Nine Inch Nails
Oct. 13, 2018
Opening at 7 p.m. sharp was Kite Bass, a comely female duo consisting of a blond guitarist with a really nice voice and a brunette with a thunderous bass guitar. The vocals were beautiful, but the songs were definitely industrial, lacking true melody.
Second openers, The Jesus and Mary Chain followed at 7:50 p.m., introduced by splashes of electronic static noise, that led up to almost an hour of hit after hit from their much-loved repertoire.
After they closed the stage was crowded with a throng of technicians, musicians and other support staff. The crowd was excited and restless waiting for NIN to come on. As the band set up on stage, strains of Angelo Badalamenti’s “The Fireman” filled the air. The arena swarmed with wandering light beams and the stage sparkled with glittering waves of dazzling LEDs in bizarre purples, magentas, yellows and blues that never occurred in nature. The opening piece was “Mr. Self Destruct” off Downward Spiral, then on into one of the most popular of their entire body of work, “Wish” from the 1992 EP Broken, which created a roar of enthusiasm bringing many to their feet.
Their enthusiasm seemed to sink with “Less Than” from the 2017 EP Add Violence. It has the signature NIN sound, but the audience was there to hear classic NIN. They were charged back into a frenzy with “March of the Pigs” that followed. But “The Lovers,” and “This Isn’t The Place,” two wishy-washy, predominantly instrumental pieces, also off Add Violence, had a sedating effect.
“The Perfect Drug” from the soundtrack of the motion picture Lost Highway, and best remembered for its steampunk-style video extolling the alleged virtues of absinthe, restored the crowd’s joy — especially by inclusion of a virtuoso drum solo. This was followed by a several pieces from the latest album, Bad Witch, including “God Break Down the Door,” which has a distinctive, erratic drum cadence.
The rapid techno mantra piece “Copy of A ” offered a pleasant return to a compelling rhythm, and was followed by the even more rapid, frantic “Gave Up” from Broken. Then, Trent Reznor took a moment to remember David Bowie and to perform one from the late rock star’s famous video, “I’m Afraid of Americans,” in which Reznor himself appears. It is always good when a giant celebrity pays homage to the greats of the past. To Reznor’s credit, the next entry was also a cover, the Joy Division tribute, “Digital.”
NIN was definitely on a roll at that point, nailing down two of its best, “The Hand That Feeds” and the trailblazing “Head Like a Hole,” which paved the way for industrial music to cross over into mainstream and alternative.
After a brief break, they returned with three encores: “All the Love in the World,” “Over and Out,” and the grand finale, the low-key, passionate, “Hurt.”
The world of industrial and rock music is replete with flashy, raucous and bombastic shows, but there is nothing that quite matches NIN. That said, this groundbreaking, prolific and inventive project is in its creative twilight. The iconic masterpieces of the ‘80s, ‘90s and early this millennium stand the test of time, but the most recent entries seem to be pedestrian works with erratic rhythms, incoherent noise and meaningless lyrics. It will always be a delight to revisit “Head Like a Hole” and “Closer,” but we should stop asking Mr. Reznor to stretch his body of work into four more decades.
Oct. 20, 2018
Stabbing Westward was founded in 1986 before they dissolved semi-permanently in 2002. During those years they produced one EP and four studio albums. The reunion and revival of Stabbing Westward began in 2016 when they celebrated their 30th anniversary with shows at the Chicago Cold Waves Festival and Dracula’s Ball in Philadelphia. This October 2018 represents the first activity of the band — aside from the release of two recordings — since then.
As for the opening band, The Amatory Murder, the less said the better. But second openers, The Clay People, revived the crowd with mind-blowing industrial-strength punk metal on a par with giant rockers, Tool. The Clay People have been around since ‘89. Why haven’t I heard them?
The main set of Stabbing Westward’s performance was drawn from their smash hit album Darkest Days (1998), playing all but three tracks, in the order in which they appear on the record. They opened with the title-track, a lumbering piece that nonetheless affords Chris Hall opportunity to scream his rage and declare his pain as did the next selection, “Everything I Touch.”
“Drugstore” picked up the pace and did more to grant the instrumental accompaniment opportunity to shine as Hall screamed the rhetorical question, “How can everything be justified by you?” Next, they went into what may be the favorite of many fans, the raucous “Save Yourself” — unless, of course, your favorite is “Haunting Me,” which followed.
The show galloped along on “Torn Apart,” then slowed a bit for “Sometimes It Hurts,” and the creepily sedate “Drowning” and “Desperate Now.” Chris Hall found his spleen again with the rocking anthem, “The Thing I Hate” and “On Your Way Down,” then closed the set with “Waking Up Beside You,” before taking a brief break.
They returned with five great encore pieces, namely “Nothing” off the 1994 album Ungod, “So Far Away,” from their final, eponymous album, and “Violent Mood Swings,” also off Ungod. Next came their iconic masterpieces, “What Do I Have To Do?” and “Shame,” both from Wither Blister Burn & Peel (1996).
It’s sad in a way that this brilliant and engaging musical group found it necessary to break up after four terrific albums. Stabbing Westward has done a great job of giving voice to anger and frustration in an industrial, yet melodious format. Whether they must continue to rehash their oeuvre from the 1990s or if they can — reunited — create new music in the same ferocious mode remains to be seen.
Endless Night: New York Vampire Ball 2018
Oct. 20, 2018
International impresario Father Sebastiaan hosted the latest — and final — NYC-based, Halloween-season Vampire Ball and Long Black Veil Reunion on Oct. 20 at Drom in the city’s Lower East Side, co-hosted by club scene veteran Chi Chi Valenti and backed by a who’s who of top class DJs, Aengel, V Christ, Xris Smack and Ian Ford. The dress code called for all-black with attendees encouraged to wear costumes, custom contacts, fangs and necklace ankhs.
Doors — manned by Victor Magnus and Mandana Banshie — opened at 11 p.m., and the crowd of dancers and imbibers grew rapidly. Enthusiasm swelled to a crescendo when, at midnight, Father Sebastiaan, with the support of Chi Chi Valente and the pulchritudinous presence of Sabrina and Claire, led the faithful in a warm and nostalgic “Howl and Toast.” In a healing ceremony, Sebastiaan spoke of the history of his Endless Night series with reference to the origins as Long Black Veil, the ancestral club event which launched himself, his Sabertooth Clan and Endless Night series into leadership of the Gotham — and later worldwide — vampire community.
Svelte Cassandra Rosebeetle performed an ecdysiast dance followed by K-Star who performed a belly dance wearing a long, sheer, wing-like cloak. As on all previous iterations of Endless Night, a costume contest was held, with winners selected by the crowd’s response. The dancers of Stimulate performed on stage between the major events while deejays filled the air with the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Bauhaus.
The party went on until 3:45 a.m. at which time there was a last call. Father Sebastiaan has since made it clear that New York City no longer provides venues of sufficient size to accommodate the massive crowd which Endless Night’s draw, making this the last such event. Those who yearn for more such gatherings can keep track of and plan to attend Endless Nights in various locales around the USA and the world, or they can hope to be invited to exclusive invitation-only functions that hopefully will occur locally in the New York area.
Oct. 31, 2018
Patrick Rogers’s Dancing Ferret hosted Dracula’s Ball at Philadelphia’s Trocadero on Halloween night this year. The fact that Halloween occurred on a Thursday in midweek didn’t stop it from being a sold-out, all-ages event. Planners only allowed two-thirds of capacity tickets to be sold, so that there was comfortable space for attendees to enjoy. Plenty of N.Y./N.J.’s goth aristocracy showed up for the annual festivities.
Dutch dark-wavers, Clan of Xymox, headlined the show with support from Baltimore’s Ego Likeness, and cold-wavers Curse Mackey from Texas. Costumes were encouraged but not mandatory.
Necropolis at Windfall
Nov. 3, 2018
Father Jeff Ward’s famous recurring dark dance event took place on the first Saturday of November at its regular location, which was decorated for the Halloween season as shown in the photo. Jeff’s DJing efforts were supported by his top tier associates, DJs Patrick, Templar, and Aengel. Mandana provided hospitality at the gate and guests were greeted warmly by Windfall’s host Chris Savo. Celebrities in attendance included Hippocampus Press publisher Derrick Hussey, New Goth City’s Sir William Welles and the Long Losts, Anka and Patrick McGowan.
Alive! Frankenstein at 200
The Morgan Library and Museum
New York City
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s famous book, the Morgan Library and Museum is hosting an exhibition, “It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200” until Jan. 27, 2019. The universal appeal of this story, the landmark starting point for science fiction, cannot be overestimated. As a book, it has spawned countless books, plays, cinema works and the other media. Commentary has been vast as have been imitations, sincere as well as plagiaristic.
As a story, it surpasses others in that those who have not read it know the basic premises of the story almost as well as those who have. The story has penetrated down into the collective consciousness like few others have done. A significant segment of the population considers themselves “fans” of Frankenstein. Even the back story of how a 19-year-old girl went into competition with some literary greats to write a gothic novel is pretty well known.
What is a gothic novel? Basically, any novel that deals with the nightmare side of the world, whether supernatural or rational in its explanations. This exhibition gives credit for the first gothic novel to Matthew Gregory Lewis for “The Monk” (1796), but Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” (1764) is more commonly cited for that title.
This exhibit shows that despite the enthusiasm that we all share for “Frankenstein,” it has all been “tip-of-the-iceberg” knowledge, and that there is factual history as well as critical literary analysis still to be learned about “Frankenstein” and his girl-genius creator. From this exhibit, we learn that gothic-style in the arts had been popular for centuries in the English culture in which Mary Shelley grew up. Also shown are books she read as the daughter of two writers, and her father a publisher, as well. All the reading and writing in which Mary Shelley was immersed paid off by providing her with creativity, style, knowledge, and profound insight.
We learn that she first published “Frankenstein” anonymously. In the days when theater companies disregarded copyright laws, three “Frankenstein” plays plagiarized the story with variations on characters and issues. These boosted Mary Shelley’s creation from book to myth status.
And it’s not just scholarly stuff at the exhibit. There are colorful movie posters from early cinema and rows of comic books and graphic novels featuring the monster or the name. There’s a clip of stop-action animation from the Thomas Edison’s 1910 silent movie in which the monster “self-assembles.” An early edition volume of “Frankenstein,” with notes in the margins in Mary’s actual handwriting, is displayed in a glass case. Classic portraits and Richard Rothwell’s beguiling portrait of Mary Shelley in oils are on open viewing. Walls and shelves have images of gothic horror and even a display explaining the electrical discoveries that informed Mary Shelley at the time of her writing.
This is a must see exhibition, on display during what remains of the winter 2018-2019. Otherwise, one will have to wait until 2118 for the 300th anniversary of this immortal masterpiece.
Italian dark-wavers, Ash Code’s third and newest album featuring 17 tracks was released this month. A video of the ninth track, “Black Gloves,” gives a representative sample of the frenetic industrial rhythms and creative, layered electronic arrangements that typify their style. The video, available on YouTube, features some pretty edgy, sensuous and sado-horrific images while the sound track is compelling, mantra-like and repetitively hypnotic. The album is available on CD, vinyl, and download as of Nov. 9, 2018.