New Dark Age – Recapping the Stimulate IX Anniversary Gala

Stimulate IX Anniversary Gala
Sept. 8, 2017
New York City

September marks the ninth anniversary of the recurring goth-industrial dance, live performance and sensuous entertainment night, presented by impresario and host, Xris Smack and Mindswerve Studios. It was also an occasion for reviewing the 16th anniversary of association between international star, Aurelio Voltaire, and frequent co-header band, Bella Morte.It was also the final stop on Voltaire’s huge international tour which has covered the globe from Australia to the Ukraine and everything in between, with multiple stops in the United States.

Greeting attendees at he gate was Door Queen Mandana Banshee, whose hospitality is matched only by her elegant beauty. Vendors lined the entrance hallway, hawking band merch, custom fangs, leather goods and accessories.

Four deejays–all specialists in the new wave/dark-wave genre–provided the dance music. Gorgeously costumed DJ Paradox started the musical night off, gathering attention for the massive and elaborate headdress she wore, enhancing her already stunning allure. Music scene regular, DJ Jeffo, was at his most glamorous, sporting high makeup, a bejeweled tiara and glittery dangling earrings. DJ Annabel Evil was celebrating a birthday as well, but declined to state which one when put on the spot by Aurelio Voltaire, who called attention to the occasion. As always, host DJ Xris Smack took his turn at the (electronic-computerized) “turntables” in addition to serving as affable and enthusiastic MC. Siouxsie, the Sisters, Bauhaus and Ministry filled the air between live sets compelling dancers to states of drug-free ecstasy.

Ravishing beauties, the Stimulate Go-Gos, danced on stage between live sets, enhancing the sexy and festive ambience that is always a feature at Stimulate events. A special treat was served when the dazzling beauty, hostess Ashley Bad joined the dancers on stage, her stunning figure proclaimed in a form-fitting red latex body suit.

Metropolis Recording stars Noir, fronted by acclaimed singer, Athan Maroulis, and backed by keyboardists, Kai Irina Hahn and Demetra Songs, opened the live show with their successful single “My Dear” and others from their Darkly Near album, highlighting Maroulis’ moody, undulant vocal style. Reaching back into Maroulis’ early career, they performed a song borrowed from his early days in the industrial band, Spahn Ranch.

Horror-punk band Bella Morte took the stage in support of their new album, Year of the Ghost, and performed in a variety of styles from old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, to Linkin Park-style numetal, even including doo-wop, with a cover of the 1954 standard, “Earth Angel.”

Finally, international Goth superstar Aurelio Voltaire took the stage for the final live act, regaling the crowd with his tongue-in-cheek, anti-folk and humor-based medley, spoofing the vampire scene, love and life in general, with catchy, simple and retro-styled guitar accompaniment and sarcastic lyrics. At times he interrupted to tell an anecdote from his worldly experiences or to quaff a series of spiced rum drinks that were provided by the audience as well as the hosts.

This anniversary edition of Stimulate proved to be outstandingly memorable, starting out and remaining peppy and festive from the 10 p.m. start and lasting well into the following morning.


The Horrors at Rough Trade
Sept. 17, 2017
Brooklyn, NY

Rough Trade is an enormous record store and performance space in the hipster capital of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Before passing through the gate into the music hall, one has opportunity to browse and shop the stupendous merchandise area with its tier upon tier of recordings of every type, predominantly vinyl records–new and vintage, 33 RPMs and 7” 45s arranged alphabetically and by category, including just about anything that an audiophile can imagine outside of classical or opera. Old and new movie sound tracks; 60s and 70s pop; gothic, industrial and new wave; experimental; rap, hip-hop, R&B and the like; plus CDs, cassettes, posters, books, tee shirts and memorabilia are neatly and efficiently arranged and for sale.

There is access to numerous high-tech listening stations, modern turntables are for sale. Select items were labeled, “Rough Trade Essentials,” announcing the staff’s recommendation that these were true “must-have” recordings, e.g. historical classics by the likes of James Brown or Cabaret Voltaire. Even an old-fashioned photo booth is available. I haven’t seen anything like this since the turn of the millennium.

The performance space beyond the record store is accessed through a doorway that opens into a foyer bar area, then through an archway with thick curtains into a cavernous, hangar-like space. There is a surrounding balcony in back and on both sides of the standing room and a raised stage at the far end. The night started out stifling hot. At first the crowd was only loosely packed.

The opening band, Russian Baths, an enthusiastic, Brooklyn-based quartet mesmerized the crowd with psychedelic garage-rock featuring an amalgam of electronic feedback and harmony. Male and female vocalists alternately took turns being heard over the deliciously structured noise and dissonant accompaniment, the former belting out convincingly, the latter delicately lilting in a voice like a celestial being emerging from the cosmic chaos. When they ended, Russian Baths left us wishing for more, much more, of their creative originality and their unique take on 21st century rock.

The crowd grew denser as did the air. Glowering red lights poured down from the ceiling over the stage as roadies and guitar techs set up for the headliner band. Just when it seemed the crowd would combust from the intensifying heat, the Horrors burst on stage and the ceiling lights went to an electric blue.

Opening with one of their slower, more ponderous but raucous and volume-intense pieces, “Machine,” they elicited roars from the adoring crowd who now were determined to ignore the temperature and the humidity index. Tall and gaunt lead vocalist, Faris Badwan, cast a Joey Ramone-like image with his messy black tresses draped loosely around his face and wearing a two-tone motorcycle jacket.

The pace picked up with the next number, “Who Can Say,” a cynical yet sympathetic how-to on breaking up a relationship. The wildly animated guitarist and bass player swung their axes like they were mowing down a field of tall grass. By the third song, Badwan was forced to remove his leather jacket lest he suffer heat stroke. The rest of us resisted stripping to our skivvies. Frontman Badwan announced that the Horrors would be releasing their fifth album, and indeed they did, later the same week.

Arpeggios were used a lot and during one song were so jittery as to be reminiscent of the famous riff from “How Soon Is Now.” On one ballad-like song, Badwan sounded very much like Morrisey.

Rather than parse out each of the eleven songs that made up the set list which is reproduced here, or go into much detail on the dazzling, multicolored light show, it suffices to observe that the Horrors’ performance style was revealed as the apotheosis of all ‘80s, ‘90s and post-millennial British post-punk and darkwave, rich with melodies and driving rhythms, drenched in electronica and riding on tidal waves of synthetic sounds. Joy Division, the Smiths, Pink Floyd, even Flock of Seagulls. They were all there. The densely packed and sweltering crowd was overjoyed, and many planned to return the following day for the Horrors’ repeat appearance.

The Horrors Set List at Rough trade Sept. 18, 2017:

  1. Machine
  2. Who Can Say
  3. In and Out of Sight
  4. Mirror’s Image
  5. Hologram
  6. Sea Within a Sea
  7. Weighed Down
  8. Still Life
  9. Endless Blue
  10. Something to Remember
  11. I See You


Suicide Commando at QXT’s
Sept. 29 & 30, 2017
Newark, NJ

QXT’s, the famous alternative music venue and dance club, in collaboration with Krieg Koncerts and Defcon, hosted the 30th anniversary celebration of Belgian aggro-tech band, Suicide Commando, in a two-day festival, pairing the electro-industrialist headliners with local group, Life Cried the first night, and Pankow, a noted Italian industrial band the second night.

It’s not unusual for QXT’s to host big name music groups from around the world, having established an international reputation in the gothic, punk and industrial music world. Tickets were available for single-night or both-night entry, and there were discounts for early purchase. Collectors were encouraged to buy paper tickets for keepsakes since it was such a milestone event, and the only appearance by Suicide Commando in the United States’ Northeast this year.

The first night showcased the band’s modern set. Starting with the galloping rhythm of “The Gates of Oblivion,” they then went on to more moderately paced “My New Christ,” “Too Far Gone,” and several others from Forest of the Impaled, their 2017 album. Some songs, like the eerie “Love Breeds Suicide,” off the Mind Strip album, dated as far back as 2000.

On the second night they brought out their vintage hits from the past three decades. The year 2000 seemed to be the turning point in determining whether a song fit into the modern or the vintage set. The 16-song set began with “Murder” and concluded with the encores “See You in Hell” and “Hellraiser.”

Densely-packed on the dance floor, adoring fans of this hard-edged genre pressed forward towards the stage, some armed with high-tech photographic equipment, others hoisting their cell phone cameras above the heads of the spectators.

Frontman Johan van Roy was available in and around the club to chat and mingle before the show. Between sets, DJs Krieg, Mindsolvent and Stalagmike filled the air with theme-appropriate music, and the downstairs lairs of the Crypt and Area 51 were busy with dancers who skipped the live shows.

At the end of the show we were delighted to discover a lit-up food truck parked curbside, as in times past, so we availed ourselves of economically-priced hotdogs before returning to our cars, fulfilling the ritual that has become a late night tradition to top off the QXT’s experience.