Vampire Freaks, the large entertainment and specialty clothing organization regularly sponsors music events with a dark, futuristic theme, labeling such events Cybertron, connected—as it portrays itself—to the concept of the sci-fi oriented Transformers theme. Release of the motion picture “Transformers—The Last Knight,” served as an inspiration for the latest Cybertron, a night of dance music and live performances by three techno-industrial bands.
Doors opened at 9 p.m. at Blackthorn 51, a bar and performance venue that usually features heavy metal, situated deep in the heart of the borough of Queens. Our crew from New Dark Age was the first to enter, and we took note of the selections being aired by the assigned deejay—mainly electronic, goth and industrial, featuring Aesthetic Perfection, NIN, Manson and IAMX.
As the guests showed up, they presented an array of dark, sexy and elaborately attired fashionistas, predominantly black-clad, sporting leather, vinyl, metal spikes, two-toned stripes and high makeup. This was particularly true of the several dancers who had been engaged to entertain between band acts. Much focus was directed at one tall, statuesque beauty in a red wig who beguiled the crowd from her lofty place on stage. The room stood in awe when the gorgeous Ashley Bad made her grand entrance accompanied by famous impresario, DJ Xris Smack, who was eager to promote upcoming Stimulate events.
Several other celebrity deejays were present to spin dance tracks including Vampire Freaks’ own Jet VF himself, Matt V Christ, Annabelle Evil, and Shadownightz.
First up at 10 p.m. was the nasty, punk/industrial trio, DeathMaschine, that put on a powerful performance, with a ruggedly handsome vocalist, hovering over the crowd, naked from the waist up but for wrap-around shades and a leather, suspenders-like harness. He was accompanied by digital rhythm tracks, keyboards and by guitarists, one of whom served to also shower the stage with sparks off a metal grinder. The pounding beats and menacing, defiantly screamed lyrics were not for the faint-of-heart.
Next up at 11 p.m. came NJ-based, but internationally acclaimed harsh industrial duo, Xentrifuge, a rivethead-styled couple whose high-tech appearance is in accord with their robust aggro-tech sound. We were familiar with them because they had been selected as Fan Favorite at the recent Darkside of the Con this past spring. Severe and intensely colored lighting glared through an intermittently thick cloud to reveal the stunningly attractive pair. Black leather-clad and sporting shaved sides, Chris Xentrifuge took center stage to issue hissing, nihilistic vocals backed by his gorgeous better half Lisa Helen, who stood behind playing a keyboard and regulating the complex synthetic accompaniment consisting of catchy, mantra-like, repetitive melodies woven into hypnotic, mechanistic rhythms. Their set consisted of seven songs with titles like “Cerebral Ruins” and “Machine Winter,” which go a long way toward characterizing the motif of their style. They are perfectly suited for their next gig which will be to open for Stabbing Westward at the Gramercy this August.
Finally, at midnight, headliners, Colorado-based techno-industrial trio, Velvet Acid Christ, came on stage. They performed for at least an hour and a half, touching on most of their popular repertoire of EBM, darkwave and techno while projecting videos on a backdrop screen showing everything from kaleidoscopic, geometric animations to cartoon images with sociopolitical messages. They dedicated one song to Fox News, although it was difficult to parse the lyrics. One can assume it was critical of the Right that Fox represents, since this is the take on politics that has become almost a cliché in the alternative music scene these days. The beautiful female vocalist who remains nameless on the website and VAC’s Facebook page, sang a song in German about “being a loser.”
Although one could detect a certain sameness to much of their signature sound, VAC’s total repertoire is quite large, standing at 10 or so albums under the Metropolis label, and includes a fair enough variety with captivating melodies and cadences to make for a great body of work suited for goth/industrial dance.
Northwell Health At Jones Beach Theater
June 25, 2017
It is indeed a challenge and all-day commitment to trek out to Jones Beach given the unavoidable disaster that is traffic encountered when crossing from NJ to the outer reaches of Queens, NY. The stature of this industrial metal giant, however, compelled us to make the pilgrimage, knowing the band’s reputation for spectacular visuals to accompany their thrilling and spectacular musical performance.
The show commenced when giant numbers were projected onto a dark screen that shrouded the stage. The audience participated in a countdown beginning from “8” and ending with “1” and the Rammstein logo. With that, the recognizable, syncopated beat of “Ramm 4” bust from the suddenly illuminated stage, and at the same moment there was the explosion of multiple Roman candles into the sky over the heads of even those in the loftiest stadium seats at this open-air theater.
Next came the slow paced, guitar-driven “Reise Reise,” “Halleluja” in which the band accompanies with a falsetto chorus, then the rapidly paced “Zerstören (Destroy).” “Keine Lust (No Desire),” another heavily syncopated song, followed. Next was “Feuer Frei,” a galloping piece with lyrics that play on the two meanings of the word “Feuer” (fire) to denote both the heat of fire—of which there was plenty on and around the stage—and the verb “fire” meaning to shoot a gun. Eight more songs followed, including the hugely popular “Du Riechst So Gut (You Smell So Good),” “Links 2-3-4,” “Du Hast” and the uniquely stylized cover of the Depeche Mode classic, “Stripped.”
It was impossible to keep track of the many and mind-blowing visuals which included flames and smoke belching from the stage ceiling and floor, explosions issuing from two tall towers that straddled the ground level audience seating, clouds of sparkles and confetti, instrumentalists lifted aloft by stage devices, guitars and personnel that distributed smoke, flames and mighty explosions, and rockets that flew across the crowd to ignite blazes on the two aforementioned towers.
A brief intermission was held after “Stripped,” and then they returned with “Sonne (The Sun),” then the rather tedious, yet well recognized “Amerika,” and the harsh and cynical “Engel (Angel).” For the second time, the band members took their bows and the sad strains of “Ohne Dich (Without You)” closed the show.
Seated up high in the outer and upper tier of this gargantuan, 15,000-seat theater gave us a great vantage point from which to view the overall spectacle, but deprived us of being able to appreciate the fine details of the various costumes and theatrical personae of the performers on the distant stage. Two large “Jumbotron”-type screens that should have shown video projections of the stage performers sat dark and unused. This failure to accommodate the ten or so thousand spectators in faraway seats of this gargantuan theater was, in my opinion, inexcusable. At all recent outdoor concerts I have attended recently, excellent use of the jumbo screens allowed the entire audience to enjoy the visual details of the stage performance, which was in Rammstein’s case extremely essential to appreciation of the special effects and costumes.
One more pet peeve: Why, in a vast audience of attentive and devoted fans—who have paid good money and suffered through the inconveniences of travel—do a handful of inconsiderate and hyperactive morons find it necessary to remain standing throughout the performance, essentially ruining the experience for those seated directly in back of them?!
The Red Party
July 8, 2017
Saturday, July 8, saw a spectacular recurrence of the iconic dance, social and entertainment event Sean templar’s Red Party. Once again it was held at the Mercury Lounge on East Houston St., itself a kind of monument to the punk music scene in the greater NY/NJ region.
Speaking of punk, the live performance this night was provided by Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight, an energetic and energizing punk group just back from an overwhelmingly successful stint at the worldwide Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany. Coming on shortly after midnight, Argyle Goolsby proved their credentials not only in the old school punk category, but suffused the music with an element of horror. Front man Steve Matthews, in white contacts that emphasized the deep, dark circles surrounding his ghastly eyes and sporting a variety of shocking masks, cavorted on stage with a variety of props and an amazing facility for levitating himself to upstage heights.
Besides terrifying the delighted crowd with such pogo-punk pieces as “The Brides,” “Spiders and Flies” and “The Uninvited,” this guitar-driven sextet showed themselves capable of changing the pace and performing a pleasant, but dark-themed ballad or two.
Queen bee of the social scene, Mandana Banshie, greeted guests as they arrived. At the merch stand was Rusted Autumn hawking one-of-a-kind jewelry and, of course, Argyle Goolsby’s latest CD, shirts, posters and the like. Host and impresario Sean Templar was present in force, spreading hospitality and warm welcome to old friends and newcomers alike. Ana Vice, famous for her role bringing the notorious Memento Mori night to the city for the past year and a half, was first up at the deejay board, providing a mix of irresistible death rock, goth rock and esoteric post-punk that kept the dance floor active. Sean and Jarek later took turns at the turntable.
Eye-candy was provided by a crowd of extravagantly gorgeous creatures of the night as documented in the nearby photos, and included such models of festive gloomy style as DJ Alex (Bela Lugosi) Zamora, Valefar Malefic and Luna Pallida. Special guest Myke Hideous, famous for his ’90s goth-metal project The Empire Hideous, was present accompanied by his beautiful fiancée, Kyly, and both enjoyed renewing acquaintances whom they rarely get to see, having relocated outside the metropolitan area.
Museums & Culture
The Museum Of Natural History
The most fascinating exhibition at New York’s Museum of Natural History is on mummies. Although mummification has been practiced in many and diverse parts of the world, and although mummification sometimes takes place naturally because of climate conditions, the focus here is on the highly developed methods of mummification involved in burial rites by two distinct civilizations: the Egyptian and the Peruvian.
It goes without saying that man has struggled mightily and pretty much in vain in his effort to deny the finality of death. In the case of these two cultures, whole technologies developed to create the illusion that the human form could be pretty much preserved and supplied with provisions after death. The Egypt and Peruvian practices of mummification were somewhat different, but both date back many thousands of years. Peruvian mummies dating back 7,000 years have been discovered, and the Egyptian practice began over 5,000 years ago.
Using today’s technology, particularly CAT scanning, scientists have been able to uncover much of the condition of the deceased, without disturbing the fragile and delicate condition of the bodies within adhesive, resin-caked linen wrappings. In many cases, the state of health, diet, lifestyle and family social structure has been pieced together by visually stripping away layer by layer with CAT scans, from the artistically painted wooden coffins, down through the layers of wrapping, then the skin, the bones and the remaining internal organs.
We learned that the brain and visceral organs were removed as part of the mummification process; the latter being preserved in sculpted ceramic jars. The brain was discarded as insignificant in the afterlife. Arthritis, tuberculosis, childbirth and childhood mortality were common. Bone and dental health were often poor. The teeth of Egyptians appeared to have been worn away by the sandy grit left over from grindstones that were used to mill flour into their bread.
Despite these sobering observations, what most stands out is their knowledge of anatomy, their refined dissection and chemical preservation methods, their masterful artistry in the handling and decoration of the bodies and coffins as well as the magnificent stone sarcophaguses in which the coffins were encased.
The Chinchorro of Peru and Chile started mummification thousands of years before the Egyptians. They painted their mummies and encased the head in clay, fashioning clay masks representing the dead person in an acceptable appearance. Few of these fragile masks are intact, but reproductions are on display at the museum. Some people kept mummies of deceased family members in their homes and brought them to festivals.
The Cult Of Victorian Mourning
June 10, 2017
The much acclaimed and sorely missed, now-defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum, lives on in spirit if not in its real life, brick-and-mortar existence. Leading figures from the former museum, including curator-author Joanna Ebenstein, antiquarian scholar and museum co-founder Evan Michelson, art historian and former museum librarian Laetitia Barbier and lecturer-teachers Stanley Burns M.D. and Karen Bachmann joined with others of like interests to present a program on the topic of rituals surrounding mourning in the Victorian era under the auspices of Green-Wood Cemetery’s events program. The program echoed the very first exhibition, “The Art of Mourning,” held in 2014 at the opening of at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Dating back to 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood is a treasure trove of magnificent monuments, mausoleums, markers and graves of the famous in a rural setting of surpassing beauty of landscape and architecture. It welcomes visitors and offers self-guided walking tours.
The symposium was held in the Chapel, a magnificent example of flamboyant Gothic style. Opening remarks were by art historian and author Laetitia Barbier, Harry Weil, Manager of Programs at Green-Wood and creative director of the museum, Joanna Ebenstein who welcomed the sold-out audience and set the tone for what was to follow. Evan Michelson and Karen Bachman, Professor in Jewelry Design at Fashion Institute, exhibited and spoke on the peculiar practice of weaving commemorative jewelry from samples of hair of the deceased.
Jessica Glassock of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the historic and highly specific attire worn during a widow’s period of mourning in the era from 1815-1915 in a slide show.
There was a casual interview with author and archivist Stanley Burns M.D., who talked about his lifetime of collecting historic photographs, including post-mortem photos and other topics from his 46 books and 1,100 articles written on related medical, military and cultural topics.
The most moving part was the aloud reading of letters of condolence from the Victorian era, and included poignant and eloquent examples from Abe Lincoln, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and others.
Readers with interests in gothic and morbid preoccupations are advised to visit Green-Wood Cemetery and to follow the Morbid Anatomy blogspot for future events.