grabbed beers and snacks at various stands set up for the occasion.
Cage The Elephant from Tennessee held a vast crowd enthralled amidst whom was a smattering of skilled, self-entertaining hula-hoopers. Across the island, Phantogram, natives of Saratoga Springs, NY, captivated the audience with a fine repertoire of hits and with the dazzling statuesque beauty of vocalist Sarah Barthel.
What we came for was, of course, Tool. A fervid crowd had begun packing the area around the stage before 8:30. They were scheduled to appear on the main stage at 9:15 P.M. Tool made its grandiose appearance, opening with “The Grudge.” This was followed by “Parabola,” an extended version of “Schism” and a new version of “Opiate.”
Twelve songs made up the set list, each in a terrifyingly bombastic, yet deliciously accessible signature style; plus there was a spectacular but nameless, extended drum solo that utterly mesmerized the crowd.
The giant screens flashed images from Alex Grey’s hallucinatory art, Adam Jones’ creepy stop-motion music videos, psychedelic imagery and more. The late drug advocate Timothy Leary’s gigantic and distorted face, floated, dream-like and rendered a monologue that is standard fare at Tool events, promoting the philosophy of “Think for yourself.” The mysterious, spidery silhouette of Tool mastermind, Maynard James Keenan, darkly costumed in some kind of robotic armor, remained inconspicuous and elusive at the far back of the stage.
The crowd was moderately aggressive, especially close to the stage as we were, with many near-altercations that converted instantly into joyful and convivial mosh pits. Having started the show a couple of minutes late, it ended somewhat past the scheduled conclusion. The final piece, “Stinkfist,” was still audible in the distance as we hurriedly crossed the vast field to catch a late ferry back to the City.
Solace – Dark Nature – Paul Booth Gallery
Last Rites Gallery
The Booth and Last Rites Galleries on West 38th St. in Manhattan are ever the places to visit for the latest in art with a gothic/punk/industrial flavor. Founded by renowned tattoo artist Paul Booth in 2007 as an adjunct to his legendary tattoo parlor, these galleries operate in tandem to exhibit surrealist art with a grotesque and morbid leaning.
June 3 saw the opening reception for two simultaneous exhibitions. The one on the first floor was called “Solace.” On display there were, among other works, large-scale (up to 9’ X 10’), high-priced (up to $40,000) oil paintings by Adam Miller in the style of old masters depicting allegorical histories, anachronistic mythological characters in modern situations and bizarre images, all done with incredibly masterful technique. His magnificent “Dream of Paradise Remembered by Moonlight” served as the cover image on the flyer for the event.
Lou Ros, a former graffiti artist had smaller, whimsical works of oil and acrylic, some of which looked like he had purposely vandalized cleaner, neater works with pastels, added childish scrawls and the like.
Jean-Paul Mallozzi’s mixed graphite, ink, oil and acrylics also had a playful, vandalized look, featuring portraits literally defaced, i.e., rendered anonymous by obliterating identifying features with gobs of medium.
Upstairs the exhibit was called “Dark Nature.” Exquisite, elaborate graphite drawings by Zoe Keller were attention-grabbers, as were metaphorical works by Annie Terrazzo.
Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities
Available on digital download
Black Line is an evolving, L.A.-based collective fronted by Nitzer Ebb vocalist Douglas McCarthy and founder, electronic music producer, Cyrusrex. The long list of collaborators is a who’s who of the electro-industrial scene, and includes such famous names as Paul Barker (Ministry/Puscifer) and Mark Walk (Skinny Puppy/OhGr) plus many more, equally famous. Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities consists of 14 tracks with a decidedly high-tech sound.
McCarthy’s voice is familiar to fans of Nitzer Ebb. Whether hissing, growling or full-throated, it is generally up front, rendering the elaborately complex synthetic music personal and emotionally accessible. At once angry and desperate, his singing brings a welcome, melodious element to the busy, manufactured music. The instrumental intros to each of these songs afford the artists opportunity to create a variety of auras, some ghostly, others pregnant with a sense of impending significance. The manifold layers of sound include both familiar and unfamiliar synthesized electronic voices, plus menacing, low-pitched buzzing sounds, high-frequency arpeggios, simulation of a human heartbeat and something suggesting banging on an electronic trash can. The listener’s interest never has a chance to lag into boredom.
There is breadth to this album, with tracks that range from those that feature rapid disco-beats to those that sound like a remorseless, plodding, zombie march. McCarthy’s vocal narratives, some with backup male vocalists, hold it all together. A few tracks are voiceless, sounding like eerie, ethereal soundscapes or soundtracks for an apocalyptic sci-fi movie.
If Alison Moyet’s name isn’t a household term in the U.S. it isn’t for any lack of recognition in the U.K. and the rest of the English-speaking world. In the ’80s she co-founded duo Yazoo (“Yaz” in the U.S.) with Depeche Mode’s Vince Clarke. She then moved to a solo career with the album Alf (her punk nickname) that reached number one on the U.K. charts. Since then she has put out a number of albums with varying degrees of success. She has collaborated or appeared with Paul McCartney, the Eurythmics, Bob Geldof, Bowie, Sinead O’Connor and Pete Townshend.
Other contains 10 tracks of a predominantly synthpop style, highly accessible, and obviously the work of an accomplished music professional and veteran with mastery of a variety of vocal techniques. Famed for her impressive contralto, her voice is “bluesy” although the music isn’t Blues by any means.
The first track has a trip-hop feel reminiscent of Portishead and affords the artist to showcase her powerful and emotionally evocative tremolo—as do several tracks that follow. Melancholy, but not morose, her vocal style fits equally well with slow-paced grooves as well as mesmerizing, rapidly paced dance tracks. She sounds sweet—like a string instrument—in the fourth track, then goes deep during the funky, explosive fifth track. The seventh track is an engaging, existential spoken word poem layered on a menacing, hissing soundscape. When, on the eighth track she is accompanied by a limited piano, she modulates her singing to the same sparse, exquisite level, but raises her presentation to almost operatic level when reaching for her raw, rock roots on several other tracks.
Listeners will find this album with its variety of styles accessible, appealing and quick to grow on them. This artist knows how to express herself and therefore how to engage and please an audience.
Alison Moyet will tour the USA and Canada later this summer, hitting the Philadelphia/Boston/New York circuit in early to mid September.