Oct 2013 08

The Metro, Chicago, IL
Day 1: 2013/09/27

 

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When Cracknation’s Jamie Duffy passed away in the summer of 2012, the underground industrial rock scene assembled to deliver one of the most momentous concert events in the genre’s history. In collaboration with the Hope for the Day charity for suicide prevention, the ColdWaves concert featured 11 bands and brought together both new acts and old, several of which reuniting for the first time in years, to pay tribute to Duffy’s memory and his legacy. It celebrated not only his life and music, but the lives and music shared among those in attendance, reminding many of what made the industrial rock and coldwave scene so special.
Carrying on the tradition, Cracknation’s Jason Novak and WTII Records’ David Schock decided to press on, embarking on the near impossible task of continuing the celebration with, this time, a two-day event to bring in more bands and keep the spirit of coldwave music alive – ColdWaves II! With several veterans acts returning from last year as well as some newcomers, along with “brother from another planet” DJ Zoltar, and further cooperation from Schecter Guitar Research, who donated two guitars to be won by a lucky audience member in a special raffle – all proceeds going to Hope for the Day, ColdWaves II took place on September 27-28 at the Metro in Chicago, IL, the hometown for American industrial music.
Standing outside the Metro before the night began one could feel the electricity as musicians stood among the arriving guests – a bevy of old friends getting reacquainted, new friends being made as stories of past experiences in the bygone days of ’90s coldwave pass back and forth. Rarely does this writer genuinely feel the sense of community and shared tastes as at an event such as this.

 

Kicking things off with an intense display of enraged death metal styling was Plague Bringer, setting the tone for the rest of the night’s festivities. From Josh Rosenthal’s guttural growling vocals to Greg Ratajczak’s blistering riffs, backed up by a second guitarist and a pummeling display of tight drum programming, the band played to a scattered crowd that grew as the night progressed. As such, Plague Bringer was well placed as the opener for this Friday night if seemingly out of place for the general vibe of machine rock. Then again, given the sheer volume and brutality exhibited by some of the bands later on the bill (particularly Skrew), Plague Bringer did as stated set the tone for the more metal side of the event’s proceedings, with Ratajczak at times stopping to express sincere appreciation for the band’s presence at so momentous an occasion.

 

The next act to take the stage was a newly reunited Evil Mothers, emerging from a decade-and-a-half long hiatus to bring its own brand of Texas style industrial rock to the windy city, with Chicago mainstay Curse Mackey once again taking the front man’s mantle. Riding the fine line between contemplative singer and swaggering rock star, Mackey was clearly in his element as he soaked up the limelight, occasionally manning the controls of his laptop and MIDI controller. From Sanford Allen’s expressive riffs and melodies to Patrick Sane’s thunderous bass, backed by the twin percussive assault of Chip Alexander and CHANT’s Bradley Bills, Evil Mothers made an early but strong impression. Of the two special surprises the band unveiled, one of which being a guest vocal by Suzy Bravo of Allen’s and Sane’s Hogbitch, the all too brief drum circle as each band member banged away at drums, buckets, trash cans, and whatever other percussive element Bills provided for them was certainly the highlight.

 

One of the most memorable performances of last year’s ColdWaves was the return of Clay People after five years. Now, the band brought back longtime guitarist Brian McGarvey, reemerging as a five-piece once more and kicking off a scorching set of pummeling machine rock with a new rendition of “Palegod,” much to the delight of this writer. From Dan Dinsmore’s tight drumming to Eliot Engelman’s slithering bass, and topped off by the twin guitar assault of McGarvey and Mike Guzzardi, the band was a machine unto itself as the electronics took a backseat to allow for a barrage of in-your-face coldwave. As ever, front man Dan Neet bears his trademark maniacal grin, growling out his menacing yet melodic vocals and flailing about the stage with all the fervor of a madman. Riling the crowd up in support of each band on the bill, shouting “give it up” and demanding a louder response each time, Neet proved himself a natural front man. While “Stone” ended the set for another blast from the past, the highlight for many was the arrival of Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell for a vicious performance of what is arguably Clay People’s best known song, “Pariah.” Sound issues aside, Clay People’s set easily ranked as one of the best of the first night, if not the entire event.

 

As if to follow Clay People’s stripped down and more metal approach, Skrew took the stage and unleashed an onslaught of crushing extreme metal with nary a synth or electronic sound to be heard… but then of course, given the armaments of triple guitar and deathly growls, any musical nuance in Skrew’s assault would have been reduced to a muddy wall of distortion. This is not said to denounce the definite passion which the sextet exhibited, with Adam Grossman leading the six-string contingent in fine form, Laurent Le Baut’s massive dreadlocks swinging as primal as his bass, adding no small amount of low end, while vocalist Hunter Townsend commanded the stage quite well. Had the band perhaps focused on a set more dedicated to Skrew’s earlier industrial leanings, it would have made a more significant impact.

 

It is almost impossible to even think about machine rock without 16volt, still standing as one of the genre’s longest lasting and leading forces. Backed by guitarist Andy Gerold and new drummer Keith Hirschman, bassist Mike Peoples and front man/guitarist Eric Powell have been at the forefront of the coldwave sound and style to remain one of the most consistent and relevant bands in the industrial rock underground. Ever presenting a tight-knit barrage of scathing electronics, powerful riffs, and acerbic lyrics and vocals as appealingly melodic as they are hauntingly acidic, 16volt is always at the top of its game, and this night was no exception, pounding out newer gems like “Alkali” and “Suffering You” alongside classics like “I Fail Truth” and crowd pleaser “The Cut Collector.” Ending with another crowd pleaser, 16volt’s own dissertation on the ills of working in the record industry, “The Enemy” made for a virulent close to the band’s set. If ever there was a question as to 16volt’s longevity, the answer could be found in the audience reaction, moshing and shouting along with each song as the veterans of coldwave performed with all the vigor of a band still in its prime.

 

An ascending chord progression bombastically fills the venue, leading into a hauntingly familiar and anthemic fanfare. Has Pink Floyd arrived? Is there a wall of white bricks and faceless masks onstage? No! It is the Iron Lung Corp., featuring members of Clay People and the Cracknation, decked out in their white shirt and tie uniforms, Jason Novak virulently screeching into the mic, “So ya thought ya might like to go to the show…” After the explosive opening cover of “In the Flesh?,” the band members revolve sporadically and break into an ominous staccato beat, Dan Neet leading the crowd to join in as ILC unveils a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Intruder.” After performing the band’s only original tune of the evening, “Pretty Like a Porn Star,” ILC broke into raucous renditions of Shriekback’s “Nemesis,” Meat Beat Manifesto’s “Edge of No Control,” and Killing Joke’s “Eighties” (with a brief interlude of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”). Jason Novak explains the set being songs the band has written over the years, only to be stolen by other artists, playing a mild joke on the audience in line with the, the first new ILC album in over a decade, Body Snatchers, being a covers album. It makes sense; ILC started with a cover of Nitzer Ebb’s “Join in the Chant” and “Murderous,” and that piece of industrial history was revisited here, sending the audience into ecstatic and near epileptic fits of adulation. It is unfortunate given Douglas McCarthy’s presence on the bill the next night that he did not “Join in the Murderous Chant,” but nothing was lost from the near dozen musicians onstage. Joining the ranks throughout the show were Cyanotic’s Sean Payne, 16volt’s Eric Powell, who asserted that he “don’t wear no fucking tie!,” Burton C. Bell making another appearance, and Cocks Members’ Paul Barker. If one word could be used to describe the Iron Lung Corp. performance, it would be “spectacular!”

 

How could any band hope to top the spectacle of ILC’s set? Perhaps no band could, and the members of Prong seemed to recognize that as the trio launched headlong into a straightforward helping of the band’s hardest hitting songs. No frills, no antics; just a simple, blistering sonic punch-in-the-face of thrashing precision metal without any of the programming that helped to distinguish the band from its peers throughout the ’90s. Given that the night was winding down, Tommy Victor and company pushed forward to keep the energy high with a generous helping of new songs alongside some old favorites, the stage an open playground for Victor to run around in his usual scattered fashion and churn out those incendiary riffs that have made him one of the underground scene’s most accomplished guitarists.

 

With the Metro closing its doors, those with any spare ounce of energy left flocked to Neo, Chicago’s premiere nightclub for electro/industrial/goth music. With raffle winner and Neo bartender Angelena Pocalypse serving drinks as Die Warzau’s Jim Marcus spun one of his trademark sets full of groovy electro, pop, industrial, and all points in between, full of sexy beats and funky atmosphere, the club was filled to capacity as musicians mingled with the fans to make for a relaxed vibe to end the first day of ColdWaves II on a high note… and there is still one more day to go!

 

Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby)

 

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